3, 2, 1, 2, 3

So I wrote a story as part of yet another Gawker activity, this one involving stories inspired by one of a set of photos of various groups of three. This is my threesome:

Read their story here: The Eternal Thread

Click around for other stories and photos as well. Be careful of the post titled "Bears!" if you are at work, however (the others are safe, at least in terms of visual content). And if you do go read it, come back and tell me what you think!


That Fetish Photo You All Seem To Want To See So Badly

One of my hobbies as a weblog purveyor is to look at my little sitemeter to see who is lookin' at my stuff and what brought them there. I think all proprietors of little blogs do this; it's kind of like being able to catch a mirror looking back at you. A lot of people get here through google image searches - popular ones are the picture of the bookcase with the seat in it that I used in my library-witching post, and, oddly, the picture of the masquerade ball I used in my Emily Gould/Caracole post. And the third most popular seems to be a photo that I used briefly to illustrate my Imperial Leather post, then took down in favor of the blinking soap advertisement. But google thinks it's still here, and my sitemeter's blowing up with short-term visits by surely disappointed old-timey-photos-of-women-in-lingerie-with-a-whip enthusiasts.

So, without further ado, here is That Fetish Photo You All Seem To Want To See So Badly:


Celebrating Academic Writing #2: Imperial Leather

Okay! So, way back in June I started what I quite optimistically referred to as a "weekly-or-so" feature sharing some of my favorite excerpts of academic writing. Ha ha! I guess I should have said "very occasional" feature! But regardless, I've been getting back in the swing of this weblogging thing and so I decided to share another excerpt, this time from another one of my favorite academitrices, Anne McClintock.

What makes Anne McClintock so special to me is the sly and seemingly effortless way that she braids together theories of gender, domination, race and the post-colonial in her work. Many people use this type of theoretical cross-pollination in their methodology, of course, but McClintock stands out because she uses her raw material to push back at theory, transforming it and making it able to speak to a wider range of phemonena by the time she's done. Her writing on a theoretical level mimics the cultural processes she's describing - her book, Imperial Leather, describes how contact with the colonies profoundly changed the culture of the colonizer, rewriting the history of British domination as a dynamic interplay of hierarchies jarred loose and thrown into uncomfortable relief both at home and in the colonial scene. Her astute attention to the inextricability of sexual performance and racial performance allows her to see the interconnections between the most macropolitical movements of empire and industry and the most micropolitical contestations within the domestic and "feminine" spheres of home, hygiene and heterosexual, yet perverse, desire.

In the below excerpt, she uses the multivocality of the material she treats to question and expand upon one of the most overworked theoretical structures in academia: the fetish. Speaking to both Freud and Marx (and reaching past them to the anthropological work they both borrow from), she sets up what will become a fascinating excursion into the marketing of soap in the early 1800s in the following chapter, decentering the phallus from its customary place as the explanatory anchor of meaning within a fetishistic structure of disavowal and desire in order to allow an account of white female commodity (as well as just plain-ole sexual) fetishism to emerge from this colonial moment. So doing, she accomplishes what I think is the most important thing an academic endeavor can do: it makes everything seem theorizable, seem relevant and worthy of consideration. Her work provides an opening that renders more possible than previously, expands the territory of the thinkable and therefore, in a way remarkably rare within academia, actually earns the overused appellation "theorist."

Fetishes may not always be disruptive or transgressive and can be mobilized for a variety of political ends—some progressive, some subversive, some deeply reactionary. No one understood the seductive power of fetish spectacle better than Hitler. The male Victorian middle class was not prevented by its fondness for flagellatory rituals from violently foreclosing the fetish rituals of other cultures. Fetishes such as the pink triangle can be deployed for divergent political ends, some less undecidable than others. Rather than marshalling these differences under the reductive sign of the phallus, we might do better to open them to different genealogies.

Although the fetish is a compromise object, it does not necessarily embody only two options. Fetishes can involve triangulated contradictions, or more than three. Different patterns of consumption or forms of violent political closure may effectively contain the disruptive or undecidable power of the fetish. White male fetishes can resonate differently from illicit black or female fetishes. Considerable theoretical rigor and subtlety are lost if all fetishes are reduced to the magisterial phallus: oral fetishes such as the pacifiers used by men in "babyist" fetishism; breast fetishes such as nipple-clips or fetish bras; imperial fetishes such as slave-bands and whips; leather and rubber fetishes; national fetishes such as flags, team colors and sport mascots; political fetishes such as crowns and coats of arms; religious fetishes such as crucifixes and holy water; authority fetishes such as uniforms and handcuffs.

Instead of gathering these multifarious fetishes into a single primal scene, we might do better to open the genealogies of fetishism to more theoretically subtle and historically fruitful accounts. The fetishes of other cultures might then no longer have to genuflect to the master narrative of the western family romance. Since fetishes involve the displacement of a host of social contradictions onto impassioned objects, they defy reduction to a single originary trauma or the psychopathology fo the individual subject. Indeed, fetishism might become the theoretical scene of a renewed investigation into the vexed relations between imperialism and domesticity, desire and commodity fetishism, psychoanalysis and social history—if only because the fetish itself embodies the failure of a single narrative of origins.

This excerpt taken from pages 202-203 of Imperial Leather (Routledge, 1995)


The Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart

Sometimes, it's wise just to re-post the things one lingers on, chuckling ruefully, rather than try to add to it. This is one of those times.



Self-Indulgent Poetry Post!

Hello, reader(s?)! Yes, I've been "busy," but I got an urge yesterday to write some poetry, which I haven't done since my undergraduate years, and what with That Palin Woman crowing about her possibly mythical "gay friend" and being personally oppressed by the least debated/talked-about aspect of the lack of parity between marriage and domestic partnership (the lack of recognition of gay relationships for the purposes of immigration), and then Richard Lawson (aka: LolCait) of Gawker fame writes this devastatingly lyrical and beautiful personal recollection that also serves as a necessary, stinging indictment of the so-called tolerance the Palins of the world think they're spreading through the use of the word "choice" to couch their rhetoric of marginalization and condescension - well, I decided: it's time to write really embarassing poetry and put it on my blog. After all, what else is it here for?

Fibered Optics

Invisible: the border
between our faces shimmers,
liquid, crystalline as air,
as a drop of rain, pendulant,
quivering, suspended from
barbed wire.

Glassy, gilded,
guilt encrusts every
word as we attempt to
simulate the nearness every
word disproves as it travels
through fibers optic like
telescopes, like
microscopes, like
eyes, scaled and artificial:
you and I measured,
a scale of ones and
zeros, maximizable,
minimizable, but always
scaled down.

Eros: it makes my body
ache everywhere your hands
don’t touch, an inverted
sore, a scrambled
rose: it’s the softest part
that makes me bleed.