Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Question About Naming Ourselves

One of the courses I'm taking right now involves writing a 'thought provoking question' about each week's readings before the class in question. As I've written before on this site, I'm trying to keep my thinking and reading and writing for school as closely linked both to movements and to my future needs as a writer as I can, and one happy consequences of that fact is that my question this week makes a reasonable quickie blog post. So here it is:

Choices about self-naming can be an important element of struggles against oppression. One such choice can be the adoption of a practice of identifying that is grounded in certain shared oppressive experiences but that deliberately broadens previously existing commonsense approaches to identifying as a way of building alliances across difference (or at least the possibility of such alliances) -- for example, "people of colour" in North America, "black" in the '70s and '80s in the U.K., and "queer" in various spaces today. Responsible, liberatory use of such identifications (or, indeed, any identification that is meant to be the basis of struggle) means being able to talk about difference connected to power within those categories. But what might it look like to do that in a way that does not just fall back on recreating exactly the sort of classificatory and regulatory naming schemes that are used in projects of ruling? Is it even possible? How might we go about constructing ways of talking about self, experience, power, and struggle that allow us to name and take responsibility for differences among us, that are accessible and comprehensible, and that still make clear our resistance to regulatory schemes that are implemented in part through constructing categories of difference? Does it even make sense to try and think of that as something we can meaningfully begin in language rather than as something that can only be done through transforming the material practices of the regulatory regimes themselves?

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