“Not a game, Not a game, Not a game”: Outline of Some Theories of Practice

My old friend and colleague Dylan Mulvin and I have a piece in the new issue of Seachange journal. It’s about practice, which we define as “the repertoire of necessary and repetitive activities that precede ‘performance’—activities that are ignored, elided, and generally taken for granted because of their necessity and repetitiveness.” As long-time friends, sports fans, and mediocre athletes who have often practiced together, we consider a range of practice-related sites: drills, pre-game rituals, dissertation writing, comprehensive exams, the academic job market, and our (middling) jump shots. Ultimately we ask whether sports practice, in its often-deferred promise of improvement through the production of habit and bodily comportment, might help us better understand the complex pleasures and disappointments of ascending toward academic careers.

I’m very proud of this dialogue and very happy to have had the chance to collaborate with Dylan. We’ll also be presenting a panel together at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies this weekend in Montreal. It’s called “What was the Database” and it also features a paper by Kate Eichhorn.

Congress 2013

I’m at Congress this week at the University of Victoria, giving three different papers that will become sections of a single dissertation chapter. This is my first attempt to write about the research I did in April and May at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. The turnaround between completing this research and writing about it was very short, and I feel like I’m still digesting the work and figuring out what it means, but I’m very glad for the opportunity to make some sense of the research for an audience while it’s fresh.

But truly, the pinnacle of my time at the LHA was earning the tote bag I’d been coveting:

A highlight of congress so far has been the first meeting of the new Sexuality Studies Association. I’m pumped to be a part of this and see how it grows over the next couple of congresses.

Here are the papers I’m presenting this week:

  • “At the Edges of the Digital Imperative: Digital Media in the Lesbian-Separatist Archive.” Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes Annual Conference. University of Victoria, Victoria BC, June 2–4, 2013.
  • “10,000 Images, One Scanner, Two Volunteers: Digital Media at the Feminist Archive.” Canadian Communication Studies Association Annual Conference. University of Victoria, Victoria BC, June 5–7, 2013.
  • “Digitizing Sex: Reckoning with Images at the Lesbian Herstory Archives.” Sexuality Studies Association of Canada Annual Conference. University of Victoria, Victoria BC, June 1–2, 2013.


Why we make jokes about lesbian feminism

I’ve been revising a paper I wrote a few months ago for the CACS conference at McGill next weekend. The paper is about the political challenge that digital and online technologies pose for grassroots, lesbian-feminist archives. A lot of my reading this past summer focused on queer theories of history and time and since then I’ve been noticing how lesbian feminism is described in more general queer and feminist work, a project helped along by Clare Hemmings’s great new book Why Stories Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory, recommended to me by Dylan.  The best of this work captures the complexity of lesbian feminism as a politics that seems outdated at first blush, but continues to matter and get invoked in curious ways that concepts like “parody” or “nostalgia” can’t account for. Elizabeth Freeman’s idea of “temporal drag” is especially good on this:

[Temporal drag] suggests a bind for lesbians committed to feminism: the gravitational pull that “lesbian,” and even more so “lesbian feminist,” sometimes seems to exert on “queer.” This deadweight effect may be felt even more strongly twenty years after the inauguration of queer theory and politics, in the wake of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, legalized same-sex unions, and The L Word.

Gloria Steinem knew how to work a macrame belt.

Humour seems to be crucial in how a lot of post-2000 queer studies work talks about lesbian feminism. One of the funniest I’ve read is Heather Love’s essay “A Gentle Angry People: The lesbian culture wars” (subscription required). As if the too-perfect “gentle angry people” weren’t enough on it’s own, the essay is full of witty in-jokes like these:

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