Accepted Paper:

Queer Left Critique: Crossing Borders of Ethnographic Knowledge Production  

Author:

Margot Weiss (Wesleyan University)

Paper short abstract:

How can queer/feminist ethnographic knowledge-making challenge borders between knower and known; or anthropologist-subject and object of knowledge? My talk focuses on the forms of connection that arise in ethnography and modes of "thinking with" that are less collaboration than political solidarity.

Paper long abstract:

In my work, I have sought queer, feminist, left modes of "thinking with" that disrupt borders inadvertently reinscribed between subjects and objects, knowers and known. For instance, my book, Techniques of Pleasure, suggested that part of what is troubling about BDSM is its imbrication in late capitalism—that sex cannot be separated from the politics of consumption (circuits that connect purportedly "separate" spheres of public/private, economic/intimate). This project sought to make ethnographic knowledge not about a "them," but an "us," an immanent cultural critique. In my current book, Queer Otherwise: Making Knowledge at the Boundaries of Academia and Activism, I think alongside queer left activists in North America, exploring activists' intellectual work and what we can learn juxtaposing activist and academic knowledge practices and desires, given linked crises of the nonprofit industrial complex and the neoliberal university. This project has entailed collaboration in several forms, including a jointly authored research article (Hollibaugh and Weiss 2015) and several ongoing activist/research projects. For me, critique is a site of political solidarity when it moves across—disrupting and deconstructing—boundaries we often take for granted between academic/activist, abstract/engaged: showing how activists do theory (cf. Hale 2006) or analyzing shared grounds of complicity beyond the "suffering slot" (Robbins 2013) and those who might speak for her. Rather than collaboration, I understand and theorize these connections across borders of academia and activism as sites of solidarity: of fundamental interconnection, commonality in struggle, recognition and obligation--rather than neocolonial noblesse oblige.

Panel P036
Queer and feminist ethnography on the move [Roundtable, European Network of Queer Anthropology (ENQA) and Network for the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality (NAGS)]