Saturday, July 18, 2015

Stretching myself to theory

IMG_1332Watching the video from the last post, I was going over my blog. Basically I did a lot of house keeping and redesign work. While fiddling with things, I realized that I hadn't posted any really heavy analysis in a little while.

I though it would be instructive to delve a little deeper into the reasons why I have stepped away from the really challenging work that I was doing on this blog around feminism and developing my own analysis.

Theory Production

Lots of reading, research, and revision goes into the heavy theory posts that I write. Usually my theory posts are a reaction to a new idea that I encountered, some type of writing or experience that really challenged my thinking process.

Constantly challenging the assumptions you have about the world and how the world works - this is difficult and draining work. Especially since much of the theory that I focus on is about how oppression acts, how political power is perpetuated. I think academic environments, we fail to address the emotional labor and drain that goes into good theory production. Often, part of our traditional (patriarchal) academic training is to ignore our instincts and emotions around abuse or the mishandling of power.

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Do you really think that the 3.022 lab professors would care that I came up with a great blog post about radical readings of Angela Davis?

If you ever read Mary Daly's work, you immediately become caught up in how much anger and passion she has infused into the writing. I was completely stunned and captivated to read an academic theory work, so very rich and heavy, that was also clever and burning. While I'm not nearly at that level of emotional development yet, I am constantly challenging myself to enact that labor, to engage passionately and fully with the world that I live in and the way people describe it.

Anthropological theory production, really good theory production, involves knowing and empathizing with people even when their circumstances may be remote. Requiring us, author and reader, to empathize with unknown joys and fears while mapping out the political realities : that's the type of theory that pushes me to write at my very best. Feminist theory production for womanists involved knowing yourself and empathizing with the experiences of women who had never been given the space or recognition for their pain or triumph. Following these fore mother and fore sister's lead is a necessity for me; I'd be lost without the light of their hearts.

I just haven't been able to sit down and really engage in these forms of labor, especially knowing that I wouldn't receive validation from most of the world.

Myself: Known

I have instead been sitting down with myself. I've taken some time to really look at the goals and experiences that have brought me to this moment. Silently mulling over my past isn't what I'm describing.

I'm attempting to describe an active conversation with myself. When you stretch a canvas, you have to really know every inch of that canvas before you begin to transform it. Feeling out structural integrity and preparing support in myself is the foundation of producing theory for me. After learning about reflexivity, I realized that my own position and experiences can be the beginning of theory. Particularly as I learned about consciousness raising in second wave feminism, I realized that my life is a wealth of knowledge that has been lost to me.

Now, at 21, I'm feeling out all of the cracks in the painting, relearning the fundamentals of the original canvas from the deformations and shifts that time has given my experience. These cracks trace back to my political identity, how I have been recognized by others and how these reactions have shifted my own image.

Again, this is an active process. Even how I have learned to begin this process has changed my sense of self.

Survival as praxis

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde, A burst of light

Photo on 12-10-14 at 12.55 PMWith this background of learning myself all over again and recovering a passion and anger that so many women have had stymied, suddenly my tiredness makes sense.

Another reason I've taken a break from heavy theory is to simply take care of myself. Participating in emotional labor also means engaging in recovery, in self love, in love of others. I've been trying to really embrace a feeling of life, with my tiny kitty or my growing plants.

I've been enjoying the company of other women. I've been enjoying my own company. I've been enjoying how much I've already done and survived.

Taking this time means learning how to survive, looking back with a critical but proud eye to plan for the future.