Wednesday, March 04, 2009

WMST 621 - Post-modernism

Po-mo Homos and Wel-Res*

Steven Epstein in his article is examining the different ways that gay and lesbian people understand their sexual orientation in relationship to prevailing theories of identity construction, particularly essentialism and social constructionism. I find this article fascinating for the time period that it was written and circulated and what happened subsequently in the gay and lesbian movement. I think that the analogies he draws with ethnic communities does provide some foundation for the shaping of the movement in the next decade. I’m interested though in the parallels we might think about between the complexities of lived identities between gay and lesbian people and between women, for instance, or the complexities that emerge for multi-racial people about identity and how that relates to these different theoretical valences of essentialism and social constructionism.

Fraser and Gordon, a historian and a philosopher, provide a history of the word “dependency” as a key word in contemporary debates about welfare. They then use this to look at how the word is influencing various policy solutions. Their intervention is primarily historicizing the contemporary debate, contextualizing it in relationship to language and the historicity of language, and widening the lens of analysis. How effective is this? What are the strengths and weakness of such an intervention for activists and advocates?

Judith Butler is discussing how the terms of the gay marriage debate are framed in the United States and in France and how those frames affect the constructions and limitations of identity categories. In the lecture, Claire said that Butler’s analysis is less taken up by the contemporary movement, which I don’t entirely agree with, but I am interested in what elements have been taken up and what haven’t and what are reasons we might conjecture for that.

I'm interested also in talking about what makes the Epstein and Fraser and Gordon articles post-modern. If I were constructing a genealogy, I would put them both as Marxist/socialist/materialist texts. Certainly, they respond to post-modernism/post-structuralism, but I see their roots more in Marxism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps I'm not thinking about it in the right ways, but particularly in relationship to the Fraser and Gordon where the theoretical framework really comes more from Raymond Williams than Foucault in my reading of it, it seems to me that it is not a post-modern article. All to say, I'm interested in talking about what post-modern investments these articles have.

I'm interested also in what investments these articles have in activism, action, and different social movement formations. How do they dialogue with these different locations? What makes their dialogues effective or not effective? In what ways are race and gender, and particularly the enmeshment of race and gender, made visible in each of these articles and how are they made invisible? Does that indicate anything about post-modernism?

* Post-modern Homosexuals and Welfare Recipients

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