A critical engagment ab (final)


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A critical engagment ab (final)

  1. 1. Spencer RuelosAnth 410 A Critical Engagement with Queer, Digital, and Social Justice Anthropological TheoriesAs an anthropologists, my interests have tended to lie in a more critical engagement with the conceptssociety, culture, power, and identity. This has mostly embodied itself as a means of utilizing queer, digital,and social justice frameworks to my understandings and viewpoints of the world. Below you find some ofthe works that I have found over the last four years that have shaped these overarching theoreticalframeworks that I use in my anthropological and ethnographic work.The first section you will find titled “Queer Anthropology.” As a gay man myself, I have been veryinterested in understanding some of the social and cultural meanings tied to sex, sexuality, and gender. I canhonestly say that my interest early on in this investigation of queer anthropology was a shallow one—I hadexpected to find in the readings a collection of diverse sexual and gendered subjectivities of those in theanthropological literature that I could reference and classify as I saw fit. Oh, the hijra in India? Yeah, that was athird gender/sex category in India that was very much tied into ritual practices and asceticism. What I’ve come to learnthrough my more critical engagement with queer anthropology is understand the complex relations ofpower that various sexual and gendered subjectivities are formed and contested. Much of this work you willsee come from both the fields of queer studies and anthropology. While these two fields have had somedifficulties ‘getting along,’ I ultimately find their collective worth and intersections (thus, ‘queeranthropology’) to be worthwhile to my theoretical and anthropological self.The second section called “Digital and Virtual Anthropologies” explores my interests that lie in digitaltechnology, virtual embodiment, social networking, and online virtual communities. Growing up as both ageeky gamer and a tech kid has really shaped my views on the roles of technology and the internet in ourdaily lives. While I think a lot of popular discourse has discussed how we’ve become less intimate bybecoming our digital selves, I hold fast to the viewpoint that digital media technologies have actuallydeepened the ways we have meaning relationships and connections with other humans, both locally andglobally. I would argue that a common theme in the citations below is that digital and virtual anthropologies(in the plural) extend our analysis of culture, society, and what it means to be human to the more recentonline virtual spaces. Thus, I value the perspective of looking at virtual and digital settings as illustrative ofmany ways that we are human.The final section is called “Social Justice and Transformation” and traces my theoretical and activist interestsin social movements, anti-oppression visions, and activist research work for social justice. Part of theseinterests stem from my position as a queer-identified cisgender man and my engagement in the departmentof Critical Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. But that isn’t to say these interests aren’t anthropological!Much of this critical perspective has given me a understanding of the social and cultural processes thatinform understandings of race, gender, sexuality, class, (dis)ability, national identity, and the like. Oneespecially transformative insight from this has been my interest in a critical understanding of the prisonsystem—the prison industrial complex. In all of these questions of social justice and socioculturaltransformation, critical anthropology and ethnographic methods become useful tools for delving furtherinto the discussion. Thus, while many of these citations do not come from anthropologists per se, they cometogether to ultimately inform how I envision doing activist/engaged anthropological work in order tocombat systems of oppression and to create and envision a better world for future.Collectively, the list below illustrates both my theoretical and activist research interests within and beyondanthropology. Though not necessarily disciplines that have immediate overlap, taken together these threethemes work to really paint a vivid picture of my continued engagement with anthropological research andmy perspectives on issues such as society, culture, power, and identity.
  2. 2. Annotated Bibliography Ruelos 2 Queer Anthropology1) Alexander, M. Jacqui. 2005. “Imperial Desire/Sexual Utopias: White Gay Capital and Transnational Tourism.” Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditiations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred. Duke University: 2005.Alexander’s work was pivotal for my literature review on transnational queer tourism by illustrating the waysin which travelers position themselves in neocolonial terms and erotically exotify those queers in thedestination countries they visit. Her analysis of the reification of colonial desires by the mainstream gay andlesbian niche market has been a key insight that I’ve taken with me.2) Blackwood, Evelyn. 2002 "Reading Sexualities across Cultures: Anthropology and Theories of Sexuality." Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology. E. Lewin and W. Leap, eds. University of Illinois Press: 2002.Blackwood’s piece traces some of the anthropological approaches in the 70s and 80s to theorize femalesame-sex sexual relations. What I find most useful is her critical engagement with the representation ofsame-sex relations between women in various cultures. Near the end of her piece, she briefly touches uponthe postmodern and queer theoretical approaches, which mark a shift in theories concerning power, identity,and subjectivity.3) Boellstorff, Tom. 2005. The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia. Princeton University Press.Boellstorff’s pivotal inquiry into the lives of gay and lesbi Indonesians sheds light on the intersections ofgender, sexuality, and national identity. He brings together a complex understanding that acknowledges thecontradictions and conflicting subjectivities and cultural logics that shape understanding of theseIndonesians. Ultimately, his monograph sheds light on a postcolonial queer anthropology that is useful forthose of us intersected in those theoretical engagements.4) *Boellstorff, Tom. 2007. "Queer Studies in the House of Anthropology." Annual Review of Anthropology. 36: 17-35.In this review, Boellstorff marks some of the contemporary trends in queer anthropology since 1993. Itfocuses on the debates in queer anthropology and the shifts to looking at women’s same-sex desires andtransgender experiences while incorporating a discussion of the uses of history, geography, and linguistics tothe field of queer anthropology.5) Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Theatre Arts Books.Butler’s work has become foundational for queer studies and feminism. What is especially insightful is heranalysis of gender as something that is performative rather than some essential to someone’s core being.6) El Menyawi, H. 2006. “Activism from the Closet: Gay Rights Strategizing in Egypt.” Melborne Journal of International Law. 7: 28.El Menyawi examines the politics of the Egyptian government to illustrate the ways in which the classicalStonewall technique to liberation (esp. coming out and organizing) should not be heralded as the lonemethod to achieving liberation. He complicates the notion of the ‘coming out,’ which I find especially usefulfor understanding the political and social contexts for various forms of activism and resistance7) Foucault, Michel. 1972. History of Sexuality, Volume 1. Penguin Books.Another foundational text in queer theory, feminism, and critical social theory, Foucault illustrates the waysin which power produces subjectivities through the creation of discourses. This understanding ofsubjectivity as something which is no coherent, individual, or internal has been especially useful for thoseexamining queer subjectivities across the globe.8) Jagose, Annarmarie. 1996. Queer Theory: An Introduction. New York University Press.
  3. 3. Annotated Bibliography Ruelos 3Jagose’s work traces the historical context for understanding queer theory as well as the academic emergenceof the field of queer studies. Her attention to detail in depicting the history and movement of queer is usefulbeginning for conversations about what it means and how those in various fields use it9) Katz, Jonathon. 2007. The Invention of Heterosexuality. University of Chicago Press.Katz’s work shows the historical and contextual meanings of the term ‘heterosexual,’ arguing that it is amodern invention that has had shifting meanings dependent on the historical and social context. His queeranalysis of showing the instability of both the categories of ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ is what I findpivotal. A big question that resonates is how are identity categories are contested and contextual so that we canunderstand how they are normalized?10) Newton, Esther. 1993. “My Best Informant’s Dress: The Erotic Equation in Fieldwork.” Margaret Mead Made Me Gay. Duke University: 2000.Newton’s work is often classified as the beginning work and texts that articulate a ‘queer anthropology.’ Inthis piece, Newton reflects on her work on urban drag queens and looks at the politics of being involved insexual relations with one’s informants. She looks at some of the existing literature and argues that while itcan be dangerous, it is an important conversation to have especially when you’re researching sexuality andsexual minorities.11) Rubin, Gayle. 1993. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of Politics of Sexuality.” Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader. Duke University: 2011.This piece was a pivotal turn in both queer studies and feminist theory, where Rubin articulates an argumentthat a feminist analysis solely on gender cannot provide a complex understanding for sexuality. Rubin also isthe theorist to term the “sex/gender system,” articulating that though the two may be tied, we should notconflate the concepts of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and we should recognize what gets demonized and rendereddeviant from such socially constructed norms like heterosexuality.12) Valentine, David. 2002. “We’re ‘Not about Gender’: The Uses of Transgender.” Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology. Lewin and Leap, eds. University of Illinois Press: 2002.Valentine’s works talks about the complexities of the term ‘transgender.’ His ethnographic research focuseson the political emergence for the category, ultimately arguing that queer anthropology reflect on the ways itutilizes terms and categories. His acknowledgement of the social and political specificity is what I findespecially useful.13) Weston, Kath. 1997. Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, and Kinship. Columbia University Press.Weston’s work analyzes the ways in which gays and lesbians negotiate the concept of family. What I findespecially useful is her analysis of the ways in which family is not something which is necessarily biologicallyconstructed, bur rather the meanings given to family by those in intimate relationships. Thus family as asocial construct for gays and lesbians to reclaim becomes a powerful act of both resistance and community-making.14) *Weston, Kath. 1993. “Lesbian/Gay Studies in the House of Anthropology.” Annual Review of Anthropology: 22, 339-367.Weston’s review focuses on the emergence of gay and lesbian issues in anthropology up until 1993. Sheargues that issues of sexual orientation and sexual marginalization have had a rightful place in anthropology.Thus, Weston’s purpose is to simultaneously discuss the history of gay and lesbian studies in anthropologywhile also urging writers to continue the recent inquiries into anthropology of sexuality and gender.15) Wekker, Gloria. 2006. The Politics of Passion: Women’s Sexual Culture in Afro-Surinamese Diaspora. Columbia University Press.
  4. 4. Annotated Bibliography Ruelos 4Wekker examines the postcolonial context for women’s same-sex sexual culture in Suriname and theNetherlands. She analyzes the complex ways in which religion, culture, political economy, and history play adynamic role in shaping these women’s sexual subjectivity. It is this complex and situated analysis that Ihighly appreciate. Digital and Virtual Anthropologies16) Boellstorff, Tom. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton University Press.The first of its kind, Coming of Age in Second Life illustrates the work of an anthropologist investigating virtualworlds in order to get an understanding of what it means to be human. One critical insight I take from thispiece is the understanding that research on virtual worlds can “be on its own.” What this means is that onedoesn’t have to worrying about connecting analysis back to the physical world and that ethnographicmethods work virtual and online settings.17) Boellstorff, Tom et al. 2012. Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook. Princeton University Press.In this handbook on ethnographic field methods Boellstorff, Nardi, Pierce, and Taylor work together toarticulate a set of methods for undertaking ethnographic projects of virtual worlds. Continuing Boellstorff’swork above, they continue to articulate the ways in which anthropology has much to offer in regards to anunderstanding of digital and virtual worlds and communities.18) boyd, danah. 2010. "Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications." Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites. Ed. Zizi Papacharissi: 39-58.boyd’s article categorizes social networking sites as networked publics and give classificatory for such sites.Her analysis of the ways in which media technologies allow us this utilize new digital and virtual spaces inorder to relate and network with others. In this piece, she tackles the concept of context collapse andinvisible audiences, which are innovative theories for understanding social communication on SNS.19) boyd, danah and Nicole Ellison. 2010. Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 38(3): 16.The authors give the definition, historical contexts, and current review of the literature for social networkingsites. This becomes especially useful for contextualizing my current research on the SNS and virtualcommunity of GaymerConnect.  20) Gershon, Ilana. 2010. "Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Media Switching and Media Ideologies." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 20 (2): 389–405.Gershon looks at the ways in which media technologies shape the way that we communicate through a casestudy of breaking up via mobile phones. She ultimately argues that media ideologies shape how we act andbehavior, a useful theoretical lens for any digital and virtual anthropologist.21) Miller, Daniel. 2011. Tales from Facebook. Polity Press.Miller examines the ways in which Trinidadians use Facebook. However, what is especially useful is hisanthropological analysis of media sites like Facebook for various communities. For example, one of hisinnovative theoretical analyses is a view of Facebook as a meta-friend to those who use it.22) Miller, Daniel and Heather Horst. 2012. “The Digital and the Human: A Prospectus for Digital Anthropology.” Digital Anthropology. Eds. Heather Horst and Daniel Miller. Berg Publishers: London.In this introduction to their edited anthology, Miller and Horst lay out the theoretical and methodologicalfoundations for digital anthropology, including its scope and standing. Since digital anthropology is such a
  5. 5. Annotated Bibliography Ruelos 5relatively young paradigm, this text is crucial for understanding what it means to be doing digitalethnographic work. It examines the complex relations between the digital and the human as a means tounderstanding communication and relations online and with technology.23) Ong, Walter. 1996. "Information and/or Communication: Interactions.” An Ong Reader. 2002. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press Inc.: 505–525.In this piece, Ong makes the theoretical claim that when technology changes, human relationship andthough patterns change. What I find most insightful that, anthropologically speaking, there is an importantrelationship to recognize between people and technology.  24) Wesch, Michael. 2008. “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.” mwesch. YouTubeVideo. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU>.In this video presentation at the library of Congress, Wesch articulates a complex analysis of communitybuilding in YouTube members. Echoing Ong’s analysis, what becomes powerful here is his analysis thatwhen media change, human relations change. He also touches upon the various ways that the communitycreate both positive and negative bonds, which is especially useful for my current research as well. Social Justice and Transformation25) Arkles, Gabriel. 2009. "Safety and Solidarity Across Gender Lines: Rethinking Segregation of Transgender People in Detention." Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review 18.2: 515.Arkles articulates a critical examination of the prison industrial complex as it relates to trans and gender-non-conforming individuals. He makes a cogent argument that the prison system itself perpetuates systemsof violence and coercion regarding racial, sexual, classed, disabled, and gendered minorities. His criticalperspective is one of the reasons I consider myself a prison abolitionist and have thought about conductingresearch regarding people in prison.26) Bassichis, Morgan et al. 2011. “Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement with Everything We’ve Got.” Captive Genders. Eds. Erix Stanley and Nat Smith. 2011. AK Press: 15–40.Bassichis, Lee, and Spade historicize the radical queer and trans social movements in order to illustrateimportance of recognizing the damages of the prison industrial complex and to dismantle it. Utilizing quite afew examples of the way various movements have responded to governmental policies and practices, thechapter highlights some very useful queer perspectives on issues including the PIC.27) Davis, Angela. 2003. Are Prisons Obsolete? Open Media.Davis work looks at the intersections of race and gender in the criminalization and surveillance ofcommunities that are incarcerated. Her text articulates an abolitionist perspective to prisons, which has verymuch informed not only my social justice and activist self, but informs my critical understanding of the wayssociety policies racialized, gendered, and sexual minorities in the US.28) McIntosh, Peggy. "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study (Eighth ed.). Ed. Paula Rothenberg. 1988: 165-169.McIntosh discusses the concept of white privilege as unearned benefits that one receives from society. Sheuses the metaphor of a knapsack, which carries the tools that those with privilege have while also making alist of her privileges as a heterosexual white female. This article sticks with me both epistemically andmethodologically, reminding me to check my privilege and to recognize my positionality in any situation.29) Sandoval, Chela. 1991 "US Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World." Genders 10:1-24.Sandoval articulates the various methods of oppositional consciousness: equal rights, revolutionary,separatist, and supremacist approaches. Ultimately Sandoval argues that women of color in the US have had
  6. 6. Annotated Bibliography Ruelos 6to utilize all of these strategies (rather than canonizing one and demonizing the rest) because of theircomplex social position. It is differential consciousness, utilizing the four of these as they see fit to yourcurrent contextual positions, that really informs my own conceptualization of social movement tactics andstrategies for social transformation30) Sociological Images. Founders Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp. <http://thesocietypages.org/socimages>.This blog seeks to provide a sociological (and very anthropological as well) understanding for viewing theworld. Its goal is to provide a critical analysis of popular culture and public discourse in order to bothdeconstruct social processes, mechanisms, and systems of inequality and envision positive and healthyalternatives. Its social justice lens is why I find it useful for critically engaging with representations andsystems of power and privilege in very contemporary framework.