Polywog

February 20, 2008

Not Knowing

Filed under: women's history — polywog @ 11:13 p02

From An Imaginary Life, by David Malouf

When I think of my exile now it is from the universe. When I think of the tongue that has been taken away from me, it is some earlier and more universal language than our Latin, subtle as it undoubtedly is. Latin is a language for distinctions, every ending defines and divides. The language I am speaking of now, that I am almost speaking, is a language whose every syllable is a gesture of reconciliation. We knew that language once. I spoke it in my childhood. We must discover it again.

From The Empire of Love

The multiplicity of discourses wound into any one object meets the multiplicity of the object as it changes over time, and is stretched by any given discourse, and winds others as it twists away from them.

As people go about their ordinary lives–their practices of love, work, and civic life–they continually constitute these discourses as if the discourses were the agents of social life, as if there were such a thing as the sovereign subject and the genealogical society, as individual freedom and social constraint, and as if the choice between these Manichean positions were the only real choice available to us. They do this as if all other actual and potential positions and practices were impractical, politically perverse, or socially aberrant.

From “Womanism: On its Own,” by Layli Phillips

Womanism is a social change perspective rooted in Black women’s and other women of color’s everyday experiences and everyday methods of problem solving in everyday spaces, extended to the problem of ending all forms of oppression for a ll people, restoring a balance between people and the environment/nature, and reconciling human life with the spiritual dimension.

Womanism manifests five overaching characteristics: (1) it is antioppressionist, (2) it is vernacular, (3) it is nonideological, (4) it is communitarian, and (5) it is spiritualized.

Nonideological refers to the fact that womanism abhors rigid lines of demarcation and tends to function in a decentralized manner. Statements like “You’re either in or you’re out” and “You’re either with us or against us” do not compute for womanists. Womanism is not about creating lines of demarcation; rather, it is about building structures of inclusiveness and positive interrelationship from anywhere in its network. Ideology is rigid; it relies on internal logical consistency and some degree of central control that seeks the resolution of difference by means homogenization. Ideological perspectives and, to a lesser extent, movements rely on processes that compel or seduce people to conform and do not deal effectively with difference or paradox. Differences and tension that cannot beelided or erased trouble ideologies, and unresolved praradoxes tend to cause ideologies to crumble and lose efficacy. Womanism is not a rule-based system, and it does not need to resolve internal disagreement to function effectivley… Womanists rely on dialogue to establish and negotialte relationships; such relationships can accomodatedisagreement, conflict, and anger simultaneiously wth agreement, affinity, and love. From an analytic perspective, womanism appears paradoxical and logically inconsistent, and from an analytic perspective, these are fair assessments–yet womanism’s criteria for self-evaluation are not analytic.

Dialogue is a means by which people express and establish both connection and individuality. Dialogue permits negotiation, reveals standpoint, realizes existential equality, and shapes social reality. Dialogue is the lcal where both tension and connection can be present simultaneously; it is the site for both struggle and love.

Differential consciousness: permits movement among and between divergent logics (cultural, religious, ideological, etc.) and conceptual schemes (cosmologies, value systems, ethical codes, etc.) and its hallmark is a higher-order coordinating mechanism (“the differential”) that enables them to collectively make sense and work together. It requires the ability to make positive connections between elements that might have seemed unrelatable before; thus, it is associated with creativity, ingenuity, improvisationality, and the proverbial “making a way out of no way.” As Sandoval points out, the transcendental-emotive state of love creates a space within and a mechanism by which limiting rational-analytical logics can be dissolved to make different, paradox-superseding logics possible and active. This love, similar to Audre Lorde’s “erotics,” has a political expression that Sandoval calls “revolutionary love.”

Layli Phillips, Elizabeth Povinelli, Chela Sandoval, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Audre Lorde, David Malouf, Susan Griffen. These are the thinkers that are catching me. I wandered into them through curiosities about the politics of love, and through a growing feeling of… well maybe it could be called a spiritual sickness of categorical thinking. I have much to read, and only an intuition that i’m heading in something that could be called a direction.

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