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This year, RuPaul and Michelle Visage launched their podcast, “What’s the Tee?” It’s amazing. I cannot get enough of it. I just listened to Episode 19, the year end round-up and it reminded me how Ru and Michelle – along with amazing guests such as Latrice Royale, TS Madison, and Alaska (among many others!) – have gotten me through a very tough and transformative year. Makeup tips, meditation advice, breakup talk, queer and trans* politics, activism, & everyday life, and, of course, Drag Race behind the scenes chat. ALL DAY. Ru’s wisdom and deep truth-telling capacity paired with Michelle’s irreverent, industry-smart Jersey style is always guffaw inducing, even if there are moments that make you go “Hmmm…” That’s also what I love about the show: It trusts itself enough to name taboos, to engage controversially, and to position itself effortlessly and with total grace. And always laughing. Ru and Michelle both have incredible laughs. It’s like the best eavesdropping lunch you have twice a month. All this brilliance has made a loyal, never-miss-an-episode listener out of me. The show has softened my ear to Michelle and elevated RuPaul into one of my spiritual touchstones. A life guide! “What’s the Tee” offers so much, if you’re not sure where to start, why not with the end? Find Episode 19 here.

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I’m very excited to announce that I’ll have a chapter in the forthcoming book Urban Forests, Trees and Greenspace: A Political Ecology Perspective (2014, Earthscan/Routledge) edited by the amazing team behind the Urban Forests and Political Ecologies conference held at University of Toronto last year: L. Anders Sandberg (York U, FES), Adrina Bardekjian (York U, FES), and Sadia Butt (UofT, Forestry).

My chapter, “Queering the Urban Forest: The Ecological Ethics and Politics of Arboreal Entanglement,” travels to Detroit, New York, and Chișinău, Moldova with my favorite arboreal guide, the Tree of Heaven. A taste from my intro:

Tree of Heaven is a speculative link in a longer chain of queer and ecological theory and practice. This chapter deploys queer reading and writing of Tree of Heaven. A queer reading looks not only at how the tree reproduces but also at its dis/location, to the symbolic and material crisis of its overabundance, and to its space-making tactics. A queer writing of Tree of Heaven does not speak of success and failures in anything like absolute terms. Instead, it is a gesture of mutualist alliance with the tree. I write as a way of asking where it takes us and where we are taken if we follow it.

What kinds of spaces must we walk through to find it? Where are these spaces in the city? Who and what uses those spaces? Who and what disappears when Ailanthus disappears? The tree tells stories and reveals patterns of displacement, destruction, renewal, and dwelling. It helps us to locate concepts and practices that bring new creativity to bear in dealing with the violent displacements and volatile crises of urban capitalism. Lurking around freshly sprouting stands of A. altissima is just one way to ask how anything survives, let alone thrives, in the midst of those crises and displacements.

 

I empty my bags. Travel is over for now. I put on my face while nobody is home. One wants to look correct while one is pronouncing to no one in particular. Now it is time to sing and dance beneath an indigo cloud.

The committee is coming.
The committee is coming.
The committee is coming.

I’m going underground to write comps for a while. And, in celebration of the acquisition of concert tickets, I’ve decided that my first set of précis papers will be framed and secretly structured by The Knife’s, “Shaking the Habitual.”

And that’s when it hurts
When you see the difference
It’s a raging lung
And a difference
What a difference
A little difference would make

––Raging Lung

Our hair is out.
We have made some decisions.
We want to fail more, act without authority.
Plus there’s something phlegmatic about the world state don’t you think?
There’s a blood system promoting biology as destiny.
A series of patriarchies that’s a problem to the Nth degree.
What about hyper-capitalism, this homicidal class system, the school system that’s kaput?
[…]
No habits!
Of course we’re growing restless.

––From the press release for “Shaking the Habitual”

Ta for now.

I haven’t written much either on or off the blog this year. To be honest, I’ve been quite distracted working through my Saturn Return. This has involved shedding outmoded beliefs and understandings of myself and the various worlds in which I live or aspire to live, cultivating passions, finding new ways to ground myself, and, perhaps most challengingly, trying to develop intellectual, ethical, and personal practices and forms of discipline and punish focus that will sustain me as I slog through The PhD.

On that front, I’ve been deep in the comp swamp, reading books of ‘philosophical import,’ negotiating the nebulous fog of questions regarding my purposes and intentions; seeking personal truth among the perils of the professionalization process; examining why I felt it necessary to tackle “giant men” of philosophy in a sort of Kill The (mostly already dead and unkillable) Idols effort. If nothing else, I am learning that I love a good takedown piece, even if I never actually get around to writing it. I’m also learning that reading Deleuze is a lot like doing calculus in High School; something I find it ‘good to know’ so I can maybe never think about it again when I’m done. Though, it is useful to know core texts inside and out for moments when I am forced to parry Philosophical Manspeak.

When it comes to QUE, I still think I haven’t found a centerline for how to use the site. Archive building? Vanity project? Echo chamber? Wandering notwithstanding, it remains refreshing to have something which I can attend to only when it feels right, with out too much self-consciousness. It’s a nice antidote the more scripted processes I have to negotiate on the daily. And so, most of my posts in the last months have been a mashup of media, ‘wordartpoems,’ and photos.

As the year draws to a close, I find myself on the brink of starting a more dedicated writing practice, not only in preparation for my dissertation, but also because writing is the craft I’d most like to develop, the skill I think I’m most prepared to hone through practice and failure. I certainly don’t expect my dissertation to be an exhaustive creative effort, so I’d like this site to be a space of other kinds of writing, other kinds of experiments.

With that in mind, considering I’ve got so many ‘saved drafts’ regarding turning points and transformative emotional, intellectual, embodied, and spiritual moments this year, I thought a good place to start would be with some of the most challenging, beautiful, and lasting moments of 2013. Over the next ten days, look for a series of short posts with moments culled from memory, notebooks, and the saved drafts folder. I love a good processing sesh, don’t you?

All points are quoted from the video posted here.

1. Allies know that it is not sufficient to be liberal; in fact, the liberal position is actually a walk backwards. The politically liberal position is the hegemonic force of the academy and carries with it  all the numbing characteristics of any hegemonic force. Hegemony blinds us to what is hiding in plain sight.

2. Be loud and crazy so black folks won’t have to be. Speak out! Name it! Say it! If you are male, you be the one to tell your department chair that the women’s salaries in your department must be brought in line with those of the men. If you are white, you be the one to advocate for the qualified graduate student of color applicant over the qualified white graduate student applicant. If you are straight, you be the one to attend the [university] president’s speech tomorrow at nine o’clock in the morning [for equal benefits for partners] at the University of Texas. If you are Christian, you be the one to be sure that Muslim students have safe accessible spaces on campus for the obligatory five times a day prayers. Speaking up does not mean being reckless, strategizing is always important…Speaking up does mean being willing to relinquish some piece of privilege in order to create justice. Allies step up, the do the work that has left others weary and depleted.

3. Do not tell anyone in any oppressed group to be patient. Doing so is the sign of your own privilege and unconscious though absolute disregard for the person with whom you are speaking. Remember: It was a number of white ministers in Atlanta who advised Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be ‘patient’ in reacting to U.S. racism…Patience is not a political strategy, it is a diversionary tactic. It is a patronizing recommendation made only by those who do not believe that oppression is killing us all…Allies plan with us.

4. Recognize the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia. It is institutional and structural. Learn to walk in a room and count the people of color. And know what you know: the absence of people of color in any space cannot be accounted for by chance or accident. Learn to see how many women are in charge. The absence of powerful women in any space cannot be account for by chance or accident. Learn to see and feel those spaces that are unsafe for queer people. The absence of queer people in any space cannot be accounted for by chance or accident. Allies know that racism, sexism, and homophobia are real. And never tell people, “You could be wrong, you know.” Such a statement presumes that you have greater insights than those with lived experience inside multiple oppressions. Recognizing the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia means listeningAllies know how to spot oppression and to support others as they reveal their wounds.

5. When called out about your racism, sexism, or homophobia. Don’t cower in embarrassment, don’t cry, and don’t silently think ‘she’s crazy’ and vow never to interact with her again. We are all plagued by sexism, racism, and homophobia. Be grateful that someone took the time to expose yours. Remember: exposure allows the wind to whip around and get rid of isolation and fear. Exposure is a step toward freedom. Allies welcome an opportunity to see how their choices, ideas, words may be erasing those around them. It’s not about your intent…It is about the effect, the damaging effect your choice had on others…Allies want to know when they have contributed to the very oppression they oppose. Allies know they are not above reproach.

6. Allies actively support alternative possibilities. Some of us publish in nationally recognized journals that our departments do not know or respect. Some of us write in poetic or non-standard or elliptical styles as a matter of choice, not ignorance. Some of us paint our truths rather than write them. Some of us teach with a loose map. Because allies believe the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, allies consider the transgressive power in alternative academic strategies. A power that works to undo patriarchy, white supremacy, the insatiability of capitalism and heterosexism. Supporting alternative possibilities is the only way we can all dream ourselves into the world we want to live in.

 

 

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