Archive by Author

Transfeminist Marcos By Beatriz Marcos Preciado

11 Jun

Marcos For Ever

SUBCOMANDANTE-MARCOS_0

 

On 25 May, Subcommander Marcos sent an open letter to the world from the “Zapatista reality” announcing the death of Marcos, who was constructed to act as a media representative and voice of the revolutionary project of Chiapas. “These will be my last word in public before ceasing to exist.” The same statement announced the birth of Subcommander Galeano, a name borrowed from José Luis Solis “Galeano” – a colleague murdered by paramilitaries on 2 May. “One of us has to die”, explained the Subcommander, “so that Galeano can live. And so that the impertinent death can be satisfied. In the place of Galeano we put another name so that he may live and death takes away not a life but just a name, a few letters emptied of all meaning, all history and all life.” We know, of course, that José Luis Solis Jose borrowed his own name from the writer of Open Veins of Latin America. The Subcommander, who has always been miles ahead of the egotistical elders of French poststructuralism, operates within the realm of the political production the death of the author that Barthes proposed in the realm of a text.

 

In the last few years, the Zapatistas have constructed the most creative option for confronting the (failed) necropolitical options of neoliberalism, as well as those proposed by communism. The Zapatistas, unlike any other movement, is inventing a political methodology for “organizing rage”. And reinventing life. In 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (ELNZ) – through the figure of subcommander Marcos – began to conceive of a new means of doing decolonial philosophy for the twenty first century that distanced itself from the treatise (inherited from the ecclesiastic and colonial culture of the book that began in the sixteenth century and declined towards the end of the last) in order to act from an oral-digital techno-indigenous culture that is whispered across the social networks as rituals, letters, messages, stories and parables. The Zapatistas are showing us one of the central techniques of production of political subjectivity: deprivatizing birth names with borrowed names and undoing the individualist fiction of the “real and natural” face.

 

Amos Mac

Amos Mac by Elisa Shea

Not so far from the subcommander, resides another political space where the stability of one’s given name is also challenged in the same theatrical and shamanic gesture – a space where the truth of the face as an ultimate reference of personal identity is disrupted: the transsexual, transgender, gender-queer, drag king and drag queen cultures. Every trans person has (or had) two (or more) names: the one they were assigned at birth by the dominant culture seeking to normalize them and the one that marks a process of dissident subjectivity. Trans names are not so much an affirmation about belonging to another sex, rather they are the detonators for a process of dis-identification. The subcommander Marcos, who learnt more from the pen of the queer Mexican writer Carlos Monsivais than the manly beard of Fidel, was a drag king personality: the intentional construction of a masculine fiction (the hero and the voice of the rebel) through technical performances. A revolutionary emblem without a face or ego: made from words and collective dreams, constructed with a balaclava and a pipe. The borrowed name and the facemask are methods of political parody that work to denounce the masks that cover the faces of the corrupt police and the hegemony: “Why is there so much scandal about the masks?” Said Marcos “Is Mexican Society really ready to take off its own mask?” Just like the balaclava undoes the individual “truth” of the face, the given name is unraveled and collectivized.

 

Photo by Del LaGrace Volcano

“Gender Optional: The Mutating Self Portrait,” Photo by Del LaGrace Volcano

For the Zapatistas, given names and balaclavas work in the same way that the wig, the second name, moustache and heels work in trans culture: as intentional and hyperbolic signs of a political-sexual transvestism as well as queer-indigenous weapons that allow us to confront neoliberal aesthetics. And this is not through a notion of true sex or an authentic name, rather through the construction of a living fiction that resists the norm.

 

The experiments of the Zapatistas, queer and trans cultures invite us to deprivatize the face and the name in order to transform the body of the multitude into a collective revolutionary agent. From this shared common body, I would like to respond to Subcommander Galeano with the proposition that from now on I will sign with my trans name – Beatriz Marcos Preciado – harnessing the performative force of the political fiction created by the Zapatistas and letting it live in the queer guerrilla of a decomposing Europe: so that the Zapatista reality is.

 

Beatriz Marcos Preciado.

José Esteban Muñoz – 1967-2013

6 Dec

José Esteban Muñoz, 1966-2013

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This week, we lost a fierce friend, a comrade, a wry and trenchant critic, a brave and bold queer voice and a true utopian in a world of pessimists. As we try to reckon with his absence and learn to live with the loss of such a magnificent thinker, such an enormous spirit, we can find all kinds of solace in the work that José left behind. “Queerness is not yet here,” he cautioned us at the beginning of Cruising Utopia, and he continued: “The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there.”

These words are strangely comforting now that José is truly no longer in the here and now but dwells instead in a then, a there, a new world that we cannot reach from here, this prison house of life, the body, the present. José’s work, his craft, his social worlds, his teaching all reached out for the “forward-dawning futurity” that, he felt, harbored other ways of being, other forms of life, other worlds. These other worlds, alternative forms of life, could be glimpsed only through the cultural landscapes that queer people create out of love, desperation, hilarity, performance, perversity, friendship, sex, feelings, failings, pain and communion. And so José made it his life’s work to live in and with and alongside the brilliant, talented, queer performers about whom he wrote and with whom he collaborated: Vaginal Davis, Carmelita Tropicana, Nao Bustamente are just a few of the gorgeous, glittering talents who built worlds with him and made crazy, hilarious, expansive performance spaces with him, spaces where he could find his “then and there” at least for an evening.

And let’s not tame José as he leaves us – he was brilliant, sweet, loving, for sure, but he was also bitchy, camp, and tough. He knew well how to tease and be teased, how to give as good as he got, how to pick a fight and how to step out of the way once the fight really got going. José, as so many people have said, was socially promiscuous – he was friends with everyone – people who did not speak to each other remained best friends with José, so much so that when he came to Los Angeles, he would have to negotiate his time between the “Lesbian Warlords” who all set up camps that could include him but not each other!

José would often quote Jack Smith’s barb about Maria Montez (or was it Allen Ginsburg?) that they were “walking careers”: this was a high ranking insult from José and it was reserved for people who could not remember why they were in academia – people who sought out the “stardom,” the attention and forgot the pleasure, the collaborative potential, the sheer joy of writing, thinking and being in proximity to performance – those people were ‘walking careers.’ As for José, rock star and legend as he was, he was not in it simply for the career, the profession, the attention – José really did believe in something bigger than personal acclaim and that was the queer utopia he continued to cruise until his death.

“We must vacate the here and now for a then and there…” he wrote at the conclusion to Cruising Utopia. “What we need to know is that queerness is not yet here but it approaches like a crashing wave of potentiality…Willingly we let ourselves feel queerness’s pull, knowing it as something else that we can feel, that we must feel. We must take ecstasy” (185). I am pretty sure that José knew plenty about taking ecstasy and about feeling something beyond the here and now. And, because he taught us all how to feel “queerness’s pull,” we are all here now, sitting on the shore, alone, bereft from his loss, squinting towards the horizon and hoping to see the shape of the queer world to come that he insistently pointed us towards. José we miss you, we love you, nothing will ever be the same without you.

Bully Bloggers

Atlas Shrugging

21 Oct

By Lisa Duggan

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/84/AtlasShrugged.jpg

The government shut down has ended and the threat of default has passed.  Ted Cruz and the House Republicans have been defeated.  But they don’t seem to know that.  According to recent press reports, Cruz is being greeted in parts of Texas as a hero for fighting the good fight.  Despite widespread suffering during the shutdown and global fear and trembling over the threat of default, Tea Party Zombies walk the land.  Denying the death of their scorched earth strategy, they declare victory and vow to fight on.

The current zombie phenomenon echoes the astonishing aftermath of the post 2008 financial crisis and recession.  At the time, it seemed that neoliberal rhetoric and policies might be thoroughly discredited almost overnight.  How could extensive deregulation and privatization be defended in the wake of a serious crash so clearly related to the failures of those policies?  How could the social safety net be further shredded with so many people newly jobless and impoverished?  Well, surprise!  Neoliberal rhetoric bounced back on steroids, underwriting ferocious efforts to defeat new regulations of Wall Street, attack Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and especially to defeat President Obama’s mild mannered, market oriented health care reform bill (itself a thoroughly neoliberal piece of legislation, without even the public option supported by a majority of Americans).

These radicalized zombie versions of neoliberal capitalism have not triumphed, but they have lived on to fight another day, and then another, powerfully shaping debates on the political and cultural fronts in ways that can seem, well, puzzling.  We’re way past Tom Frank’s plaintive 2004 question, “what’s the matter with Kansas?”  To ask now “what’s the matter with congress?” is only barely to scratch the surface.

There are many paths of analysis useful for understanding how we have arrived here, with a thoroughly dysfunctional end-of-empire mode of government by manufactured crisis.  After careful attention to Marx, Foucault and company, I would like to suggest that we all turn our attention momentarily to…  the plot of Atlas Shrugged.  Many of us read this cartoonish tome in high school, when its portrayal of sexy heroic rebels going on strike against mealy mouthed corrupt controlling weaklings had the capacity to thrill.  But as recent biographies of Ayn Rand by Jennifer Burns and Ann Heller, along with journalist Gary Weiss’ Ayn Rand Nation have shown, the influence of this pulpy novel extends far beyond the kind of adolescent fandom that has energized the Twilight series.  Surveys and sales figures reveal Atlas Shrugged as a broadly read and deeply influential text.  In 2009, sales of the novel tripled over the year before, and GQ magazine called Rand the year’s most influential author.  In 2010 a Zogby poll found 29% of respondents had read the novel, and half of those readers said it affected their political and ethical thinking.  David Frum noted that the Tea Party was reinventing the GOP as “the party of Ayn Rand.”

Numerous journalists have outlined the influence of Rand’s writings on politicians from Rand Paul and Paul Ryan to Ron Johnson (who defeated beloved progressive Russ Feingold in the 2010 Wisconsin senate race) and Mike Lee of Utah, a collaborator with Ted Cruz in the recent shutdown/default strategy.  But if we go a bit beyond tracing Rand’s “influence,” to tracking the feelings and fantasies drawn from her fiction, we may be able to further illuminate the energies propelling our current zombie infestation.

Recall:  In Atlas Shrugged, the mighty producer class upon whom the welfare of all depends is drawn into a fierce war with the moochers, looters, corrupt bureaucrats and crazen corporate sellouts.  All the latter are sucking on the tit of the creative titans, the job creators.  Finally, the only way to win this war is for the producers to withdraw from the political and economic landscape controlled by the moocher hordes and their enablers.  In a reversal of the labor theory of value and an appropriation of the workers’ strategy of the strike, the producers prove that all value is ultimately generated by the titans.  As the world collapses, pushed along by producer sabotage and violence, chaos and widespread suffering ensue.  The crucial point here is:  how are readers to feel about this fantasy scenario?  Does the collapse and the suffering and death tar them as immoral, and lead to reader shock and abhorrence?  Well, no, of course.  This is a Rand novel.  Readers are meant to cheer the apocalypse, because it is deserved by the stupid and weak masses and those who pander to them.  The destruction is thrilling, as are the sexy heroic titans who have caused it.  Atlas shrugs, and we are left panting lustily at the spectacle of his (or her, Rand includes female titans) glittering muscularity, while the boulder smashes those who would hold him back.
http://www.worstpreviews.com/images/atlasshrugged.gif

Of course Rand didn’t invent any of this.  She was an especially canny appropriator and combiner of social darwinism and Hollywood romance (she was herself a screen writer for a time).  And the readers and politicians who take up her banner do so with massive inconsistencies—rejecting much of her version of atheist libertarianism, her support of abortion rights and opposition to drug laws, her contempt for marriage and positive portrayal of adultery, her penchant for sadomasochistic imagery.  But it’s not really her ideas that are most in play in current political dramas, it’s the affect and images drawn from her fiction that suffuse the Tea Party zeitgeist.  Were people hurt by the government shutdown?  Might a default, or even serious threat of default on the debt of the U.S. government generate a global economic crisis?  YES!  For some on the radical right, the Bible is the source for imagining the worst and finding it good—the End Times and the Rapture are here!  But for others, the relevant book is Atlas Shrugged.  The titan heroes will stand sexy, heroic and tall as the world around them collapses, as it should if “Obamacare,” sign of the world historical disastrous dominance of collectivism, remains the law of the land.

Queer Genealogies (Provisional Notes)

13 Jan

By Keguro Macharia

I am seduced by the prospect of queer conference panels. I anticipate their erotic charge, their intellectual promiscuities, their fleshly abundance—so many queers in one space. I crave their sustaining energy, which enables me to inhabit less queer-friendly and distinctly queer-hating spaces. So I arrived at the MLA panel, “Queer Theory Without Antinormativity,” featuring Anamarie Jagose, Robyn Wiegman, and Elizabeth Wilson, with a deep sense of anticipation. I have been struggling to find a language to describe what I experienced as the familiar violence of a field I desire and claim, to name that stubborn attachment Lauren Berlant describes as “cruel optimism” (Berlant 2011). It is a strange thing to experience oneself being absented from view—I must, wrongly, personalize this—even as the terms “we” and “our” and “us” were used at the panel often, a lot, extremely.

The panelists mused on the limits of antinormativity as an organizing principle for queer scholarship. Antinormativity, claimed Wiegman, functions as an “engine” that drives queer thinking as intervention, permitting those who invoke the term, and who critique norms and normativity in general, to believe their work is necessarily political. The critique is well taken, for, as the panelists argued, we need to be able to think more deliberately about what constitutes the political and, also, how to distinguish between the norms with which we cannot do without and those that punish and destroy.

While their papers followed different trajectories, they all agreed that “we” needed to return to queer foundations: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Gayle Rubin, and a distant Foucault.

I was nagged by the familiarity of this archive: white women. How had we come to the (familiar) point where as a rich body of work has proliferated—known, variously, as Black Queer studies, Queer of Color critique, Postcolonial Queerness, Transnational Queerness—we are urged to go back to our (white) roots? Back to our white mothers, who, we were told, we had not yet understood, not quite. Who we had misheard, and misused in the service of something that was dismissed as “the (prematurely) political.”

In case anyone dared to raise the complications of other geo-histories, we were told that this was about the history of the West.

I want to take up this challenge of the West and its queer roots by multiplying our queer genealogies through two key figures: Frantz Fanon and Hortense Spillers. Against what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes, in another context, as a “single story” of queer origins, midwifed by Sedgwick, Butler, Teresa de Lauretis (an absent name), I want to offer other, complementary myths of how we enter into the space called queer. I hope the “our” and “we” and “us” produced by this complementary genealogy includes (as it must) the “our” and “we” and “us” imagined through white mothers. Learning from Sharon Holland, I want to persist “in the stubborn insistence that we do belong to one another despite our every effort at home and in the institution, to lose track of, if not forget altogether, such belonging.” (2012: 15)

*

Let us proceed with Sedgwick’s own strategy: by insisting that this is about the history of the West. Fanon’s West.

By the late 1990s, as Queer studies took disciplinary shape and gained muscle, the field had decided to abandon Fanon. While Fanon was understood as a theorist of blackness and an interruption into psychoanalysis, he was homophobic, unavailable for Queer studies. Proclaimed as such by Diana Fuss, Lee Edelman, and Kobena Mercer, Fanon became an impossible figure for Queer studies (Fuss 1994; Edelmen 1994; Mercer 1996). And here, I must borrow more language from Holland: Fanon could be dismissed with “glee” (2012: 14). While Darieck Scott (2010) has made the Fanon of Wretched of the Earth newly available, Black Skin, White Masks remains safely bracketed.

This bracketing has been strategic, as it means certain strands of Queer studies have ignored the problem race presents for something called the homosexual. If, following Fanon, the Negro represents genitality within colonial modernity, and if the term “homosexual” names a desire for genitality, then desire itself must be directed toward—or routed through—blackness understood as that which incarnates desire for/as genitality. One could claim this is a flattened reading of the homosexual within colonial modernity, but, with Robert Reid-Pharr, I want to insist that “If there is one thing that marks us as queer . . . then it is undoubtedly our relationships to the body, particularly the expansive ways in which we utilize and combine vaginas, penises, breasts, buttocks, hands, arms, feet, stomachs, mouths and tongues in our expressions of not only intimacy, love, and lust but also and more importantly shame, contempt, despair, and hate,” (2001: 85). If such embodiedness rubs the wrong way, then one might simply go with Holland’s claim that “having a right to our queer desires is a fundamental tenet of queer theorizing” (2012: 45). If one reads Fanon a particular way, desire must be routed through, worked through, approached through blackness as that which makes desire possible within colonial modernity, which is to say, modernity.

If a certain strand of Queer studies has been too willing to abandon Fanon, Fanon remains stubbornly attached to Queer studies, demanding an accounting of how blackness comes to figure within and as desire, as the portal to homosexuality as desire. And if the materiality of blackness forces a mad dash for psychic figuration, Fanon has already been there: the Negro and the Negro’s genitality are psychic figurations within colonial modernity that the homosexual cannot do without.

*

If Fanon poses a problem for the homosexual, Hortense Spillers poses a problem for sex and gender. In “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Spillers complicates certain queer strategies: the distinction between gender and sex, the undoing of this distinction, the role of the performative, the distinction between subject and abject, the idea of the dominant and the marginal, normativities and radicals, and so on. To these fine, necessary distinctions, Spillers, like Fanon, poses the problem of colonial modernity as the problem of “the thing.”

Here is one instance of the problem:

The [New World] order, with its sequence written in blood, represents for its African and indigenous peoples a scene of actual mutilation, dismemberment, and exile. First of all, their New World, diasporic flight marked a theft of the body – a willful and violent (and unimaginable from this distance) severing of the captive body from its motive will, its active desire. Under these conditions, we lose at least gender difference in the outcome, and the female body and the male body become a territory of cultural and political maneuver, not at all gender-related, gender-specific. But this body, at least from the point of view of the captive community, focuses a private and particular space, at which point of convergence, biological, sexual, social, cultural, linguistic, ritualistic, and psychological fortunes join. This profound intimacy of interlocking detail, is disrupted, however, by externally imposed meanings and uses: 1) the captive body becomes the source of an irresistible, destructive sensuality [hear Fanon here]; 2) at the same time – in stunning contradiction – the captive body reduces to a thing, becoming being for the captor; 3) in this absence from a subject position, the captured sexualities provide a physical and biological expression of “otherness”; 4) as a category of “otherness,” the captive body translates into a potential for pornotroping and embodies sheer physical powerlessness that slides into a more general “powerlessness,” resonating through various centers of human and social meaning. (1987: 67)

The thing-making project of New World subject production (the “captive body” is “being” for the captor”) refuses the too-celebratory discussions of undifferentiated gender and un-gendering in Queer studies. The much-heralded “blur” and “undecidability” understood as conditions of freedom must contend with its longer genealogy in a thing-making project. One cannot uncritically celebrate gender or sex undecidability. Instead, one must work through the micro- and macro-positions created in the New World: “captive body,” “thing,” “captured sexualities,” “otherness,” “potential for pornotroping,” “sheer powerlessness.” How might these terms and their emergence from slavery provide other ways to approach Queerness? How do we work through the problem of the “thing” in that micro-transition from “captured bodies” to “captured sexualities,” where thingness becomes a mediating term, a filter, a catalyst, a door? How is sexuality within colonial modernity always (and only) approachable through the thing?

What might a Queer studies that begins with, or engages, the problem of the “thing” look like? How might the problem of the thing compel us to re-think and re-work Sedgwick’s powerful first axiom: “People are different from each other” to ask, instead, how we come to think of the term “people” and what that term brackets and makes impossible. How might the unthinkability of blackness direct our queer gazes?

*

Something radical—at the root—has happened in Queer studies over the past decade, sometimes, though not always, through Fanon and Spillers. Fred Moten (2008) has taken up the problem of the “thing” for blackness, charting blackness as “fugitive movement in and out of the frame, bar, or whatever externally imposed social logic,” including, I would add, that which governs Sedgwick’s useful distinction between homo and hetero within Western modernity. Moten tasks us to track what “escapes” that figuration of time and being. If we stay within the fiction of a hermetic West, something that Rudi Bleys’s reading of the ethnographic imagination makes difficult, but still (1996). If we stay with this fiction, then work by Christina Sharpe, Omise’eke Tinsley, Ricardo Ortiz, José Muñoz, Nayan Shah, Mark Rifkin, and many others has taught us that far from being close to exhausted, the project of reading queerness in the West remains to be done, remains radicalizing, always demanding a (re)turn to places and times we had not known to look or, having looked, we had not known how to think about.

If the paradigms we have relied on thus far—antinormavity, say—no longer suffice because of our increasingly multiply entangled and multiplying geo-histories, if we need to forge contingent tools that will allow us to keep speaking with each other across increasingly disparate times and spaces, if we must jettison everything we thought we knew to pursue the “not yet here” Muñoz so richly invokes, so be it.

But, to take language from Essex Hemphill, “don’t let loneliness / kill us” (1992:165) Hemphill’s “us” is what is at stake—the “us” I desire, the one I went to the panel seeking, the “us” that was pronounced through negation.

It could have been otherwise.

It should have been otherwise.

 


Works Cited

Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011).

Rudi C. Bleys, The Geography of Perversion: Male-to-Male Sexual Behavior Outside the West and the Ethnographic Imagination, 1750-1918 (New York: NYU Press, 1996).

Lee Edelman, Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory (New York: Routledge, 1994)

Diana Fuss, “Interior Colonies: Frantz Fanon and the Politics of Identification,” Diacritics 24. 2-3 (1994): 19-42

Essex Hemphill, “Heavy Corners,” Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (New York: Plume, 1992)

Sharon Patricia Holland, The Erotic Life of Racism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 15. (Fuss 1994; Edelmen 1994; Mercer 1996)

Kobena Mercer, “Decolonization and Disappointment: Reading Fanon’s Sexual Politics,” The Fact of Blackness: Frantz Fanon and Visual Representation, ed. Alan Read (Seattle: Bay Press, 1996).

Fred Moten, “The Case of Blackness,” Criticism 50.2 (2008): 177-218.

José Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2009)

Ricardo Ortiz, Cultural Erotics in Cuban America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007)

Robert Reid-Pharr, Black Gay Man: Essays (New York: New York University Press, 2001).

Mark Rifkin, When Did Indians Become Straight? Kinship, The History of Sexuality, and Native Sovereignty (New York: OUP, 2011).

Darieck Scott, Extravagant Abjection: Blackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination (New York: New York University Press, 2010).

Nayan Shah, Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality, and the Law in the North American West (CA: University of California Press, 2012)

Christina Sharpe, Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010)

Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritics 17.2 (1987).

Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, Thiefing Sugar: Eroticism Between Women in Caribbean Literature (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010)

Mark Aguhar’s Critical Flippancy

4 Aug flipping-the-white-man

By Roy Pérez

Somewhere deep in the Call Out Queen archive, Mark Aguhar quotes a line from another artist’s film: THINKS HE CAN NARRATE MY LIFE BECAUSE I TAUGHT HIM ABOUT FIRE AND WHEELS.*  I encountered this entry while putting together a zine of Mark’s writing and it triggered my already lurking anxiety of authorship.

Mark was an art student in the MFA program at the University of Illinois, Chicago.  We met and got to know each other through a coincidence of connections, online and off, through which we admired each other’s work and fueled each other’s rage. Like many of her fans, my primary point of contact with Mark was on Tumblr, where she blogged as Call Out Queen.  And she blogged constantly, producing dozens of posts a day: one-liners, long rants, performance videos, porn, responses to fan mail and hate mail, and whatever other form of journaling she needed to survive a long trip, a day at school, a night at home, or the next few minutes.

Mark committed suicide on the weekend of March 12, 2012. Maybe the only thing you need to know about that weekend appears in the last thing she posted on her blog: LOL, WHITE MEN BORE ME.

Originally called “notheretomakefriends,” the Call Out Queen blog spans three years and begins here. A combination of grad school, women-of-color theory, new friends and a major falling out with old ones, led Mark to take up the name Call Out Queen and galvanize a new objective: “blogging for brown gurls” that called out white, male, thin privilege and affirmed brown, fat, femme agency.

The first post that blew up with likes and reblogs, TALK ABOUT THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY, lists “the benefits of sun exposure” and “having a healthy relationship to food” in an itinerary of radical brown, fat self-care. The entry is an early version of Mark’s catalogs of affirmation, like her LITANIES TO MY HEAVENLY BROWN BODY or the Axes.  Artistic remixes and republications of these manifestos of care by fans, curators and activists will place them among her lasting written legacies.

But her posts were also magnets for the resentment of folks who could not stand to see privilege challenged in Mark’s many voices—cuttingly flippant one second, heartbreakingly and radically vulnerable the next, and always floating on an undertow of misandry. Anyone with a healthy Tumblr feed will eventually encounter a Call Out Queen post, and her posts would frequently drift into the crosshairs of Internet trolls and haters. Mark would sometimes post the hate mail she received to hilarious, deflating effect. In my favorite of these, an anonymous writer asked Mark to account for the increasing visibility of fat positivity. Mark posted the full message, then isolated one line—”You look like a whale, ok?“—and reposted it with degenerating locution. The final iteration, U LOOK LYK A WALE OK, belongs on a t-shirt, as one commenter suggests. The broke down txtspk relays the casual inanity of everyday hate speech and invites us to laugh in its face. The strategy typifies one of the most powerful things about Mark as Call Out Queen: the confidence and discernment with which the blog’s voice learned to channel its critical energy.  Mark would read and flatten patriarchal and racist bullshit without diverting power from the work of brown, queer reflection and affirmation.

What she called flippancy was less about refusing to take things seriously and more about shutting down the mode of bad-faith elliptical debate that reigns on the Internet in order to carry out real talk about day to day survival under white male supremacy. The Call Out Queen’s way of switching registers when she needed to—from confessional, to theoretical, to capricious, to sneering—gave critical substance to her flippancy, mocking a hater while empowering the one who dared to laugh it off. The hair flips themselves added artful glamour to the otherwise boring work of ignoring you on purpose.

Her art, her arguments, her experiences as a queer person of color, a geeky teenage gamer (did you know that?), a logic and philosophy nerd, the kid of immigrants growing up in public schools and strip malls and cheap stucco houses, are not mine but close to mine and are some of the avenues by which we recognized kinship. They also seem like important but unseen facets of Mark that surface here and there, particularly in the early months of the blog, and whenever Mark blogged from Houston. All the reading too much, shopping too much, feeling too much that defines the life of a ghettonerd appears there in the glamorous looks she turned out of her messy studio, not underneath but laced right into the hair tutorials, the scientific precision of the hair flip, the deconstructions of chicken adobo and rice, the fragile and fleeting vanity that gives a person what the world won’t.

Call Out Queen was learning and teaching the fire and wheels of fat, femme, brown survival and cultural analysis. She was also exposing the contradictions that survival requires, in particular the emotional and tactical oscillations between flippancy and heartbreak, boredom and rage.  So when I read that line—TRY TO NARRATE MY LIFE—while trying to do nothing other than impose some narrative arc on the Call Out Queen’s body of work, I felt like Mark was telling us to tread very fucking lightly.

The same healthy anxiety seems to bother all the ongoing conversations about Mark taking place in queer corners of the web right now. Posts about Mark’s death revealed how big her readership had grown and how far her art, ideas, criticism and confessions were reaching.  Many were written with tones of defense that seemed like urgent echoes (sometimes red-hot, sometimes witless) of Mark’s own rage.  In the weeks after Mark’s death it seemed like every blogger who followed her would take up arms to defend her memory against any other blogger who dared write about her.  “grief,” Mark wrote after her sister’s suicide in 2011, “is violent, selfish, painful, and necessary.”  The flame wars in defense of Mark’s legacy were all those things. They constituted a kind of public mourning for her that ranged from presumptuous to tender to luminous in their admiration for Mark and in their borrowing from Mark’s vernacular.

Blogger Julie Blair’s post for PrettyQueer.com (“Everybody Missed Mark“) was one of the first hints that the Call Out Queen was reaching more people than many of us in her life had been alert to. Blair’s eulogy is sincere, deferential, and anxiously humble. It’s also discomfitingly authoritative in some parts, speaking from some tacit and universal sense of queerness where she might have spoken more personally. Her strings of declaratives regarding Mark’s politics in particular may have been what rubbed a bunch of commenters the wrong way:

She questioned every facet of queer culture, which is a natural response for someone like her, who saw herself nowhere. She took on the things she liked and was never seduced into any one faction. She didn’t feel the need to be aligned with the things that appealed to her, she didn’t expect anything to be perfect, and challenged the very notion that anything could be.

You can find Blair working hard in the comment section at the foot of the post to account for the subjective disclosure missing from prose like this. Mark’s mode of queer questioning did not seem natural, it was well-read, complex, and hard won. Mark didn’t see herself nowhere, she saw herself in Mariah Carey and Audre Lorde. She aligned herself with femme misandry and she saw perfection all over the place. I could go on with my own chain of she-statements, but what’s at stake here is recognizing that the language we have for talking about Mark and her point of view, her craft and her politics, seems profoundly insufficient.

A fundamental snag is that Mark’s politics were evolving. One of the paradoxes of Mark’s style of critique is the intellectual vulnerability and contingency she maintained even as she raged against masculinity and whiteness with unapologetic generalization. These extremes are not performance. Or rather Mark’s ambivalent extremes are no more performative than other modes of critique and no more empty or less earnest for being deliberately performed. They are a demonstration of a politics guided by something bigger than the argument, a politics that can learn, feel, and change its mind.

It should feel difficult to write about an artist who deals with power by talking right over it. The politics of speaking for Mark—of declaring her significance, of too-personally stating her meaning, of writing in declaratives about what she stood for and represented like Blair and I do above—are complicated by Mark’s own resistance to circumscription. It’s easy to self-police and police others when writing about her. You can find a Call Out Queen post to contradict any other post. These are the perils of speaking for Mark, after Mark. But perhaps we can be freed by the possibility that what we lost in Mark, everything she showed us about power, pleasure, and beauty, exceeds the discourses we have available to us. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try, but that we should perform the trying, and the vulnerability it requires, as part of our own work. The language for transmitting the Call Out Queen’s message might be insufficient but it’s our responsibility to keep failing at it.

§

About a month after Mark died, a group of queer activists threw stones through the stained glass windows of a notoriously anti-gay megachurch in Portland, OR.  That morning on PugetSoundAnarchists.org a group of “angry queers” claimed responsibility for the action under the headline, “Anti-gay church smashed in memory of Mark Aguhar and Paige Clay.”  In the article they also name “Duanna Johnson, a black trans woman who was in all likelihood murdered by the police in 2008; Agnes Torres Sulca, Deoni Jones, and all other trans women who have been murdered by this cissexist, femmephobic, racist, and transmisogynistic society.”

On its own site, the Seattle-based Mars Hill church attributed the vandalism to “a gay rights group,” but Portland’s middle-leaning Q Center, having already dedicated weeks to “a process of respectful dialogue” with the controversial church and probably feeling implicated by the loose inclusiveness of the phrase “gay rights group,” quickly distanced themselves from the activists by snagging and rhetorically smearing the phrase “angry queers” in their own apologist statement, characterizing the activists as a mindless fringe group and leaving out any mention of trans justice. The “act of violence,” wrote executive director Barbara McCullough-Jones, “in some ways has brought our communities closer together.”  Here the white, middle-class constituencies of Mars Hill church and the Q Center find common ground in their wilful inattention to violence against trans women of color.  When they borrowed the term “angry queers” from the anarchists’ press release without mention of the group’s political message, the Q Center missed an important opportunity to articulate their stance on the current streak of reported violence against trans women of color. And calling property damage at a wealthy corporate megachurch franchise an “act of violence” in light of this erasure makes even clearer how far the national LGBT movement currently stands from the issues of working and poor queers of color.

Seeing Mark’s name appear in this flashpoint of anglocentric Northwest gay politics only weeks after her death was uncanny and uncomfortable.  With this incident Mark had gone from being a friend with some modest degree of Internet notoriety to a name on a growing national roster of queer deaths demanding political redress. Linking the names of trans women to a political action in the way these angry queers did does not leave room for the complexity of each death, each person’s gender, and in Mark’s case, her thoughtful and critical grappling with suicide. The language is insufficient. At the same time, the Q Center’s erasure of these trans women’s names in their accommodationist response seems like exactly the kind of white, gay slight against queers of color that Mark raged against daily. Throwing stones might not have been the Call Out Queen’s style, but there’s her name, doing some queer work, calling out white privilege through the volition of strangers.

§

Mark’s antagonism with whiteness complicates many of the narratives into which some queer bloggers and activists have written her. These are folks who do the important work of keeping track of queer murders and suicides and reminding us to honor our losses.  As much as it pained some of us to see Mark used as a queer avatar by anarchists in the Northwest, for example, I can’t help but notice how swiftly Mark’s memory can be silenced by the white, liberal gatekeepers of the LGBT political field.  Mark is explicit about her antagonism with white culture, especially gay-identified white men (THINKS HE CAN NARRATE MY LIFE). And, despite sharing a great deal with other trans women of color, it’s hard to watch a white-dominated movement either tell the story for her or refuse to tell it at all.

The issue is not that Mark was special, but that the very things that most enraged Mark, such as the character-defining degree of transmisogyny and racism perpetuated by the gay community itself, get smoothed out every time Mark is spoken for. Even more difficult to think about than the silencing of Mark’s politics is the silencing of her unequivocal defense of suicide for queer/femme/fat people, complexly articulated theories about choice and agency that Mark mulled constantly since her sister’s death. In scrambling to depict Mark as a victim we might accidentally overlook Mark as a thinker.

In light of conversations and events like these, it seems important (if immensely difficult) to recognize that Mark’s decision to commit suicide does not conflict with her self-love. It seems important to see her suicide not primarily as the endpoint of victimization but as critique, her death itself as a political act, no matter how much we wish she had found another way. She articulated her self-love as something that was at odds with the world’s very real ugliness, ugliness that took the shape of constant racist, queer-phobic and fat-hating character assaults of the kind she logged daily as Call Out Queen.

We can turn to Mark’s concept of ugliness to parse this out, and its potential for materializing the personal bonds we need to survive. Depression, anger, hopelessness and other ugly feelings linked to suicide are symptoms of a very ugly social world not an individual weak spirit.  Mark was not broken by her own lack of self-esteem; she was the reluctant but explosively visionary medium for a broken world that had routinely proved too weak to hold her up. The way Mark explains it, “I don’t need to be strong, I need for the world to stop being so fucking weak, that my sisters are being swallowed up before my eyes.” That world is us, alive as we are, and we’ve got work to do.

*Ryan Trecartin, I-BE AREA.

A zine of selected posts from the Call Out Queen blog is available at the group tribute show The Dragon is the Frame: Inspired by the Life and Work of Mark Aguhar at Gallery 400 (400 South Peoria Street, Chicago, IL), which closes on August 11, 2012.

Thanks to Michael Aguhar, Juana Peralta and José Esteban Muñoz for lending their words, feedback, and encouragement.

Darth Vader and Occupy Wall Street: A TwitterEssay by Ira Livingston

13 Nov 9259211-large

1.

There’s a new Volkswagen ad in which a child dressed as Darth Vader tries to use “The Force” to control objects in the world.

Dad comes home from work and, standing with mom at the kitchen window, sees his child

trying to mind-control the family car in the driveway.  The car starts as if by magic,

then you see that dad has secretly started it with a remote-control device, validating the child’s belief in his own super powers.

This is a classic postmodern ad in that the viewer is shown exactly how the trick is played but made to believe it anyway.

Presumably, even for dad (whose role is otherwise limited to going back and forth to work), starting one’s car remotely

still bestows the feeling of having superpowers.  But just ask power to do what? and you see

that what’s being sold as magical omnipotence is just the ability to start a car with a button instead of a key.

At worst, this pitch is allied with what is recognizable as the fascist tendencies of capitalism

insofar as fascism is defined by the way it offers people an inflated, mythic sense of themselves– and a phantasmatic sense of belonging–

while systematically stripping them of any real agency and political power.  Go to work. Buy a new car.  You’re a superhero!

Of course I’m not suggesting a fine company like Volkswagen could now have or could ever have had anything to do with fascism!

But there is another side of this.  What makes the ad work is its psychological validity.

Unless parents serve their children’s sense of magical omnipotence, their kids will be pathologically depressed at best, or simply dead.

The infant cries and food appears.  He squirms in frustration because he wants a toy but lacks the strength and coordination to reach it,

and mom or dad see this and magically make it happen.  The fantasy of sovereign agency and omnipotent power

precedes, is necessary to, and continues to underlie the acquisition of actual agency and power– the alternative is learned helplessness.

Given these two opposed perspectives, how can we think through this?

Even if you consider the ad a trivial matter, the contradiction is stark and the stakes seem pretty high.

To take the question to another register: do Occupy Wall Street and related actions empower people?

Do they contribute to mobilizing and opening up political discourse?  Or can they be described as simple venting, or worse,

part of some systemic damage control mechanism that offers aesthetic or symbolic shows at the expense of real political mobilization?

As if the revolution were a car and O.W.S. the remote control device that will turn it on?

2.

As you’d expect, many right-wingers but also some so-called leftists are bending over backwards to to assure us

that this is just an infantile display, that we are clutching at straws, that no sustained movement can come from it.

In the face of contradiction, or even just because it’s early days, how can they be so sure?

What makes these little Darth Vaders pretend to knowledge that one couldn’t possibly have at this stage?

As philosopher Jacques Derrida put it, “coherence in contradiction expresses the force of a desire.”

Whatever else its content, the desire seeks “a reassuring certitude” by which “anxiety can be mastered.”

The anxiety comes from “being implicated,” from being “at stake in the game”– as it seems to me we are all at stake here.

Taking off from Derrida, we can speculate that what the dismissers desire, what they have to lose,

is the structuring fantasy of a single center, a single origin or ground or goal, a single line of causality,

a single kind of political agency, a single public sphere, a single rationality and discourse, a single left and right–

all of what Occupy Wall Street defies.

A famous prayer asks for courage, serenity, and “the wisdom always to know the difference” between what can be changed and what can’t.

Better pray instead for the folly not to know the difference!

And as my old pal William Blake put it, “if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.”

3.

What if politics–  what if the world– did not work exactly as we know?

What if things were more intricately, globally and locally networked in a complex ecology,

so that we could not necessarily predict how events in one realm might reverberate in another?

What if the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil could Set Off a Tornado in Texas?

What if a mathematician’s algorithms could trigger a stock-market collapse?

What if tiny, hyperlocalized genetic mutations could, through a process of natural selection, lead to collective evolution?

Wouldn’t that be incredibly weird?

What if Occupy Wall Street could be described as a metaphor (the usual phrase is merely a metaphor)

for the movement in which we are hoping it will participate, meaning that the occupations of particular places,

such as Zucotti Park near Wall Street, resonate with how one tries to establish a livable foothold in any inhospitable space–

whether it be the economy, the academy, the family, identity, theory?  And what if these resonances are real and contagious?

What if The Coming Insurrection will take “the shape of a music, whose focal points,

though dispersed in time and space,

succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations”?

What if what we consider solid realities– like bridges of steel and concrete– could one fine day begin to undulate and break apart?

And when we ask why, what if it turned out that the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind?  And what if, in the present conjuncture,

we could gain more leverage not by asserting knowledge but by persistently asking questions (as that song famously does)?

What if even God appeared to his faithful out of a whirlwind and addressed them with an epic series of questions,

designed to expose their presumption to knowledge they could not possibly have?

4.

Occupy Wall Street has never suffered from a lack of rational plans and proposals, as some allege.

Here’s some for you: progressive taxes, financial regulation, health care, jobs, socialism.  Take your pick.  I have more.

If the left suffers from anything now it seems more like the lack of emotional coherence,

part of what Raymond Williams called a “structure of feeling.”   This is part of what OWS is helping to discover, to invent.

Assorted already-existing emotional coherences are available, of course.

The sober left intellectuals, with their reassuring certitude that Occupy Wall Street is a flash in the pan,

have their manly stoicism and depressive clarity.  The Tea Party has its righteous indignation,

or as historian Joan Scott translated the Tea Party stance into psychoanalytic terms, the outcry “they’ve stolen our jouissance!”

As for the rest of us: well, at least nobody has stolen our jouissance!  If you visit Occupy Wall Street,

you will hear hundreds of lively political conversations– in fact, this is one of the hallmarks of the occupation–

and among them will be careful analysis, magic thinking, policy proposals, paranoid ramblings, theorizing, new-age spiritualism, and so on,

but over them all, under them all, behind them all, running through them all is not exactly righteous indignation,

which comes from more privilege–  more wounded sense of right and dignity– than most of those present possess.

There is the everpresent tenor of surrealism, which comes from the sense that dominant discourse is so thoroughly locked down–

so foreclosed–  and political speech so narrowly defined that one cannot restrict oneself to the use of these tools

without undermining from the outset what one hopes to accomplish.  Ultimately, as Audre Lorde said,

“the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”  But this is not only a matter of tools, of instrumental strategies.

Surrealism arises when what counts as reality itself is so impoverished,

when what passes for intelligible politics, viable social identities, reasonable careers and aspirations

are so hobbling, corrosive and suffocating as to make the reality of neoliberal late capitalism uninhabitable.

When you can’t inhabit it, occupy it!

5.

Over all the conversations, under them all, behind them all, running through them all

there is at least– a vitality.

As Brooklyn artist Dread Scott said about OWS: “there’s oxygen in the room again.”

Of course, I have to point out, you can’t recognize constructive politics by vitality alone.

I recently watched a Wagner opera and was struck by the histrionics, tragic gender politics, erotic intensities

of hierarchy and duty and family: very lively indeed!  I was mesmerized– but I also understood for the first time

something about the aliveness and emotional intensity captured by Nazism.

Much of the work of politics is affective labor, the work of translating vitality into a stance.

Lately I’ve been listening to old Woody Guthrie songs (more my style, admittedly) and marvelling at how seamlessly

the songs combine the stances of worker, empathic ally of immigrants and outlaws, socialist, proud patriot, anti-fascist–

a combination mostly unthinkable today.  But I bring this up not at all to say those were the days.

For one thing, they never were the days– and for another, they’re still the days:

Rich man took my home and drove me from my door

And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

In any case, fascism remains and will remain one of the ongoing tendencies of capitalism, and not only as a distant spectre.

Even if you were inclined to discount clearer and nearer dangers that demagogues can be elected, scapegoats systematically targeted,

people mobilized in favor of symbolic but deadly wars, or perpetual warfare sold as Manichaean good-versus-evil struggle–

what about the demagogues, scapegoating, symbolic and perpetual wars we already have?

What about the mazes we run to get the cheese and avoid the shocks, the levers we push to get the pellets

of whatever it is, the simulacra of identity and belonging being sold to us, and behind all that, underneath it all,

the dark energy pushing all of us apart?

What if, at the most fundamental level, we are engaged not so much in an attempt to enact specific reforms

nor to foment a one-off revolution, but in an ongoing struggle against fascism, to make the world livable,

and what if, in this, we are most aligned with the everyday work of various other queers, workers, culture-crossers, women,

immigrants, and other displaced people?  What if, in our own lifetimes, we will only know small and local victories,

that resonate only faintly, sparks that crackle and wink out, glowing embers that never burst into flame?

Would that warmth be enough to sustain us?

6.

In the interests of full disclosure, let me acknowledge where I’m coming from: I’m a writer.  It’s an interesting moment for me.

The presidency of George W. Bush, as you may be aware, was also a nightmare for anyone who cares about language.

Language itself seemed to be in the process of being continually, systematically evacuated of meaning and life.

After that, to hear Obama speak with intelligence and presence– even with precise grammar– could bring tears to my eyes.

That’s not enough, but it is something.  So it’s interesting to me to discover that the discursive spaces at Occupy Wall Street

are mostly not my spaces.  Even though I make my living speaking (as a teacher, anyway), I’m not inclined to speak there,

and the intellectuals I have heard speak there seem somewhat out of their element too.

In fact, the durational performance– the occupation– at the heart of OWS seems actively somehow to disturb and displace speech,

to make it plural (like the human microphone), to make no one iteration definitive.  But although I’m not inclined to speak,

it feels good to me!  This is partly because the massive, single acoustic space of traditional protest rallies always felt to me

like Hitler or Mussolini should be haranguing the crowd from a balcony.  You really want a unified public sphere?

I experience this displacement of speech, of all that it is now possible to say, as  something more like thinking,

more like writing, a process of reaching for what wants to be said but is not yet possible to say.

You there, with your head bent down!  Why are you mumbling inarticulately to yourself?

I’m thinking.

7.

If the fantasy of magic superpowers underlies all agency, then yes, at some level I must believe the world turns around my words

and around all words that move me.  On the other hand, I know Auden was right:

“poetry makes nothing happen.”

If language can be understood as a parasite or a symbiotic entity that co-evolved with our brains, then yes,

I am one of those traitors to my species that serve the entity known as language. That’s the extreme version, anyway.

But what if writers and intellectuals are also neither servants nor traitors nor leaders but just one kind of lifeform among many,

each of which, even in the name of simple diversity, has a claim to life,

or even more simply, what if a text makes no claim at all but the bare fact of its aliveness in the moment of its being written and read?

This is why I want to say to those occupying Wall Street, and occupying and animating these words and thoughts, thank you.

As a Word Person, it’s taken me 50 years to admit– as various therapists and lots of less verbal people have been telling me–

that the words themselves are always trumped by the ways they are wielded, the feelings that animate them.

“In those days,” as Virginia Woolf wrote wistfully about the days before the First World War,

“every conversation seemed to have been accompanied by a sort of humming noise,

not articulate, but musical, exciting, which changed the value of the words themselves.”

So what is it, over all the conversations at Occupy Wall Street, under them all, behind them all, running through them all?

Perversely, one of the most notoriously difficult writers of all time, psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan,

gives me slogans for the placards with which I want to march out of here:

THE FUNCTION OF LANGUAGE IS NOT TO INFORM BUT TO INVOKE.

WHAT CONSTITUTES ME AS A SUBJECT IS MY QUESTION.

(Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Thad Ziolkowski for insight into the VW ad, Jennifer Miller for citing Dread Scott, and apologies to Jayna for the Woody Guthrie references!)

Poly Styrene, 1957—2011

26 Apr

By Jayna Brown

Poly Styrene died Monday night at the age of 53 of what was originally breast cancer. Going to the GP for back pain, she was told to take some painkillers. So she put up with the pain for a few months, as many of us would do, and when she went in again it was cancer that had metastasized to her lungs and spine. Her last tweet reads quite sadly now: “Slowly slowly trying 2 get better miss my walk along the promenade. Would b so nice 2 sing again & play.”

Poly Styrene’s death invites a meditation on mortality, which we all face, even punks like us who swore we were going to die young. Punk flayed mortality, flaunted youth in its face. Yet it’s ephemeral nature also affirmed death’s inevitability. An 18-year-old Polystyrene had the most profound insight into the ephemerality of life itself. “ I do it and that’s it,” she said. “I go on to something else.”

In 1977 the daughter of a Somali father and white English mother from Brixton by way of Bromley gave a high-pitched driving dystopian critique of capitalist consumption and sexist violence. “Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard,” she begins, with a girlish lilt, “but I think,” and her voice rises to a bellowing screech, “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”  In thick braces and stiff plastic dress, Marianne Joan Elliot Said, better known as Poly Styrene, screamed precociously into the face of a mostly boys only club of misfits. Bind me tie me/chain me to the wall/I wanna be a slave for you all/ Oh bondage up yours!”

In this song as in many others Poly Styrene linked pithy critiques of slavery, authoritarianism, patriarchy and plastic, “It was about being in bondage to material life,” she explains about Oh! Bondage! “In other words it was a call for liberation.” Poly Styrene’s keening voice, riding atop the band’s signature saxophone, created a barrage of high-pitched sound. Carrying her consistently articulate, socio culturally astute lyrics, the sound of Poly Styrene and X Ray Spex continues to resonate, weaving its way insistently through the intervening years.

Poly Styrene called out patriarchy from within a counter culture that was supposedly subversive, yet was indeed heavily invested in masculinist performances of power. Poly Styrene’s politically awake compositions disrupt in some very interesting ways the smooth patrilineal narrative constructing what gets remembered as rebel music, and also challenges the calcifying racial orthodoxy of white riot memory.

Poly Styrene’s lyrics politicized the mundane, the prosaic, the quotidian, the everyday. Her prescient visions were of a world turned dayglo. “My thing was more like consumerism, plastic artificial living,” she explains. “The idea was to send it all up. Screaming about it, saying:  ‘Look, this is what you have done to me, turned me into a piece of Styrofoam, I am your product. And this is what you have created: do you like her?’” Art-I-fical:

She speaks to the specific ways consumer capitalism targeted women. Her imagery in songs, like Artificial, swirled with the plastic products of a woman’s domestic everyday—nylon curtains, perspex windows, acrylics, latex gloves. “My mind is like a plastic bag,” she sings. Plastic Bag:

After seeing a pink fireball in the sky—a UFO as she called it, though not a machine, and with no aliens—she felt electricity vibrating through her entire body. Her prescient dayglo vision was harbinger to the nuclear nightmares those of us stranded in the 1980’s had. And she told people about it. Her personal experience with mental illness, about which she was very open, also bears traces of the medical profession’s treatment of ‘mad’ and ‘hysterical’ women; she was sectioned, and misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. Poly found a spiritual home in the Hari Krishna movement, and it wasn’t until 1991 that she was properly diagnosed with bipolar, known as the ‘genius condition.’ Whose to say what a vision is? identity

Poly Styrene’s new album, Generation Indigo had just come out, and before I knew how sick she was I was hoping she would grant me an interview. Now, I will just do the best I can to speak of her music for the ways in which it disrupts, interrupts, provokes a history of punk. What is identified as punk, from the fleeting moments of the late 1970’s, is constantly eulogizing itself, writing it’s formative artists, almost always as that of men, with the exceptional, or token, women. Poly, like many other female artists, put up with male jealousy and sabotage from fellow male musicians. But her lyrics, her scream, will not be contained. RIP Poly Styrene, as you move onto something else.

BB documentary, “Who is Poly Styrene?”

Judith Butler’s Letter to NYC LGBT Center

25 Feb

Dear Glennda Testone,

I am writing to communicate my outrage and sorrow that our movement has come to this point where it refuses to house an organization that is fighting for social justice.  I was appalled to see the very ignorant and hateful messages that supported your center’s decision to ban Siegebusters from holding an event on the topic of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.  The colleagues at Jewish Voice for Peace and other progressive Jewish organizations with whom I have spoken are in strong disagreement with your action.  It is simply wrong to assume that housing an event that discusses the BDS movement is anti-Semitic in content or implication.  There are increasing numbers of Jewish intellectuals and cultural workers (including Adrienne Rich and myself) who support the BDS movement, including a vocal group from Israel that calls upon the rest of us to put international pressure on their country (including Anat Matar, Rachel Giora, Dalit Baum – one of the founding queer activists there, and Neve Gordon).  There are also queer anarchist and human rights groups in Israel- including “Who Profits?” – who support BDS and who are struggling against illegal land confiscations in Jerusalem and the building of the wall or who, at least, would support an open forum to discuss the pros and cons of this strategy, non-violent, to compel the State of Israel.  But there is, perhaps most importantly as well a network of Palestinian Queers for BDS that have an important and complex analysis of the situation, calling for BDS as a sustained non-violent practice to oppose the systematic disenfranchisement of Palestinians under the Occupation.  It is surely part of our global responsibility to understand this position and to make alliances across regional divisions rather than stay within the parochial assumptions of our own neighborhoods.

The idea that BDS is somehow anti-Semitic misunderstands the point and is simply false. It is a  movement that is in favor of putting pressure on states that fail to comply with international law and, in this case, that keep more than 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank under the military control of Israel, which also maintains political control over their survival, mobility, employment, health, and elections – and this has been amply demonstrated.  This is a human rights and social justice issue about which we all have to learn. And it seems to me that just as the very notion of freedom must include sexual freedom, and the very notion of equality must include sexual and gender equality, so must we form alliances that show that our concern with social justice is one that will include opposition to all forms of state subjugation and disenfranchisement.  We now have many organizations that affirm the interlinking networks of subjugation and alliance: queers against racism, queers for economic justice.  We must oppose all forms of anti-Semitism to be sure (as a Jewish queer who lost part of maternal line in the Nazi genocide against the Jews, I can and will take no other stand). But we must extend our critique of racism to all minorities whose citizenship is unfulfilled, suspended, lost, or compromised, which would include the Palestinian people in the last several decades.

The Siegebuster event is one that would simply seek  to inform the LGBTQ community of a set of political viewpoints. No one who goes to the event has to agree with the viewpoint put forward there, and neither does the center.  By hosting this event, your center would simply be acknowledging that this is an important global issue in which LGBTQ people are invested and are now currently debating. The Center thus would agree that we all need to hear this viewpoint in order to make more informed decisions about the situation.   I fear that to refuse to host the event is to submit to the tactics of intimidation and ignorance and to give up on the important public function of this center.  I urge you to reconsider your view.  These are important matters, they concern us all, and we look to you now to show that   the LGBTQ movement remains committed to discussing social justice issues and will not be intimidated by those who seek to expand the powers of censorship precisely when so much of the rest of the world is trying to bring them down. There is still time for you to act with courage and wisdom.

Sincerely,

Judith Butler
University of California, Berkeley
Visiting Professor, New School for Social Research (Spring, 2011)

 

Open Letter to the NYC LGBT Community Center

25 Feb

To Glennda Testone, Executive Director
NYC LGBT Center
Dear Glennda Testone:
.
I believe you made a serious mistake in banning the Israeli Apartheid Week event and groups from the Center.  The claims that the groups Siege Busters Working Group and Existence is Resistance are anti-semitic is entirely bogus, based on the notion that all criticism of Israeli policy is anti-semitic.  This smear tactic was brought to you by Michael Lucas, the media producer whose openly racist views are well known.  Here is a quotation among the many that researchers have posted online:
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Michael Lucas: I hate Muslims, absolutely. It’s a horrible, horrible religion. It’s a plague. People ignore me the way they ignore Rush Limbaugh because he’s a drug addict. … There are moments in life when silence is your fault and truth …is your responsibility. The religion, the institution, the system of Islam — they are as talented and creative and passionate as anyone else. But they’re stuck in a horrible lie, brainwashed from birth to death. And now they have been stuck in time since the 7th century. They have not contributed to civilization in any way, in any field — political thought, science, music, architecture, nothing for century after century. What do they produce? Carpets. That’s how they should travel because that’s the only way they travel without killing people.

This breach of the open policy of the Center is an ominous sign that LGBT community institutions are subject to unilateral control by wealthy donors–the Center in this case did not even open a dialogue with your other constituencies.
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In addition to press coverage–the Village Voice already posted a brief piece, and a longer Nation piece is coming out next week, I understand–this news is traveling via Facebook and Twitter among Queer Studies academics all over the country, as well as among progressive LGBT organizations.  We are *outraged* and shocked at your action.  The reputation of the Center will suffer mightily in the days and week ahead unless you take immediate action to open the Center to all of our communities.
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(I have heard there is a claim that these groups are not wholly LGBT groups?  Well neither was ACT UP, or the many 12 step groups, or many other associations of allies with LGBT members who use the Center and support the LGBT community.  Apparently support of Palestinian queers is not within the purview of the Center?)
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Shame on the Center for this outrageous action.
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Lisa Duggan
Professor, American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies
Department of Social and Cultural Analysis
New York University

Why Egypt’s Progressives Win

9 Feb
By Paul Amar  (cross posted from Jadaliyya.com)

On 6 February 2011, Egypt’s hastily appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman invited in the old guard or what we could call the Businessmen’s Wing of the Muslim Brothers into a stately meeting in the polished rosewood Cabinet Chamber of Mubarak’s Presidential Palace. The aim of their tea party was to discuss some kind of accord that would end the national uprising and restore “normalcy.” When news of the meeting broke, expressions of delight and terror tore through the blogosphere. Was the nightmare scenario of both the political left and right about to be realized? Would the US/Israel surrogate Suleiman merge his military-police apparatus with the power of the more conservative branch of the old Islamist social movement?  Hearing the news, Iran’s Supreme Leader sent his congratulations. And America’s Glen Beck and John McCain ranted with glee about world wars and the inevitable rise of the Cosmic Caliphate.

On that same day, an unnamed White House official told the Associated Press that any “academic type” who did not focus on the Muslim Brothers and see them as the principle actor in this drama “was full of sh*t.” The White House seemed to believe that Suleiman, Chief of Egypt’s Intelligence Services, was the kind of keen mind they could depend on. Suleiman’s brand of “intelligence” was on display in his interview on 3 February in which he traced the cause of Egypt’s uprising to a conspiracy coordinated by a united front of Israel with Hamas, alQaeda with Anderson Cooper. Is it true that Suleiman also has a dossier revealing the sinister role played in all this by “Simpsons” character C. Montgomery Burns?

 

In reality, the Suleiman-Brothers tea party turned out to be nothing more than another stunt staged by Nile TV News. This once interesting cable service was transformed in the last week into a rather Murdochian propaganda unit whose productions are run by the artistic genius of Mubarak’s Presidential Guards. Images of the Suleiman-Brothers tête-à-têtes were broadcast at a time when Suleiman’s legitimacy and sanity were appearing increasingly shaky within Egypt, and when this particular sub-group of the Brothers who represent only one fraction of one faction of the opposition was trying to leverage an unlikely comeback. As reporters obsessed over which Brother was sitting with Suleiman, they continued to ignore or misapprehend the continuing growing power of the movements that had started this uprising. Many progressives continued to think that the US was conspiring with Suleiman to crush all hope – as if America’s puny $1.5 billion in aid (which all must be recycled back as purchases from US military suppliers anyway) really dictates policy for a regime that makes multi-billion dollar deals with Russia, China and Brazil every month, and that has channeled an estimated $40-70 billion into Mubarak’s personal accounts.

Proving Nile TV and the pessimists wrong, 1.5 million people turned out on 7 February — the biggest mobilization so far in this uprising. Commentators focusing on the Brothers had completely missed the real news of the past two days. The ruling NDP party leadership had been savaged from within. In a desperate attempt to salvage his phantom authority, Mubarak had tossed his son Gamal and a whole class of US-linked businessmen to the lions, forcing them to resign and freezing their assets. And at the same time, Egyptian newspaper El-Masry El-Youm reported that the Muslim Brothers’ Youth and Women’s Wings split off from the main Brothers’ organization to join the leftist 6 April Movement. The men sitting around Suleiman’s table were left without much of a movement behind them.

Below I trace the declining power of the economic and moral politics of this “Businessmen’s Wing” of the Brothers. I map the ascendant socio-political power of a new national-development-oriented coalition of businessmen and military entrepreneurs, as well as the decisive force of micro-enterprise and workers’ organizations consisting of women and youth — a force that portends well for the future of democracy and socio-economic inclusion in Egypt.

Bands of Brothers

The Muslim Brothers are not a marginal force in Egypt. They are very well organized in every city, and can be credited with providing health, education, legal aid and disaster relief to citizens ignored or neglected by the state. But they are not Egypt’s equivalent of Hizballah or Hamas. As Mona El-Ghobashy has described, in the 1990s the Society of Muslim Brothers made a definite break, abandoning its secretive, hierarchical, shari’a-focused form. Today the Muslim Brothers is a well-organized political party, officially banned but occasionally tolerated. In the past twenty years it has made significant inroads in Parliament via alliances with other parties and by running independent candidates. The Brothers now fully support political pluralism, women’s participation in politics, and the role of Christians and communists as full citizens. However, with the rise of other competing labor, liberal and human-rights movements in Egypt in the 2000s, what one can call the “new old guard” of the Brothers (the ones that emerged in the 1980s) have retained a primary focus on cultural, moral and identity politics. Moral-cultural conservatism is still seen by this group as what distinguishes the Brothers from other parties, a fact they confirmed by appointing a rigid social conservative, Muhammad Badeea, as leader in 2010. This turn was rejected by women and youth in the movement. This socially conservative leaning thus brings the “new old guard” more in line with the moralistic paternalism of Mubarak’s government and set them against the trajectory of new youth, women’s and labor movements. This leads to new possibilities of splits in this organization or for exciting revitalization and reinvention of the Brothers, as Youth and Women’s wings feel drawn toward the 6 April coalition. The moral-cultural traditionalist wing of the “new old guard,” is composed of professional syndicate leaders and wealthy businessmen. In the 1950s-80s, the movement regrouped and represented frustrated elements of the national bourgeoisie. But this class of people has largely been swept up into new opportunities and left the organization. The “new old guard” of the Brothers’ business wing has started to look like a group of retired Shriners, except that in the Middle East, Shriners have stopped wearing fezes.

 

In the past ten years this political force of this particular wing of the Brothers has been partially coopted by Mubarak’s government from two angles. First, Brothers were allowed to enter parliament as independent candidates and have been allowed to participate in the recent economic boom. The senior Brothers now own major cell phone companies and real estate developments, and have been absorbed into the NDP machine and upper-middle class establishment for years. Second, the government wholly appropriated the Brothers’ moral discourse. For the last ten or fifteen years Mubarak’s police-state has stirred moral panics and waved the banner of Islam, attacking single working women, homosexuals, devil-worshipping internet users, trash-recycling pig farmers, rent-control squatters, as well as Baha’i, Christian and Shi’i minorities. In its morality crusades, the Mubarak government burned books, harassed women, and excommunicated college professors.  Thus, we can say that Egypt has already experienced rule by an extremely narrow Islamist state – Mubarak’s! Egyptians tried out that kind of regime. And they hated it.

In recent years, as described in the work of Saba Mahmood and Asef Bayat, people have grown disgusted by Mubarak’s politicization of Islam. Egyptians began to reclaim Islam as a project of personal self-governance, ethical piety, and social solidarity. This trend explicitly rejects the political orientation of Islam and explicitly separates itself both from Brothers’ activities and Mubarak’s morality crusades.

The Military as a Populist Middle Class

At one time, the Muslim Brothers represented frustrated, marginalized elements of the middle class. But that story is so 1986! Now there are a wide range of secular (but not anti-religious) groupings that represent emergent economic patterns within the country. Moreover, these groups are swept up in a whirlwind of new political-economic energies coming from new or renewed world influences and investors – Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Israel, Dubai, China, Turkey, and Brazil, as well as the return of remittance flows into the country as Egyptian professionals got swept up in the Emirates’ building and development boom.

In the context of this new multi-dimensional globalization, in which East/West divides and post-colonial patterns are radically remade, the military have come to be one of the more interesting economic mediators and success stories. The Egyptian military is one of the most interesting and misunderstood economic actors in the country. The military’s economic interests are split in interesting ways. Since the military has been prevented by the Camp David treaty from making war, it has instead used its sovereignty over huge tracks of desert and coastal property to develop shopping malls, gated cities and beach resorts, catering to rich and modest Egyptians, local and international consumers and tourists. Their position vis-à-vis the uprising is thus complicated. They hated the rapacious capitalists around Gamal Mubarak, who sold off national lands, assets and resources to US and European corporations. But the military also wants tourists, shoppers and investors to consume in their multi-billion dollar resorts and venues. The military identifies very strongly with representing and protecting “the people,” but also wants the people to go home and stop scaring away the tourists. The military will continue to mobilize this in-between position in interesting ways in the coming years.

Suleiman’s General Intelligence Services are nominally part of the military, but are institutionally quite separate. Intelligence is dependent on foreign patrons (Israel and the US primarily) and are looked on skeptically by Egyptians. But the actual Army and Air Force are quite grounded in the economic and social interests of national territory. The army’s role in countering Suleiman’s lust for repression was crucial to saving the momentum of this uprising. On 4 February, the day of the most terrifying police/thug brutality in Tahrir Square, many commentators noted that the military were trying to stop the thug attacks but were not being very forceful or aggressive. Was this a sign that the military really wanted the protesters to be crushed? Since then, we have learned that the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs, but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him.

 

Bullets or no, the military displaced the police, who had stripped off their uniforms and regressed into bands of thugs. Security in Cairo has been taken over by the military, in public spaces, and in residential quarters we witnessed the return of a 21-st century version of futuwwa groups. As Wilson Jacob has described, in the 19th-century futuwwa were icons of working-class national identity and community solidarity in Egypt. Futuwwa were organized groups of young men who defended craft guilds and working-class neighborhoods in Cairo. But the futuwwa reborn on 1 February 2011 are called Peoples’ Committees and include men of all classes and ages, and a few women with butcher knives, too. They stake out every street corner, vigilant for police and state-funded thugs who would try to arrest, intimidate or loot residents. Given the threat of sexualized physical violence from Mubarak’s police/thugs, there is a gender dimension to this reimagining and redeployment of security and military power during this uprising. In the first days of the uprising we saw huge numbers of women participating in the revolt. Then the police/thugs started targeting women in particularly horrifying way, molesting, detaining, raping. And then when the police were driven back, the military and the futuwwa groups took over and insisted that “protecting” the people from thugs involved filtering women and children out of Tahrir and excluding them from public space. But women in this revolt have insisted that they are not victims who need protection, they are the leading core of this movement. On 7 February, women’s groups, including the leftist 6 April national labor movement, anti-harassment, civil rights groups, and the Women’s Wing of the Brothers reemerged in force in downtown Cairo by the hundreds of thousands.

Gutting Gamal’s Globalization

On 28 January the headquarters of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party burned down, and with it, Mubarak’s substantive authority was turned to ashes. The rising military and national-capital interests then spat on those ashes on 5 February. On that day, they ensured that Gamal Mubarak would resign as head of the Political Office of the NDP. In his place, Dr. Hosam Badrawy was named the new Secretary-General of the party. The choice of Badrawy reflects the direction the winds are blowing now. Badrawy holds the dubious honor of being the man who founded Egypt’s first private-sector health-care HMO in 1989. All Egyptians are constitutionally guaranteed access to free, universal health care. But Mubarak, under orders from the IMF, made draconian cuts to the public health service beginning in the 1980s. Badrawy has championed the privatization of health care, and has created a national private health care industry with significant capital and legitimacy. This industry is threatened by global competition and describes itself in nationalistic, paternalistic tones. Gamal Mubarak serving as a vehicle for foreign investment posed a threat to national businessmen like Badrawy. Badrawy also served in the past as the Director of the NDP’s human rights organization, a particularly contradictory job to hold during a time of mass repression and torture.

Naguib Sawiris, the self-proposed chair of the “Transitional Council of Wise Men,” is similar in some ways to Badrawy. Sawiris is a patriotic, successful nationalist businessman. Sawiris heads the largest private-sector company in Egypt, Orascom. This firm has built railways, beach resorts, gated-cities, highways, telecom systems, wind farms, condos and hotels. He is a major Arab world and Mediterranean region financier. He is also the banner carrier for Egypt’s developmentalist nationalists. On 4 February Sawiris released a statement proposing a council of wise men who would oversee Suleiman and the police, and who would lead Egypt through the transition. The proposed council would be a so-called “neutral, technocratic” body that would include Sawiris, along with a couple of non-ideological members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s businessmen’s wing, some strategic-studies experts, and a Nobel Prize winner. Would this Nobel winner be Mohammed ElBaradei, the peace laureate and opposition leader? Nope. They had found an Egyptian laureate in organic chemistry.

Women, Micro-Businesses and Workers

In the context of the relationships described above, we can understand why we witnessed the emergence in the first week of February 2011 of a coalition around nationalist businessmen in alliance with the military – a military who also act like nationalist middle-class businessmen themselves. This group ejected the “crony globalizers” and “barons of privatization” surrounding Gamal Mubarak. Would this group then cement their hold on power, to rule the country with Suleiman as their hammer? No. Other massive social forces were also at work. They are well organized. Legitimacy, organization, new vision and economic power are in their hands. The new nationalist business-military bloc cannot develop the country without their participation and mobilization.

It is crucial to remember that this uprising did not begin with the Muslim Brothers or with nationalist businessmen. This revolt began gradually at the convergence of two parallel forces: the movement for workers’ rights in the newly revived factory towns and micro-sweatshops of Egypt especially during the last two years, and the movement against police brutality and torture that mobilized every community in the country for the last three years. Both movements feature the leadership and mass participation of women (of all ages) and youth (of both genders). There are structural reasons for this.

First, the passion of workers that began this uprising does not stem from their marginalization and poverty; rather, it stems from their centrality to new development processes and dynamics. In the very recent past, Egypt has reemerged as a manufacturing country, although under the most stressful and dynamic of conditions. Egypt’s workers are mobilized because new factories are being built, in the context of a flurry of contentious global investment. Several Russian free-trade zones and manufacturing settlements have opened up, and China has invested in all parts of the Egyptian economy. Brazil, Turkey, the Central Asian Republics and the Gulf Emirates are diversifying their investments. They are moving out of the oil sector and real estate and into manufacturing, piece-goods, informatics, infrastructure, etc. Factories all over Egypt have been dusted off and reopened, or newly built. And all those shopping malls, gated cities, highways and resorts have to be built and staffed by someone. In the Persian Gulf, developers use Bangladeshi, Philippine and other expatriate labor. But Egypt usually uses its own workers. And many of the workers in Egypt’s revived textile industries and piece-work shops are women. If you stroll up the staircases into the large working-class apartment buildings in the margins of Cairo or the cement-block constructions of the villages, you’ll see workshops full of women, making purses and shoes, and putting together toys and computer circuitboards for sale in Europe, the Middle East and the Gulf. These shop workers joined with factory workers to found the 6 April movement in 2008. They were the ones who began the organizing and mobilizing process that led to this uprising in 2011, whose eruption was triggered by Asmaa Mahfouz’ circulating a passionate Youtube video and tens of thousands of leaflets by hand in slum areas of Cairo on 24 January 2011. Ms. Mahfouz, a political organizer with an MBA from Cairo University, called people to protest the next day. And the rest is history.

The economic gender and class landscape of Egypt’s micro-businesses has been politicized and mobilized in very dynamic ways, again with important gender and sexual dimensions. Since the early 1990s, Egypt has cut back welfare and social services to working-class and lower-middle-class Egyptians. In the place of food subsidies and jobs they have offered debt. Micro-credit loans were given, with the IMF and World Bank’s enthusiastic blessing, to stimulate entrepreneurship and self-reliance. These loans were often specifically targeted toward women and youth. Since economically disadvantaged applicants have no collateral to guarantee these loans, payback is enforced by criminal law rather than civil law. This means that your body is your collateral. The police extract pain and humiliation if you do not pay your bill. Thus the micro-enterprise system has become a massive set of police rackets and “loan shark” operations. Police sexualized brutalization of youth and women became central to the “regulation” of the massive small-business economy. In this context, the micro-business economy is a tough place to operate, but it does shape women and youth into tough survivors who see themselves as an organized force opposed to the police-state. No one waxes on about the blessings of the market’s invisible hand. Thus the economic interests of this mass class of micro-entrepreneurs are the basis for the huge and passionate anti-police brutality movement. It is no coincidence that the movement became a national force two years ago with the brutal police murder of a youth, Khalid Saeed, who was typing away in a small internet café that he partially owned. Police demanded ID and a bribe from him; he refused, and the police beat him to death, crushing his skull to pieces while the whole community watched in horror.

 

Police demanding bribes, harassing small micro-businesses, and beating those who refuse to submit had become standard practice in Egypt. Internet cafes, small workshops, call-centers, video-game cafes, microbuses, washing/ironing shops, small gyms constitute the landscape of micro-enterprises that are the jobs base and social world of Egypt’s lower middle classes. The so-called “Facebook revolution” is not about people mobilizing in virtual space; it is about Egyptian internet cafes and the youth and women they represent, in real social spaces and communities, utilizing the cyberspace bases they have built and developed to serve their revolt.

The Egyptian Difference

In the case of the Iranian Revolution in the 1970s, the “bazaaris of Tehran” (the medium-sized merchants and shop owners) ended up serving as the crucial “swing vote,” moving the Iranian Revolution from left to right, from a socialistic uprising toward the founding of an Islamic Republic. In the case of Egypt, the social and political force of women and youth micro-entrepreneurs will lead history in the opposite direction. These groups have a highly developed a complex view of the moral posturing of some Islamists, and they have a very clear socio-economic agenda, which appeals to the dynamic Youth Wing of the Brothers. The progressive groups have a linked network of enterprises, factories, identities and passions. They would go to any length to prevent the reemergence of police brutality and moralistic hypocrisy that have ruled them for the past generation. The women and youth behind theses micro-businesses, and the workers in the new Russian, Chinese, Brazilian, Gulf, and Egyptian-financed factories seem to be united. And they grow more so each day.

Micro-entrepreneurs, new workers groups, and massive anti-police brutality organizations obviously do not share the same class position as Sawiris and Badrawi and the rich men in the “Council of the Wise.” Nevertheless, there are significant overlaps and affinities between the interests and politics of nationalist development-oriented groups, the newly entrepreneurial military, and the vitally well-organized youth and women’s social movements. This confluence of social, historical and economic dynamics will assure that this uprising does not get reduced to a photo opportunity for Suleiman and a few of his cronies.

A Cheshire Cat is smiling down on Suleiman’s tea party.



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