Issue 1:2 Fall 2016

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Editors' Note: Vol 1:2
By Judith Roof »»» The first essay of this issue, Milo Obourn’s “Racialized Disgender and Disruptive Futurity in Lorde’s and Engelberg’s Cancer Narratives” considers the relation between disability and “disgendering” as a “disabling process of racialized gender” by which “culturally-informed bodies come to inhabit a disgendered and tenuous subjecthood.” Thinking through complex modes of experience and representation rather than obscuring them with the terms of identity politics, Obourn’s essay asks us to think about how some genderings are already disabilities, how marked race can exist without a gender, and why disabilities cannot be reduced to any irredeemably negative status.That this disgendering often manufactures a negative subjective status helps to understand the ways in which the presumed narrative trajectories of gender, race, and disability are much more complex than categorical thought would presume, asking that we consider the both/and qualities of gendered, raced, and disabled subjectivities. The essay’s theory of disgendering complicates gender as an “identity” in the sense that gender’s presumed link to reproductive futures is not constructed in relation to the kind of absolute negativity that Edelman talks about in No Future. For Obourn, disgendering does operate within the imaginary confines of either/or logics that identity categories require to exist. Instead, disgendering disrupts logics of reproductive futurity by “[situating] us in relation to the future without…inherently presenting us with a promise” (26).Read more »
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Racialized Disgender and Disruptive Futurity in Lorde’s and Engelberg’s Cancer Narratives
By Milo Obourn »»» In an entry near the beginning of Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals (1980), Lorde describes her embodied experiences of diagnosis, pain, mastectomy, and hospitalization as directly connected to the intersectionality of racial and gender oppressions when she writes, “The blood of black women sloshes from coast to coast and [Mary] Daly says race is of no concern to women. So that means we are either immortal or born to die and no note taken, un-women” (10 italics in original). This moment in The Cancer Journals reinforces a central line of thinking in black feminist thought that “woman” is a racial as well as a gender category, historically constructed on the exploitation, destruction, hyper-sexualization, and ungendering of black women’s bodies resulting from historical violences such as the reproductive economy of chattel slavery and post-emancipation characterizations of black women as existing for the caretaking of or sexual exploitation by whites.Anchor[1] Hortense Spillers, in her foundational “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book”, notes, regarding the ungendering of black women, that a primary form of dispossession resulting from slavery was “the loss of gender” and necessitates an “altered reading of gender” for black men and women in the United States (77). Spillers here outlines the specific constructions of the “ungendered” black female in the Unites States. She highlights the continued social marginalizations that have occurred for black people as a result of historical exclusions from normative gender and kinship structures, as well as the radical potential of “claiming the monstrosity” of the female subjectivity that exists outside of normative American grammar (80).Read more »
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In Pieces: Fragmentary Meditations on Queer Mother Memoirs and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts
By Robin Silbergleid »»» The year I decided to become a mother I woke to sounds of children. I lived next to a small church, a Pentecostal-type thing that hosted the occasional revival, which irritated me to no end as I sat at my desk desperately typing papers to turn into my graduate seminars on narrative theory and women’s studies. There must have been a preschool or a daycare because I could hear children playing outside in the spring as, just past dawn, I dragged my insomniac self out of bed.Read more »
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Obnoxiousness and Elizabeth Bowen’s Queer/ing Adolescents
By renee hoogland »»» In one of her autobiographical sketches, collected in the appropriately entitled and posthumously published volume Pictures and Conversations (1974), Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) writes about adolescence as a kind of affliction, a nasty disease, the “onslaught” of which she herself was fortunately spared: I never did have adolescence at all badly. Chicken-pox, measles, German measles, mumps, whooping-cough in turn took their toll of me, and heavily, but with the last of those my afflictions ceased. Adolescence apparently, by-passed me—or if I ever did have it, I got off light ... At around sixteen I dabbled in introspection, but hardly more. Tormenting nameless disturbances, conflicts, cravings were not experienced by me. I had never heard of themRead more »
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“‘There is No Magic Here’: Saidiya Hartman, Percival Everett’s Zulus, and Slavery’s Archive”
By Beth A. McCoy, Gregory J. Palermo, Jeremy A. Jackson, Danielle M. Ward, Timothy Moriarty, Christina Broomfield, Melissa Ann Smith, Matt Huben, Justin M. Turner»»» We begin with the word "archive" and what Derrida names as its archive: arkhē, the name that enfolds both the place where things "commence" and the place where "men and gods command." [3] Continuing in “Position of the Unthought” (2003) the archival critique she began years earlier with Scenes of Subjection (1997), Saidiya Hartman condemns as "obscene" the research of scholars in the 1970s and 80s who essentially commanded slavery's archive to reveal the "agency of dominated groups"Anchor[4] and interpreted the archive's contents as evidence of what Hartman contends never existed: an autonomous space that the enslaved “could carve out of the terrorizing state apparatus in order to exist outside its clutches."Anchor[5] For instance, John Blassingame's The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (1972) interprets "folk tales and secular songs" as evidence that the "rigors of bondage did not crush the slave's creative energies." Similarly, Sterling Stuckey's Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (1987) reads the ring shout and other sonic and kinetic practices as spaces beyond white people's reach. And Lawrence Levine's Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (1987) concludes that "enslaved persons “created and maintained a world apart which they shared with each other and which remained their own domain, free of control of those who ruled the earth.”Anchor[6] Hartman contends that such scholarship represents and feeds an ongoing national desire “to still feel good about ourselves” amid the “ravages and the brutality of the last few centuries."Anchor[7] Even worse, she avers, is the fact that the work refuses to recognize the “paradox of agency” that informs the captive’s “existence in the space of death.”Anchor[8] For Hartman, in other words, the archive reveals one thing over and over: bondage so limited agency that “negation” became the “central possibility for action.”Anchor[9] "[V]ery few political narratives can account for that," Hartman acknowledges.Anchor[10] Very few can actually handle it.Read more »
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“Sex-Consciousness” to Self-Consciousness: Second-Wave Feminism and Postmodern Autofiction
By Marjorie Worthington »»» Self-consciousness, self-reflexivityand metafiction are terms often used to describe a particular characteristic common to postmodern fiction. Robert Alter has defined the “self-conscious novel” to be a novel which “systematically flaunts its own condition of artifice” in order “to convey to us a sense of the fictional world as an authorial construct” (x, xi). Linda Hutcheon defines “metafiction” in a similar manner, calling it “fiction about fiction—that is, fiction that includes within itself a commentary on its own narrative and/or linguistic identity” (Narcissistic 1). And while Alter and others point out that such self-consciousness has been characteristic of some works of fiction since the development of the novel (indeed, what many take to be the very first work of novelistic fiction—Don Quixote—is highly self-conscious), it is unmistakable that self-conscious or metafictional practices have veritably exploded in the so-called postmodern era. Furthermore, some scholars have noticed that the self-conscious indulgences of postmodern literature have been primarily the territory of white male writers.Anchor[2] What few have pointed out thus far, however, is the extent to which the Women’s Movement and the subsequent challenge to male privilege at all levels of social organization was a key stimulus of that self-consciousness. Through an examination of the form of fiction I am calling “autofiction,” I will argue that, just as modernist crises of masculinity led to a reification of the self-abnegating attempts at universality and objectivity of High Modernist literature, postmodern crises of masculinity were a contributing factor in the widespread manifestation of self-consciousness in postmodern literature.Read more »
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Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright. Review.
By Olivia Meikle »»» “How can you be a Mormon and a feminist?” The question has been asked of Mormon feminists for decades, and the editors of the new anthology Mormon Feminism provide a compelling answer. Published by Oxford University Press, it is the first serious look at the theoretical base of modern Mormon feminism. Though much attention has lately been paid to the recent resurgence of feminist activism within the Mormon Church, with stories appearing at regular intervals in major news outlets such as Huffington Post and the New York Times, this is the first scholarly attempt to track the history and influence of “modern” Mormon feminists in their own words. Beginning with consciousness-raising meetings in the 1970s and tracking the movement through its resurgence in the 21st century, Mormon Feminism is valuable to scholars and students, interested outsiders and Mormon feminists.Read more »
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Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Motherhood
By Mary Thompson »»» At the time when I wrote “Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Motherhood,” I lacked a critical frame for understanding neoliberalism. Instead, my concerns over the ideological reshaping of twenty-first century reproductive lives gravitated towards my dissatisfaction with so-called third wave feminism and its practitioners’ uncritical celebration of “choice.”Read more »

Back to the Future

Each issue of Genders republishes an important essay from the journal's early years with a new introduction by its author. By looking back we hope to assess the changes and continuities of gender issues across several decades and to anticipate their possible futures.