Currently Reading: Queer Phenomenology

This one I’m just getting into. Mostly, I’m enjoying Ahmed’s description of queer tables. It’s a total mindfuck, like reading CA Conrad (whom I love) – see Deviant Propulsion and (Soma)tic Midge. All good reads should fuck your mind like this one. I keep thinking most kids were picky eaters, but I’m a picky reader. Food, I have no problem with.

Queer Phenomenology by Sarah Ahmed

Ahmed’s discussion of orientations, and the meaning of “orientation” is also very smart. Here’s an excerpt:

“The starting point for orientation is the point from which the world unfolds: the ‘here’ of the body and the ‘where’ of its dwelling”

I think what she has done with this is not only make sexual orientation about where bodies exist in space and time, but about where they came from and where they might be headed. To theorize my own experience, it makes my own growing up in a trailer, my family background, my current living situation, my being in graduate school (academia/ivory tower) important to my sexual orientation and the way I relate to it and the way I relate my own queer orientation to the world in which I live. This is important stuff.

She also talks about disorientation – that feeling of not quite being orientated in the world in a comfortable way. It almost perfectly describes the feelings I have in both the academic world and at home with my family now. Even though I was once oriented perfectly to fit with my family, I now find myself not feeling comfortable in the world from which I came. And figuring out whether or not I still live there is difficult and often slightly neurosis-producing. I don’t fit in academia, there’s truth in that statement. I also no longer fit in with my family. My truck-driving brother and my slacker brother. My mom and I have a great friendship, but there’s little common ground as far as values go these days, and we’re both interested in almost entirely different things. I am often thankful that I developed a love for cooking and that I still enjoy crafting and crochet. Otherwise, my mom and I would have nothing to talk about. I am also thankful my truck driving brother is gay, because otherwise, we would have nothing in common. And I still remember thinking he might walk in at any moment with a shotgun if my mom told him I had come out. Little did I know. And my mom left it up to me to tell my brothers, the youngest was jealous I had a girlfriend before him, I think. Now he barely speaks to the family, but my wife, well, she’s his confidante. And even with all this, and plenty to talk about, something feels different. It’s hard to talk about school with them, and it’s hard to talk about my family at school because no one gets it. Others claim to know what it’s like, but I can tell in their eyes that understanding is not there. I also know they mean well, and that they genuinely think they understand, but it’s not real. Nothing in academia is real. It’s like this masturbatory game everyone plays – who can mindfuck the other first? And while I enjoy the game, it’s not real. Nothing ever comes of it. No progress is really made.

My friend Nikki and I were talking about this the other day: this thing academics do – updating old research, asking the same questions 3 years later, maybe adding a new question, pretending they have a new direction, and then calling it new research. All we end up with are updated statistics, and I rarely see new insights from statistics. I also hate quantitative sociology. There’s no story, no explanation, just a description of the data. And it makes people into data. Then people try to prove with math and statistical analysis that person A was motivated to take action B because of some algorithm… and I don’t buy it at all.

Sometimes I cant describe in words or even abstract thoughts why it is that I (person A) did something (took action B)… I sure as hell couldn’t write an algorithm, and I’m really not that bad at math. I even got an A- in stats last semester – proof it’s not my mathematical capabilities (or lack thereof) preventing me from translating human motivation into an algorithm.

So, I think disorientation and the feeling of being disoriented are going to be important parts of this thesis – I’m sure I’m not the only trailer park queer who feels disoriented in many spaces.


3 Responses to “Currently Reading: Queer Phenomenology”
  1. Christian says:

    While I in no way mean to sound pretentious by saying this, but in some ways I know exactly what you mean and a little bit about how you feel. It’s feeling guilty when I walk into our house after coming from Mom’s in the condition that its in. Its the sleepless night when i was still living at home after I first met Matt, worried and terrified because I liked him, but knew he was from a different world and not seeing at the time a possible way that he could fit into mine..i’ve never told anyone that before. Luckily the trailer didn’t seem to phase him and it worked out fine. He loves my world now. Its the fact that I’m still not completely comfortable at his parents’ house, I am getting there but its been four and a half years. Well I guess I’ve rambled enough, just wanted you to know your not alone and that I love you!

  2. trailerparkqueer says:

    I know you understand, you’re my bff, remember? We grew up in the same place… and we both live in completely different worlds now. It’s like, how a mortgage looks compared to a trailer payment book. Somehow, it all feels wrong sometimes.


  3. Lin says:

    I was a Protestant on a street populated by Catholic families that grew at a rate of one baby each year. I was a Christian kid yearning to go to Hebrew school with my Jewish friends. I was the Baptist sacrifice in a family of Presbyterians. I was the girl where a boy was supposed to be and I felt more like that boy who didn’t exist than the girl who grew where I stood. I hated to run but I loved to play basketball even though I would never grow tall enough to be picked for the team. While my mom went back to school to pursue a career, I dreamed of being a roller derby queen. Whenever I learned the rules, I analyzed them for their inherent faults and rebelled against the person in charge of enforcing the rules that made no sense or had no value. I have viewed the world from a differently angled perspective from most everyone else, coming out at 15 only puncuated that fact. The world, the future, and my path was skewed from the mainstream and I didn’t care even though it meant I would never truly fit in.

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