Notes on Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology

“The promise of interdisciplinary scholarship is that the failure to return texts to their histories will do something. . . . We must remember that to ‘not return’ still requires the act of following, we have to go with something if we are to depart from that thing. The following takes us in a different direction, as we keep noticing other points” (pp 22-23).

Phenomenology  says “consciousness is intentional: it is directed toward something” (p. 27).

On one’s orientation toward the writing table: “For some, having time for writing, which means time to face the objects upon which writing happens becomes an orientation that is not available given the ongoing labor of other attachments, which literally pull you away. So whether we can sustain our orientation toward the writing table depends on other orientations, which affect what we can face at any given moment in time” (p. 32).

To appear–to be apparent–requires an arrival. “An arrival takes time, and the time that it takes shapes ‘what’ it is that arrives. The object could even be described as the transformation of time into form, which iteself could be redefined as the ‘direction’ of matter. What arrives not only depends on time, but is shaped by the conditions of its arrival, by how it came to get here. Think of a sticky object; what it picks up on its surface ‘shows’ where it has traveled and what it has come into contact with” (p. 40).

“Our body is not in space like things; it inhabits or haunts space” — Merleau-Ponty . . . “The language here implies that bodies provide us with a tool, as that through which we ‘hold’ or ‘grasp’ onto things, but elsehwere Merleau-Ponty suggests that the body is not itself an instrument but a form of expression, a making visible of our intentions. What makes bodies different is how they inhabit space: space is not a container for the body; it does not contain the body as if the body were ‘in it.’ Rather bodies are submerged, such that they become the space they inhabit; in taking up space, bodies move through space and are affected by the ‘where’ of that movement. It is through this movement that the surface of spaces as well as bodies takes shape.” (p. 53).

Phenomenological models of female embodiment emphasize orientation … drawing on Young, Ahmed says that women may see their bodies as objects. Objects throw us and can be thrown; “we acquire the shape of how we throw, as well as what we do” (p. 60).

“The very idea that bodies ‘have’ a natural orientation is exposed as fantasy in the necessity of the enforcement of that orientation, or its maintenance as a social requirement for intelligible subjectivity” (p. 85).

On the term homosexual, Ahmed says “women desiring women does not mean that they desire the same . . . The very idea of women desiring women because of ‘sameness’ relies on a fantasy that women are ‘the same'” (p. 96).

“Queer orientations might be those that don’t line up, which by seeing the world ‘slantwise’ allow other objects to come into view. A queer orientation imgth be one that does not overcome what is ‘off line,’ and hence acts out of line with others. It is no accident that queer orientations have been described by Foucault and others as orientations that follow a diagonal line, which cut ‘slantwise’ the vertical and horizontal lines of conventional genealogy” (p. 107).

“Acts of domestication are not private; they involve the shaping of collective bodies, which allows some objects and not others to be within reach” (p. 117).

“The institutionalization of whiteness involves work: the institutions comes to have  body as an effect of this work. It is important that we do not reify institutions by presuming they are simply given and that they decide what we do. Rather, institutions become given as an effect of the repetition of decisions made over time, which shapes the surface of institutional spaces. Institutions involved lines, which are the accumulation of past decisions about ‘how’ to allocate resources, as well as ‘who’ to recruit. Recruitment functions as a technology for the reproduction of whiteness” (p. 133).


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