Archive for March 2011
“The emergence out of the shadows of pathologization of sexual minorities poses inherent problems for concepts of citizenship, and unsettles our ordered erotic categories. Boundaries dissolve, and new ones have to be hastily assembled. The relationship between adults and children has become particularly fraught, the subject of constant negotiation and renegotiation, as a whole series of moral panics and public controversies ranging from the fear of video violence to the now perceived endemic threat of paedophilia underlines. The emergence of ‘the paedophile,’ expecially, indicates the limit case for any claim to sexual citizenship.” (1)
- Weeks, Jeffrey. 1998. “The Sexual Citizen” in Theory, Culture & Society 15:35 Sage Publications
My tentative title for my PhD research locates “childhood sexual agency” as a key part of the interventions that I am trying to make with my research, as I hope that my work can create a space in which children’s sexuality and desire can be agentive rather than victimizing. However, after numerous classes getting me to think through the work that “agency” as a theoretical concept does, I’m struggling to figure out how I will use the framework of agency, and to what end.
As I sat through a lecture in class today on agency and autonomy I was re-reading my undergraduate thesis advisor’s article “Perverse Citizenship: Marginality, and Participation in ‘Loca-lization’” (2008) and I began to think about how my framing of agency will impact how I constitute subjects.
Framings of agency do more than simply limit or produce subject formations, they dictate which legal and social interventions will be necessitated. If agency is only thought of as a speech act, or physical or visual resistance, then the moments of subversion that are silent, nonce taxonomic or seemingly coerced get pushed outside the realm of intelligibility. Ochoa writes:
If one were to try to produce an utterance that brought consequences — a sound in the night or a complaint filed and prosecuted the morning after — one would be attempting to intervene in the situation. But the problem is that the situation works within its spaces of silence and that the same people who are subject to its abuses have learned to take advantage of these silences. If they wanted to fight for their “rights” they would be doing so already — because they already know how to fight. While there is no such discourse that makes explicit the terms of interaction within what is now a space of silence, the parties coexist in a daily negotiation, lubricated by that very silence. The problem is that sometimes they don’t coexist, and one of them ends up dead under a bridge. For those of us who, coming from another place, happen upon these realities and want to intervene, the task is not to bring “light” or “voice” somehow, presuming there was none before; it is to use the social mobility of our bodies and our language to transform relations—to treat people as legitimate subjects of rights, to mobilize the resources necessary for an intervention that makes sense to the people directly involved. (2008, 155-156)
One of the biggest struggles that I am attempting to work through currently is allowing myself to be open to what my classmates and I are calling theoretical permeability. Specifically, I am worried that in my urgent excitement to produce critique I am not allowing myself to let my interventions have their space to sit still and breathe.
I wonder if, like the search for an utterance of resistance or an act of rebellion, I have been operating within a displaced approach. Because of this discomfort I am going back over my research proposal and taking out the assumptive endings that I located as desirable and preset outcomes. I have been changing my whys to hows. My whys assume a stability within the question: Why is this happening? is more of a statement than a query. I rephrase: How does this situation become known and operate? Here, my observation that something is happening is still intact (even if the something that is happening isn’t in an audible or visual form), but the possibility for a mis-reading is opened up. I am allowing for, and attempting to be attentive to, the (un)productive nature of specific moments.
- Ochoa, Marcia. (2008) “Perverse Citizenship: Marginality, and Participation in ‘Loca-lization’” in Women’s Studies Quarterly 36:3,4.