2020-2021 Seminar Grant Watson: Queering Communism: from month to month
Seminar 5 (April) online
For seminar 5 the group will read articles from the 2012 special edition of GLQ Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, dedicated to bringing together queer Marxists, queer theorists and a critique of queer liberalism. This includes the Introduction “Queerness, Norms, Utopia” by the editors, which gives an overview of the journal, and “Queer Value” by Meg Wesling, which takes the documentary film Mariposas En El Andamio (butterflied on the scaffold) by Luis Felipe Bernaza and Margaret Gilpin to explore questions of value in relation to drag and the production of gender in the context of the post-revolutionary Cuba. The other text we will read is Chapter 6 from Mario Mieli’s Towards a Gay Communism written in 1977 and only republished in 2018. This provocative, generative and problematic text reflects the Italian counter-culture and intellectual climate of that time, while pre-empting aspects of contemporary discussions around homosexuality and communism.
As a regular part of this seminar, two students will give a synopsis of seminar 4, and two others will make presentations.
Rosenberg, Jordana and Villarejo, Amy (eds). “Queer Studies and the Crisis of Capitalism.” Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 18, nr. 1 (2012).
Mieli, Mario. Towards a Gay Communism, Elements of a Homosexual Critique. London: Pluto Books, 2018.
Seminar 4 (March) online
For seminar 4 we will read Fires on the Border: the Passionate Politics of Organising on the Mexican Frontera by Rosemary Hennessy. In this book Hennessy brings together ideas concerning queer and feminist gender politics in relation to Marxism, using concrete examples gathered through interviews with workers. These have been generated through decades long engagement with labour struggles in the Maquiladoras (factories for export) along Mexico’s border with the US. The session focuses on chapter 5 “The Value of Second Skins” in which Hennessy reworks this concept from Jay Proser, in order to conceptualises identity as an interface between the psychic and the corporeal. The other chapter for this session is chapter 6 “Feeling Bodies, Jeans, Justice”—here Hennessy explores the term bio-deregulation both in relation to the exploitation of feminised bodies in the factory system as well as the deployment of homonormative bodies, that is gay bodies through advertising in wealthy cosmopolitan centres. Two students made a synopsis of seminar 3, and two others give presentations—one on film relating to Marxist themes and iconography and another on post capitalism and the gift economy.
Hennessy, Rosemary. Fires on the Border: The Passionate Politics of Labour Organising on the Mexican Frontera. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
Seminar 3 (February) online
For seminar 3 we will continue to read The Politics of Everybody, Feminism, Queer theory, and Marxism at the Intersection by Holly Lewis, focusing on chapter 3) “From Queer Nationalism to Queer Marxism,” which outlines concepts in relation to sexuality, race and class and explores and critiques concepts and terms from queer theory including homonormativity and homo-nationalism. In tandem with chapter 3, we will be reading Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis, which addresses how gender can be understood historically in relation to enslaved African women in the US, as well as listening to “Angela Davis: A Life in Activism” podcast, in which she gives an overview of her work as an activist, thinker and writer. We will also be reading the Conclusion from The Politics of Everybody, which sets out “Ten axioms towards a queer Marxist future” as well as view a conversation between Judith Butler in which Butler discusses the origins of queer theory and outlines her changed understanding of gender and performance.
Lewis, Holly. The Politics of Everybody, Feminist, Queer theory, and Marxism at the Intersection, London: Zed Books, 2016.
Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race & Class. London: Penguin Books 2019.
“Angela Davis: A Life in Activism.” CIIS Public Programs Broadcast https://www.ciispod.com/angela-davis
Owen Jones meets Judith Butler https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXJb2eLNJZE
Seminar 2 (January) online
For seminar 2 we read The Politics of Everybody, Feminism, Queer theory, and Marxism at the Intersection by Holly Lewis, chapter 1) “Terms of the debate” which outlines key concepts from Marx, revisiting terms of concepts from seminar one, as well the philosophical and Marxist roots of queer political thought, with a section on the importance of poststructuralism for queer theory. We also read chapter 2) “Marxism and gender” with a focus on Social Reproduction Theory (SRT), in tandem with the podcast “Beyond Economism with Nancy Fraser” from the DIG radio a conversation between Daniel Denvir and Nancy Fraser on SRT. Two students made a synopsis of seminar one, and two others proposed texts, which we looked at together including Maggy Nelson’s “The Argonauts” and a comparative discussion of “vulgar Marxism” from McKenzie Wark and Holly Lewis.
Lewis, Holly. The Politics of Everybody, Feminist, Queer theory, and Marxism at the Intersection. London: Zed Books, 2016.
Fraser, Nancy and Denvir Daniel. “Beyond Economism with Nancy Fraser.” The DIG radio (12 September 2018), https://www.thedigradio.com/podcast/beyond-economism-with-nancy-fraser/.
Nelson, Maggy. The Argonauts. London: Melville House UK, 2015.
Wark, McKenzie. Capital is Dead. London: Verso 2019.
Seminar 1 (November) in Oldebroek
The first seminar begins with a discussion of ‘Communism for Kids’ by artist and theorist Bini Adamczak as a way to address some key themes and concepts from Marx. It features short sections including: What is communism? What is capitalism? What is market? What is crisis? And what is to be done? And describes a series of trials in which factory workers try out different communist experiments. This text will be juxtaposed with an interview from Michel Foucault ‘Friendship as a Way of Life’ originally published in Le Gai Pied in 1981, which takes a very different approach to politics, focusing on the gay liberation movement in the USA at that time and on questions of subjectivity and ethics. These texts will be used to start looking at different sometimes antagonistic ways of conceptualising social change.
Adamczak, Bini. Communism for Kids. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017.
Foucault, Michel. Foucault Live, Collected Interviews 1961 – 1984. New York: Semiotext(e), 1996.