The Cultural Studies Association (CSA) Ethnography Working Group

The Cultural Studies Association (CSA) Ethnography Working Group invites proposals to the CSA’s thirteenth annual meeting in Riverside, CA.

 May 21-24, 2015

General Call:

The Ethnography Working Group investigates how the ethnographic method can continue to shed light onto the field of Cultural Studies, as well discussing the practice of ethnographic research. We invite parties to submit proposals for papers or panels that employ the ethnographic method within the field of cultural studies, discussion panels debating best practices or contemporary issues, or workshops and skill-shares (praxis workshops). While we encourage proposals that match the theme, feel free to submit proposals that do not.

 

Theme Call:

The Ethnographic Working Group looks to expand upon the CSA conference theme “Another University is Possible: Praxis, Activism, and the Promise of Critical Pedagogy” to examine both official and unofficial sites of teaching and learning. Cafés, subcultural spaces, bars, bathhouses, churches, performance spaces, protest sites, private homes, co-ops, Internet websites, and community centers all serve as sites of learning for both dominant and minority groups. Sometimes these spaces distribute material often unavailable to underserved populations. For example, bars and bathhouses distributed knowledge about and materials for safer sex during the AIDS crisis to counter the lack of official information. Community centers and churches have provided access to resource lists, workshops, facilitated conversations, pamphlets, therapeutic sessions, and much more.

At the same time, we recognize the learning and unlearning of official and unofficial knowledge at institutional sites such as schools, colleges, universities, and within the military.

We seek proposals that deal with these sites and how these spaces and activities spill out over the edges of their site into the larger social world. What is the role of researcher in these spaces? How is knowledge produced and distributed in these spaces? What are the relations between official and unofficial spaces of learning? What can the University and those working within the academy adapt from unofficial spaces with respect to community organizing, social justice initiatives as well as teaching and learning? Do these sites act as transformative or conservative forces? What is the impact of the learning or unlearning in these spaces?  How do issues of controlling knowledge (access, production) play out? How do community politics play out in these spaces? How do they organize? Who is include and who is excluded? How do issues of ownership, founders, and newcomers play out in such spaces? What is the role of local, national, and global politics on these spaces? Can the happenings in these spaces amount to change? Can they alleviate inequalities? How does gentrification, the housing crisis, and policy affect such spaces?

Details:

Proposals from all areas and on all topics of relevance to cultural studies are welcome, and are not limited to proposals that critically and creatively engage this year’s theme.

All sessions run for 90 minutes.

 

Please send proposals or inquiries to Jodi Davis-Pacheco (jodidavis@fullerton.edu), Michael Lecker (mlecker@gmu.edu), and Marcos Moldes (marcos_moldes@sfu.ca). The deadline for submissions is November 15th, 2014.

PRE-CONSTITUTED PANELS: Pre-constituted panels allow a team of 3-4 individuals to present their research, work, and/or experiences, leaving 30-45 minutes of the session for questions and discussion. Panels should include 3-4 participants. Proposals for pre-constituted panels should include: the title of the panel; the name, title, affiliation, and contact information of the panel organizer; the names, titles, affiliations, and email addresses of all panelists, and a chair and/or discussant; a description of the panel’s topic (<500 words); and abstracts for each presentation (<150 words). Pre-constituted panels are preferred to individual paper submissions.

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS: Successful papers will reach several constituencies of the organization and will connect analysis to social, political, economic, or ethical questions. Proposals for papers should include: the title of the paper; the name, title, affiliation, and email address of the author; and an abstract of the 20 minute paper (<500 words). Pre-constituted panels are recommended over individual paper submissions, though we welcome both.

ROUNDTABLES: Roundtables allow a group of participants to convene with the goal of generating discussion around a shared concern. In contrast to panels, roundtables typically involve shorter position or dialogue statements (5-10 minutes) in response to questions distributed in advance by the organizer. The majority of roundtable sessions should be devoted to discussion. Roundtables are limited to no more than five participants, including the organizer. We encourage roundtables involving participants from different institutions, centers, and organizations. Proposals for roundtables should include: the title of the roundtable; the name, title, affiliation, and contact information of the roundtable organizer; the names, titles, affiliations, and email addresses of the proposed roundtable participants; and a description of the position statements, questions, or debates that will be under discussion (<500 words).

PRAXIS SESSIONS: Praxis sessions allow a facilitator or facilitating team to set an agenda, pose opening questions, and/or organize hands-on participant activities, collaborations, or skill-shares. Successful praxis sessions will be organized around a specific objective, productively engage a cultural studies audience, and orient itself towards participants with minimal knowledge of the subject matter. Sessions organized around the development of ongoing creative, artistic, and activist projects are highly encouraged. The facilitator or team is responsible for framing the session, gathering responses and results from participants, helping everyone digest them, and (where applicable) suggesting possible fora for extending the discussion. Proposals for praxis sessions should include: the title of the session; the name, title, affiliation, and contact information of the (lead) facilitator and of any co-facilitators; a brief statement explaining the session’s connection to the conference theme and describing the activities to be undertaken (<500 words).

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A Conference Report Faggots and Class Struggle 1976

A Conference Report Faggots and Class Struggle (click on the title to download).

This is a copy of Morning Due V.2, Issue 6, which was produced by attended a gathering at Magdalen Farm, which is now Wolf Creek Sanctuary.

At the end of this interview, someone reflects on the gathering.

And here is a where you can purchase recorded exerts from the conference.

I plan on writing more about this, but I wanted to post this as soon as I could.

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The Fool Speaks the Truth

From September 27-30 2012, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Harry Hay Centennial Committee sponsored “Radically Gay: The Life & Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay,” a conference to commemorate the 100th birthday of Harry Hay. I responded to the call for papers with a proposal to discuss how current Radical Faeries use or think of the queer past and archetypes. I wanted to put this in conversation with Harry Hay’s research motivations and his general interest in past queer figures. Through participant observation at 2011 Wolf Creek Samhain and an interview with Portland Radical Faerie and clown Michael Zero, I contest some queer theorists vision of queer space as “fragile” and “ephemeral” and instead begin to build a theory of sustained queer space and community.

This presentation is the second one I have produced out of this set of research. The first is here. The page limit was 10. I had to cut out some important discussions of clowning that I hope to put into the larger project, which is a dissertation tentatively titled “Sustaining Gay Liberation: The Practice of Radical Faerie Culture.”

Below is the abstract. Click The Fool Speaks the Truth for the paper. Thoughts, comments, and critiques are welcome. Please send feedback to mlecker at gmu dot edu.

The Fool Speaks the Truth: The Creation of Queer Archetypes in the Radical Faerie Community

Harry Hay asked of gay men, “Who are we? Where did we come from? What are we for?” and looked to other cultures (including Medieval Europe, Iron Age British Isles, goddess worshiping cultures, and Pueblo cultures) to validate sexually and gendered others as having a legitimate and important role within society–a role destroyed within contemporary patriarchal and capitalistic Western Culture. Hay theorized that men who loved men constituted a third gender, a minority within humanity that has its own language, culture, and skills. In 1979, Hay’s research turned to praxis through the manifestation of the Radical Faeries, a loose network of people who explore queer spirituality, community, and identity through gathering and consciousness raising. Using research collected via participant observation at various gatherings and through interviewing Radical Faeries, this paper documents how three decades after its inception, Radical Faeries use, but also distance themselves from, Hay’s initial teachings and approach, while creating new roles such as the “Stag King.” These roles legitimatize the Radical Faerie’s existence outside of mainstream gay and lesbian culture, while also creating multiple positions of power to contest and critique the Radical Faerie community and the broader culture at large. From these events and interviews what becomes clear is an expressed desire and need amongst participants to build, and plug into a queer genealogy or mythos, which ultimately sustains this queer institution and contributes to its longevity. The ethics of using figures from other time periods or cultures to ground Western same-sex or queer sexual identity has been debated with LGBTQ studies for nearly four decades. In this paper, I reject the good/bad judgment imposed by some scholars and instead conjure what David Halperin calls  “a sensitivity to difference [that] need not rule out identification… or form of queer multiplicity and solidarity.”

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Transcription of “History of the Faeries”

From January 12-16th, the Philly Radical Faeries hosted the 2nd Annual Philly Faerie Gatherette. On January 15th 2012, as part of the event, Murray Edelman, Joey Cain, Agnes de Garron, and audience members discussed Radical Faerie History and issues surrounding the preservation of history and the divide between public and private. Peter “speck” Lien videotaped the event and posted it here. I, Husk (Michael Lecker), transcribed it. If you find any mistakes, please let me know (michaellecker at gmail dot com).

Here is the file: History of the Faeries (including- Murray Edelman, Joey Cain, and Agnes de Garron)

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Faerie Futurity

This is the first presentation of my research on the Radical Faeries. This writing is based on my last four months of fieldwork. The sites I have visited so far are Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Sanctuaries in Minnesota and Oregon. I have had an amazing journey so far. I get to spend time practicing yoga, cooking, talking, and camping with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I am indebted to the Faeries who have welcomed me into their fabulous lives and let me interview them. I sadly have not had time to review all of my material. I got back from Portland two days ago and this paper is due tomorrow morning— so it’s not my best piece of writing or a comprehensive sampling of sites. However, I have begun engaging with one idea that I think will become central to my project— queer genealogy is what I am currently calling it. I invite Radical Faeries to comment and critique this concept and the paper, either on this website or through sending me an email (mlecker at gmu dot edu). Take care, sistabrothers.

Love, Husk (formerly known as Quill).

This paper entitled Faerie Futurity will be presented at the Annual American Anthropological Association Meeting in Montreal at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2011.

Here is the paper.

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Contemporary Theories of Sexuality Field

To become a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at George Mason University, one must complete two fields—literature reviews of areas of study. My fields were “Mass Culture and Urban Space” and “Contemporary Theories of Sexuality.” Attached below is the “Contemporary Theories of Sexuality” field, but before that is my introduction.

INTRODUCTION

In this overview of contemporary theories of sexuality, I trace sexuality as a public and political issue. The purpose is to understand how a supposedly private issue became a space to regulate bodies, but also a space for marginal subjects to contest norms. Theories I consider will discuss in numerous ways the political importance of history, social constructionism, essentialism, desire, bodies, identity, community, and normativity. I follow the field’s trajectory by examining four major movements: psychoanalysis, feminism, gay and lesbian studies, and queer theory, and their initial and continuing impact on how sexuality is theorized.

Contemporary Theories of Sexuality Field

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Mass Culture and Urban Space Field

To become a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at George Mason University, one must complete two fields—literature reviews of areas of study. My fields were “Mass Culture and Urban Space” and “Contemporary Theories of Sexuality.” Attached below is the “Mass Culture and Urban Space” field, but before that is my introduction. The only disclaimer I have is that the section of the Frankfurt School needs work.

 

INTRODUCTION

Mass culture theories vary in their perspective and object choice; each has its own history and trajectory. Within this field I limit my scope to mass culture theorists engaging with the relationship between structures and subjects. Most theorists acknowledge both as pertinent but thoroughly examine only half of the dichotomy. Cultural theorists define subjects’ existence and their agency within capitalist produced structures in wildly different fashions depending on which half is studied. Within this discussion, I explore how theories regarding mass culture’s production and consumption have informed (and have themselves been informed by) discussions of the production and consumption of urban spaces.  In this way, this field recognizes that the discussion of urban space has always played a significant and central role in larger discussions of mass culture, and has recently gained renewed attention within critical and cultural theory.  The first half of the field thus focuses on the major arguments within the structure/subject dialogue in mass culture theories. The second half then narrows in on the influences, trajectory, and impact of geographers within cultural studies, particularly around questions of the production, appropriation, negotiation, and transformation of not only cultural commodities, but also urban spaces and places.

I begin with Karl Marx’s account of industrial capitalism’s rise and the subsequent alienating of subjects from themselves, their labor, and their culture. I move to Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Siegfried Kracauer, and Walter Benjamin of the Frankfurt School and their diverse accounts of the way institutions influence population in order to create the (passive?) masses and situate the public for the exploitation of their labor. Jürgen Habermas breaks away from this trajectory by showing how reason could but fails to combat the irrationality of the system described by the Frankfurt School. As a backlash against studying structures, the Birmingham School, including Stuart Hall, Dick Hebdige, and David Morley, discuss mass culture as a site of ideological struggle between producers and consumers. Their models consider the consumer as active. Their influence within the field sparked others, most notably John Fiske and Ien Ang, into theorizing and investigating the audience and how they negotiate meaning. From here I examine political economists, such as Mark Andrejevic and Sut Jhally, who discuss how the industry transfers audiences into a source of labor. Other political economists, such as Robert McChesney, Vincent Mosco, and Herbert Schiller argue that economic strategies of monopolization, global saturation, and exportation of products and structures of thinking adversely affect political thought and cultural production.

The theories referenced above can easily be, and often have been, applied to the study of urban space. Capitalists produce both mass culture and urban space to suit its purposes, leaving subjects to navigate, acculturate, or appropriate within the systems provided. Marx, Benjamin, and Kracauer were early commentators on capitalism’s impact on space, either altering it to enhance productivity and reduce turnover times, or for the promotion and celebration of consumption. David Harvey draws upon Marxism and critical theory to examine the historical geography of capitalism and the inequalities, which result in the production of space suited to the needs of capital. His work began a long trajectory of other theorists, such as Neil Smith, Sharon Zukin, and Don Mitchell, each of whom examine the production of space and its impact on subjects on a global, national, and local scale. The work of these geographers contributes to questions raised by political economists. Differing in focus, cultural geographers such as Doreen Massey and Peter Jackson draw on the work of Michel DeCerteau, the Birmingham School, and feminists to examine how subjects navigate and alter spaces that seek to exclude them.

Mass Culture and Urban Space Field

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