Category Archives: Affect

‘Don’t sugar me cunt!’: The drug search as a technology of sovereign humiliation and assertion

This scene, from Ana Kokkinos’s brilliant (1998) film Head On, astutely demonstrates how the drug search has emerged as a key technology for the instatement of white heteromasculinist sovereignty.  But before watching, please be warned it’s disturbingly  violent and depicts police brutality against vulnerably sexualised, gendered and racialised bodies.

“This room is so white!!!”

From the underpants inspections that NSW police used to conduct to harass cross-dressers and transgender people over the 1950s and 1960s in Sydney, to the NSW police use of sniffer dogs that continues to this day, stripping people bare –  down to the bios of bare life –  has a long history of use as a strategy of coercion, humiliation and violence,  deployed most often against queers, blacks, immigrants and women in bids to assert particular forms of sovereignty and abjection.

To me, Kokkinos’s take on the intersections of nationalism, policing, ethnicity, sexuality and gender in this scene is incredibly incisive.  It eloquently demonstrates why the police use of drug and other laws to intimate and harass people they don’t like the look of (with sniffer dogs for example) must be brought to an end now …..and why it requires an urgent counter-response from anyone concerned with the violent operations of racism, homophobia and transphobia in present day Australia

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@pansyguild’s ABUNDANCE down under

On my recent trip to Chicago, I met the wonderful young scholar and performer Ivan Bujan, who introduced me to @openengagement @pansyguild‘s project ABUNDANCE: Ancestral crops as performance, research and healing.

Pansy guild

@pansyguild describes themselves as a group of indigenous and black queers who grow things, based in Chicago, and ABUNDANCE is a seed bomb project spreading the word that queers are abundant, rooted and thriving.

Ivan gave me a seed bomb from the Abundance project and asked me to plant it somewhere significant back home (N.B this involved breaching Australian customs regulations….but for this cause I was quite happy to transgress the law…)

This weekend we had plans to catch up with a bunch friends at St Mark’s Park, which is a beautiful spot just south of Bondi Beach, where our dogs all hung out to do doggy things, play and frolic.

St Mark’s Park is located in the ancestral lands of the Eora people. You can read about the   far-reaching and extraordinary indigenous history of this area here

After white invasion and the British colonisation and settlement of Australia, this secluded park on the precipice of a cliff just south of Bondi Beach became a popular spot for men looking to hook up with other men for sex, fun and whatever else.  It was one of my favourite spots to cruise over the 1990s and early 2000s, and I had quite a few hot times there myself.

I was unaware that over the 1970s, 80s and 90s, dozens of men were assaulted, beaten, and numerous men have been found dead at the bottom of the cliffs below the park.  It has since emerged that these men were the subject of brutal homophobic violence and murders carried out by local youths – murders which were neglected (and in some instances allegedly perpetrated) by officers of the NSW Police force, recent investigations have revealed.

Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) produced an excellent and very disturbing documentary on the topic last year, which you can access here to find out more about this horrific and violent history of homophobic violence, official neglect and police corruption.

So, as we headed out to the park this morning,  I thought this would be the perfect spot to SEED BOMB with queer abundance.  I got my friend Brent Mackie to film the occasion.  Check it out lovers! xx

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Filed under Affect, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Masculinities, Police, Policy and programs, Sexual practice, Sexual Sociability

Chance Encounters

GeraldOne of my all-time favourite films about cultural transformation is 24 Hour Party People (2003, dir. Winter bottom), which tracks the shift from punk rock to dance culture in Manchester’s music/cultural scene of the 1980s.
I use the film in my teaching to spark students’ engagement with concepts such as assemblage, eventuation, contingency, and actor-networks.. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, the ludic narrator (played wonderfully by Steve Coogan) clinches that moment that everything comes together: the music, the dancing, the technology, the drugs, the venue …to generate a distinctively new situation – an event: the birth of rave culture.
The soundtrack that enacts and amplifies this effervescent moment in the film,  set signally in Manchester’s legendary Hacienda Club, is Voodoo Ray.
Voodoo ray.jpeg
A couple of weeks ago i was contacted out of the blue by Prem Borle, a drug researcher and ANT scholar from Berlin I had only met through Facebook, who was in Sydney, looking for something queer and festive to do. Friends took him out to some queer performance art one night, and on Sunday he came over to hang out with Stephan, Herc and I. We had a really great day. 💕
On Sunday night Prem lured me across the road to Pavlova Bar at Club 77, where a DJ legend I had only vaguely heard of – A Guy Called Gerald – was said to be spinning.
What an amazing set! Ivan Ligne-Noire, eminent professor of fine rave, let me know that Gerald had come only with a bunch of self-prepared dubs which he was mixing live on the spot.
At the height of his set, Voodoo Ray started kicking in here and there…among other things that might have been kicking in at that moment…whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Excited, I turned to Ivan to ask him if he knew the the Winterbottom film, and the scene that featured that track.
Ivan just laughed gently and, pointing to the DJ (spinning only an arms length away from us) whispered: ‘yes, that was *him*. Gerald was the guy who played that track, right there in the Hacienda that night that everything came together’
Mind. Blown. 💥🌈
Still reverberating in the afterglow
#Ecstatic #event #queerchemistry #disconerd

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ABC TV’S “ICE WARS”

the_princess_and_the_ice_monster_by_mongorap-d5g0owj“The Princess and the Ice Monster”

Image by Hachiimon @ Deviant Art

Read the public discussion of ABCTV’s 4 part series “ICE WARS!!!” here

nancy_just_say_no

Or, for a much more edifying, fond and generative depiction of ice use among

Australia’s Most Stigmatised

watch this

just-do-it

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Drug dogs, Engagement with medicine, PNP culture, Police, Policy and programs, Random thoughts, Self-medication

An Index of Collective Action

Queering the Direction of Present Events

gay-again

I snatched these photos from all over the place ~ collectively I take them to be grabbing back the public domain from the hands of those conspiring to restrict its terms of membership and eradicate dissidence.

The images are presented in the chronological order events unfolded …. more or less … with one or two exceptions…

(what a liberty!)

I pay tribute to all the friends and strangers who participated in the making of these snapshots and their circulation .

Thanks for sharing ~  such awesome creativity.

On the Campaign Trail …

trump-liberty

hilary-mural

adventures-into-the-unknown

protesting-forever

As Inauguration Day draws near…

ursula

…and a Queer Dance Party erupts outside the DC Residence of

Mike Pence, Vice-President Elect…

queer-pence

divine

(Divine!) 

Inauguration Day Arrives

trump-southpark

(Michelle isn’t having a bar of it)

michelle-enough

merkel

Among the first changes instituted  @Whitehouse.gov….

lgbt-whitehouse

[[BUT WAIT! …EXCITING NEW CONTENT!]]

melania-model

jewelley2(Did someone say something about draining ‘Elites from the Swamp’?!)

On the first day of Trump’s presidency

 feminists around the world act up…

march-on-washing-posteraudre-lorde-self-care

strap-on

“I’m with her”

girl-i-know-michelle

Washington DC:

trump-tower-woman

Detroit:

detroit

Atlanta:

queer-black

Washington DC

tamborine

 Sydney

(flashback: pre-emptive tambouring)

undead-tambourine

Sydney

(21 January 2017)

sydney

fuck-u-trump-sky

Meanwhile in London…

Fierce Pussy!

roar-good

Flashes of Pink

(Unknown Location) 

vulva

Hear Us Roar:

lion-mouth-dentata

PUSSY POWER!

NEXT POST:

“What is emerging Down Under??”

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Filed under Affect, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Masculinities, Parties, Police, Policy and programs, Random thoughts, Sexual Sociability, Theory

Bette Midler’s Gay Science

octopus-desire-tiawan-cover

 Cover design of the National Central University of Taiwan’s Center for the Study of Sexualities‘ forthcoming edited collection, translated into Mandarin, “When Desire Meets Public Health”

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I can’t believe I’d never seen this footage of Bette Midler’s Continental Baths Concert of 1971. It is all kinds of awesome and fabulous; a cataclysmic moment of gay world-making.
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The referentiality between the runsheet and the context of reception – the song choice and the abject status and attachments of the deviants who frequented “such establishments” – is so incredibly sharp and blatant and pointed and contradictory but ultimately joyous for what it cares to acknowledge and celebrate in and about, these places, these attachments, these publics, these gatherings.
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Basically it’s like, so gay 💅🏽
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octopus-bette
 Queer Entanglements
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Among the highlights of the show (and if you can’t quite face another cultural studies rave right now, don’t take my word for it: do yourself a favour & just watch it):
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  • Midler blows queer theory’s “anti-social” thesis right out of the water within 3 minutes of appearing on stage, because (doncha know?) “It’s All About Friends!”
  • Yet only minutes later, this woman, who at first glance might have come across as some happy-clappy redemptive sex pastoralist is getting down and dirty and revelling in a celebration of shameless sexual receptivity, with all its hurt and pleasure, in a show-stopper that situates “copping it” within the same order of bodily experience/urgency/necessity as scratching an itch: A basic craving, mundane, but often unbearably intense;  practically constitutive of being bodily in this world, difficult, disturbing –  with a million ways of approaching it, each with their own risks and possibilities for connection, intimacy, transformation, disappointment, frustrated consummation, and boundless enjoyment.
  • But what the heck?  What’s a Queen got to lose?

nothing-to-lose

  • And then next up (as though out of nowhere) an Ode to Marijuana, to top things off.  The Exotic/Palliative Sublime!
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Meanwhile, in the  second half of the show there is a Nostalgia Interlude, featuring hits from the 1940s, in which Milder adopts such a cheesy, self-assured persona when she sings “Going to the Chapel” (“R’member that great song? ‘Member?”) that she verges on obnoxious. The more she goes on and on and on and gloats about how she’s “Gonna Get Married” in the morning, the more you want to slap her! And you could almost be forgiven for that violent impulse, given the sense of comfort she derives so obviously and insensitively from knowing that that moment (indeed, even the slightest rendition or reference to that moment) has whole institutions dedicated to propping it up, as is more than demonstrated in how reliably and  routinely the refrain is backed up by a troupe of captive but ecstatic chorus singers. A surefire crowd-pleaser! What a triumph!  How enchanting!  (God knows it oughta be; they’ve being doing it to death in rehearsal).
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To counteract the bulldozing affects of this excruciatingly marital personae/performance, in the next sequence Midler switches gears and gets busy turning things around:  Mainly by ramping up the rapport she has  achieved so magically with her bathhouse audience: whipping up the feels, stirring up the love, only to culminate in her finally belting out this climactic, earth-shattering, quivering chant: “Any Day Now, I will be RELEASED!!” Which sends the audience arse over tit in an utter frenzy of gay abandon and delirium.
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Which all seems natural enough in the circumstances. Earlier in the show, she had confided casually that, like many of the boys in her bathhouse audience, she’d been working her ass off for “three days now”, without barely a breather in between acts.  No wonder the show’s climax is  so enthusiastically shared among the crowd, so devastating, so intense, so overinvested – and yet so playfully and powerfully communicated.
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Such brilliant realisation, explosive as dynamite.  Bringing to mind what a good friend suggested to me recently:  It’s “All about Energy”.  A pedagogical moment of sparkling clarity.
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*******
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Filmed a year before I was born, Bette Midler’s 1971 Continental Baths Concert is such a joy to behold, I feel so lucky to have been thrown into a world in which this could be found and grasped as a precedent, and so lucky to have chanced across footage of the event … Partly because of the queer associations it reveals and multiplies: it’s so obviously and unapologetically *her* kind of audience – striving for release – the kind of release that only a few legends like Midler were gutsy enough to affirm, acknowledge, and share publicly at the time, despite the likelihood of recrimination and scorn this might bring upon her, (not to mention the loneliness and despair and rejection and ugly affects that often underwrite such collective investments, which she also movingly acknowledges).
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But mainly because she just *owns* these desires and investments – in all their messy, abject complexity – so damn indiscriminately in this performance.   The whole queer kit and caboodle. In short, she belts it out of the ballpark.  & I’m talking …..FAR OUT!!!!!
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What kind of magic is this?  So playful! So abject! So affirmative! So powerful!  Overflowing with unmitigated pleasures and gusto….💖💕
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*******
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 On a more scholarly note, I take this show to be an exemplary instance of Sexual Sociability, a concept I came up with a while back now & have been trying to work with ever since, & which has ended up becoming key, as it turns out, to my forthcoming book, The Gay Science (“Forthcoming” ….ahem…..Any Day Now”….)
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It all makes me wish you could have a YouTube clip as a book cover! (it won’t be long now, surely? I mean, “we have the technology”, right?).  What a wild wet dream it would be to have Bette Midler’s 1971 “You’ve Got to Have Friends” featuring prominently somewhere in the book’s back matter, for the benefit of friends and readers, both old and new – or maybe I could arrange to have the number just playing throughout, on autorepeat. I can’t think of a better way of acknowledging my key informants, divine muses, motivating impulses and other assorted sources of gayspiration.  Or of signalling some of my work’s key design principles – and impossible objects.
bette
 The Divine Bette Midler, Continental Baths, circa 1971
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There. Thanks for putting up with that excessive, raving gay rant.  Writing it at least ought to force me to finish the fucker.  And friends, believe me, that day can’t come quickly enough … 🌊💨🌪💥⚡️🌈🌸💦
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(Did someone say “happy ending?”  Bring it!!)

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Filed under Affect, Books, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Masculinities, Parties, PNP culture, Random thoughts, Self-medication, Sexual practice, Sexual Sociability, Theory

PATHOLOGICAL

Kane Race

{Invited contribution to The Great Moving (Further) Right Show, closing panel discussion at the Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference, Sydney, 2016}

 

In Mad Travellers (1998), Ian Hacking argued that each historical age produces its own types of madness or mental illness. What happens when a hegemonic social identity – in this case, white and heteromasculinist – starts to lose its presumptive grip on national space and understand itself as an aggrieved and embattled minority?[1]

In the wake of Trump’s election, digital snippets began to emerge that captured white people ‘losing their shit’ in the course of a range of mundane consumer transactions. Losing their shit is a polite way of putting it: those encountering these clips on social media became spectators to a series of highly public, abusive outbursts, precipitated by frustrated feelings of entitlement to special treatment:

  • In a Miami Starbucks, a white man started abusing African-American employees because his coffee was taking longer than expected. ‘I voted for Trump! TRUMP!’ he screamed. ‘You lost, now give me my money back!’ he demanded of the woman behind the counter, calling her “trash” before going on to harangue and harass employees and other customers.
  • In a Chicago store, a white woman went into a highly public fit of vitriol and abuse when an African-American cashier asked her to pay for a $1 reusable bag (as per store policy). She felt she was being discriminated against because she was white. ‘I voted for Trump!’ And look who won!” she announced for all to hear, before launching into a 45 minute tirade directed against African-American and Hispanic employees and other customers, in which she directly compared one store manager to “an animal”.
  • A man flying Delta from Atlanta to Allentown (located in a borderline electoral district in Pennsylvania) subjected passengers to a noisy pro-Trump rant, demanding to know whether there were any ‘Hilary bitches on here’.

In each of these incidents, subjects emboldened by the Trump win fly into highly public scenes of vitriol, rage  and abuse at the drop of a hat. Trump and Brexit-style rhetoric has carefully mapped out sites of external blame for whatever it is these white folks are suffering: racial and sexual minorities, immigrants, liberal elites, independent women and transgender individuals are typical scapegoats.

The documented spikes in racisthomophobic and transphobic violence that occurred after Brexit and the US election can be read as further manifestations of a syndrome or structure of feeling ‘triggered by’ these official endorsements of populist ethno-nationalist sentiment. These violent acts, committed in bids to reassert failing sovereignty, remind us that the idealised nation  is not only racialized (white), but also has a sexuality (heteronormative) that is felt to be constitutively endangered.

(These vigilante posters, which appeared in Melbourne over 2016, could be regarded as Australian symptoms or subtypes of this syndrome.  The Antipodean Resistance describes itself as a youth organisation that opposes “substance abuse, homosexuality, and all other rotten, irresponsible distractions laid before us by Jews and globalists elites”)

 

What I find particularly interesting about these acts of aggression and violence is their adoption of the prism of identity politics to vent out their claims on cultural supremacy and special treatment. These people feel they have been discriminated against: that, were it not for radical intervention, the liberal state would further conspire to reduce their recourse to the terms of abuse that once kept minorities and women in their place and thus served to ensure their own social status and dominance so effectively.[2]

In 1997 Lauren Berlant observed, “today many formerly iconic citizens who used to feel undefensive and unfettered feel truly exposed and vulnerable …They sense that they now have identities, when it used to be just other people who had them.”[3] What has happened in the interim, and what few could have predicted, is how enthusiastically these self-same subjects have embraced the terms of identity politics to understand their own plight and vituperatively restore their hold on cultural privilege.

In Australia, there has been no shortage of privileged white men prepared to line up to whine at length, publicly and pathetically, about their intolerable sense of of having been victimised. white-man-sooksThe federal government actively panders to these sentiments, withdrawing funding from anti-bullying programs offering sex and gender diversity education in schools, and more recently, announcing a parliamentary inquiry into whether provisions that make it unlawful to publicly “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” others on the basis of race impose “unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech”. (Won’t someone please unfetter the poor privileged white darlings?).

safe-schools-hate-speechImage: Cartoonist Cathy Wilcox’s critique of Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull’s intention to stall a vote on marriage equality by requiring a public plebiscite, and de-fund the Safe Schools program, February 2016.

 

The ebullient outbursts I’ve described above are steeped in vindictive and vengeful ressentiment that seeks out sites of external blame upon which to avenge hurt and redistribute their pain.[4] It is very tempting to diagnose these psychotic outbursts as symptoms of a new pathology: Trumpitis? Brexophilia? Post-Trump Manic Spectrum Disorder? After all, anger and violence generated by delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution are regarded as textbook signs of paranoid schizophrenia.

Pathologising people isn’t my usual style – I’ve spent most of my life contesting the imposition of therapeutic morality – but part of me says, why not? If these folks truly want to qualify as minority identities, bring it on! After all, would LGBT, feminists, and people of colour really qualify as minority identities in the absence of their historical subjection to intensive pathologization, criminalisation, surveillance and brutal treatment? If you’re really a subordinated identity, show me the evidence!

The problem with psychologisation is that it dehistoricizes affective complications, extracting these feelings of the world from any broader sociopolitical, historical trajectories. It’s also patronising, and therefore likely to compound the problem: In 1997, when a ‘highbrow’ journalist asked Australia’s far right politician Pauline Hanson if she was xenophobic, Hanson’s blinking response, “please explain?” resonated with many older, white non-tertiary educated Australians, powerfully embodying a spreading sense of alienation from the structures of liberal power.[5]

pauline-hanson-giphy

One of the most subtle and provocative arguments of Wendy Brown’s (1995) States of Injury – perhaps the least popular among liberal critics – is that the disciplinary genres of US identity politics personalise and naturalise some of the complex injuries of capitalism. In taking the white heterosexual middle class as the standard against which social injury is measured, the North American habit of staging politics through identity makes categories of identity “bear all the weight of … sufferings produced by capitalism.”[6]  I find this insight particularly useful in terms of getting a grip on the present conjuncture, where the capitalist dream is failing to deliver on its promise even for much of the white middle class.  In this instance, the siphoning of socioeconomic and cultural frustrations into a racialised category of wounded identity has generated particularly abusive, vindictive and (dare I say) psychotic manifestations.

What I think would be most helpful now is a more affirmative understanding of identity and difference, a reformulation of the possibilities of identity that equips us for dealing with our multi-ethnic, multi-gendered times – and even take some pleasure in them. (I’m struck, for example, by the factoid that recently came to light that Trump supporters ‘are disproportionately living in racially and culturally isolated zip codes and commuting zones’ and have limited interaction with other social groups.  The point speaks to the critical relevance of contact theory, whose vision of social safety is elaborated most imaginatively and queerly by African American Sci-Fi writer Samuel Delany.[7])

Imagine if identity was conceived, not as a category of victimhood or failed sovereignty requiring the protection and reparative intervention of a (presumptively white and heterosexual) state, but a source of multiplicity and difference – a contact zone – that is valued and affirmed for the occasions it opens up for mutual transformation? Whose promise consists precisely in the unpredictable and exciting possibilities that emerge from inter-class/identity encounters for what nations and worlds and states might become ?[8]

With this more affirmative approach to identity and difference, perhaps we will get a more active, constructive handle on what might become of the present phase of consumer capitalism and globalisation. But of course this will require white heterosexual subjects to renounce their claims on sovereignty and special treatment, and address their present manifestation as retaliatory violence against unknown others – as a matter of urgency.

References

[1] In the Australian context of state multiculturalism, Ghassan Hage theorises this situation as one in which a white majority starts to worry it is losing its grip on the managerial relation it has enjoyed over national space, which it feels is its birth-right. See Hage, White nation: Fantasies of white supremacy in a multicultural society. Routledge, 2012.

[2] For a wonderfully pedagogical and accessible explication of this point see Meaghan Morris, ‘Sticks and Stones and Stereotypes’ http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-June-1997/morris.html

[3] Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America goes to Washington City: Essays on sex and citizenship. Duke University Press, 1997, p. 2.

[4] On ressentiment, see Friedrich Nietzsche, On the genealogy of morals and ecce homo. Vintage, 2010.

[5] For a brilliant discussion of this moment to which this argument is indebted see Meaghan Morris (2000), “‘Please explain?’ignorance, poverty and the past.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 1,2: 219-232.

[6] Wendy Brown, States of injury: Power and freedom in late modernity. Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 60. For another brilliant excavation of the trials, tribulations and terms of US identity politics see Cindy Patton, “Tremble, hetero swine!” in Warner (ed.) Fear of a queer planet: Queer politics and social theory, 1993, pp.143-177.

[7] Rylan Lizza, “What we learned about Trump’s supporters this week”, New Yorker, August 13, 2016.  For a queer vision of social safety that draws brilliantly on contact theory see Samuel Delany (1999), Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.

[8] For a more detailed elaboration of the theoretical coordinates of this approach, and an attempt to put it into practice, see my  forthcoming book, The Gay Science: Intimate Experiments with the Problem of HIV, under contract with Routledge.

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