bodies

#OccupationUQAM

In "Crowd, Power and Post-Democracy in the 21st Century”, Zizek (2008) argues that when the normal run of things is traumatically interrupted, the field is open for a ‘discursive’ ideological competition. In other words, when there is a crisis.

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After our class yesterday there was a l’UQAM  occupation. It ended late into the night with an unnecessarily large police presence in riot gear, endless tear gas burning throats, and violent dispersion strategies. The night occupation was an immediate reaction to the events of earlier that day at UQAM.

Today, on the campus of the Université du Québec à Montréal, facing a court order demanding that classes be held and the threat of expulsion issued by their administration, hundreds of students turned up to disrupt classes and enforce their democratically voted strike mandate.

In response, the university administration called in the Montreal police, who arrived in full riot gear with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons at the ready. Paradoxically enough, their stated role there was to ensure that classes could occur as scheduled.

The students were shortly boxed in. The bulk of the reported 22 arrests happened as riot police swept onto campus. Students then set up barricades, and police formed a line and prepared to move in.

The occupation was also a response to the larger institutional issues of the different forms of violence against students (physical, economic, etc) and the austerity myth. The violence of those in power is much more insidious and invisible than the violence of destroying university property, which creates an unbalanced imaginary in this political struggle.

When we see images in the media and read the discourse of others which try to decontextualize a serious and complicated issue, and only focus on ‘violent protestors doing damage to property’ we must remember history, context, and the nuanced ways that bodies are excluded from spaces. What are the modes of recourse against the systemic and systematic violence we are faced with? Yes, all of us! Whether we recognize it or not. Although, some of us are affected by institutional violence more than others, which is where our friend intersectionality comes in. And even then, we must self-reflect what subject position we are coming from in the ways in which we orient towards events like the occupation last night. Why do we have x or y opinion on protests/protestors? What has shaped that perspective?

We must also remember the ways in which regulatory powers favor property over human bodies. When are riot gear, teargas and rubber bullets, etc. appropriate modes of policing bodies? (remember the Jason Farman example about increased security cameras pointing to computer labs and not for the safety of students on campus.)

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Photos courtesy of Caroline Ramirez.

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Debunk dah Funk: Rethinking Legends, Icons, & Rebels

https://vimeo.com/123808787

The Commuter Train as a Disciplinary Apparatus: Bodies and Order

Abstract Shot of the AMT train cabins

Abstract Shot of the AMT train cabins Photo: Ana Patricia Bourgeois

In “Discipline and Punish” (1975), Foucault focuses on the regulation of bodies and the question of power within particular institutions, using Bentham’s idea of the panopticon. Drawing upon Foucault’s interpretation of technologies of power, as well as Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological understanding of the environment, and Lefebvre’s idea from which politics and ideologies are embedded within spaces, this research project will focus on the commuter train as a disciplinary device, therefore adding an additional layer to Foucault’s argument. We believe that commuter trains tend to reinforce existing discourses around the orientation of our bodies within this particular space, therefore acting as a disciplinary device similar to the panopticon. We hope to arrive at a better understanding of this space by unpacking the different ways it forces us to behave, as well as the ways discipline is displayed. We believe that this research paper will fit within the greater discourse of this class about how our bodies relate to particular spaces and also about what kind of ideologies are at stake within such spaces. The commuter train doesn’t only help us to go from point A to point B; it is tightly related with old ideologies and follows important paradigmatic assumptions that have been perpetuated throughout the years about acceptable ways to behave within a public space.

*Want to learn more about our topic? Ask us the full copy! 

By Sarah Bibeau and Ana-Patricia Bourgeois

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Bibliography (sample)

Foucault, Michel. “Panopticism.” Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Pp.195-228. Print.

Harris, Richard. “Chapter 1-2.” Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004. Pp. 3-45. Print.

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Merleau-Ponty. “The Experience of the Body and Classical Psychology.” In Mariam Fraser and Monica Greco (Eds.) The Body: A Reader. Pp. 52-54. London: Routledge.

Monahan, Torin. “SURVEILLANCE AS CULTURAL PRACTICE.” The Sociological Quarterly 52.4 (2011): 495-508. JSTOR. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

Obermeyer, Nancy J. “Moving Violations: Data Privacy in Public Transit.” Geographical Review 97.3, Geosurveillance (2007): 351-64. JSTOR. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

 

Week 12 — Notes

“Our Bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity. Cyborgs are no exception.” (Haraway, 1991, 180)

For today’s class we watched Ana Voog’s video she made for us, and two readings that represent  a fairly wide range of re-thinking our contemporary embodied lived experience. They offered us new understandings of city life, of embodiment, and of the production of space and bodies in that life. Elizabeth Wilson says “we need a radically new approach to the city” and Donna Haraway also argues for a radically new approach to bodies and identity.

This is how I wish to end the course — in thinking what is at stake for the future and what sorts of alternatives there are to get our problematic of “which bodies? which spaces?”

Hyperstition is a “neologism that combines the words ‘hyper’ and ‘superstition’ to describe the action of successful ideas in the arena of culture.”

Both readings operate in the spirit of “l’ecriture feminine”, feminine writing, a concept that rejects masculinist histories and instead demands that women “write the truth of their bodies”. Two main proponents of this are French feminists Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous who by using non-linear, performative and autobiographical language to describe the truth of a new kind of body: that of the cyborg/ the sphinx.

Wilson’s chapter uses many forms of scholarship to make a collage type work — fiction, essays, film, and art, as well as history and sociology, to look at London and  Paris. Wilson wanted to do that to emulate the ways in which she argues we experience and live the city, in a fragmented way with many layers of meaning reacting against the rational masculinist logic. She says there is nothing natural about the city, but we have believed this image. Haraway also undoes ideas about what is ‘natural.’ We will see that explicitly in the concept of the cyborg. 

The course has followed a similar ethos, in which I had you read poetry, epistolary exchanges, articles, and videos and maps to get a more comprehensive way to analyze the environment.

Wilson’s city also contradicts the ways in which the city is supposed to be built to showcase the rational mastery of human on environment, with buildings, towers and neatly circumscribed roads for cars and sidewalks for pedestrians and us to enact it through our spatial practice. But we know that the city is not static object, but rather a constantly changing environment. Wilson argues: “the city is in a constant process of change” so the quest is for you (yes, you!) to try to re-experience a city you know, and re-imagine it!

The city “as experience, environment, concept” which is, in other words, what we have been arguing all along. And by seeing it in this way, we can then frame a phenomenological reading of the city!

In Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway offers us not only a response to the regulatory normative system, but also a response to the gender, body and identity essentialism.

We did not have time to watch Sun Ra’s Space is the Place but it is well worth watching! Afrofuturism is a compelling analysis of the environment and one answer to the question “which bodies? which spaces?”

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Questions to Consider

  • What is the cyborg and why is it useful for thinking about bodies and spaces?
  • Haraway argues that the cyborg suggests “a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves.” How so?
  • Haraway  presents a chart of the differences between “comfortable old hierarchical dominations” (p.161) which appear “natural” since they are so ingrained in our Western cultural imaginary, and the “scary new networks”(p.161) which came post-WWII. Name one pair from the chart and explain how the binaries are false and how the ‘natural’ category is false.
  • Why is sexuality such a threat to the social order of spaces and cities? Think with Wilson, Gira Grant, Knopp and Razack.

The Online Space of the Fashion Blogger

Our discussions of online spaces and especially “authenticity” made me think about the space of online fashion bloggers, the reproduction of their self-branding on social media sites, and the monetization of blogger bodies. Coincidentally, a lot of noted fashion bloggers use WordPress just like we do for this class blog!

I used to write for a fashion website and have always been interested in the fashion industry, so I’ve followed the evolution of fashion bloggers with keen interest. For the uninitiated, there are a lot of fashion bloggers that have “professional blogs” and make enough money to support themselves just by blogging. Bloggers have also bridged the gap between amateur and professional by displacing fashion editors at fashion weeks.

Professional and full-time bloggers create a sort of cultural economy of authenticity and operate necessarily as micro-celebrities. To be a popular blogger, you have to have a large and loyal enough following to generate pageviews high enough to attract advertisers. Bloggers’ success is built on creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships with readers and the blogging community hawks an almost religious ideal of “being yourself” and insists that being “authentic” will lead to success.

Tips from "mommy blogger" Love Taza

Tips from “mommy blogger” Love Taza

Presenting personal information and maintaining “authenticity” creates assymmetrical relationships between bloggers and their audience base; fans have access to the intimate lives of micro-celebrities and have to feel like “friends” even though the blogger has little information about (or interest in) their followers. The actual/digital divide here is tenuous; a strong brand loyalty effectively means that feelings of friendship and trust have developed. There’s also the fact that relationships built in the representational space of blogging communities translates into very real money in the bank accounts of bloggers.

Other than sponsored posts like we saw in class, bloggers use affiliate marketing, which embeds links to products within posts (usually rather subtly). An especially successful example is rewardStyle, which “is an invitation only monetization tool for top tier digital style publishers around the world”. The affiliate links are especially used by female bloggers who overwhelmingly use the links for clothing they “model” or beauty products. In this way, bloggers are actively using their bodies and carefully selecting how their bodies are presented with which products. Blogger’s bodies and fashion identities are often seen as “real” alternatives to the “fake” bodies presented by established fashion media.

Outfit post from The Londoner

Outfit post from The Londoner

How accurate or useful is this perception of authenticity, though? There’s a veritable tension for bloggers who try to stay “real” and still make money to finance the continuation of their blogs. Some bloggers are accused of photoshopping images of themselves, which seemingly defeats the purpose of being a “real person” instead of a model. It’s assumed that bloggers have an obligation to remain authentic, and many users delight in questioning and investigating their authenticity. The forums at the website GetOffMyInternets are full of investigations and takedowns. There are about 2,300 pages of members-only discussion about the controversial blogger TheLondoner on the basis of her appearance, claims to wealth, and sponsorship disclosure.

I’m also interested in regulations about which spaces allow for the monetization of blogger bodies. Most bloggers are active users of Pinterest and repost their outfits there with more affiliate linking. It made the news recently that Pinterest decided to remove rewardStyle links on their posts. Pinterest claims it’s for technical reasons, but it’s hard to believe that this doesn’t fit into a narrative of regulating and questioning authenticity or audience trust.

The biggest questions this leads me to are: To whom does the fashion blog belong? Are authenticity and revenue mutually exclusive online? How do the increasingly personal connections between content creators and their audience limit the former?

LEGO’s & Chardonnay

Warning: This blog post may offend you.

Every day in the Western World, some 14 year-old girl willingly has sex with a 16 year-old boy; pictures are taken to document and commemorate the act and shared with pride with a small group of friends and schoolmates. If the pictures escape the small group, society is upset that such activity actually occurs – “Where are the girl’s parents?” is the usual question. Every day, some 12 year-old willingly has some form of sexual activity (virtually or real) with another 12 year-old; pictures are taken and shared. Even just imagining such activity, society is absolutely shocked at the precociousness of ‘youth today’ and the decline in societal ‘values’. On many days, a 14 year-old girl will willingly engage in some form of sexual activity online with an older man (could be anything from 18-40 years old), sometimes leading to actual sexual activity. Society goes ballistic at even the thought! Internet police squads are constantly engaged in actively searching for evidence of such activity and in tracking down the man and putting him away.

These acts of virtual and real (documented) sexual activity by minors raise several important questions. With online bodies and spaces, what is deviant activity? When we think of agency within children and the power they hold, what makes power structures quick to dismiss their actions and to label certain among them as deviants? I am not referring to actual rape, unethical coercion, or someone being so drunk or stoned that they are not in control of their actions. I am talking informed consent. Everyone seems to want to overlook the word “willingly” in the above paragraph. Did you notice it or did you just choose to ignore it? Ignoring it is risky. “Deviant groups who regularly, because of their deviation, fall foul of the law, and are harassed by law enforcing agencies and the courts, may in response, develop programs, organizations, and actions directed at ending their stigmatization or redefining the legal injunctions against them” (Hall 64). In other words, if the kids are really serious about living their lives the way they say they want to, get ready for some serious changes in the near future.

Let’s look specifically at cross generational relationships, which Western culture defines as deviant activity. On the other hand, some cultures see child brides as desirable; and, not so long ago, the Catholic Church supported marriage as soon as a girl had her period and was able to conceive children. So, is this perceived deviance another product of cultural imperialism? “In contrast to cultural imperialism . . . globalization of culture encourages researchers to focus on cultural resistance and cultural consumptions as well as on the power of people, both on individual and collective levels, to read, appropriate, and use cultural products in creative and often counter-hegemonic fashion” (Demont-Heinrich 669). In other words, more change may be coming to our status quo.

Thus, to consider an “object of desire . . . as a cluster of promises we want someone or something to make to us and make possible for us” (Berlant 20), we need to consider if it is time to rethink the policy on child pornography in Canada. Just as there is a need for improved and aware regulation of sex work in Canada, might there not also be a need for improved regulation on underage bodies inhabiting space online – not to censor them, but to protect them in their intended desires.

P.S. I’m just asking. I have no desire for an inter-generational relationship. Clearly, others do.

Bibliography:

Berlant, Lauren. “Cruel Optimism.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 17.3 (2006): 20-36.

Demont-Heinrich, Christof. “Cultural Imperialism Versus Globalization of Culture: Riding the Structure-Agency Dialectic in Global Communication and Media Studies.” Sociology Compass 5.8 (2011): 666-78.

Hall, Stuart. “Deviance, Politics, and the Media.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (1993): 62-90.

Blog Post 3: Authenticity & Virtual vs. Physical Bodies and Spaces

Virtual spaces are created and re-created by physical bodies in virtual form, and virtual bodies are created through virtual space, which is socially produced. (Lefebvre) What is fascinating to me about virtual spaces is that the boundaries of communication in physical interactions do not exist: bodies often communicate what they think with less guard than in physical life. Of course the opposite can be argued that bodies create a specific tailored self-image online censoring the communication they share, and this is the case when it comes to self-branding as a micro-celebrity. However, in the physical world bodies rarely interact with other strange bodies, but online this social taboo is broken unlocking vast spaces of connection and “free” communication.

98f76919Virtual spaces serve as sanctuaries for like-minded bodies. They provide a connection to other similar bodies that would otherwise have no support through traditional physical space. I personally rely on a virtual community for support regarding my lifestyle choice, as there is no physical space in my geographic location that provides connection to other like-minded bodies and support in this realm. My embodiment of these virtual communities on YouTube and Instagram have become habitual routes of travel forming my unconscious perception through my perceived space. When I am in these virtual community spaces I feel connection, support, ease, happiness, and belonging, creating a sense of home that can be felt through my embodiment online and in the physical space I inhabit at the time: sensory inscribed body. (Farman) Whether the online bodies are authentic is subjective. Some online bodies are more authentic than their physical counter-parts. For example, many introverts become extroverts when expressing themselves and connecting with others in online space, whilst in the comfort of their own personal physical space in solitude. Western  culture is built on the belief that authenticity exists, and is of great importance. People are obsessed with knowing the real truth. There is a heightened fear of “fake” people, or becoming fake yourself that drives this obsession, feeding consumerism as a solution for authenticity. Authenticity of online and physical bodies is an erroneous myth. Other bodies cannot decide the authenticity of someone’s embodiment due to intersubjectivity. (Farman)

onlinepersonaThe downfall to this lack of a social border that the physical world is tainted with is that it opens the doors to shaming, hatred, prejudice and violence through surveillance and sousveillance. In this refuge, where spaces are co-created by like-minded bodies, there also exist bodies with opposing cultural beliefs and perceptions. Because of the encouragement for “freer” communication with other virtual bodies, opposing bodies often say more exaggerated claims than they would ever consider doing in the physical world.

The regulations to keep online communities in-check is as un-just as the laws to enforce “peace” in physical space. They are corrupted by double standards, bias, whiteness, sexism, and heterosexual normality.

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Virtual space has many of the same dimensions and characteristics of physical space and should be thought of with equal importance. Virtual bodies are authentic embodiments of physical bodies and online lives should not be dismissed as less important.

 

Questions:

Is it possible to construct a fair system of conduct online without taking away bodies’ right to express themselves, or any forms of oppression?

Why is it that bodies are so concerned with the authenticity of other bodies and representations of themselves? When online bodies are created through virtual embodiment, even if their online body is completely different from their physical counter-part, isn’t there still authenticity to the online embodiment if they are creating it with?

Sources:

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Farman, Jason. (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 1 “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface” (16-34) London: Routledge.

Greenwald, Richard. “Why Is ‘Authenticity’ So Central To Urban Culture?” City Lab. 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 March. 2015.

Read more about the obsession of authenticity.