Diabetes and Yoga: Gentry Hanks and Christine Grossutti
March 20th 2013
While walking around my neighborhood north of Princess Street, I was contemplating the ways in which I would identify hoarders when it came time to start the fieldwork portion of this PhD program. I was walking and paying close attention to houses, in a voyeuristic kind of way. I was looking for windows blocked by piles of things as well as any spill over into the yard or liminal spaces of the home, such as porches or balconies, overflowing garages… That walk was merely an exercise in understanding how I stereotype the material symptoms of hoarding. I was reminded of Rachel Herron’s visit to our class when we discussed how some of the people she was working with didn’t themselves identify as part of an aging population. Because the hoarding of material things is stigmatized in our culture, it would certainly be a difficult task to identify hoarders with whom to conduct ethnographic research. In thinking about Garcia’s discussion of ethnographic research using the internet/web as a resource, and how mediated communication through the internet provides a sense of anonymity, it occurred to me that online communities could be a potential place to look for participants. There would be ethical concerns of course as brought up by Beddows, but not necessarily more or worse concerns than in real life ethical issues, just different ones. I began extending my walk to a virtual amble around the internet to see what sorts of communities exist dealing with hoarding. I found a hoarder’s anonymous community, http://www.hoardersanonymous.org/ and support groups such as this one in the bay area http://www.hoarders.org/sg.html (and many more in various geographic locations).
These groups made me question what it means to be anonymous and how does the idea of anonymity work to maintain stigmatization of many social or cultural practices- how does it essentially serve to police undesirable behavior? Additionally and perhaps ironically, I was unable to find any such websites or online communities of digital or virtual hoarders- this again led back to identifying participants for ethnographic research…does anyone identify as a digital hoarder? Perhaps not if asked in those terms, but might upon hearing a description of what digital hoarding might look like. Conducting online ethnographic research might be a great opportunity to explore (in an ethical, transparent way) who would be willing to share their stories.
This made me regret all the more my missing our class about“Story-telling and technologies of place.” I then came across “The Experience Project” at http://www.experienceproject.com/groups/Am-A-Hoarder/183262, which seeks to connect people based on shared experiences, in this case hoarding. This is a virtual space dedicated to anonymous storytelling…
All of my experiences in life up until the workship have produced and are producing a discursive and material body for me to bring on the boat. In fact, material and physical processes, which happened in various places and times, such as reproduction and the creation of neural pathways as well as social processes are always working together to create my body (admitting it isn’t wholly mine).
In thinking about the body, I want to acknowledge that my object is inextricably discursive and material because as Stacy Alaimo (2008) suggests, “predominant paradigms do not deny the material existence of the body, of course, but they do tend to focus exclusively on how various bodies have been discursively produced, which casts the body as passive, plastic matter” (p. 237). As non-plastic, agential matter, during the workship, my body reminded me of its materiality. I noticed while walking around and contorting my body to videotape at different angles, a pain in the top of my foot. I was non-materially transported to Malaysia by the materiality of my mind’s neural networks, where I had been in a motorcycle accident and broken my left foot. I am still able to feel it if I move my foot a certain way or if the weather is just so. I, as a tourist, rented a motorcycle (not a scooter) to ride around the island of Langkawi. The accelerator became stuck on my way back to return the bike. We (the moto and I) hit an earthen embankment, which was the only way I was able to stop and the bike landed partially on my foot. My then partner and I headed to seek medical attention whereupon the doctor at the only clinic on the island diagnosed my foot as broken, but could only offer an ace bandage to wrap it. My body affected by and affecting more-than-human entities in a translocal and transnational environment of Malaysia, was present on the workship. The past was made present through the materiality of my body and its relationships to networks both within it and outside of it.
Alaimo (2008) also notes “by emphasizing the movement across bodies, trans-corporeality reveals the interchanges and interconnections between human corporeality and the more-than-human” (p. 238). Another important point when discussing the human body-as-object requires that we acknowledge its simultaneous stability and instability because as Alaimo (2008) notes, “the human body is never static because its interactions with other bodies always alter it” (p. 255). In other words, the stability of the human body is reflected in the ability to reference it as “it” and its instability is reflected in its intra-actions with “itself” in addition to its interactions with other bodies.
My body is always becoming and unbecoming part of this flow or that node (See Latour, 2005). As Deborah Gambs suggests (2007) “The body is a site of movement, sensation, and thus transformation challenges notions of positionality, stasis, identity” (p. 112). Gambs (2007) also suggests, “An ontology of becoming is evidenced here—if a thing ‘is’ when it isn’t doing, then a body in motion never ‘is’, and a body is always in motion” (p. 112). Thus bodies become and unbecome translocal and transnational through various processes such as the shedding of skin cells, travel, DNA, genealogy, markings—scars, tattoos, piercings—listening, microbes (can’t be human without them), consumption, ridding and the imagination.
Figure 1. Transnational, translocal travel map of my body-in-motion.
Alaimo, S., & Hekman, S. J. (2008). Material feminisms. Indiana University Press.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford University Press.
Gambs, D. (2007). Myocellular Transduction: When My Cells Trained My Body-Mind in Clough, P. T., & Halley, J. O. (2007). The affective turn: theorizing the social. (pp. 119-150). Duke University Press.
 See Figure 1, the travel map of my body on page 3 .
The readings from the last two weeks have reminded me of a number of other things I have read outside of this class. In particular women’s role and place in technology, robotics and the sciences. Lucy Suchman’s writings surrounding the expectation of machines to obscure labor, much in the way that traditional women’s work (emotional and domestic) are obscured and rendered economically invaluable resonates with the ways in which emotional fieldwork is obscured and often unacknowledged. Katherine Hale’s post-humanist work also resonates as well as Ursula Franklin’s.
Additionally, what it means to be a credible witness in regard to women and technology. It calls to mind the Haraway’s discussion of the Modest Witness and beckons a comparison to women as immodest witnesses.
Queering “natural” spaces, such as the field…
I walked around Mackintosh-Corry Hall today, backwards. I walked in the D and E sections of the second floor.
As I walked, I tried to think about perceptional differences and embodied differences in walking backwards.
I relied much more on my periphery vision, I used different muscles (in my eyes and calves) to become backwardly mobile.
As I walked, my cone of vision was also backward when comparing it to forward motion. Instead of moving through the landscapes with the things in front of me falling away to the sides and margins as I moved toward and through them, they came from the periphery to the center. It is as though subjects and objects switched on me. Narrative became a different kind of linear.
Additionally, when moving in a forward, linear motion, our gaze makes our surroundings objects. When I was walking backwards, suddenly I became more noticeable to others in the hallway, I became MORE objectified in someone else’s landscape than perhaps if had I been walking in a conventional manner.
I’m sure your thinking, well, just because you are walking backward doesn’t mean that you aren’t looking at what is right in front of you. Well, yes and no. What is right in front of you becomes less important in terms of walking “safely.” I relied on my peripheral vision and hearing in order to not injure myself (bodily or emotionally).
I want to take a moment to relate this experience to methodology. Jarring ourselves out the familiar can bring about new and interesting ways of doing things, just as doing a familiar activity in a non-conventional way can (re)invigorate the activity.
At the risk of making the parallel too blatant, I would like to think about methodologies that move from the center outward and those that move from the margins inward. Is one better than the other? Are both necessary for providing different, not better, understandings of how we engage with our research?
While performing my weekly walk, I brainstormed for my presentation(with becky) on the Affective turn. I want to explore affect and emotion in field work, while asking people to uncomfortably step out of their comfort zones, which in turn expands the boundaries of said zones.
Actors, yes, of the performing kind (but how could this related to the ANT kind–actors and actants?). Let us begin, “the actors perform emotional gymnastics” (Boal, 2003, p. 222).
First, get into pairs. (We will work at various intimacy levels, meaning pairs, but also in the context of a larger group)
Explore the following phrase with your partner in the context of fieldwork:
“’Getting into someone else’s skin’…a piece of linguistic artifice” (Boal 2003, p. 220).
We are going to use memory, imagination, and performance to do some ‘emotional field work’ about field work. Part of these exercises will be based in your personal life experiences explicitly and some more abstractly in order to explore emotional dynamisms. Keep in mind we have to make assumptions through some of these exercises—pay attention here—for the remainder of this presentation, let assumption=imagination.
Breaking the Oppression (is this a metaphor for the ivory tower?…maybe, but it is definitely an exercise that beckons those safe(er) spaces we visited last week AND a little imagination to rotate along those positional intersections of identity we discussed). ‘
Let us carry on in the spirit of exploration and extreme generosity. We can sit at the table together, each attempting to keep our cynicism at bay…
1. Remember a moment in your life when you were the object of a powerful oppression (any kind such as systemic, empirically experienced etc…).
2. One partner needs to volunteer to tell the other(s) detailed memories of this event (reflect on or try to be aware of your emotions as you tell the story. Listeners, be aware of your emotions as you listen…in what ways are they performed or affect-ed?).
3. All partners should quickly perform this as a scene with each other. The storyteller will play h/self as the object of oppression and the other(s) will play the oppressor.
4. Repeat step three, but this time perform the scene with the object of oppression refusing the oppression. How does this change the protagonist’s and the antagonist’s emotions and performances of their emotions?
5. Perform the scene one last time, but now the actors switch roles. The protagonist will become the antagonist. What does it feel like to become your own oppressor? What does it feel like to represent the protagonist from only understanding their experience through their story? How do emotions play a similar or different role in the last performance?
“In these exercises the actor who breaks the oppression always has the best part, as we are on his side: he is the victim and not the cause, of this violence. That is why in the last phase of the exercise we ask the actor to remember a moment in his life when he acted not as oppressed but as oppressor.” (Boal, 2003, p.222).
Seeing that our positionality is ever-changing, how is the exercise we did problematic?
Do oppressors and oppressed fit so neatly into those linguistic categories?
Can we oppress and be oppressed simultaneously?
How does this idea operate within the practice of fieldwork?
How do affect and emotion operate within your personal fieldwork?
 The next steps I adapted for this class from Boal’s (2003) “Breaking the Oppression” game (p.220-223). Boal, A. (2002). Games for actors and non-actors. Routledge.
This class exercise resulted in furthering my interest into affect and emotion in other fields as outlined in the following paper:
I feel like I ought to have a lot to say about this topic, as I am particularly interested in the ways certain intersections of identity are performed and negotiated, but after my walk I am only reminded of how gender and other parts of my identity, as well as those of my co-laborator (jenny hay) played a role in past field work in Ida, LA.
We had to acknowledge our fluid identities, which marked us as insiders, e.g. our ostensible whiteness, southern-ness and general willingness to subvert our perceived undesirable identity markers such as queer and nonreligious. When interacting with one of our key informants, Mayor Clyde “Smokie” Maddox, we found ourselves performing roles we typically did not in our everyday lives. We had to negotiate our relationship with the Mayor’s identities of ‘provider’ and ‘southern gentleman’ as performed through his insistence on opening doors for us and his wife at all times, and not allowing us to treat him to dinner. He, in turn, had to negotiate jenny’s vegetarianism, as well as our expression of concern over the fate of the Ida Museum. Gender was constantly negotiated and highlighted at particular times when the mayor expressed to us that he was so grateful for our help that he wouldn’t even care if we painted the museum hot pink (which of course he would not have agreed to had we had even the slightest desire to do so)! Mind you the museum celebrated the epitome of masculinity, as it was a World War II museum honoring a particular fighter group. I imagine I will always be aware of the ways in which gender plays a role in field work and how I adhere to or reject gender roles depending on how they allow me greater or less access to communities and individuals with whom I work.