[-empyre-] Queer Ethnography, Methods, and Play

Erica Rand erand at bates.edu
Thu Oct 17 03:07:49 AEDT 2019

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the opportunity to join the conversation on queer ethnography,
methods, and play. I’m thinking about this a lot lately, as changes in my
figure skating life and my body—one chased and avidly pursued; the other
one involuntary/unsought—have caused me to return to (re-up and revisit) an
autoethnographic project begun in 2005 that turned into “Red Nails, Black
Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the Ice” (2012).

That project, which involved participant-observation research in  adult (ie
grown-up vs triple-xxx) figure skating, grew partly from my desire to play
more. Maybe I could be brave enough to compete if I had a research project
to help me overcome fear and shyness. Plus, I could justify skating as my
job. (No I can’t join you in pseudo-collaborative institutional planning; I
have to work on my loop jump and camel spin.)

Now I generally skate for pleasure only. Pleasure sort-of in that skating
way: You’ve got to be up for cold, bruises, frustration as well as
exhilaration, thrill, wind on your skin. I’ve got to wrest queer femme
pleasures, and they are mighty, from figure-skating’s tweaked version of
racialized heterofemininity. Boyish figure made girlish ideal through
athletic necessity. Muscle development thwarting white fragility oops
balletic grace.

Then this happened: I started skating pairs with a non-binary skating
partner. Navigating the rules itself will be interesting. Start with gender
markers that do and don’t match gender identities, and with neither markers
or identities adding up to the M/F norm for testing and competition. (But
where, how, what is written in the rulebooks, not totally clear.)

And meanwhile this happened: my body hip-checked my queer gender when
menopausal hormone changes disrupted a cushy gender/body relationship.

Then, take it all onto the ice. But our 300-word allotment is short! More

Erica Rand
Professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Gender and Sexuality Studies

From: Margaret Rhee <mrheeloy at gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Oct 14, 2019 at 3:46 PM
Subject: Queer Ethnography, Methods, and Play
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>

Many thanks again to Maria, Lynne, Truong, and Kenji for this discussion on
Poetry and Play, I hope the conversation continues into this week's
continuation into play through the lens of queer and trans theory, methods,
and ethnography.

For this week and the month's discussion, we're interested in artists,
thinkers, and activists with practices that cross over boundaries and
intervene in dichotomous logics. With attention to justice, we explore how
multiple forms of art practices prompt us to reimagine different kind of
worlds, as strategy and survival. We're honored and grateful to our
participants this week Chase Joynt, Erica Rand, Jerry Zee, and Kale B.
Fajardo for engaging in this topic.

Through interventions in queer and trans film, archival research,
performance and writing in Chase's work that intervenes in the historical
archive, to embodied forms of ethnographic and auto-ethnographic queer
writing and athletics in Rand's interventions in skating, Kale's research
and visual ethnographic interests in environmental humanities with
photography and writing with the ocean, and the crossing social scientific
methods and borders through questions of the environment and Asia in
Jerry's scholarship and thinking.

Our participants provide vital interventions in their work. I invite them
to share further, and if and how play impacts their approaches and creative

*On Practice and Play: Gestures Across Genres *

In this month's -empyre- forum, we take up the question of productivity and
and the politics of play, and how playing across genres, mediums, forms,
disciplines, and departments, etc. makes for new kinds of innovative art,
thinking, and community; and in doing so, better intervenes and gestures
toward transformative futures. The current conspiracy-us versus them-
culture perhaps exemplifies the problem of singular thinking and the need
for creative, eclectic, and innovative practices more than ever. We’re
interested in artists, thinkers, and activists with practices that cross
over boundaries and intervene in dichotomous logics. With attention to
justice, we explore how multiple forms of art practices prompt us to
reimagine different kind of worlds, as strategy and survival. Initially
inspired by Tony Conrad's work, his practice spans across film, music,
writing, and sculptures, we playfully ask how play lends itself to more
libratory ways of creation and practice.

We begin with the first week on media and new media art in conversation.
with Tony Conrad's playful work across mediums, we then move into a second
week asking questions on poetry and playing across the visual, cinematic,
and theoretical, the third week is dedicated to the theme of ethnography
across forms such as photography, film, and poetry, the forth week focuses
on the ways artists advocate for decolonial and racial resistance through
playing across genres and forms. While seemingly diverse, we hope the
loosely organized topics will lend itself to connections between the weeks,
and across the genres and themes presented. With attention to questions
such as capital, creativity, institutional critique, and justice, we’re
honored to have the following artists and thinkers join us for this
conversation and reflect on the possibilities of practice, gestures, and

We also invite our -empyre- subscribers, whose own work broadly resonates
with the themes of practice and play, to join the conversation. What are
the ways your practice has played or plays across genres? Have you faced
institutional challenges in crossing disciplinary divides, and if so, how
did you overcome them? Is play and practice productive? We explore this
topic of play through four loose themes. We welcome our guests and all -
empyre- subscribers to actively participate and post this month and share
your practices and experiences of playing across genres and any questions
that arise. We look forward to the conversation.

*Queer Ethnography, Methods, and Play *

*Biographies *

*Chase Joynt*

Chase Joynt is a moving-image artist and writer whose films have won jury
and audience awards internationally.  His latest short film, *Framing Agnes*,
premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, won the Audience Award at
Outfest in Los Angeles, and is being developed into a feature film with
support from Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch program. Concurrently, Chase
is in production on a feature-length hybrid documentary about jazz musician
Billy Tipton, co-directed with Aisling Chin-Yee. Joynt’s first book *You
Only Live Twice* (co-authored with Mike Hoolboom) was a 2017 Lambda
Literary Award Finalist and named one of the best books of the year by *The
Globe and Mail *and CBC. His second book, *Conceptualizing Agnes* (co-authored
with Kristen Schilt), is under contract with Duke University Press.

With projects supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Andrew
W. Mellon Foundation, Chase’s work is distributed by the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre
and VTape.

*Erica Rand *

Erica Rand is a professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Gender and
Sexuality Studies at Bates College. Her writing includes Barbie’s Queer
Accessories (1995), a study of the doll’s history and manufacture in
relation to corporate and consumer meaning-making; The Ellis Island Snow
Globe (2005), a queer, anti-racist alternative tour of Ellis Island and the
Statue of Liberty; and Red Nails Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure
On and Off the Ice (2012), a collection of short essays grounded in
participant-observation research in adult figure skating. She serves on the
editorial board of Radical Teacher and is currently working on The Small
Book of Hip Checks on Queer Gender, Race, and Writing, in which
autoethographic fragments bump up against other engagements, working to
make muscle memory of experimentation against traditional ideas of heft and

*Jerry Zee *

I am an anthropologist of environment and politics. I explore embroilments
of land and air as openings into political experiment. My research tracks
the substantial dynamics of sand, dust, and wind as a way of gaining
insight to contemporary environmental politics in China and downwind.

I work, in my research, with scientists, engineers, foresters, farmers,
artists, and breathers of all kinds. Overall, I wonder over how an avowedly
post-natural contemporary meteorology displaces analytic habits and ways of
asking inherited from a more confident social science, and, through this, I
ask what anthropology has already been becoming in this strange weather.

*Kale Fajardo *

I'm an Associate Professor of American Studies and Asian American Studies
at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. (Pronouns: He/Him/His.) I
received my PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California,
Santa Cruz. In graduate school, I focused on visual anthropology,
postcolonial studies, gender/sexuality studies, and Asian American Studies.
I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Human Development Studies from
Cornell University, with concentrations in Southeast Asian Studies and
feminist studies. I'm currently working on my second book entitled, _Fish
Stories: Photos/Essays from St. Malo to Manila Bay_. In this transnational
research project, I engage with the “environmental humanities” and I'm also
returning to my past training and passions in visual anthropology. In _Fish
Stories_, I photograph, write about and theorize the intimacies and
interconnections between “Filipinx, fish, and marine ecologies” (historical
and contemporary), while also engaging with anthropological debates about
the “border zones between art and anthropology practices” (Schneider and
Wright, 2010). My methodological (re-)orientation (that is, moving towards
art/photography-as-anthropology) is also informed by Tim Ingold’s notion
that “artists and anthropologists come to know…through an art of inquiry
that emphasizes thinking through making” (2013) and Nikolai
Ssorin-Chaikov’s concept of "ethnographic conceptualism," which he defines
as “ethnography conducted as conceptual art.” _Fish Stories_ is also a
homage to Allan Sekula and his book Fish Story (1995). In _Fish Stories_, I
include original photographs and written essays on “siyokoys” (mermen) in
Philippine visual media and folklore to theorize human-fish-sea intimacies
and queer/trans masculinities. I also analyze and engage with
ethno-historical images and photos of "Manila-Men” sailors and fishermen
and their descendants in the bayous and coastal areas of Louisiana. These
fishing grounds are adjacent to the contemporary “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of
Mexico (which cannot sustain marine life.) I also analyze and engage with
old snapshot photographs of Filipino migrant workers who worked in salmon
canneries in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Currently, these are sites
where salmon populations have significantly decreased. Lastly, in _Fish
Stories_, I return to the Philippines to photograph and write about
contemporary fisherfolk in coastal Bulacan Province and the broader Manila
Bay Area. Fisherfolk in Manila Bay are stressed by global warming, rising
seas, depleted fisheries, urbanization and mega-regionalization, and marine
pollution. On campus, I'm active in Asian Studies + Environmental
Humanities (ASEH) programming at the Environmental Humanities Initiative.

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