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

Erica Rand rednailsblackskates at gmail.com
Fri Oct 18 01:14:08 AEDT 2019

Chase: You talk about being “excited by the ways in which [your] project
puts pressure on people’s understanding of historical truth.” And Kale, you
write “I'm interested in the "down time" these men experienced (so
*non-working time*). I'm interested in migrant moments of rest, reflection,
pleasure, play, and stillness.”

I’ve been reading Saidiya Hartman’s book “Wayward Lives, Beautiful
Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval” (Norton, 2019), which
“presses at the limits of the case file and the document” to offer “an
intimate chronicle of black radicalism, an aesthetical and riotous history
of colored girls and their experiments with freedom” between 1890 and 1900
(xiv-xv). I’ve been finding in it an amazing model for some of what we are
talking about here.

I’ve been struggling with this since, at least, earlier work queer/trans
migration studies.
What does it mean when we presume that the iconic picture of a three-set on
the boat to Ellis Island looking at the Statue of Liberty represent
husband/wife/child, hetero/gender-normative, family monogamous. And yet how
to write about “resistance,” downtime, pleasures, without underrepresenting
harsh conditions--and harsh conditions, too, within the changing calculus
of access to whiteness. Or, when Frank Woodhull gets cornered at Ellis
Island and he says, basically, “wait, I’m a woman, who couldn’t find work
as a woman”: how to put together, as Chase says, that “narrations-of-self
are never authentic” because “ever mediated through the logics of the
surveillance system,” and also that Woodhull seemed to have a fondness for
the itinerant peddler life, at least as filtered through tabloids, and also
he struggled to eke out survival, and also looked super-dapper in that suit
and hat he was photo’d in.

Skating bit: Anna and I have a height difference often associated with M/F
standard variation, which, as we see more and more, is encoded into the
standard moves of pairs skating. For example, throw jumps: our coach had us
both learn to throw each other, but what do you know, the throw jump works
better when they throw me. Femme pleasures for me in occupying/tweaking the
girl part. Still, how fucked up the way gender restrictions map onto body
norms built into movement ideals that then, in turn, affect who gets to
try/succeed etc.

On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 4:32 PM Kale B. Fajardo <kalefajardo at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi Everyone,
> Thank you, Margaret Rhee, for inviting me to participate on this dialogue
> on queer/ethnography/play and thank you to all who join in the conversation
> and read our posts!
> Like Erica, I'm returning to some things I started as a younger
> ethnographer/grad student and when I was more centrally situated in the
> field of cultural anthropology. I have been in the field of American
> Studies and Asian American Studies as an Assistant and now Associate
> Professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities since 2005 and my
> work is pretty interdisciplinary. I'm now getting back into visual
> anthropology and photography (two things I felt strongly about as a grad
> student at UC, Santa Cruz, but didn't centrally pursue because my research
> on "Filipino seafaring, masculinties, and globalization" were already
> unwieldy and I was trying to "demonstrate mastery" in these areas, so I
> didn't prioritize visual anthro or photography. It was totally my loss!)
> To make up for lost time, these days, I'm thinking about Nikolai
> Ssorin-Chaikov's ideas around "conceptual ethnography." Ssorin Chaikov
> suggests that we think about ethnography as a kind of "conceptual art
> practice." This really speaks to me in how I have ben approaching
> ethnography and fieldwork (even prior to reading Ssorin-Chaikov). When I
> read it, I thought Wow! I've found my people in anthropology! (To be
> honest, I have really been more in conversations that are situated in
> Philippine Studies, Asian American Studies, and queer and trans studies),
> so it was really exciting to learn about Ssorin-Chaikov.
> I just got back from Astoria, Oregon where I played around with
> Ssorin-Chaikov's ideas concerning conceptual ethnography. (I'll explain how
> shortly.) I've also been inspired by Dawoud Bey's photographic practice in
> "Night Coming, Tenderly, Black" (2019) where Bey re-imagined what Black
> folks escaping slavery may have seen as they came up north. Most of the
> photos I saw in Night Coming, Tenderly, Black were photographed at night
> (b/c Black runaways/fugitives from slavery had to avoid getting caught.)
> In my case, I've been conducting ethno-historical research on Filipino
> migrant men in the 1920s and 30s who worked in Astoria's fish canneries.
> There's not a lot of research on this. I'm interested in the "down time"
> these men experienced (so *non-working time*). I'm interested in migrant
> moments of rest, reflection, pleasure, play, and stillness. What came to
> mind is that the Filipino men would have had down time before or after
> work. Thus, this past weekend, I took photographs at an old cannery site in
> Astoria on the Columbia River at dusk and at sunrise.
> I also used to work on a boat in the San Francisco Bay (at the National
> Maritime Museum - when I was ABD), so for me, doing photography at sunrise
> and dusk was super fun and reminded me of when I literally worked on the
> Bay and could watch the most beautiful sunrises. I set my alarm, packed my
> little dog, and went on a photographic-ethnographic "adventure" and thought
> about the Filipino men who used to work in Astoria's canneries.
> I'll be presenting some of these photos at the upcoming AAA meetings in
> Vancouver, BC. Hope this sparks some other thoughts in folks. To be
> continued...
> Best,
> Kale
> On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:50 PM Chase Joynt <chase.joynt at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Hi all,
>> Thanks so much for the invitation to join you this week. My current film
>> project, Framing Agnes, is inspired by years of ongoing research in the
>> archive of Harold Garfinkel, a sociologist working at the UCLA Gender
>> Clinic in the 1950-60s. Garfinkel’s 1967 case study of Agnes is broadly
>> understood as the locus classicus of sociological research on transgender
>> people, as well as the building block for social constructionist theories
>> of gender. The film utilizes the continued relevance of Agnes as a
>> springboard to consider the legacy of transgender representation in the
>> contemporary moment.  Made in collaboration with University of Chicago
>> sociologist Kristen Schilt, the film reveals never-before-seen case files
>> we found alongside Agnes in the archive, and charges contemporary
>> trans-identified artists with the task of inhabiting these historical
>> subjects. When exhibiting the work in public, I often encounter questions
>> about ethics and authenticity, and am excited by the ways in which the
>> project puts pressure on people’s understanding of historical truth.
>> Narrations-of-self produced in clinical settings for the purpose of seeking
>> approval for services are never authentic, but rather performative and
>> strategic, ever mediated through the logics of the surveilling system. (For
>> further reading, Dean Spade’s ‘Mutilating Gender’ is a great exploration of
>> these stakes, and in fact uses the case of Agnes as example.) As we
>> continue conversation this week about play, I’m interested in these
>> pressure points, and the ways in which art/moving image/collaboration can
>> make visible the structural interferences which impact the telling of any
>> history.
>> A trailer for Agnes is available on my website, should it be of interest:
>> Chase joynt dot com.
>> On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 10:40 AM Jerry Zee <jzee at ucsc.edu> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Hello all, and thank you for having me,
>>> I’m looking forward to riffing along with others. But first, a few
>>> thoughts on ethnography, lightly sparked by the soft injunction to think
>>> with Erica’s skating as play, and how this sits with, skirts, or displaces
>>> ethnographic practice.
>>> I’m trained as an anthropologist, with ethnography as the methodological
>>> center of that disciplinary practice. What people call ethnography might
>>> mean a lot of things. For some people it stands of a qualitative research
>>> practice, opposed to, say, surveys, and oriented toward truth at granular
>>> scales. For others it’s a kind of deep hanging out, a phrase that suggests
>>> both ease and rigor, which gets at something of the weirdness of
>>> ethnographic work. To me, I like to think of ethnography as a work of
>>> encounter. More than a question of data gathering, it’s a matter of the
>>> thought or insight or realignment that could not have happened unless you
>>> were there, somewhere. It’s a work of allowing your world and thinking to
>>> be permutated by someone else’s.
>>> Two quick thoughts. My work involves exploring political, cultural, and
>>> ecological worlds that take shape with strange modern weather. I’m
>>> especially interested in massive dust storms that form in China’s interior
>>> hinterlands, pass over the country, then surge across the Pacific. As they
>>> do, they create unexpected relations, reorganize the conditions of
>>> political and physical life, and have folks turning their attention to the
>>> places where earth and sky become one another.
>>> I realized as I was working that I wasn’t studying, say, scientists or
>>> farmers interested in storms. Instead, I was moving through a weird crew of
>>> folks who were perplexed by dust, but in ways that were different than I
>>> was. Learning about those reorganized mine, offering me weird an unexpected
>>> ways of thinking about materials, or sometimes finding myself deploying
>>> some idea that had come through the attention of some people to their land
>>> to suddenly understand air differently. Ethnography here: a play of
>>> displacements, bound in a delicate parallax toward the same thing.
>>> And to return to Erica’s skating and the matter of courage. I think it’s
>>> interesting because *doing *ethnography has sometimes felt like play,
>>> but, during fieldwork, not often like fun: more like an activation of every
>>> kind of latent social anxiety. Other people describe it as developing deep
>>> friendships, which sometimes happens. But for me it was emotionally complex
>>> and often disassociating, including that it involved me being not-out for
>>> the first time in my adult life. I wonder what courage in such a conundrum
>>> may have looked like.
>>> On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 10:00 AM Erica Rand <erand at bates.edu> wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> 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 later.
>>>> Erica
>>>> --
>>>> Erica Rand
>>>> Professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Gender and Sexuality Studies
>>>> she/her
>>>> 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 practices?
>>>> *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 play.
>>>> 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 fluff.
>>>> *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.
>>>> --
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> empyre forum
>>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>>> --
>>> *Jerry Zee*
>>> UC Santa Cruz Anthropology Department
>>> 331 Social Sciences 1
>>> 702 College Nine Road
>>> Santa Cruz, CA 95064
>>> --
>>> *How we live like water: touching*
>>> a new tongue with no telling
>>> what we’ve been through. They say the is sky is blue
>>> *but I know it’s black seen through too much air*
>>> *.*
>>> *From "Untitled (Blue, Green, & Brown): oil on canvas:Mark Rothko: 1952"
>>> by Ocean Vuong*
>>> The Landscape Lab <https://landscapelaboratory.sites.ucsc.edu/>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>> --
>> chasejoynt.com
>> Director
>> Official Selection: 2019 Tribeca Film Festival
>> <https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/framing-agnes-2019>
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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