How do we reshape pedagogy in these troubled times?
Four weeks after Trump’s inauguration, I was teaching a new required course: #Activism. I had foreseen an eager cohort of informed students, itching to use media and theory to speak truth to power.
Instead, a bit of backlash. Mostly men. Backwards ball caps, white faces. Interrupting my lecture on new media art and social change. I'm paying good money for this. I’m not learning anything here.
Not everyone, by any means. 4 or 5 out of a class of 70. Many more students coming up to me afterwards, whispering (why were they whispering?): I love this course. I’m glad it’s required. There’s nothing like this in the department.
But whispers don’t create history, don't leave residue.
Michel Foucault wrote, "“Those things we tend to feel are without history” (“Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” Essential Works: Aesthetics, Method, Epistemology." 1971). We don’t tend to name the affects that circulate in the contact zone of the classroom. Especially the uncomfortable ones: shame; fear.
Without a history of feelings, bodies become generalized.
Under the neoliberal framework of the university, a queer teaching body is subsumed into a rhetoric of diversity, becomes a poster child for a rhetoric of diversity having arrived. My university, my department embrace diversity. But this is a category without feeling, without a history of bodies marked by struggle.
The sequence of recent events , from the Muslim travel ban to the legislating of women's bodies, is frightening, and has consequences, It leaves residue. But this short story has a happy ending.
During the final two weeks of class, students presented their activist media campaigns.
One group created a diorama of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, complete with oil spills, and a kind of reverse Settlers of Catan game. This was part of their final project, #StopKinderMorganBanned, one of 10 exciting cross-platform projects produced by the class. Tasked with creating a campaign that was both digital and embodied, on a topic of their choice, projects ranged from NiceWhiteLadies.com, which provides online anti-racism resources for white women, to UNDIVIDED: A Movement Against Islamophobia - which includes a Facebook page for Muslim students to post anonymously about incidents of Islamopobia.
This, too, is history.
This is my attempt at creating a history.