The fourth chapter of Poor Queer Studies truly blew me away; it was rich and thoughtful, and I found myself connecting many sentences to wildly different personal experiences I’d had and I wanted to use this space to air some of them out.
Semantics: this chapter reminded me a lot of Ahmed’s work and attention to words, especially in relation to justice. The first time this struck out to me was when it was written that “these students can’t invite dates inside their own homes. But their mothers are not homophobic.” I was taken aback but his quote, especially thinking about our immense failure as a country in naming racism and homophobia. But this example seemed different and nuanced the ways that words are related to lived experiences and our understanding of concepts like queerness. It also made me think about how the word queer has crossed linguistic lines. For example, in Arabic, many queer activists have pushed to find an equivalent of the word queer in English, hoping to move away from homophobic translations in the Arabic language. Such words have the power to create space but also invade space. I also really enjoyed the anecdote about spelling and the multigenerational education and creative, spontaneous Poor Queer Studies pedagogies.
Personal/political: of course this is a common topic of conversation in spaces with similar commitments to our classes. I loved the tunchz quote that opened up readers to the connection between both worlds. I felt that the chapter spoke in very specific examples about how the personal/political link affects one’s educational development. For example, the idea that many young women, especially queer women and women of color, may value education for their ability to exercise autonomy. This example reminded me of how a lot of my peers in Lebanon will view education globally, leaving the country to get a graduate education but more importantly, to emigrate. This topic has encouraged me to think about education not only as a means of individual intellectual/professional growth, but the ways that it is linked to community/cultural values. I truly hope that our educational systems can think deeply about how students’ personal lives are deeply related to their academic success.
Commuting/dorming college: relatedly, I was interested in the class dynamic underlying commuter colleges and the way the commute can create the same sense of autonomy and psychological/physical distance that (I think) youth need to feel. It’s interesting when thinking about this topic because I’ve been debating how the pandemic, which caused many millennials to move home temporarily, made me question the relationship between American families and multigenerational homes (of course, class matters a lot here). Additionally, in Zoom courses, this distance is gone again for many low-income students, who may be uncomfortable talking about specific topics while their parents are in the same room. This also reminded me of a video I saw about a week ago which explained that dorming colleges are such a cherished part of typical American youth experiences because they give individuals a sense of community, social network, and a safety net that our neoliberal society has not afforded us.
I have a lot of thoughts on this chapter (clearly), but I’m grateful it probed me to think more expansively of how our systems are set up and how to effectively queer them.
Janan, thank you for this thoughtful response. I’m so glad the chapter resonated for you; I’d love to hear in class about how this connects (if at all) with ideas you’re thinking about for your dissertation.
I’m also really interested in the questions of autonomy, (chosen) community, familial support or alienation, and comfort/discomfort that you raise around the different educational and life experiences of students at commuter schools vs. campus/dorm-based schools. Is one space inherently better suited to fostering community? or support?