Katie King: queering infrastructure, generations, (inter)interdisciplines
ASA roundtable: Reconfiguring American Studies (8 November 2001)
Contributions from Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, LGBT Studies

  1. adding feminist technoscience languages: Susan Leigh Star & Lucy Suchman
  2. queering the infrastructure: Star
  3. elements of infrastructure: 5 prongs of our interdisciplinary studies
  4. circumstances of communication Suchman
  5. communities of practice: communications among political generations, (inter)interdisciplinarities

queering the infrastructure:

notes on Star's talk: "to queer: to challenge the basis on which categories are constructed. (reverses the usual use of categories to enforce behavior)... queering - associated with specific constituencies, willingness to send something up... any kind of category can be open to questions regarding whose category it is, who defines it." Note LGBT Studies: Gay sent up by Lesbian, both sent up by Bisexual, all sent up by Transgendered.

5 pronged infrastructure of our interdisciplinary studies:

  • administrative activism and innovation local, state, national, transnational
  • curricular alliances and reframings from department to (inter)interdisciplines
  • scholarly research, theoretical conceptualizations in international and interdisciplinary travel
  • new social movements in generational microcohorts, in layers of locals and globals
  • new technological infrastructures and their globalizing promises and terrors

all in intersection: the very instability of identities as resource: coming into being, altering, dissolving, morphing; thus identity politics in continual reconstruction: critical, self-valorizing, negating, abandonment; eg. "Gay" and "Queer" in their instabilities; "American" in its instabilities. See Sturgeon on direct theory. See Hennessy on foundational terminology and its transnational political uses.

circumstances of communication (think across movements, interdisciplines, generations):

Suchman: "... an increasingly dense and differentiated layering of people and activities, each operating within a limited sphere of knowing and acting that includes variously crude or sophisticated conceptualizations of the others."

"Gradually, however, we came to see that the problem lay neither in ourselves nor in our colleagues, but in the division of professional labor and the assumptions about knowledge production that lay behind it.....What we were learning was inextricably tied to the ongoing development of our own theorizing and practice, such that it could not be cut loose and exported elsewhere."

"In place of the model of knowledge as a product that can be assembled through hand-offs in some neutral or universal language, we began to argue the need for mutual learning and partial translations. This in turn required new working relations not then in place."

communities of practice:

Bowker & Star: "A community of practice (or social world) is a unit of analysis that cuts across formal organizations, institutions like family and church, and other forms of association such as social movements."

differential consciousness: think movement across communities of practice:

See Sandoval's "differential consciousness": "enough strength to confidently commit to a well-defined structure of identity for one hour, day, week, month, year; enough flexibility to self-consciously transform that identity according to the requisites of another oppositional tactic if readings of power's formation require it; enough grace to recognize alliance with others committed to egalitarian social relations and race, gender, sex, class, and social justice, when their readings of power call for alternative oppositional stands."

entry into activism: Whittier's political generations in micro-cohorts:

Whittier's model challenges age-stratification or stage in life cycle as definitions of generations, rather initial politicization during the same era define generations, which are internally volatile and divergent in micro-cohorts. Two large feminist generations: the Second Wave and the Third Wave. Second Wave separated also into micro-cohorts: initiators (1969-1971); founders (1972-1973); joiners (1974-1978); sustainers (1979-1984) [years refer to study in Columbus OH].

add micro-cohorts: multiple identities working in multiple social movements:

Extending Whittier's model to conceive of other micro-cohorts: for example, those with multiple identities working in multiple social movements, with different social & historical time lines: eg. various women of color, or queer activists. Cf. Sandoval's "differential consciousness."

add micro-cohorts: activist ages of different disciplines & interdisciplines:

Extending Whittier's model to conceive of different disciplines and interdisciplines politicized by <ethnic studies, women's studies, LGBT studies...> at different time periods and to varying degrees in particular institutions and departments and by diverse cohorts of <people of color, feminists, queers...> with a range of activist histories, generations and visions. In other words, some fields may have different "activist ages" than others, and some fields may be dominated by different political generations and cohorts than others.

queer as a generational politics: 

in a politics of refusal Queer may be used in a limiting move, rejecting whole systems of political alliance and academic and political literatures, as a way of processing overwhelming weights of materials, inheritances, generational subjections, and illegitimate uses of generational and geopolitical power. Critiques of the term Queer might practice their own generational politics, constructing a self-valorizing history of political movement now misunderstood, rejecting as inaccurate and inadequate the political assumptions about the powers and resources of women's studies, feminism and women's movements, gay and lesbian studies and movements, as too various to be unilaterally rejected. Queer may create alliances across generations by virtue of its very instabilities.

recognizing boundary objects when we see them:

Bowker & Star: "Boundary objects are those objects that both inhabit several communities of practice and satisfy the informational requirements of each of them....plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints...yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites. They are weakly structured in common use and become strongly structured in individual-site use. These objects may be abstract or concrete....The creation and management of boundary objects is a key process in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting communities....arise over time from durable cooperation among communities of practice... "

Some materials referred to:

  • Susan Leigh Star, "The Politics Question in Feminist Science and Technology Projects: the queering of infrastructure." Talk from the "Technology and Democracy – Comparative Perspectives" Conference, University of Oslo, Norway, January 18, 1997. Notes of talk online at:http://www.drury.edu/faculty/Ess/Technology/starr.htm
  • Suchman, Lucy. 2000. "Located Accountabilities in Technology Production" (draft). Department of Sociology, Lancaster University UK at:http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/sociology/soc039ls.html
  • Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star. 1999. Sorting Things Out: classification and its consequences. MIT.
  • Noel Sturgeon. 1995. "Theorizing Movements: Direct Action and Direct Theory" inCultural Politics and Social Movements (eds. Marcy Darnovsky, Barbara Epstein and Richard Flacks). Temple.
  • Nancy Whittier. 1995. Feminist Generations: the persistence of the radical women's movement. Temple.
  • Rosemary Hennessy. 2000. Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism. Routledge.
  • Chela Sandoval. 2000. Methology of the Oppressed. U. Minnesota.
  • Katie King. 2000. "Productive Agencies of Feminist Theory: the work it does."Feminist Theory 2/1 (2001): 94-98.
  • Katie King. "Interdisciplinarity, Generations, Languages in Women's Studies: Sites of Struggle in Layers of Globals and Locals." ms. in preparation.