Gravity's Rainbow

botany, shoes, books, and justice

May 15, 2018
by sarcozona

Just because our desires aren’t wrong doesn’t mean we should reproduce them


Sex is no longer morally problematic or unproblematic: it is instead merely wanted or unwanted. In this sense, the norms of sex are like the norms of capitalist free exchange. What matters is not what conditions give rise to the dynamics of supply and demand – why some people need to sell their labour while others buy it – but only that both buyer and seller have agreed to the transfer….

Yet it would be disingenuous to make nothing of the convergence, however unintentional, between sex positivity and liberalism in their shared reluctance to interrogate the formation of our desires.

Why do we choose what we choose? What would we choose if we had a real choice?”

via Amia Srinivasan · Does anyone have the right to sex? · LRB 22 March 2018

May 14, 2018
by sarcozona

He’s a good man

Men see an uprising against sexual violence and ask, first, who they are supposed to be — rather than what they might have done. So many of the knee-jerk defenses of men who have done violent things, celebrities and ordinary guys alike, start on the premise that they are “not that sort of person.”

But being a good guy isn’t about who you are, it’s about what you do. And everyone is that sort of person — everyone who grew up in patriarchy and learned that sex was both a terrible thing that women might one day suffer you to do to them and something that was vital to their identity as a man.

Laurie Penny – The Great Stink

April 17, 2018
by sarcozona

There are no edges; the border is everywhere

The practice of centers taking control over their peripheries is as old as states, but it is not innocuous. When the federal government takes control of its periphery, it imposes a kind of alien rule, even on the familiar terrain of the homeland. What we miss, when we focus only on the outward face of the border—the wall we build to defend against the barbarians outside—is the function that state projections of power have internally. What is the point of ostentatious displays of power at the state’s edge—not just the wall, but flags, uniforms, songs and other performances of national identity that have, in the United States, become evermore dramatic after 9/11? Of course they are there to warn off potential transgressors. But they are also there to guarantee the loyalty of the border community itself—to remind the people inside the border who they really are. It is a kind of domestication: a domesticating of what has the potential to become foreign.

In this sense, we might think about the border as a kind of local colonial project. Border policies and ceremonies are as much designed to remind locals of who they are as it is to tell outsiders who they are not. The border fences in as much as it fences out. Peripheral peoples are not trusted and so they are disciplined. They have a double role: they are on the one hand most at risk from outside threats, as well as at risk of becoming a threat. Peripheral peoples are at once the subject of security, and its object.

via The Border Is Not a Wall | Boston Review

April 13, 2018
by sarcozona

Workers are at an extreme wage disadvantage, especially outside of cities.

The basic idea of monopsony is that if employers don’t have to compete with one another for workers, they can pay less, and workers will be stuck without the outside job offers that would enable them to claim higher wages. The monopsony story is consistent with a wide range of observed labor market phenomena: wage stagnation, declining geographic and job-to-job mobility, deterioration of the job ladder, especially for low-wage and young workers, and declines in entrepreneurship and “business dynamism.”

via How Widespread Is Labor Monopsony? Some New Results Suggest It’s Pervasive. – Roosevelt Institute

April 12, 2018
by sarcozona

If you want disabled people to contribute you have to let them. If you want to disabled people to live, you have to support them.

Darwin's home from the side, white with flowering purple vines growing on lattices attached to the walls

Down House, Downe, Kent, England. Author: Glen. CC BY 2.0

Darwin was ill for much of his life, largely restricted to his home. His mysterious illness was managed with rest and strict routine with work but also a beloved walking path and intimate family time. I don’t think I’m the next Darwin, but I reached for his example when managing my own illness. I learned to accept my physical symptoms, to deal with the emotional and physical fallout of severe pain, to order my days and relationships and career around the time and routine required to manage my illness. I even grew to appreciate some of the skills I gradually gained: an ability to enjoy the pleasant while acknowledging the painful, to let go of bad experiences and focus on the present, to use the tech skills I gained while homebound to reach out and pull people together, to value kindness and care more highly than ambition or cleverness, to communicate about difficult topics clearly and patiently.

But Darwin’s example failed me when it came to disability. Darwin was independently wealthy and so could research at the pace he chose and fund his own work. Domestic labour and the careful crafting and maintenance of an environment where he could work despite his illness was done by servants managed by his wife Emma. I hired someone to help me around the house only when I became physically unable to do chores, but on an unpaid medical leave, it was a financial burden I could not bear for long. Now that I am strong enough to change my own bedding, the energy and time required eats into the limited hours I have for my own research.

I face strong structural barriers to becoming a scientist, to working at all.

I have built and sneaked and bludgeoned and lucked my way through some of these difficulties. When my year and a half of medical leave was not only unpaid but triggered additional expenses from the university, I used my savings and worked a few hours a week building a website and relied on the generosity of friends. To stay a part of my lab community when I became unable to travel to campus regularly I set up a group chat that became an important part of our grad student culture as more of us had to begin working remotely. When the unpredictability of my illness kept me from teaching and outreach activities, I doubled down on writing online and even got the rest of my lab involved in a group blog to communicate our lab’s research. When my professional relationships suffered from my inability to attend physically demanding and inflexibly scheduled seminars, conferences, and workshops, I turned to recordings and conversations online.

But there is only so much I can do to adapt, and time and money are always a problem. I struggled to complete my undergraduate degree because I was too sick to go to school full time and too poor not to work throughout. As a PhD student, I fail to meet expectations of long (or at least “normal”) hours and associated productivity because my illness not only leaves me unable to work for approximately half of each month, but also requires a several hours a day to manage. A great deal of labour in the medical system is outsourced to patients, leading to hours every week spent navigating appointments and insurance and paperwork. Medical expenses also eat into my funding. To get accommodations requires hours of paperwork, meetings, and appointments. When those accommodations are approved, I must take the time and gather the resources to implement them and my power to do so is limited. See: my accommodations allow me extra time to complete my PhD, but were considered irrelevant when I tried to apply for time-in-program restricted funding at my university.

Chronic migraine is difficult to experience, but my most painful struggles are with disability. A non-disabled body is one that can work and one that can do so in some standard environment and on a standard time table. I am a good scientist. I can do good and meaningful research. But I cannot do it for 40 hours a week under bright lights after a noisy bus commute. And, terrifyingly, there is a threshold where I am too sick. At some point, the cost of allowing me to contribute is considered too high for other people. At some point, it will be too much even for me, even if I weren’t constantly fighting institutional and personal ableism.

This post inspired in part by Sandy Olsen’s recent excellent article on disability representation in film.