Author Archives: JMPierce

Quare Menard: An Untimely Love Letter

Download: Pierce_Quare Menard

Joseph M. Pierce

The Invention of Nicolas Shumway

The University of Texas at Austin

Sept. 22, 2017

Quare Menard: An Untimely Love Letter

Hola profe,

Estimado profesor,

Dear Professor,

Dear Professor Shumway,

Dearest Professor Shumway,

Prezado Nic,

Hola querido,

Dearest Nic,

Mi querido Nic,

Mi querido Nicolas,

Muy querido Profesor Shumway,

Mi querido profesor,

Prezado,

Querido,

The other day I was rereading Historia personal de una pasión argentina. I know, right? This is what I do with my free time now.

Anyways, I was just thinking of how awfully prescient that text is. I mean, who could have imagined—I guess you could have—this (new?) social reality of fake news, un-truthiness, selective and dangerous historicization? Who could have imagined this unbridled menardismo?

What do you mean by that, Joseph?

Well I’ll tell you. Or rather, you’ll tell me. As you say, menardismo is characterized by two essential things: 1) a deliberately anachronistic interpretive frame, that is 2) applied to a thing—idea, phrase, concept, text—to which it does not originally belong. Menardismos, what is more, are not confined to the dusty stacks of university libraries, but rather—insidiously—are quite common in every day speech (Shumway 220).

I was wondering, though, if there is something like a scale of menardismo? For example, it’s not the same to paint with the same brush George Bush calling Saddam Hussein Hitler and Taylor Swift claiming to be relevant. Both these things are false. Both distort history. But only one of them serves the interests of power grubbing miscreants invested in destroying the world. Maybe they both do. Who can say?

My point is that over the past couple years we’ve seen an intensification of menardista thought, particularly in the US. Like when white supremacists in Charlottesville dress up as Christian crusaders, as Vikings, as the Knights Templar, don symbols of the Holy Roman Empire. When they hearken a pure white medieval past—a past that never existed—and apply that past and its symbols in a way that fetishizes (once again) a simulacrum of superiority meant to justify their explicit racism. It’s everywhere. I would venture to say we are in an era of hipermenardismo.

I guess you were asking yourself that same question when you wrote: “cabe preguntar si podemos pensar sin menardismos porque, obviamente, siempre abordamos cualquier fenómeno desde nuestro conocimiento previo, nuestra forma de pensar, nuestra experiencia y, en última instancia, desde lo que somos” (Shumway 228). Lo que somos. I was really struck by this. By how the experience of history, of course, depends on its relationship to our lives and our bodies, but also, our being.

I guess this is the hard part. Menardismos are comfortable because not only do they confirm our beliefs and our wishful thinking, but our being. Our existence. What to do?

I have an idea. We need to queer menardismo. Actually, we need to quare it.[1] I know what you’re thinking: not everything is queer, Pepe; I have an overactive imagination. Ok, maybe. And what the hell is quare? I’m glad you asked.

(1) Choir (pronounced qu­eer)

Etymology: Middle English quer, quere, < Old French cuer choir of a church (modern French chœur) <Latin chorus company of dancers, dance; company, band; (in medieval Latin) body of singers in church, place for singers in church; <Greek χορός dance, company of dancers or singers: compare chorus n. The change from Middle English quēre, to quyer, quire, goes exactly with that of brere and frere to brier, friar. The spoken word is still quire, though since the close of the 17th cent. this has been fictitiously spelt choir, apparently as a partial assimilation to Greek-Latin chorus, or French chœur. (OED)

Choir is queer. But I don’t have to tell you that. Though really, etymologically, it is. Or at least in the 14th century what would later become choir was spelled queer. But it is also, and this is the real point here, about the production not just of sound, but of relationships in space. It is about proximity and movement, dancers and singers. A company, not an individual; or perhaps, a collective acting—through its difference—as one.

So that’s definition 1, from the OED. Definition 2 comes from E. Patrick Johnson.

(2) Quare

Quare (Kwâr), n. 1. meaning queer; also, opp. of straight; odd or slightly off kilter; from the African American vernacular for queer; sometimes homophobic in usage, but always denotes excess incapable of being contained within conventional categories of being; curiously equivalent to the Anglo-Irish (and sometimes “Black” Irish) variant of queer, as in Brendan Behan’s famous play, The Quare Fellow. (Johnson 2)

Quare is about excess, an excess of both discursive and epistemological meanings (Johnson 2). Quare theory, according to Johnson, is a theory of practice, of embodied knowledge that emerges from, at times in spite of, the material conditions and consequences of black and brown flesh. Quare theory must not only approach “race” as a social and cultural construction, but also as producing material effects in a white supremacist society (Johnson 9). Quare theory does not only critique performativity of gender, sexuality, even race—that is, how the body emerges as and through discursive accumulation—, but also historicizes what the body does, what it effects, what air it moves in the room.

My sense is that the material resonances of our bodies in relation link both the concept of choir as embodied practice and quare as the embodied critique of/as practice. So perhaps instead of asking how history confirms what we are, we should interrogate how it impacts what we could be. What we are becoming.

Let me backtrack. It would seem that menardismo engages in a type of negative Butlerian performativity in which the deliberate and strategic anachronism of politicized discourse renders immaterial the repercussions of its untimeliness. However, it seems to me, that menardismo is also, rather, if not essentially, a vernacular quaring of materiality.

You want me to clarify. I know.

One way of reading “Pierre Menard, autor del Quixote” is through the effect that his production of discourse has on how that discourse is understood by others. This is an effect that impinges on the critical reception of his work.

Another way of reading Menard—a quare way—would be to treat the act of writing not as producing discourse but as performance. Crucially, as a performance of being and becoming. This reading would treat that performance as an assertion of the corporeal realities—the bodily contingencies—of the acts that produce discourse, rather than discourse itself. To be clear, this is not a performativity of self—but a performative ontology of self-production. Menard does not want to approximate, but rather be Miguel de Cervantes (Borges 55). In writing his Quixote, Pierre Menard calls into being a self that is cognizant of his own place in the socially constructed world. What is more, not only does he set out to transform how he is perceived by that world, but what that world is. If Menard can write his Quixote, if he can change the epistemological and ontological meanings of discourse, then he also calls into question the division between performativity and performance.

This brings me back to the queer possibilities of menardismo. Over the past decade, queer studies has begun to reevaluate the bodily implication of its politics. In particular, queer of color scholars like Mel Y. Chen and E. Patrick Johnson have advocated for a menard-esque revitalization of queer studies by eschewing the normative linear temporality with which it is typically described as a field, that is as a linear development from queerly dissident to homonormative, from referential unfixity to identitarian standardization. Queer of color critique has been particularly adroit at warning against the banalization of the term queer; against what is lost—productively or otherwise—when we forget its multivalent, fricative, embodied past. By this I mean, what gets whitened. (Everything gets whitened). New theorizations propose, in contrast, to excavate queer’s alternative histories, histories that move the term in multiple directions, that harness its “stickiness” (i.e. Sara Ahmed), its accumulation of affective value (Amin 184).

As Kadji Amin puts it in his 2017 monograph Disturbing Attachments, “queer has gone from being of the ‘now’ to being a rejection of the ‘now’ (185 emphasis original). Indeed, many scholars of queerness exhibit a disaffection, indeed disidentification with the present normalization, institutionalization, and assimilationism of queer politics (185).

But what Amin points out by returning to the visionary work of José Muñoz is that queer was never about one place and one time, even if its inscription within the US academe in the 1990s would have us believe so. Rather, an expansive, utopian queerness must attend to its historical development within and as part of the US academe, and also realize how it adheres, how it sticks to other places and to other times in complex, but not unintelligible ways. A way forward as a way backward. And sideways. And across. And through.

Quare-Menardismo is not about fixing identity, but rather mobilizing experience, vernacular knowledge and practice, seeking out the liminal space between discourse and materiality; between high and low; top and bottom.

In other words, Menardian temporality questions the attachment of meaning to bodies and discourse. To quare Menard, then, is to seek the minor thirds, the urgent longings, the parabolas that uncouple the then from the now, the here from the there, the you from the me. This expansiveness rejects the linear, processional temporality that marks the present as inevitably subject to the intense normalization of neoliberal regimes of representation, circulation, and commodification, all the while questioning the political efficacy of nostalgia and longing. To quare Menard is to shift how we understand historical truth, but also to imbue that truth with the capacity of self-reflection, indeed self-(re)invention.

Sure, history is messy. The past shapes the present, but the present also doubles back and impinges on the past. But rather than pretend that we can select the past—that we can live in a revisionist wonderland, quare menardismo imagines as possible a tremulous undoing of the categorical fixity with which discourse produces “bodies”, while at the same time, harnessing the material weight, the presence, the thirst, for bodies in relation.

Isn’t it funny how both Menard and Cervantes write, “…la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, émula del tiempo, depósito de las acciones, testigo de lo pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo porvenir” (Borges 60).

Quare menardismo would take as its mother, not history, not Borges, not Cervantes, not even you. But the body itself. The body in relation. The body. Its song. Its dance. The body as it was and as it will be.

Let me know what you think.

Besos,

JP


Works Cited

Amin, Kadji. Disturbing Attachments: Genet, Modernity Pederasty, and Queer History.

Durham and London, Duke UP, 2017.

Borges, Jorge Luis. Ficciones. Buenos Aires: Emecé. 2007.

“choir | quire, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017,

http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/32118. Accessed 23 September 2017.

Johnson, E. Patrick, “‘Quare’ Studies, or (Almost) Everything I know about Queer Studies I

learned from my Grandmother” Text and Performance Quarterly 21:1 (January 2001): 1-25.

Shumway, Nicolas. Historia personal de una pasión argentina. Buenos Aires: Emecé,

2011.


Notes

[1] In addition to the etymological histories I detail below, it is worth thinking about “quare” from the Latin: how; why. See, for example, the 1998 collection Quare Joyce (ed. Joseph Valente).

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Thirst: Sex and Being

Fall 2017 SPN612

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Thirst: Sex and Being

This course will investigate diverse ways of desiring, sexuality, and being. It is about the appetites that populate our lives—on which we depend for survival—, as well as those that have inspired historical moments of conflict. Thirst in this course is as much about lived experiences of desire as it is about historical structures of race, class, gender, and colonialism. Our inquiry into this thirst will focus on 19th and 20th century Latin American prose, and will also incorporate thirsty queer texts from both the US and Latin America.

The thirst is real.  

 

Download: SPN612 Fall 2017 Thirst Pierce

Course Schedule

Week 1. Thirst, Hunger, Desire (an introduction)
8/30 Multimedia

Week 2. Drinking with Indians
9/6 Lucio V. Mansilla, Una excursión a los indios ranqueles (1870)
Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century,
Ch. 2, “‘She Made the Table a Snare to Them’: Sylvester Graham’s Imperial Dietetics,” pp. 53-88.

Week 3. Also, Stealing their Land
9/13 David Viñas, Indios, ejército y frontera, pp. 5-114.
Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire, pp. 1-66.
Aníbal Quijano, “Colonialidad del poder, eurocentrismo y América
Latina,” pp. 201-246.
Scott L. Morgensen, Spaces Between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and
Indigenous Decolonization, pp. 31-53.

Week 4. Family (A Thirst for Women)
9/20 Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, pp.
76-114.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship, pp. 3-51.
Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of
Sex,” pp. 157-210.
Angela Willey, Undoing Monogamy, Ch. 1, “Monogamy’s Nature: Colonial
Sexual Science and Its Naturecultural Fruits,” pp. 25-44.

Week 5. Liberalism and its Monsters (A Thirst for Capital)
9/27 Julián Martel, La bolsa (1890)
Nicolas Shumway, Historia personal de una pasión argentina. Ch. 3, “De cómo
el liberalismo se volvió una mala palabra,” pp. 111-211.

Week 6. Neoliberalism (and its Monsters) (A Thirst for Blood)
10/4 Empaná de Pino (Dir. Wincy, 2008) (link) (watch before class)
Claudia Rodríguez, Cuerpos para odiar (2015)
Georges Bataille, Eroticism, pp. 49-116.

Week 7. Hunger and Hysteria
10/11 José Asunción Silva, De sobremesa (1925)
Sylvia Molloy, Poses de fin de siglo: Desbordes del género en la modernidad,
“El secuestro de la voz: De sobremesa como novela histérica,” pp. 189-217.

Week 8. Racialized Hunger (Eating, Feelings, Bodies)
10/18 Carolina Maria de Jesus, Quarto de Despejo: Diário de uma Favelada (1960)
[English: Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus]
Roxane Gay, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017) (pp. 1-63)

Week 9. Mouths: Anthropophagy (Cannibals!)
10/25 S. Freud, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality,” pp. 239-293.
Maggie Kilgour, From Communion to Cannibalism: An Anatomy of Metaphors
of Incorporation, “Introduction: Metaphors and Incorporation,” pp. 3-19.
Oswaldo de Andrade, “Manifesto Antropofago”
Carlos A. Jáuregui, Canibalia, “Introducción: Del canibalismo al consumo:
textura y deslindes,” pp. 13-46 & “Capítulo 1: Canibalia,” pp. 47-131.

Week 10. Butts: Rectal Politics, Anal Erotics
11/1 Esteban Echeverría, “El matadero”
Selection of psychiatric and criminological texts by Francisco de Veyga, José
Ingenieros, Benigno B. Lugones, Lucas Ayarragaray, & Luis Montané
S. Freud, “Character and Anal Eroticism,” pp. 293-297.
Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave?” October 43 (Winter, 1987): 197-222.
Jonathan A. Allan, Reading from Behind: A Cultural Analysis of the Anus. Ch.
1, “Anal Theory, or Reading from Behind,” pp. 23-47.

Week 11. Bodies, Capital, Becoming
11/8 Luis Zapata, El vampiro de la Colonia Roma (1979)
Néstor Perlongher, El negocio del deseo: La prostitución masculina en San
Pablo, Ch. 4, “Derivas y devenires,” pp. 139-183.
Paper Abstracts Due

Week 12. Call Me Papi
11/15 Josecarlo Henríquez Silva, #SoyPuto (2015)
Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of
Sexuality,” 137-181.
Amber J. Musser, Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism. Ch. 1.
“Introduction: Theory, Flesh, Practice,” pp. 1-30.

Week 13. Feast
11/22 No Class—Thanksgiving
Mark Miles, “Grappling with Colonialism at Thanksgiving” (link)

Week 14. Passions, Pleasures, Death (little and big)
11/29 Augusto D’Halmar, Pasión y muerte del cura Deusto (1924)
Hiram Pérez, A Taste for Brown Bodies, Ch. 2, “Going to Meet the Man’ in
Abu Ghraib,” pp. 49-76.

Week 15. In The Garden of Earthly Delights
12/6 Osvaldo Lamborghini (Brief selection from Tadeys, 1983)
Conclusions
Workshop Final Papers
12/13 Final Essays Due via email

 

 

US Latino Literature and Culture

In a moment when the Latino population is under constant threat, threat of violence, deportation, xenophobia, racism, misrepresentation, etc., I am glad to be able to teach a course on US Latino Lit and Culture. The guiding theme is #Resistance. What I mean by that is resistance to the facile categorizations, the stereotypes, the dismissals, the violence, the fixity of identity that allows Latino to become an ‘other’ identity, an identity based on an ‘otherness’ that it never really was and which it currently resists. Below is a link to the syllabus.

HUS 271 US Latino Lit Fall 2017 Pierce

Julio Salgado_Screaming Joto

(Julio Salgado, “Screaming Joto”)

From Panamá to Standing Rock: Dogs, Queerness, Colonialism

This is nothing new. This is nothing extraordinary. This is how it has always been.

On September 2, 2016 a privately contracted paramilitary security force released several dogs on a group of Native protesters at the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota.

 

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Tomas Alejo

One fine day in 1530, a Spanish colonial security force released several dogs on a group of Native protesters on the Isthmus of Panamá.

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Theodor De Bry, Los perros de Balboa contra los indígenas sodomitas, 1592

This is history repeating.

But now, instead of devouring Indians for sodomy–as in 1530–it is for oil. What was once called the “pecado nefando,” the nefarious sin, voluptuousness, sexual aberration, queerness, is now the sin of sovereignty.

Today, rather than the management of bodies it is the management of land. Sexuality replaced by extractivist ecology.

This is nothing new. This is colonialism.

Colonial management of desire, of bodies, of land, of futures, of time, of knowledge.

The management of these bodies, from the 16th century to today, from Panamá to Standing Rock, is the consequence, the mandate, the undeniable goal of colonial systems.

And yet, we are still here. And yet, we still resist. We organize, we speak out, we write, we listen, we share, we love. This is also nothing new. And it will continue. And we will be there.

#nodapl

Our Queer Breath

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I see myself reflected in the window, with those fluorescent letters in red. I am kissing my boyfriend. His skin, his scent, remind me of what I came for, of what I’m here for. That desire. And that desire is a revolutionary act. That search. That breath.

Our queer breath is a revolutionary act. To breathe as a fugitive, delinquent body, as a body that exists in spite of this violence.

I had woken up a bit late and I didn’t realize it until later. Until I opened Facebook. I didn’t think I would cry. And I didn’t, until I saw a video of a mother receiving text messages from her son, her son who had been kidnapped in the bathroom at Pulse. Her son who did not make it out alive.

I saw the news that 49 people had been killed in Orlando, Florida. In a gay bar. Latino Night.

Latino Night. Bodies entangled. Sweat. Brown bodies, Black bodies. Dance. Bodies dancing lost in the night.

I went to Stonewall because places have their history, their memory. I thought that that place would give me something of that fight, that defiance. I thought that those copper bricks, that darkness, that dirty floor, would give me something. Would make me feel something that I had lost.

Stonewall. That place which, after a police raid in 1969, inspired a series of violent, explosive protests. Travestis, Negras, drag queens, Puerto Ricans, fags, butch-dykes. The beginning of the gay liberation movement in the United States. A place where our dissident bodies started to feel free.

Latino night. When you exist as a brown body, when you love, survive, as a brown body, when your body is always subject to the various modes of violence that threaten your very existence. When you are a body that should never have existed. That was never meant to survive. To thrive. What does it matter if you can dance? If you have that space to dance? What value can that dance floor have on Latino Night?

Or, what happens when dancing is the only thing that makes you human? What happens when your body only becomes a body when it dances, when it articulates, when it shimmies, when it sweats, when it sways? Is that why a gay bar matters? Latino Night? When that space allows you to be, to move, to breathe, to become.

What do those Latinx bodies dancing at Pulse on its Latino Night say? What air, what space, what environment do they change with their black-brown bodies?

What changes when you move the air with those beautiful brown legs? What arabesques, what wake do you leave?

That Sunday at the Stonewall a spontaneous vigil after the massacre at Pulse. Around two hundred people gathered on Christopher Street. It was strange. Anti-terror police next to those brown bodies trickling in after the Puerto Rican Pride Parade. A historic irony. The police ‘protect us’ against the terrorism that they themselves created. A multitude. Anti-islamaphobia signs. Signs in favor of gun control. Outside the bar activists and comrades spoke about resistance. About love. We echoed their calls to not lose ourselves. To not fall into the facile categorization of the massacre as simple ‘terrorism’. Members of Black Lives Matter. The critique cannot be tautological.

We cannot stop dancing. We cannot stop sweating, swishing, desiring. We cannot stop insisting on the complexity of this issue, insisting on a critique of misogyny, racism, homophobia, islamophobia, toxic masculinity, in constant crisis.

Journalists who asked the typical: How do you feel? Do you feel safe? Why did you come to Stonewall?

Why go to Stonewall? To be with those bodies, bodies that we love, that we desire, that move us, that we caress, that we yearn for. Bodies given in to the night. Bodies that will not return. Bodies that come undone. Bodies that break. Bodies whose sweat, whose glimmer, we will never inhale again. Bodies that matter. Bodies whose matter, whose becoming, will save us from oblivion.

To breathe that desire, that breath, that intransigence that the queer body stages with its terrible incommensurability. To see, feel, touch, kiss, dance.

(This essay was originally published in Revista Anfibia as “Travestis, Negras, Boricuas, Maricas” and will be reprinted in English in QED).

Orlando, NYC

In the wake of the devastating attack in Orlando, the persistence of homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, transphobia, structural racism. It seems incomprehensible. It seems devastatingly impossible to think. To think through and propose alternatives to this hate.

I don’t know. But I tried to think through in this piece, in Spanish, published in Revista Anfibia today. But I also want to note a couple articles in which I was quoted:

  1. The New York Times detailed some of the feelings at stake.
  2. The AP on the complexity of the current debate.
  3. The Tampa Bay Times on not losing sight of context.

IN ENGLISH

Vincent Cervantes for Religion Dispatches, on the theological dimensions.

And Richard Kim for The Nation, on why we can’t stop the music.

John P. Sundholm on why praying is not and has never been enough.

Alexander Chee for The Nation, an excellent reflection on the Courage of Being Queer.

Yezmin Villarreal on why Existing is Resisting.

Alan Paez Lopez on why we are not all Orlando. (which I wholeheartedly agree with).

Charlie Vázquez on Puerto Rican resilience and memory.

Tony Varona for HuffPo, on not erasing the Latino histories and bodies.

Another collection of 10 articles on #Orlando #PulseOrlando from the American Friends Service Committee.

NPR on the Latino voices.

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz for Feminist Reflections, on rethinking Orlando as América.

Ramón Rivera-Servera for The Atlantic, on the space of the queer Latino dance club.

Juana María Rodríguez for NBC, on embracing queer latinidad.

J. Jack Halberstam for Bully Bloggers, on who are ‘we’ after Orlando.

Eng-Beng Lim for Bully Bloggers, on the #OrlandoSyllabus.

José Quiroga for Bully Bloggers, on the nostalgia, complexity, and colonialism of Orlando.

Christopher Soto on Literary Hub, a poem on self and the unanswerable.

IN SPANISH/EN CASTELLANO

A fierce ally and colleague, Juliana Martínez on why the shooter is not a monster.

Hugo Córdova Quero for Pulse, on intersections and violence.

Liliana Viola for Página/12, on hate and reactions.

Santiago Castellanos for El Comercio, an interview on difference.

Larry La Fountain-Stokes for 80 grados, on the weight of violence.