Complex Singularities

Adventures in Thinking Outside the Tower
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A Few Thoughts on BLM and Pride

Random thought from last night: Usually, a few days after Pride, we stop talking about it; it tucks away with LGBQT* issues broadly into its customary corner of the public sphere and the slate of public discussion moves on. This year, almost a week later, my news feed is absolutely full of discussion of LGBQT* issues, of discussion of racialized queers, of discussion of the relationship of marginalized communities with the police. This is exciting, this is the political, and this is what happens when some brave people literally force us to pause and consider, and to step out of the comfort zone of celebratory neoliberalism.

Bravo to Black Lives Matter Toronto for being fierce and visionary in their affinity politics and fighting for solidarity, progress, and inclusion.

CFP: Screen Memories, Screen Cultures [Open Access Anthology; Papers due 19 Sept 16]

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Please find below the Call for Papers for the second open access anthology from The Canadian Network for Psychoanalysis and Culture on Screen Memories, Screen Cultures. And if you haven’t seen it I invite you to also check out the first anthology, The Freudian Legacy Today (Ed. Dina Georgis, Sara Matthews, and James Penney), here: ( Please feel free to boost this to any relevant networks or pass it on to anyone who might be interested.
Best Regards,
(with apologies for X-posting)

The Canadian Network for Psychoanalysis and Culture ( contributions to a new anthology:

CNPC 2: Screen Memories, Screen Cultures

Editors: Sara Matthews, James Penney, Nathan Rambukkana

With our current popular and critical preoccupation with digital screens and screen cultures, we readily forget that psychoanalysis since its inception has had a lot to say about screens. Specifically, psychoanalysis draws our attention to how screens mediate the difficult intersection of everyday experience with unconscious desire.

In his essay “Screen Memories” (1899), Freud asks why we tend to remember only indifferent details of our childhood experiences, including those whose emotional intensity would presumably leave an indelible impression on the memory. By way of an answer, Freud suggests that the psychical mechanism of repression selects these humdrum elements in order to disguise their associative links to others that directly evoke inappropriate fantasies and unsettling desires.

For his part, Lacan in his teaching develops an understanding of the screen as an aspect of the realm of appearances that serves to shield us from the Other’s expropriative gaze. In this sense, the screen is that opaque or ambiguous region of the visual field that provides us with a modicum of shelter from the ravages of an unmasterable, unlocatable, and often malevolent look. This look wields a forbidding power to trigger guilty self-reproach or leave us blushing in shame.

For its second volume of original and provocative work “Screen Fantasies, Screen Cultures,” CNPC invites the submission of papers that foreground the continued centrality of psychoanalytic theory to the contemporary study of media cultures.

How do we understand today’s proliferation of representational surfaces and spaces – today usually pixellated – psychoanalytically? Are the skeptics right – are we rearing new generations whose often compulsive attachment to their screens bespeaks a decreased or degraded capacity to confront the difficult challenges of psychic and social life? Or do digital screens offer new pathways to sublimation, that is to the negotiation of unconscious conflict through intellectual and aesthetic creation? Also, how do screens mediate the construction and deconstruction of social identities and desire?

We are especially interested in work that builds bridges between psychoanalytic theory and criticism broadly conceived and the cognate fields of media studies, visual studies, film studies, art theory, internet studies, and the digital humanities. How might psychoanalytic insights force us to re-evaluate and reconsider the most fundamental assumptions of these diverse and influential arenas of critical and theoretical work?

Deadline: Monday, 19 September, 2016

Word Count: maximum 7000 words

See Submissions for further details.

Book Project: The History of Digital Intimacies

So after running the idea of a History of Digital Intimacies book series up the flagpole and getting a mixed response, I’ve decided to be less ambitions and go with a single book, tentatively titled The History of Digital Intimacies: Sexuality, Kinship, and Connection over Social Media. The title and matter will of course shift and blur over time but I am spending one month of the summer working out a grant proposal and book for the project as well as starting figuring out the parameters of the eventual book and moving towards the book proposal. I think one thing it will include is my digital authoethnography of my own digital intimate connections, including reflection on things like programming as a kid, hanging out and having relationships over Talkers during my undergrad (including breaking into computer labs in the middle of the night and having pizza parties with my friends who were also chatting with others is disparate virtual text worlds of the 90s while we watched Rocky Horror Picture Show on the big teaching screens, working for the online hitchhiker’s guide website in the late 90s, to now, where the majority of my professional social life is actually digital—sharing ideas, texts, news, discussion and frustrations over social media. It’s possible this is the introduction, it’s possible this is another chapter, but I find it extremely daunting—part research, part autobiography, part an archeology of my personal/intellectual journey. But is should be an interesting process… hopefully!

In the Run Up

It just struck me that the way I got over my imposter complex for large lectures was moving beyond thinking of the lecture scene as a performance that I was scripting and rehearsing and thinking of it more like an exam or interview that I prep for. Maybe I don’t know everything about, say, privacy laws, but in the lead up to the lecture anything I am foggy about I read up on, and cram in there. I also practice, which I’m finding is key for repeating a class because even if I knew all this the first time around, there are things that I have forgotten, or aren’t at the tip of my tongue. Then the lecture just becomes the last little piece of a long process, you just talk about what you know, and by then you know you know it, so it is easy. Even if the tech fails, or something else comes up, or students just refuse to engage that day, that is okay, because the exact same lecture another year might go great.

It’s about training. Even a seasoned runner is not able to run a marathon effectively starting from nothing, they train in the lead up. It’s a process of constantly becoming the marathon runner.

Maybe that will be the pedagogical book I write—one about teaching, overcoming the imposter complex and working with different levels of class: In the Run  Up: University Teaching as Process (or something….)

Open Letter to Margaret Wente from the Sexuality Studies Association

Dear Ms. Wente,

We write to thank you—tongue properly in cheek—for highlighting the Sexuality Studies Association in your article of 2 June, 2015. As a new and dynamic scholarly association committed to the critical study of sexuality from an intersectional social justice perspective, we appreciate that your column has projected awareness of our association on the national stage. We are especially attuned to the care you took in demonstrating the dire necessity for sexuality studies work and education by meticulously crafting your article to include the maximum amount of homophobia, transphobia, sexism and racism. This was very effective for showing the importance of—pardon the buzzword—intersectionality. By intersectionality, we signal how issues of power and privilege around sex, race, class and gender cross and impact each other in life and culture. Take, for example, recent sexist and ageist controversies surrounding school dress codes; the fraught racial and sexual politics of the new sex ed. curriculum in Ontario schools; the sexist and transphobic comments of US politician Mike Huckabee; or indeed prominent news editorials that, through cherry picking playful essay titles, attempt to mock and deride marginalized members of Canadian society, and their lives, desires or bodies. Finally, we pass along thanks on behalf of the three authors whose papers you mention by title (Toby B. D. Wiggins, Thomas Waugh and Dayna Prest), for showcasing their excellent work in your piece. We appreciate the exposure to their cutting-edge research that your column provided. We would ask, however, that in future if you mention others’ work that you cite it so that those who produced it can receive the proper credit—although we realize that proper citation is sometimes difficult for you.

Thanks again for your enthusiastic support,


Nathan Rambukkana, SSA Chair (Outgoing)

Melissa Autumn White, SSA Vice-Chair

Sheila L. Cavanagh, SSA Chair (Incoming)

Referral: Reflecting on Monogamy from a Poly Perspective

This article by Heina Dadabhoy rings very true for me, though I would add straddling both worlds taught me as well about the issues that plague both monogamous and poly relationships, and about power in intimate relationships generally.

Check it out here:

New paper: Mutt, Monster or Melting-Pot? Mixed-Race Metaphor and Obama’s Ambivalent Hybridity

I’m excited to post a new short article of mine just published in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology for the special issue Hacking the Black/White Binary edited by the amazing Brittney Cooper and Margaret Rhee.

You can find it here:

And here is Brittney and Margaret’s timely and thoughtful introduction to the special issue, one that was compiled during the events of #Ferguson and the other tragically parallel events in the US:

#RaceFail to #Ferguson

From an essay I’m working on today:

One question worth asking is what is the space between #RaceFail and #Ferguson? One important thing to note is that the time between them isn’t neutral, but rather one of development. The networked persistence of discussions of racism in life and culture (of which the stickiness of #RaceFail is a useful metonym) has allowed critical race theory to expand from the bounds of too-insular activist and academic subcultures and publics into a known apparatus and structure of the public sphere as a whole. The space between these two tags is one of time and growth and development—similar, also, to the space between 9/11 and the Boston bombings or the recent shootings on Parliament Hill in Canada. When innocents are killed it is always a tragedy. But when 9/11 happened, Western society snapped: racism poured out of the woodwork (where it was always already having major structural effects) and overwhelmed the critical voices and societal guilt-structures that kept it unevenly and incompletely in check. But in the subsequent events we had the apparatus of critical race discourse (forged on the fly from the frictions and fractures of that time) to bulwark and embolden our critical voices, intersectional analyses to ask also what roles poverty and mental health issues might have had in triggering these horrible events, and the sobering and dismal reality of the post-9/11 period to help us resist falling prey to the fear mongering of opportunistic and hawkish politicians. #Ferguson and its ilk are the legacy of earlier critical discussions and the earlier techno-social events that mobilize them, and collectively form an activist critical objection—a quarrel—levelled at unjust abuses of power.

Referral: On the Dangers of Focus on the Family Teaching Sex Ed

This article about an amazing open letter from 17-year-old high school student Agatha Tan to her high school principal shows not only the dangers on letting Focus on the Family teach sexual education workshops but also the amazing resilience of youth with respect to attempts by institutions specifically and deliberately trying to limit their knowledge. As an interesting side note, in her original letter, she mentions that another student noted that “polyamorous individuals” were one the groups ill-considered by FotF rhetoric, a point that was shut down:

When someone else tried to raise that the facilitator’s views were too narrow and that they failed to consider, for instance, LGBTQ or polyamorous individuals, he effectively shut her down by saying that her views were not what the audience wanted to listen to and that perhaps she could remain quiet for now and bring it up with him afterwards so they could end the first half of the course for break, which was coming up “very soon”. (He failed to actually ask the audience if we wanted to listen to her opinion and assumed we wholeheartedly accepted his, and break was in fact almost another half hour later.) I personally thought that listening to her opinion was more important than tea break, but what do I know? After all, I am just a “gal”.

Such “eduction” is frankly child abuse, and I am glad that students are fighting back and voicing their concerns in the public sphere.


Referral: Trigger Warnings are about Violence (not Political Correctness)

Because I haven’t posted a referral in a while, and because I want to celebrate his triumphant return to blogging, and because this is an excellent piece, I refer you to Jonathan Sterne’s wonderful open letter in response to CAUT’s James Turk and the Montréal Gazette. In this respectful excoriation, Sterne aptly points out the intimate privilege inherent in being able to dismiss the notion of the trigger warning in pedagogy. And more: he skillfully critiques the notion that warning students in advance that a piece may contain images of, say, sexual assault, war atrocities, or lynching amounts to censorship of pedagogy when, in reality, it is about respect and not wanting to re-traumatize someone unnecessarily.

Check it out here on Super Bon!: