One thing that came up for me as we were discussing the platform today and what it was designed to do (or not do) is the exclusionary work that happens through design. I think this was when we were talking about memos. But it just reminded me of how violent research can be. I'm reading Sara Ahmed's book Living a Feminist Life for the course I'm teaching, which deals a lot with exclusion and violence. At one point she writes how that gender is violence. Why? In part because of the way it presses...
the root of the word oppression, which is from press: “The press of the crowd;
pressed into military service; to press a pair of pants; printing press; press
the button. Presses are used to mold things or flatten them or reduce them
in bulk, sometimes to reduce them by squeezing out the gases or liquids in
them. Something pressed is something caught between or among forces and
barriers which are so related to each other that jointly they restrain, restrict or
prevent the thing’s motion or mobility. Mold. Immobilize. Reduce” (1983, 54).
Oppression: how we feel pressed into things, by things, because of who we are
recognized as being.
To be is to be pressed. It might be the words of a parent or a friend, or the
way an image of a good life is screened in front of you; you can experience
images as weights, as heavy. Expectations, eyes raised, when. A pressure is the
ratio of force to an area over which it is distributed. You feel forced, when you
experience a requirement as being imposed upon you. Maybe fewer people
are more forced because more people are less forced.
Maybe then, maybe then, if you start going in the right direction you experience
a relief of pressure. You feel a lessening, a reduction or removal of pressure,
as when a hand that was holding you down is gradually withdrawn. You
might go faster as your passage is eased. Eventually you are going that way of
your own accord. When you no longer have to be pushed, in order to proceed
in that direction, you do not experience yourself as having been pushed. As I
explore in chapter 3, this is how being willing can be a consequence of force;
you become willing to avoid being forced. In willingly proceeding in the right
direction, you experience a relief from pressure. How often do we proceed
one way in order to be relieved of a pressure to go that way? One wonders.
But sometimes we won’t change direction; we accept the pressure; maybe we
even become used to that press. Maybe a pressure becomes part of us at the
moment we have been relieved of pressure.
We need a feminist account of such techniques of redirection.
Ahmed is talking about identity, of course, not a platform and not research. But it made me think of how research is about making cuts. It's about exclusion through the process of curation and design. You decide to leave things out. Or you design to leave things out. Or they get left out because you didn't design it... And it wouldn't be research without exclusion, so how do you talk about the exclusion... which I experience as a form of violence? I mean, we need exclusion... we need those cuts.
And of course the reason I was thinking about research as violence is because that's what I think of everytime I read the word ab-use... and I credit this to course prep that involves two weeks on IPV and domestic abuse. So, I'm interested in talking more as a group about violence and ab-use in general. Because this is a more general thing I'm thinking about in my work. This interest is emerging in part from my fieldwork and project design in Philadelphia, and so it would be good to hear other people's take on all of this. I'm going to go back to Spivak's writing about epistemic violence, too, but what i'm thinking of (and feeling) in my fieldwork and project design is seem to be different (if memory is serving me).
Cerwonka and Malkki situate ethics as a key frame for their book project highlighting the pragmatic challenges and choices characteristic of fieldwork as they intersect with ethical issues (e.g., “Am I somehow misleading my informants?”). This echoes the "everyday" relational ethics that Aellah et al. also seek to shed more light on through their training manual.
Cerwonka writes: “More important, good social research clearly demands a highly developed, ceaseless, daily engagement with ethics as a process—an engagement that far exceeds the requirements of currently existing “ethics committees” and “human-subjects protocols” on university campuses. It is increasingly clear that the conventional understanding of ethics as a code—rather than as a process, as we see it here—needs to be critically examined.” (page 4)