I plugged Regenia Gagnier’s The Insatiability of Human Wants at our last meeting, and, Kiran, you really ought to check it out, maybe put it on a list? Here are some snippets from the Appendix, which I’m sure why it’s so called:

Taste–or class as culture–may disincline middle-class people to share anything but political solidarity and economic resources with the working class. Put differently, a good leftist will willingly share the pains of working people, willingly redistribute the wealth, but will she share in their pleasures? (238)

Objectively, one’s class is one’s position in the labor process, although one’s political identity and subjectivity may be in ambivalent relation to one’s class. One may perform a class identiy, but the performance is subject to material limits [….] The introduction of consumption models of taste and status draws together both class and gender, for consumption and leisure, the realms of pleasure for most wage laborers, are as significant in the formation of identity and subjectivity as production. (243)

Since I’m all about binary distinctions, I’ll just say that I’m a fan of the identity/subjectivity dialectic Gagnier uses, especially as a way to think about my own ambivalent relations to class. I’m probably a textbook case of the “good leftist” who’s really saddened by the stuff that passes for entertainment on the radio, on movie screens, hell, even on the internet. And that doesn’t make me a bad leftist (hopefully not!) identity-wise, but initiates a subjectivity worth thinking about critically?

As for my bitchy comment, it’s not really directed towards Gagnier (maybe towards the world in general). It’s when she compares gender and class performativity:

Eric Schocket [The essay G refers to, I’m guessing, has become this book chapter]has recently employed performance theory in general and Marjorie Garber’s work in particular in the development of what he calls “class transvestitism,” that is , when middle-class writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries showed their comradeship with the poor, the social body, by literally costuming themselves in the garb of poverty. Schocket shows how the comradeship was born of simulation and created a “culture of poverty.” Yet whereas Garber sees transvestite logic as working toward progressive ends by destabilizing gender, class transvestism occludes economic relations and reconstructs class as culture, but culture as voluntary rather more than, as in taste, a product of one’s particular history and environment. Then, Schocket shows, class culture can be read as difference and absorbed into “pluralism.” This is, of course, the problem of multiculturalism when it is treated as a mere celebration of diverse cultures rather than as cultures also embedded in political and economic inequalities. (242)

Why is it so hard for people to see that so-called progressive destabilizing through cross-dressing (using the term “transvestite” is frowned upon among trans people and allies), transgendering, or transitioning, is very much imbricated with social and economic privilege, and the celebration of it “occludes economic relations”? Transition is fucking expensive in all sorts of ways, and gender politics ought not to be reduced to a set of consumer choices. Grumble grumble grumble.

Advertisements