Some cool theoretical concepts in my thesis:
– the Gay men blood ban: well, the lifetime ban by the National Blood service got lifted in September 2011. Now men who have engaged in sexual activity with other men in the past get a one-year-deferral, which is also the case in Italy and Spain. I’ve written about the ‘Donation not discrimination’ campaign of the National Union of Students LGBT section (also supported by Stonewall, UNISON and others) in my Chapter on space, digital networking and political identity.
– the HFEA consultation on egg donation & compensation. According to the October 2011 press release, the HFEA decided to pay women £750 per cycle of donation, which according to Lisa Jardine reflects the ‘value of donation’ – not sure what this means. But I think I understand what ‘capitalise’ means in this sentence: ‘That’s why we have decided to capitalise on our unique position by actively helping the sector to attract and retain donors, use their donations to their full and ensure that donors are well cared for and valued.’ One of my thesis chapters examines some feminist biopolitical assemblages around the 2011 HFEA consultation and reproductive rights more generally in relation to debates about the global flows of information and bodily material.
With the viva coming up and a mild exhaustion hitting me on a few fronts after the end of the autumn term, I’ve been very silent here. But I thought now is that time to post some findings on how to prepare for the viva which are available around the web, and do some relaxation writing exercise through that post as well. Continue reading
This is the title of my thesis, submitted on the 26th of September 2011. I’m waiting for the viva – which is in January and meanwhile teaching and updating the blog. Here are the chapters of my thesis:
Aristea Fotopoulou, PhD Thesis, University of Sussex
“Remediating politics: feminist and queer formations in digital networks”
Rethinking mediation, politicisation and embodiment
Feminist digital networks: remediating issues and identities
Reterritorialisation and queer counterpublics: producing locality and
Postporn networks: making scarcity and forming affective intensities
Feminist biopolitics of reproductive technologies: egg donation debates
My thesis examines feminist and queer actors emerging in highly mediated environments and the forms of political organisation and critical knowledge production they engage in. It indicates that older debates around gender and sexuality are being reformulated in digital networks and identifies alternative understandings of politics and community which arise in this context. The study foregrounds a performative conceptualisation and argues that political realities are produced in dynamic configurations of communication media, discourses and bodies. It suggests that network technologies constitute sources of vulnerability and anxiety for feminists and stresses the significance of registering how embodied subjectivities emerge from these experiences.
To achieve its aims and to map activity happening across different spaces and scales, my doctoral project attended to context-specific processes of mediation at the intersections of online and offline settings. It employed ethnographic methods, internet visualisation, in-depth interviewing and textual analysis to produce the following key outcomes: it registered changing understandings of the political in relation to new media amongst a network of women’s organisations in London; it investigated the centrality of social media and global connections in the shaping of local queer political communities in Brighton; it complicated ideas of control, labour and affect to analyse emerging sexual identities in online spaces like nofauxx.com, and offline postporn events; finally, it traced feminist actors gathering around new reproductive technologies, at the crossing fields of grassroots activism and the academy.
Today, women’s groups and queer activists increasingly use networked communication for mobilisation and information-sharing. In a climate of widespread scepticism towards both representational politics and traditional media, questions about the role of digital networks in enabling or limiting political engagement are being raised. My thesis aims to contribute to these debates by accounting for the ways in which feminist and queer activists in digital networks reformulate the relationship between communication media and politics.
Looking around for female porn movie directors with feminist or queer politics aspirations, I came across Venus Hottentot, the director named after Saartje Baartman, known as Hottentot Venus while she was exhibited around Europe, during and after her life. I remembered first reading about this African woman’s violated body in Anne Balsamo’s ‘Technologies of the Gendered Body’ in Lucia Sommer’s ‘In/ Visible Body: Notes on Biotechnologies’ Vision’ in SUBROSA’s Domain Errors (2002), where she talks about new visualisation technologies and the fragmentation of the female body [about the Visible Human (TM) in particular]. Mara Verna, a Canadian performance artist, set up an web exhibition based on her research about Baartman’s body and her remains being exposed in museums – to be finally returned to her home land 200 years after Baartman’s birth.
‘On location in South Africa and France this past year, artist Mara Verna presents the culmination of her work surrounding this historical figure through the site http://www.hottentotvenus.com This work is in association with a travelling exhibition entitled, Rien n’a ete perdu, which opened in Paris in November 2002 (La Vtirine Gallery) and at La Centrale Gallery in Montreal, in February 2003’ (Festival de Cyberart: Circulation 01,2001-2).
What is here intersting to see is how a female porn director appropriates a name which carries such a tremendous amount of violence, not just at a symbolic level, but on a material level (this is the name of a slave exhibited for her labia and buttocks, and then the name of a someone whose dismembered labia, brain and skeleton were exhibited). Venus, I read, who is an art school graduate, directed Candida Royalle’s first ‘Femme Chocolat’ film, Afrodite Superstar, which I am most curious to see – is this an empowering film? is it perpetuating the objectification of Baartman’s, and black womens’, sexuality (sexuality as linked to corporeality ofcourse and not meaning the act of making sex but the whole lot of eroticism and desire). And how can we think of these different approaches to representing and claiming back?
The director herself says: ‘ My attempt is to reclaim her sexual voice, and the voice of all of us. Even though women of color are over-sexualized in our society, our own voice is absent’.