Beside/s

from Queering Ethics in 2011, lecture notes

Beside/s*: a few definitions that inform my vision
  • Next to, in proximity to, in relation to others
  • In addition to, another perspective, another direction
  • Outside of oneself (but not fully outside of oneself), torn from self/bound to others/undone by others/implicated in lives of others
  • Overwhelmed with emotion: grief, passion, anger, fear, panic
  • Result of extreme event, causing person to realize vulnerability/precariousness
  • A space of uncertainty and unknowingness
  • A space of (potentially) productive failure
  • A counterpublic space of radical intervention that produces material possibilities for subversion/resistance
  • A space of community, a “we” that is fashioned through “undoneness,” refusals to fully identify, and inability to fit
  • Tactics for survival, strategies for imagining new worlds/ways of being
  • To identify with and against
  • To suspend or avoid judgment, not about what is good or bad, but what is “useful” or valuable
  • Not a “good subject” or a “bad subject” but a subject who doesn’t fully identify (good) or fully reject (bad), but reworks
  • At the limits
  • Another direction: using codes differently, reworking them, creating possibilities that have been impossible, imaging worlds that have been unimaginable

*Inspired by the following sources:

  1. Butler, Judith. “Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy”
  2. Chávez, Karma R. “Spatializing Gender Performativity: Ecstasy and Possibilites for Livable Life in the Tragic Case of Victoria Arrellano”
  3. Foucault, Michel. “What is Enlightenment?”
  4. Muñoz, Jose Esteban. Disidentifications

from my 2014 talk, Living Beside/s the Academy

I love the concept of besides and beside. Understanding mySelf as living BESIDES allows for an additional approach other than the Academic way of being that I had been trained to believe was the only way to be an intellectual. The only way to do something valuable with my Ph.D and my promise as a Scholar. Living besides opens up the possibility for other models, other approaches, other directions, other perspectives, and other ways to answer the haunting questions, What happened? and If not this, then what?

Understanding mySelf as living BESIDE the Academy enables me to craft a relation to the academic norms that is neither for nor against them. I’m not interested in fully rejecting or endorsing the academic values that helped shape who I am or how I engage with the world as a troublemaking Undisciplined scholar. Instead, I’m rethinking and reworking those values, creating possibilities that have been deemed impossible and imaging worlds that have been unimaginable within the academic spaces that I’ve inhabited.

from my 2016 talk, On (Re) Claiming an Education

A life beside/s the academy. That’s the tagline for my unDisciplined site. And that online space, along with my TROUBLE and STORY blogs, are where I’m doing most of my experiments with living beside/s as an undisciplined troublemaking feminist educator. How? So far, I’m using my spaces to undiscipline myself, to stay in trouble, to make visible and accessible my process of feeling the force of my questions, and to archive my teaching materials: All of my past syllabi, course assignments, and some lectures are posted on my undisciplined site. Processing notes, analyses of texts, reading lists, and critical reflections are posted too.

I’m Staking a Claim to a beside/s space where I can imagine and practice new ways of being an educator. Where I can imagine other answers besides Success!, Status!, Earning an degree to get a job that makes tons of Money!, to the question: What is an education for? Where I can continue feeling the force and living the questions that my undisciplined thinking and troublemaking and trouble staying create. And where I can dream up, and maybe experiment with developing courses that I’d teach if the university was less expensive, more experimental, embraced trouble, and was more resistant and transformative.

My Current Thoughts in 2020

I was first drawn to beside and beside/s as a theoretical concept about being undone and beside ourselves with grief. Then it became the structure for an article I wrote about negotiating my multiple selves–academic, mother, daughter–as my mother was dying from stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I taught it in a graduate course on Queer/ing Ethics and made it a category on by troublemaking blog. When I left the academy in 2012, it became a virtual space and a way to make sense of my changing relationship to the academy and my academic training.

Now, since 2017, when I started running beside the river in South Minneapolis and writing about it in RUN!, it has become a literal space–a hormespace: the Mississippi River Gorge. In some ways, my focus on this literal, physical space is a departure from my academic/theoretical work, but in other ways, it is taking concepts like care/paying attention, curiosity and wonder, discomfort/ uncertainty/ bewilderment in new, more creative directions. And, beside/s is a new way of seeing. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy. I am gradually losing my central vision and within the next 5 years, will most likely have to rely almost exclusively on my peripheral vision to see. I will not be able to see straight, only sideways–which is the name of a poetry project I’ve been working on.


To See it from the Side
originally posted in RUN! log on April 24, 2017

So I’m thinking about how walking works differently and I was reminded of a couple things.1. I read this article earlier today and it was this scientific study and it was talking about how certain decisions are better made when we’re not directly thinking about it or analyzing it. We sleep on it, we just don’t even think about it. 2. And that made me think of how my vision works and how I see things through peripheral vision better sometimes when I can’t see it through my central vision. So it’s almost as if I’m not really paying attention to it and I see it from the side but that’s how I can actually see it better. 3. I was reading this book by a philosopher emeritus from Stanford and he writes about procrastination, deliberate procrastination, and he talks about how he’ll never do the top priority, the most important thing on his list, but if he can engineer his list so that the things he really needs to do are lower level, he ends up doing them in an effort to avoid the thing that he’s really supposed to be doing. I think that’s how my writing process works too, where if I try to come up against something head-on, i have difficulty and get kind of paralyzed by all the ideas, but if I work around it and try other angles and just follow whatever I’m thinking about then I end up actually doing what I intended.

Dear Margins

Why does it move me, the peripheries—the overshadowed, the speechless, the passed-through? When we look from here, everything is slant. Though its spaces are by definition residual and immaterial, it is residuethat I want to call center; disembodied and irrelevant that I want to hold dear; murkiness and muteness that I want to resound. This, too, can have a political stake: a word is a sound to which we give meaning-filled boundaries. If we were to trace a shape around an invisible field of leftover particles and energy, let it be filled with all our ephemeral excesses, grief-stricken, displaced, tongue-tied, full of formidable size and strength, however vague. My truth is this, which the astronomers also knew: The world is blurry around the edges. When I’m looking intently at the page, there is always something in my peripheral vision, some dark shape I cannot shake.

Structured Procrastination

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, such as gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they find the time. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because accomplishing these tasks is a way of not doing something more important.

To make structured procrastination work for you, begin by establishing a hierarchy of the tasks you have to do, in order of importance from the most urgent to the least important. Even though the most-important tasks are on top, you have worthwhile tasks to perform lower on the list. Doing those tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, you can become a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

Do I want to be a “useful” citizen? Useful to whom?

Beside others in an in-between space

What if, when we experience empathy as perspective-taking, we weren’t stepping fully outside of ourselves into someone else’s life, but instead residing beside ourselves (and beside them) in an in-between space where we can see how our lives are connected and implicated in each other’s? So, empathy isn’t about “discovering new worlds,” but about refusing to ignore the richly complex and diverse worlds that we already inhabit. Hope that makes sense.

Threshold/ Maggie Smith

You want a door you can be
            on both sides of at once.

                       You want to be
           on both sides of here

and there, now and then,
            together and—(what

                       did we call the life
            we would wish back?

The old life? The before?)
            alone. But any open

                       space may be
            a threshold, an arch

of entering and leaving.
            Crossing a field, wading

                       through nothing
            but timothy grass,

imagine yourself passing from
            and into. Passing through

                       doorway after
            doorway after doorway.