«by Matthew D. Chin A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Social Work and ...»
Crafting alternative chronotopes In this chapter, I have attempted to outline the temporal nature of queer and trans of color community arts programming in Toronto. I have argued that the often ephemeral nature of these initiatives and their existence as a particular kind of generational phenomenon associated with young people must be understood within the affective political economic contexts in which they Clarke’s insights complement Gayle Rubin’s (1975) analysis of sex and gender in Claude Levi-Strauss’s approach to the study of kinship. Rubin argues that Levi-Strauss’s understanding of marriage rests on the exchange of women as structured by the principles of “the gift” and the incest taboo. While gifts creates social links between partners of an exchange, the incest taboos (restrictions on whom one can marry) operate to ensure that these exchanges take place between different families. The incest taboo promotes the formation of social alliances whereby women are the gifts exchanged between two groups, essentially operating as the conduit of relationships among men. In this system, Levi-Strauss’s notion of “family” is premised on heterosexual marriage given that his explanation for the division of labor by sex is that it operates to ensure that the smallest viable economic unit is comprised of the union between one man and one woman.
occur. Thus, the chronotopic specificity of these initiatives must be understood in relation to the largely short-term and overwhelming youth-focused public arts funding available to QTPOC community organizers alongside their intense affective orientation toward their work and each other. Yet, queer and trans of color organizers express dissatisfaction with the chronotopic form in which their initiatives have come to exist: as both Twysted and Gein have expressed, QTPOC organizers want both longevity and intergenerational connection to be part of their work.
In the final section of this chapter, I want to think about this tension between the idealization of sustainability and inter-generational connection on the one hand and the reality of the ephemeral and overwhelmingly youthful nature of queer and trans of color community initiatives on the other. Elizabeth Freeman (2010) provides a way to approach this tension in her text Time binds. In her brief analysis of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, she illustrates the differences between the temporal rhythms in the lives of craftsmen and nobility and argues that the play “suggests that temporal misalignments can be the means of opening up other possible worlds” (2010, p. 16). In this particular case, what other possible worlds come into view when the idealization of longevity and the co-existence of multiple generations meets the reality of ephemerality and the over-representation of youth? An examination of cases in which individuals are similarly positioned to negotiate relationships among time, love and money may prove to be instructive for queer and trans of color organizers as to the kinds of possible worlds that they may bring forth.
In their analysis of the workings of the garment industry in Lesotho, Ansell, Tsoeu, & Hajdu (2014) examine how processes of economic transformation bring about changes in space time18 that reconfigure existing practice of care among factory working women. Ansell and colleagues outline how the Lesothian state has sought to pursue economic development through the cultivation of export led industrialization in the form of garment manufacturing. They show that while women’s increased incomes expand women’s opportunities and capacities to fulfill social obligations to their families, they also point out that employment in the garment sector brings about what they refer to as "space time restructuring" or the way in which the space time of their work both constrains their actions and enables new social relations. The time intensive nature of garment factory work and the fact that women often have to travel far distances to their work places means that they are less able to physically care for their children and sick relatives (though they are increasingly better positioned to provide financial resources to support this care). Ansell and colleagues document the different strategies that women adopt in order to be able to provide care for their families despite the way in which the space time of their work structures their non-working lives. For instance, instead of commuting far distances from their homes, women might find living accommodations that are closer to their workplaces (but not too close as to be prohibitively expensive, as housing near the factories tends to be pricey). With the money they save from not living too closely to their work, they can afford to have their children live with them and pay for someone to take care of their children while they are at work. While the work of Ansell and colleagues is useful in thinking through how social actors navigate the ways in which the spatio-temporal dimensions of lives are structured, Toronto-based queer and trans of color organizers are seeking a different approach. Rather than trying to maneuver around the constraints of existing space-times, QTPOC community arts organizers are attempting to change the very nature of these space times to begin with.
Ansell Tsoeu, & Hajdu’s conceptualization of space time is closely related to the notion of space time mobilized in this chapter. Much like Bhaktin’s notion of chronotope, they characterize space time not as a container for social action but rather as an intertwining of time and space that is both produced by and productive of social processes.
In their attempts to change their initiatives from short lived youth programming to sustained inter-generational initiatives, queer and trans of color organizers do not seek to negotiate around the limitations imposed by existing space times but rather to bring about transformations in the chronotopes themselves. In contrast to the situation of Lesothian garment factory working women, Lemon's (2008) analysis of pedagogical moments at the Russian Theatrical Academy in Moscow provides a way to begin to think about how to bring about these transformations. Lemon focuses on the dialogue between teachers and their students over how to interpret personal ads that students were required to perform. These discussions centered on how to look behind textual forms that were treated as variables (love, time, space and value) in ways that might shed insight onto human motives and broader social contexts. In one example, Lemon focuses on how a teacher disagrees with the way that Marie, one of his students, has performed a personal ad placed by a young woman. While he agrees with Marie's analysis that the woman's motivation for placing this ad is boredom, he disagrees with the other students' conclusion that the woman in the personal ad is only seeking material gain. He pushes all of the students present during this performance to critically examine the relationships between the phrases of the text in the personal ad. He asks the students to consider that the woman placing the ad might be attempting to change her relationship to time and space. In forwarding his own opinion, he states, "she wants to end the absurd temporality of repeated dull actions. To make time as measured by clock and calendar disappear…to exit boredom, to leave it with explosive force" (2008, p. 256).
For the teacher, love and financial gain do not necessarily exist in opposition to each other; he forwards the possibility that the woman placing this ad seeks to solve her spatio-temporal dilemma (boredom) by "combining variables that are usually kept on opposite sides of the equation 'I will be your faithful girlfriend and help you spend your money'" (2008, p. 256).
In much the same way that the instructor interprets the motivation for placing this ad in the desire to bring about a different space time through reconfigurations of love and money, I contend that QTPOC community organizers may enact different chronotopic realities by transforming the affective and political economic contexts in which their initiatives occur. On the one hand, it seems quite simple to see how changing the way in which these initiatives are funded would change the temporal nature of their existence. If government institutions were to replace short term funding with “core” or long term funding programs and change granting procedures to ensure the accessibility of arts funding to people of all ages, it would not be altogether surprising to see an increase in the longevity and a transformation in the generational character of QTPOC community arts programs. While the oft-cited mantra “if you build it, they will come” does not always ring true, it is indeed possible that the greater availability of resources for the production of particular social forms will increase the likelihood of these forms coming into existence. This is not to say that the work of enacting such policy changes within public arts funding programs would be without its challenges, but that it is fairly easy to see the broad outlines of what these changes would need to be.
Yet resolving the issue of financing alone would not unilaterally bring about the chronotopic transformations that QTPOC seek. In response to Shaunga's comment about wanting to win the lottery in order to establish a community arts center during the Asian Arts Freedom School workshop discussed earlier, Rose asked, "why is it always about winning the lottery and putting a lot of money in it?... we think that we need money to do it. But do we need that much money? I don't know…. Because even if you won the million dollars…you're going to have some issues still right? (laughs) How can we challenge ourselves to think beyond [money]?" Rose’s insights remind us that the bare existence of financial resources in and of itself is not capable of bringing out the changes that QTPOC community organizations desire. Her caution to Shaunga encourages us to think not only about how social actors may use these resources for their own ends, but also how the introduction of these resources into existing social relations may also change the way in which these relations are configured.
While recognizing the importance of attending to political economic conditions, an altogether more interesting and complex issue revolves around the transformation of the affective dynamics of QTPOC community arts necessary to foster sustainability and the involvement of multiple generations. Clifford Geertz’s (1973) essay "Person time and conduct in Bali" serves as an important starting point for thinking about the affective dynamics that may support this desired chronotope. In this text, Geertz attempts to draw connections between the way that Balinese perceive themselves and others, how they experience time and the affective tone of their collective life. He outlines Balinese notions of personal identity and the extent to which "virtually everyone… [is a] stereotyped contemporary, abstract and anonymous" (1973, p. 389).
He links this depersonalizing concept of personhood to a detemporalizing conception of time in which the sense of time is experienced as "disconnected, dimensionless, motionless particles" (1973, p. 399). The extension of these two concepts is manifest in the ceremonialization of social life which is closely associated with lek or what Geertz refers to as “stage fright”. He describes lek as a kind of nervousness before the prospect of social interactions, a chronic low grade worry about the inability to properly carry out these interactions. Altogether, this multifaceted cultural pattern produces a situation in which collective activity fails to build toward consummation. He states, "quarrels appear and disappear, on occasion they even persist, but they hardly come to a head…ritual often seems as…to consist largely of getting ready and cleaning up…Balinese social life lacks climax because it takes place in a motional present" (1973, p. 404). The affective temporal complex that Geertz describes is a far cry from the affectively volatile and short term nature of queer and trans of color community arts initiatives. The intense passion that organizers have for their work that, over time can lead to burn out, and the vituperative conflict that tears apart personal relationships and the initiatives on which they depend are markedly different from Geertz's description of the more affect-neutral character of Balinese social life.