Archive for February, 2007

Queer pedagogy

This was written as a review for somethin’ else but I thought it was worth posting, and reflecting more informally on. Comments are most welcome. 🙂

In “Queering Pedagogy in the English Classroom: Engaging with the Places Where Thinking Stops,” Amy E. Winans challenges educators to employ a queer pedagogy, which she explains, “entails decentering dominant cultural assumptions, exploring the facets of the geography of normalization and interrogating the self and the implications of affiliations” (107). The theme of sexuality is already present in student slang with expressions such as “that is so gay” used to refer to behavior that is contrary to normative masculinity, therefore, according to Winans the silence surrounding issues of sexuality in the classroom is artificial. By inviting the discussion into the classroom, students are able to engage with a theme that is present in national debates over same sex marriage and gay rights, prominent in many media products, and part of the talk of the locker room and cafeteria.

The model proposed by Winans requires that instead of staying away from conflict in the classroom, students be led to explore those areas of cognitive dissonance that emerge when the conflicting values of the discourse communities they belong to are revealed. She argues that a queering of the curriculum has implications beyond those of sexual orientation, leading to a process of critical (self) examination and practice with wider applications in student lives.

Winans’ proposition is appealing as a practical and relevant way to bring critical pedagogy into the classroom. By providing the students with tools to critically engage with their reality in a context of dialogue and discussion, students are being empowered to examine and explore hegemonic values that they might have never questioned otherwise. Society often assigns a negative value to controversy or debate, but as an educator it is in the difficult discussions that I have seen the most growth and excitement in learners and in myself as an educator/learner.

The proposition of a queer pedagogy challenging silences and naturalized positions is also relevant to the teaching of multiculturalism. It has been established that to simply include texts by the ‘other’ is not sufficient as it actually reinforces the normativity of the white subject. This queering approach requires that the normative categories become the target of examination and discussion.

Creating a student-centered learning space requires attention to the topics of discussion that are relevant to the learners’ lives and communities. When an issue is being hotly debated in the media, it is only logical that it be addressed in the classroom. By engaging with the learner as a whole human, and acknowledging the various discourse communities they belong to, sports teams, religious groups, ethnic communities, and many others, they are given an opportunity for self-discovery and critical learning. Discussions that encourage students to question their assumptions can only lead to greater understanding of the self, and eventually the other. This is a worthy goal for any class.

Winans, Amy E. “Queering Pedagogy in the English Classroom:
Engaging with the Places Where Thinking Stops.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture 6:1 (2006): 103-122.

One of the great things about Winans’ discussion is the challenge to the usual practice of ‘othering’ in the classroom. Rather than simply focusing in on queer sexual identities and preaching the condescending gospel of tolerance, Winans is proposing a challenge to heteronormativity. WHY are the romantic relationships we read in English class only heterosexual? What power relationships are implied in this dynamic? Likewise, the examination of the construct ‘white’ as a racial identity should be part and parcel of the multicultural curriculum.

My own teaching philosophy tends to embrace conflict and debate as a learning opportunity. I work to create an environment where learners can take risks, be safe enough to deal with the discomfort of examining their own beliefs. I, of course, am always poking and prodding at the things I hold as truths and I love it when I am shown a different side, a new idea to consider, something I’ve overlooked…

When I was teaching first year composition, one of my favorite exercises was to have students play devil’s advocate:

In small groups they would select a controversial issue they all had opinions on. Abortion. Same Sex Marriage. Euthanasia. Legalization of Prostitution. Legalization of Marihuana. Sex before marriage. Anything goes.

They were asked to discuss the issue then… I would ask them to craft an argumentative paper that advocated the opposite position than the one held by the group. IN cases of mixed opinions they would either split into subgroups or negotiate.

I tried to avoid doing this the week before professor evaluations because I was not very popular then. Students tended to hate this exercise. Usually by the end it grew on them and while I did not expect to change anyone’s mind, I did expect to ‘force’ them to consider different viewpoint. It was always fun to watch the process unfold, and I always learned as much from it as my students did in the end.

And, while I never wrapped it up in a pedagogical package, I was constantly queering the curriculum.

I’ll never forget some of the wonderful class discussions on words like ‘cabron’ and ‘maricon’ in their many uses. But that is a blog for another time!

I survived OPTIKA 2

Elias Adasme's performance

And I let the organizers know, that if they do the third edition I am coming. I am going to perform. I will probably light shit on fire. And I will come from far far away. And I will yell at the chancellor. And I will demand to be paid in unmarked bills. And I will be a prima donna, a diva and a bitch all rolled into one enticing package.

What I won’t be is working!

The conference was moderately fabulous. I had to miss some of the papers I wanted to see because I was busy coordinating crap. I did get to see some great films, enjoy the art exhibits (although really, a few boxes with shaved off leg hair and a video of a dude shaving his legs… that was a bit too conceptual for my aesthetically repressive ass).

I gave a good paper although my favorite bit was when a cell phone rang in the first row of the theatre I paused in my delivery and asked the guy if it was for me in a deadpan. If I had planned it I wouldn’t have pulled it off. Sometimes I crack myself up.

Anyway, I was hoping I’d post a more coherent postmortem but I’m too busy to process much more than this.

It’s over.
sculpture on the mic

Ode to MayoKetchup

I used to frown on the use of Mayoketchup…

for those of you who have not had the culinary experience it is a mixture of mayo and ketchup (duh!!) usually with garlic powder, sometimes a little bit of mustard. ANYway… it is similar to the beast called fry sauce in some places. But here on the island it is used as dip for tostones (fried plantains) and as salad dressing.

So, back to my story.

I used to think mayoketchup was so ‘ghetto.’ Una jibareria. That and putting canned vegetales on salad. I still can’t stand the latter but I have to admit I’ve come to a truce with mayoketchup. I still won’t buy iceberg unless I’m desperate, I still am a snob about vine ripened tomatoes, I love some homemade honeymustard dressing with balsamic.

Mayoketchup has grown on me. I’ll confess if you give me a delicate salad with fresh greens with a few walnuts and then have me chose between a raspberry vinagrette or mayoketchup I might be swayed but when I’m going out for some chuletas, rice and beans, well, mayoketchup is just right for the iceberg and mealy tomato that I also love sometimes.

So today we got the craving for comida criolla and I didn’t feel like cooking so we decided to try out a new restaurant in town. We ordered Churrasco for the boi and Shrimp with a mango sauce for Me and some rice and beans and salads. We were asked for our choice of dressing and if we wanted the house dressing. I said yes, el aderezo de la casa por favor. The boi looked impressed. I laughed to myself.

Of course we got little cups of mayoketchup (usually it is served in a squeeze bottle so this was pretty fancy shit!). The boi was surprised but realized I had known all along that this pompous attempt at fanciness hid nothing more exotic than the cafre dressing of choice.

I don’t know if it’s nostalgia that makes the shit taste good. Or if it’s the fact that I don’t feel a need to prove anything to myself. Or just a loss of comemierderia.

Whatever it is, it’s hella good on tostones.

Buen provecho.

El Faro de Rincon

A beautiful day!

Yes, btw all photographs on here are taken by ME unless otherwise noted.

El Faro de Rincon