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Support Bubble

The elastic term used to describe the politics and aesthetics of isolation during the pandemic is “support bubble.” It determines the network model in which two or more people can have close contact according to certain parameters of eligibility. This organized system to prevent contagion amplifies the problem of loneliness and solidifies the hierarchization of social nuclear structures. This reader invokes what it would mean to think beyond normative conventions. How alternative models of kinship, family, bonds, and communities relate to relationality and mutuality? We are lost without connection but we are never alone, our bodies never isolated entities, our communities never fixed. We are entanglements constantly forming new constellations with others whose definition needs expansion.

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Compiled by Gema Darbo and Deniz Kirkali
8 Essays

Let us begin before the beginning—before the arrival of the “archon,” that is, the guardian of documents, the gatekeeper, the patriarch and the matriarch. When the undutiful daughter occupied the front room of the family home. The undutiful daughter, full of vibrant ideas not yet articulated fully, wants to provide shelter for Melly Shum, the undutiful daughter’s friend and loving aunt, who publicly declared in 1990 that she hates her job. It’s been everywhere. In the newspapers. Reporters in front of the house. On television in Teen Species. LinkedIn. Facebook. Flickr. Instagram. It’s gone viral. “Melly Shum hates her job.” On a billboard. For decades. Melly Shum. A woman of East Asian descent. Large white glasses. In her thirties. Working in an office. On her own. In Rotterdam. Pictured at work by Ken Lum. Another worker. In the picture Melly, it seems, is performing abstract labor, operating a machine to her right, maybe doing some calculations. Since 1990! Goodness. If only Melly’s abstract labor was recognized, even in retrospect—like the women trained in mathematics for the US Army’s ENIAC Project who, in the 1940s, were initially called “computers”—then she might speak again. She could speak of and against “the law of what can be said.”

Tradition! Tradition! Tradition! —“Tradition , ” Fiddler on the Roof (1964) On television, people marvel at the change. Marriage, that privileged heterosexual union, that millennia-long social institution said to be sanctified by the Christian God and his analogues, now seems to be going the way of other revered cultural traditions like slavery and human sacrifice; its terms are no longer so clearly defined. In the spring of 2013, eleven full-fledged nation-states permit...
In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot , two men wait by the side of a country road for a man who never comes. If done right, that is to say, if done with humor, fortitude, and a whiff of desperation, the play is as contemporary, funny, precise, courageous, and unknowable as I imagine it was back in 1952, when the play premiered in Paris. When I worked with others to stage Godot in New Orleans in 2007, we took many liberties to make it work at that place, for that moment in time. We...

But what does vulnerability actually mean? Is it being able to acknowledge a state of pain or insecurity, embracing the feeling of coming undone? I feel that it’s something I’ve tried to hide from others and from myself. At the cost of headaches, a bloated stomach, the inability to articulate a sentence. A mental-physical feeling of paralysis. I now suspect that people spend a lot of time and effort hiding in this way. Could I overcome my terror of falling apart if I allowed myself to rely on others, on you? Or should I be a “cruel optimist” and create hopeful and positive attachments, in full awareness that they will not work out?

“The everyday “miracle” that transpires in pregnancy, the production of that number more than one and less than two, receives more idealizing lip-service than it does respect. Certainly, the creation of new proto-personhood in the uterus is a marvel artists have engaged for millennia (and psychoanalytic philosophers for almost a century). Most of us need no reminding that we are, each of us, the blinking, thinking, pulsating products of gestational work and its equally laborious aftermaths. Yet in 2017 a reader and thinker as compendious as Maggie Nelson can still state, semi-incredulously but with a strong case behind her, that philosophical writing about actually doing gestation constitutes an absence in culture.

How
Denise Ferreira da Silva

Without time or space, a when or a where, without references to moment or place, the various versions of the question of how that inspire this conversation alleviate the task; they gather us under the assertion that weand, I mean, black women—do, or rather create. Without asking for a program or a method, it is a statement.

One divides into two, two doesn’t merge into one . This was an old Maoist slogan from the 1960s. Despite its air of universal truth it has become dated, and I fully realize the danger of appearing dated myself by starting in this way. Nowadays, one can recite this slogan in front of a class full of students and none will have ever heard it or have any inkling as to its bearing or its author—it’s almost like speaking Chinese. The slogan combines an ontological statement, a mathematical...
1. Recent feminist and queer theorizations have turned emphatically away from the ambitions of late twentieth-century universalism in favor of particular forms of life. Lightning, atoms, jellyfish, and fetuses teem from the pages of prominent journals, as do HeLa cells, extinct aurouchs, wooly coral reefs, sacred pipestone, indigenous cosmologies, toxic dumps, and transgender frogs. 1 This patchwork of objects and life-forms has much to say about the ineradicable openness of the...
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