Angry Subjects: In/Civility, Christian Nationalism, and the Paranoid Position in an Age of Trump
Sponsored by Religious Studies.
In her now-classic 1981 essay “The Uses of Anger,” Audre Lorde, commends anger as a force that allows us to attend to histories of structural oppression. In particular, she urges women of color to name and speak their anger aloud and challenges white feminists to hear it without getting defensive. “The angers between women will not kill us," Lorde writes, "if we can articulate them with precision, if we listen to the content of what is said with at least as much intensity as we defend ourselves against the manner of saying. When we turn from anger we turn from insight, saying we will accept only the designs already known, deadly and safely familiar.” Instead of turning from anger, we need, in her words, “to stand still, to listen to its rhythms, to learn within it.” Meeting Lorde’s charge—to tarry with anger—remains no less urgent and no less discomforting today than it was when she issued her call in 1981. A call to and for anger may even seem counter-intuitve and counter-producitve in the age of Trump. Shouldn't we want less rancor, fewer angry words in public? This paper returns to Lorde as a resource for the present-day and as a retort, as well, to those who bemoan the loss of civility in U.S. political discourse. Focussing on concrete case studies -- and drawing on the resources of queer of color critique, psychoanalysis, and affect studies -- this talk traces how norms of civility have worked to encode white Christian nationalism. For which subjects and which bodies, was anger ever permissible and civility ever an achievable ideal?
Bio: Ann Pellegrini is Professor of Performance Studies and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, where she also directs the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. She is the author of Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race (Routledge, 1997); co-author, with Janet R. Jakobsen, of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (NYU Press, 2003; Beacon Press, 2004); and co-author, with Michael Bronski and Michael Amico, of “You Can Tell Just By Looking” and 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People (Beacon Press, 2013). She has also published two anthologies: Queer Theory and the Jewish Question, co-edited with Daniel Boyarin and Danial Itzkovitz (Columbia University Press, 2003); and Secularisms, co-edited with Janet R. Jakobsen (Duke University Press, 2008). She is co-editor of the book series “Sexual Cultures,” which is published by New York University Press, and a contributing editor to the journal Studies in Gender and Sexuality. She is currently a training candidate in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy, in New York City.