Work, Musings, Writings and Projects from FLEFF's Checkpoints Lab 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This week's best summary is from Bri Padilla.
According to Miriam Webster, there are ten potentially definitions for the noun "space." Interestingly enough, in addition to being a "three-dimensional expanse where matter exists," space is also defined as "freedom to assert identity."
The connection of space with identity is an intriguing one and one that was pointed out particularly well in Trevor Paglen's article, "Experimental Geography: From Cultural Production to the Production of Space." The article takes the field of geography, which itself encompasses an ambiguous position in the world of academia, and presents it as more than a tool for recording what already exists; instead he proposes that we consider geography—and its vagaries—as the means by which we've already created the realities we're recording.
By explaining the creation of space in this way Paglen attempts to exemplify how, through our understandings of the spaces we inhabit, we are producers of not only our own material surroundings but also of our own identities.
The connection between identity and geography—and the ramifications of separation from those spaces—was highlighted in Faith Warner's study on Social Suport and Distress among Q'eqchi' Refugees Women in Maya, Tecun, Mexico. Warner's study focused on the social and natal kin networks of support lost by Guatemalan Mayan refugee women. In it, she explains how the identities of these indigenous peoples were built around their proximity to family and their access to the support of "natal kin." Once this was removed, women in particular experienced increased levels of distress and vulnerability. Taking into consideration what Paglen asserts about the creation of spaces and Warner's study, I believe that a core element to their distress is the displacement of their identity through the loss of their support systems. In these tribes, daughters no longer had mothers to teach them, comfort them or support them. As a result, daughters were left not knowing—or insecure in their abilities—how to be a mother. The entire structure of their society, which was incredibly geographically focused, had shifted and now they felt unequipped.
I believe this this cycle of identity loss reinforces the need for Paglen's call to action: that we move beyond critical reflections, critique alone and experiment with new spaces, new ways of being.