An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Series Q)

An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Series Q)

Ann Cvetkovich

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0822330881

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this bold new work of cultural criticism, Ann Cvetkovich develops a queer approach to trauma. She argues for the importance of recognizing—and archiving—accounts of trauma that belong as much to the ordinary and everyday as to the domain of catastrophe. An Archive of Feelings contends that the field of trauma studies, limited by too strict a division between the public and the private, has overlooked the experiences of women and queers. Rejecting the pathologizing understandings of trauma that permeate medical and clinical discourses on the subject, Cvetkovich develops instead a sex-positive approach missing even from most feminist work on trauma. She challenges the field to engage more fully with sexual trauma and the wide range of feelings in its vicinity, including those associated with butch-femme sex and aids activism and caretaking. 

An Archive of Feelings brings together oral histories from lesbian activists involved in act up/New York; readings of literature by Dorothy Allison, Leslie Feinberg, Cherríe Moraga, and Shani Mootoo; videos by Jean Carlomusto and Pratibha Parmar; and performances by Lisa Kron, Carmelita Tropicana, and the bands Le Tigre and Tribe 8. Cvetkovich reveals how activism, performance, and literature give rise to public cultures that work through trauma and transform the conditions producing it. By looking closely at connections between sexuality, trauma, and the creation of lesbian public cultures, Cvetkovich makes those experiences that have been pushed to the peripheries of trauma culture the defining principles of a new construction of sexual trauma—one in which trauma catalyzes the creation of cultural archives and political communities.

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s<:xuality, which understaod the physi­ cal dynamics of sexuality to be a materialization of emotional and so­ cial processes. They suggest that making penetration meaningful is not a mistaken displacement of psychic and social processes onto the material body but a significant vehicle for working through traumatic histories. Without being essentializing, they use the body as a ground for nego­ tiating social relation:>, finding, for instance, within the sexual intimacy of the couple practices

that cannot stand to be wounded. (As Seltzer points out, the seri

effects of colonialism, and other traumas, all of which certainly make their mark on the testimony of the film's narrators. As the film proceeds, it is dear that the narrators have forged "queer" lives for themselves out of difficult circumstances as they face the demands of nation and race that structure aspects of seJCual life: such as marriage traditions. s.tlys, As one of the narrators one of the most important aspects of being khush is community, and he and others testify to the tensions

the sening for the novel, to the Shivering Wetlands (seemingly a fictionalized version of Britain), to Canada. Asha's fate remains unrepresented excepl through the never delivered letters discovered at the end of the story that reveal her abiding concern for Mala. Through her representation of those who have left Lantanacamara, Mootoo offers a critique ofher own position as a diasporic subject. Another important author surrogate is Tyler, the queer nurse trained 150 abro;:ad who finds in both

to underscore its devastating impact. More so even than the sexual trauma of incest, which occupies the ambiguous terrain of what Berlant has called the "intimate public sphere," it seems to have made its way into the canon of national pub­ lic .:ulture.'1 Within the university and cultural studies approaches to trauma, the inclusion of A I o s in, for example, Cathy Caruth's importaut collection Trauma: Exploratious in Memory ur Marita Sturken's Ta11gled Memor-ies can be taken as signs of the

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