Death is an unfolding.
we may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality….the future is queerness’ domain. queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see the future beyond the quagmire of the present….we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds….queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.
first, thank you for asking this, and i hope it’s okay that i’m answering publicly in case this is useful for anyone else. second, i want to express solidarity with you and anyone else who can’t “afford” grad school, in whatever variation that might take. the majority of what i know has not been learned in graduate school or any school at all, unless you count the tactics i’ll be listing below, which i do. for the past four years my method was this: i stole food from work, put in exactly the hours it took to make rent, and spent the rest of my money on books, travel, and luxury because they sustained me. most days i consider it a miracle i am who i am today, and it is only due to a few people who recognized me — who fought to remain alive and responsive in this world — and to my own obsession and desperation. this blog is that hardship’s archive. autodidactic learning is about following a trail, so begin with one beloved book and use the bibliography as a bridge to the next. this tracing and tracking is what will propel you through para-academic learning. organize your time, develop and refine a ritual, and say yes to the restrictions that free your energy for thinking. in avital ronnell’s words: be monomaniacal.
here are a few other ways.
sneak into conferences. sign up for the listservs of academic departments and collectives. attend campus lectures — you are a student, you are studying. visit your city’s archives and collections. join a reading group, or find a few people whose ideas you respect and make your own. don’t be afraid to contact people online or collaborate with people you’ve never met. don’t waste time on non-responsive intellectuals, superstars, or figures. don’t idolize people for whom the internet or public presence is merely a platform for receiving attention and never giving it. give of yourself what you have to offer. don’t overestimate academics, but do acknowledge that a person’s backlog of knowledge is not always visible and allow yourself to be humbled. scavenge the passwords to online databases, especially from a friend who can keep you up to date on frequently changing keys and passwords. remember public libraries. stay awake to free and discounted days at museums. join/teach at a public school, or make your own. regardless, and this is the second most important thing, you must be in dialogue with people, and this must include physically sharing space with other bodies and voices. you can learn all you want but you’ll realize that you are not all there is to it.
additionally, i know that there are elusive, emotional, and historical costs to which you might be referring. but to touch on the purely financial aspect of “affording” it, do not pay for graduate school — make them pay you. most phd programs offer a full ride and occasionally so do MAs. you do not have to afford graduate school in this way.
lastly, you can show them the limits of official belonging. by this i don’t mean being impressive or seeking (the other kind of) recognition, but that “academic freedom incurs a cost” (fred moten). you can serve as a living reminder of what is possible when you are not economically accountable or beholden to an institution. you can demonstrate the fruits of disloyalty. this is another way of being loyal.
for a list of resources,
C R U C I A L.
Read My Lips (Boys)
Going through my old notebooks. Gonna start writing again. Let’s get through Difference and Repetition, finally, then move on to this and this. Not for nothing but that sketch of intensive processes is a thing of beauty.
I’ve started fifteen different sentences and erased them all. Everything goes belly up when mom’s in town. Tumblr eats all posts. Never sure what’s going to work and what isn’t. Tonight I was certain my sister was destroying her and told her as much over blood orange pale ales at the Harlem Public. She snapped nothing’s that simple and I probably threw my glasses down and she said BENJAMIN. No one calls me Benjamin but Molly. Yeah but of course it’s the name I publish under. Nothing renders your privilege, fool son, quite as stark as a mother who’s not so simple. When we got back to the apt there was a letter from my grandmother waiting. A tiny handwritten thing with lots of exclamation points and two smiley faces. Two newspaper clippings and a check, to take mom out for a meal.
Wrote a letter for a student this morning. He’s copped to multiple counts that all feel like police piling on but he wants to be an EMS and there’s this TEST but they need to see I’m past all that and no one knows the ME in class but YOU. Fuck cops. Hope. Whatever you call a bender for academics, I’m on one. Five days in DC for a conference. Two days of bad teaching. Problem is the hangover starts much quicker. Lots of fatigue and failure save an advisement session or two. In DC I Talked a lot about technology and memory, the internet and digital performance. Walked through a lot of hotel lobbies. Panels and neologisms. Dudes swinging dicks. Best part of the whole thing was a couple hours on a barstool mugging on difference, ethics, the internet, and the stark blindness of men who know what they’re doing. I think I smirked a bit when I said capitalism and definitely laughed a lot when I said Tumblr. Lots of wondering why. Lots of questions about the giant machine we’re calling home, for now. We figured it out for a couple hours, if only to face the cold walk to the train with a bit of hope.
Hugged my mom and said I’m sorry. We don’t have to talk about this ever again. I could feel her ribs through her back, her simple nightgown. I could hear my sister and I could taste my fatigue and all the questions for which there are no easy answers. So I let all my classes go home early today because it’s Wednesday and tomorrow’s Thursday and everything feels better on Thursday or a barstool.