The day after the election I went to class. It is more accurate to say that I woke up, Googled the election results, and spent most of the day hanging around my bed, until I had to leave the house to run some errands and make it to my 5:00 class.
This isn’t an anthropology department class; it’s not a class I’m required to take. It’s an upper-level women’s studies class about feminist theories and the decolonial politics of food. (Sounds awesome, right?) I walk into the classroom six minutes early. One other student is there, and half the lights are dimmed. The atmosphere is bleak, to put it mildly. Several more students come in, and then the professor enters, switching on all of the lights. No one looks happy, and half the class is missing.
The professor fiddles with the computer and project, and then closes her eyes, seeming to compose herself. I wonder what she will say, and recognize that this must be an especially difficult time for many of my professors to lead classes. “The work we are doing now matters more than ever,” the professor says. She says a few more words, affirming the value of what were studying in light of the president-elect, and then moves on to discussing the final exam. We sink our teeth into the readings for the day: an excerpt from Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of The World – perhaps the perfect book to be reading now, as it examines life in a state of precarity, looking at growth rising out of ruins.
Reading Butler perhaps excites me more. It’s the sort of post-modern discursive theory that I love. I’m fidgeting with excitement as we discuss the body as a space for identity and performativity, and how the individual exists in relationship to society. I realize that I absolutely love what I do and want to follow these tangents of thought. Even in the solemn mood, I find an aliveness in the joy of theoretical discussions, especially those with relevant applications to the worlds I find myself in and want to make.
This class has been one of the most soul-soothing experiences. Here, more than any other class, we talk about difference and identity. It’s acceptable to examine racism, sexism, and ableism. We talk about transnationalism and interconnectedness. We examine different models of feminism, none of which are presented as being beyond critique. I’ve realized that we can substitute “neurodiversity” in place of “gender” and explore many of the same arguments. And yes, this is absolutely important work. These conversations matter, and will continue to be ever-so-important as we move forward.