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2015 - American Studies Association Annual Meeting Words: 382 words || 
1. Anable, Aubrey. "The Miserable Internet: Wizardchan, 4chan, and Other Systems of #Gamergate" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Centre and Towers, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, <Not Available>. 2019-12-09 <>
Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: In the 1990s, cyberfeminism proposed embracing the emerging web of networked personal computers in order to inject an embodied socialist feminist politics into the masculine world of technoutopianism (Plant, Haraway). A privileged mode of expression for the emergence of cyberfeminism was the VNS Matrix-created video game All New Gen in which players entered the “Contested Zone” of the Internet to do “battle against Big Daddy Mainframe and his technobimbo sidekicks—Circuit Boy, Streetfighter and other total dicks.” By the turn of the century, cyberfeminism had faded in part because the qualities of anonymity and experimental play that made the Internet appealing in the first place had receded in the rush to commodify the web and its subjects.

In 2015, video games have emerged as the “Contested Zone” and the Internet is an increasingly miserable place to be a woman, especially a feminist. In the late summer and fall of 2014, coordinated attacks on women game designers, journalists, and feminist media critics coalesced around the Twitter hashtag “Gamergate.” This paper takes #Gamergate as a case study through which to explore how the particular tone and tactics of the harassment of feminist critics and other “social justice warriors” on and off-line are systemically and affectively bound up with the architecture, protocols, and policies of the Internet platforms and forums that mediate #Gamergate as an event. This event is difficult to understand if one only pays attention to the flashpoints of activity around particular targets (Sarkeesian, Quinn, Wu). As a corrective, this paper proposes a reading of the larger systems through which the misery generated by #Gamergate flows and which structure the particular textures and vibrations of negative affect that play out across a wider miserable Internet. Thinking through #Gamergate as a material assemblage of intermediated objects, human and otherwise, this paper argues that the ways identity, anonymity, and collectivity are expressed in this event are not breakdowns in the system, but rather part of the everyday mediality of violence in the 21st century (Grusin).

Framing this analysis within a reconsideration of cyberfeminism we find the issues of anonymity and play re-emerging with a vengeance, but now as the locus for male-identified resentment and rage. How might networked feminism in the present understand these historical resonances across the last twenty years to find a less miserable future?

2015 - American Studies Association Annual Meeting Words: 495 words || 
2. Campbell, Peter. "Miserable Capacities" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Centre and Towers, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, <Not Available>. 2019-12-09 <>
Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: In its 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme declared most restrictions on consensual sodomy unconstitutional under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. But the Texas and Georgia sodomy laws struck down by Lawrence are still on the books in 2015, as are similar laws in Massachusetts, fifteen other states, and the United States’ Uniform Code of Military Justice. Lawrence did not eliminate sodomy laws. Instead, it continued what was, as Erica R. Meiners argues, already an ongoing process of state and federal redefinition of sodomy laws as tools for the surveillance and punishment of sex offenders, as opposed to both gay and heterosexual people who engage in legally legitimate sexual activity.

This presentation joins existing work in queer, trans, and feminist legal studies to assert an important relationship between U.S. judicial arguments that have the effect of protecting adult persons from assault by the state on the basis of the relationships they “seek to enter.” These protections are vital. But both sets of arguments also have other effects, including, I argue, the furtherance and further legitimation of the United States’ present state of incarceration. Regardless of the outcome of marriage recognition and other present sexual identity liberation struggles, U.S. sodomy laws will continue their disproportionately active role in the daily lives of, in particular, poor, queer, trans, people of color.

This inter-relationship between sex liberalization and criminalization constructs a legal regime of miserable capacity—where the capacity for sexual freedom from and resistance to sexual violence is constituted upon the misery of presumptively non-consensual incarceration. I examine this regime of miserable capacity through a consideration of those who are forcibly constituted in U.S. judicial and prison administrative rhetoric—in particular, the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act—as child-like and so unable to consent, because they have been locked into a set of relationships where consent, as Justice Kennedy declares in Lawrence, “might not easily be refused.” Most U.S. prison administrations interpret the Act as presuming the impossibility of consensual sexual contact not only between prisoners and prison employees and volunteers, but among prisoners themselves. These interpretations of the PREA interpellate prisoners as child-like with respect to their sexual agency, such that prison administrations are responsible, in a parent-like way, for the safety and well-being of those under their charge. Like the child-subject of law, the prisoner-subject has no agency in this relationship—they are wards of the state.

The question I pose through this analysis is whether it might be possible to construct an understanding of consent that resists, rather than depends on, the miserable relationship between the capacity for consent, and legally constituted childness, that the PREA is just one example of. I think this question bears considering, because the status quo of legal protections against sexual violence, particularly for children, are predicated on the physical and psychological misery of other persons constituted as child-under-law. We should consider whether the resistive capacities these protections afford are worth the violence they necessarily incur.

2015 - American Studies Association Annual Meeting Words: 492 words || 
3. Berwick, Hilary. "Militarized Violence Is Miserable-Making: Accounting for the Misery of Being Violent For the State" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Centre and Towers, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, <Not Available>. 2019-12-09 <>
Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: How can epistemologies of misery explain or memorialize the functioning of state violence? Further, how do we understand the emotions of those enacting violence on behalf of the state, and how might that understanding offer us the possibility of resistance or abolition? It is common, especially in affect theory, to see trauma as a result of having violence inflicted upon a subject, such that trauma is both the violence and the aftermath of that violence. As Halberstam, Cvetkovich, Berlant and Brown, among others, have shown, emotional trauma from experiencing violence persists, returning over and over again, and requiring its own methodologies and modes to be understood. However, neither trauma studies nor affect theory have turned to the trauma of inflicting violence. Meanwhile, historians of war from Binneveld to Van Creveld, alongside historians of psychology and psychiatry like Benjamin and Grob, have long recognized mental dis-ease as a result of participating in war, even while the nomenclature has changed (from nostalgia to shell shock to battle fatigue to PTSD). For professionalizing and medical epistemologies like psychiatry and psychology in the early 20th century, the bodily ‘solution’ was to turn to eugenics and the already-vulnerable to prevent ‘weak-willed’ soldiers from signing up or being sent to war. A hundred years later, police officers are increasingly likely to report experiencing PTSD alongside their increasing militarization. As importantly, these emotional epistemologies – PTSD, shell shock, what’s being loosely termed ‘police PTSD’ – appear in defenses of police violence, especially in the aftermaths of Ferguson. As white police officers around the country justify the killing of young Black men (among other populations) by pointing to their own fear, emotion clearly plays multiple roles in sanctioning narratives of state violence.
In “Militarized Violence is Miserable-Making,” I ask, what are the stakes for questions like, is militarized violence emotionally damaging to the people inflicting that violence? Itself a kind of memorializing of trauma, this question tends to spark two responses: first, a reluctance to extend what we understand as a humanizing, compassionate gesture to a group of people who inflict such socially sanctioned violence; second, a justified resistance to expanding medicalizing epistemologies which are already imbricated with eugenics, sexual violence, the pathologization of women and queer folks, among myriad other disciplinary functions. But to move ourselves beyond immediate affective responses enables us to ask about the affective residues of being violent against other humans, and how we might chart or track the ways militarized violence is actually bad - maybe even miserable-making - for everyone. This paper reads psychiatric survivors’ challenges to the medicalization of their lives (also called “mad liberation”) alongside a raciality of emotion (in which a white man’s fear of a young Black teenager legally ‘justifies’ the latter’s death). As such, it levies emotionality as both organizational schema and weapon, arguing for the possibility of resistance in the messy and often contradictory epistemologies that we use to explain and commemorate trauma, emotion, violence, and the police.

2015 - American Studies Association Annual Meeting Words: 475 words || 
4. Duane, Anna Mae. "Miserable Pedagogy: Colonial Education at the New York African Free School" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Centre and Towers, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, <Not Available>. 2019-12-09 <>
Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: I crave your sympathy for myself and for my School mates, for I feel that we need it.
Had I the mind of a Lock[e] and the eloquence of a Chatham
Still would there not be in the minds of some an immense distance that would divide me from one of a White Skin—
What signifies it? Why should I strive hard, and acquire all the constituents of man, If the prevailing genius of the land admits as such, but in an inferior degree, —Pardon me if I feel insignificant and weak—Pardon me if I feel discouragement to oppress me to the very earth. Am I arrived at the end of my education? . . .
Drudgery and servitude then are my prospects—can you be surprised at my discouragement?
--James Fields, Valedictory Address,
New York African Free School ca 1822

My paper seeks to understand the miserable valedictory address I’ve quoted in the epigraph. This speech, like many other students gave at the New York African Free School (1787-1833), was written by white schoolmasters and performed by Black students before white benefactors. As such, it makes very little sense. Why would administrators script such a wretched lament as a pitch to raise money for the very school Fields describes as an exercise in futility?
In the years leading up to James Fields’ valedictory speech, Anglo-American educational theory was largely organized around what Benjamin Rush called the spirit of emulation. A book in use at the school James attended, Lindley Murray’s popular English Reader, emphasizes the importance of student transformation through repetition: “It is essential to a complete reader, that he minutely perceive the ideas, and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he professes to repeat.” Thus in order to effectively read an author’s words, a student must be capable of “entering into the feelings” of the author himself, reproducing the emotional and intellectual state of the master within his own heart.
As James Fields’s poignant valedictory address indicates, the emotional work of education in this school was a reciprocal exercise—not only must students “enter into the feelings” of white teachers and authors, but white adults must also be enticed to have a deep sympathy for the student—to feel the transformation that education has wrought. If white audiences and teachers find their prejudices unmoved by a Black student with the “mind of a Locke and the eloquence of a Chatham”—then the student has failed. Thus, in a narrative that continues to engender misery among students of color today, NYAFS students’ status as children—as individuals capable of growth through education—depends on the emotional responses of white onlookers. If the feelings of whites remain stuck in prejudice, then the student “arrives at the end of [his or her] education” without having moved forward at all.

2015 - American Studies Association Annual Meeting Words: 209 words || 
5. Musser, Amber. "Out of Fashion: Miserable Feminists and Queer Time" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Centre and Towers, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, <Not Available>. 2019-12-09 <>
Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: Contemporary queer theory frequently accuses 1970s and 1980s feminists of being “miserable”—their essentialism outdated, their feminism edges toward racism, and they are ignorant of the nuances of gender. In short, they are deemed unfashionable. In this progress narrative, queer theory emerges as the present (and future) intellectual and political endeavor to right these wrongs. For a discourse that is premised on upending social norms, queer theory also spends a lot of energy relegating its insecurities to the past and maintaining the pristineness of its theoretical present. Drawing on queer theory’s narratives of its origins, this talk explores the implications of this queer exceptionalism and this retrospectively projected misery. By asking how feminist anger becomes misery, the talk unpacks different layers of meaning behind the idea that “the personal is political.” These shifting affective dynamics also provide insight into why unfashionableness and misery coincide and help to elucidate the difference between anger or depression and misery. Further, framing queer theory as a space of productive complaint as opposed to racist misery relegates theoretical racism to the past while allowing theorists to avoid thinking about present omissions of race. Finally, this talk asks if shifting away from misery opens up a different temporal relationship toward this branch of feminist theory.

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