Revisiting Contract Theory, Possession, and Democracy in Class

Today’s (11/27) class was tough. I had this sense that there were twenty-seven different visions of our final project and the necessity of creating just one vision out of those twenty-seven troubled me. We saw first hand the failings of democracy, everyone knew they had to give up something. Admittedly, I did not want to budge for the first half of class, but then I began to realize that decisions of audience or format would not diminish my contributions. It almost seemed right that we had a hard time deciding how to go about this project as Butler provides us with so many avenues of thinking. After democratically electing to craft a “how-to guide” of sorts, I felt liberated by the new ability to begin work and I began to reflect on how this struggle may have been emblematic of the class so far.

The thread of contracts has run through this course since the very beginning with “Bloodchild.” The risk in dealing with a partner echoed an reverberated twenty-seven times over with the onset of this project. None of us knew who our partners would be during registration and here we are coming together in an example of what Veronica might call a setting of accelerated intimacy. I think the contractarian notion that relationships work because each partner gives something up misses the mark by a bit. Just earlier today in Humanities I, the professor posited that good relationships work because they are focused around something true or good. I think this is closer to the truth and I think the good is the literature we have encountered. We are not trading in a human sense, but an Oankali sense. We are offering our information to others to arrive at a more complete understanding of ourselves and the work that we do. There is a letting go, but not because we know that we receive something. We let go to create something.

Ultimately, this project is not mine and it is not ours. I like to think of Lilith and her relationship to Akin. Though this project may be a creation of our intellect, we offer it up to the next class to do with what they find appropriate. Ironically, when we read the piece titled “Possession” readers had trouble recognizing what was theirs to read. Today, we struggled with the question “who is this project for?” Clio offered some very thoughtful ideas on this issue. We need not concern ourselves with taking on the responsibility of authority when dealing with Butler. We are here to report what has resonated with us, how we think Butler’s work should be dealt with. We are not here to claim that we know her exact intent, we reject appropriating her work in the Lockean sense of the word. We simply want to share our ideas with the greater Geneseo community and free those ideas of our own minds because they do little good when stuck inside.

I feel now that this project is about both the finished project and the process. Dr. McCoy might want it to be about the finished project but the style of this final paper has forced us to consider what is bringing the class together. I may have given something up but now we all have something to focus and unite around, something binding us together.

One comment

  1. Sean,

    I was considering writing a blog post about today’s class, but upon reading yours, I have scrapped the idea — this post is so thoughtful and articulate that I dare not even try to write about the same thing.

    I felt a similar discontent in knowing that we all had different visions for this final project and that not all of those visions could be recognized. I am relieved that we now have settled on a format and topic for our project, so that we can all get to work on making our own contributions. I certainly share your perception that this project is valuable in terms of both product and process, and while it has been frustrating or difficult at times, I find the opportunity to see and experience the way such a group works together toward a goal to be quite fascinating upon reflection. I have a feeling (I could be wrong, of course) that we have been assigned such a laborious project not only because our professor is interested in the final project that we produce, but also because she intends for us to experience firsthand some of what Butler’s characters experience as they navigate their own relationships and situations – the failings of democracy (as you mention), along with struggles of power, consent, and the way humans work together in general. I really enjoy the way you address the essential questions of our course in the last section of your post; I see similar connections between these questions and the structure of this collaborative project. I would be greatly surprised if this was not Dr. McCoy’s intention, and I think, for me, it’s driving information I’ve derived from this course home in a way that almost mirrors what Imago did for Butler’s literature (in the order that we read the texts in this course, anyway).

    Thank you for writing this post, Sean, as it has helped me process the happenings of today’s class more effectively than anything I could have written myself.

    -Katie

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