Planchando consciousness : public accountability, call-out culture, and a praxis sketch in queer activist scenes
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I investigate the ideological mechanisms that enable a defeatist and neoliberal conception of social justice that inform what queer activists describe as “call-out” culture. From a Gramscian point of view, I argue that the call-out, a means for correcting problems in consciousness and behavior, loses its constructive potential and becomes a punitive practice under the vocabulary of postmodern identity politics. This process creates a Foucauldian Ostrich subject who must police contradictions to sustain a static notion of safe space. I rely on in-depth interviews with queer activists in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Texas and in Oakland, CA and Seattle, WA. From these interviews, call-outs carry a key function within queer activist scenes. One, they shape political consciousness insofar as they address egregious acts like corruption or sexual harassment, and two, they sharpen one’s political position to the extent that they provide a practical means beyond prognosis of the problem. Empirically, these consciousness shaping call-outs form part of Gramsci’s Philosophy of Praxis, of working with contradictions and ironing out consciousness and political practice as a means to unify them. However, under a postmodern social justice model that displaces questions of strategy, call-outs become tools to police identities and demand loyalty, thus impeding any coalition building that weaves across different identities. Foucauldian Ostriches mobilize the call-out to create gatekeeping within activists and to impede any practical coalition building. As such, their practice aligns with neoliberal common sense in that they prescribe individual solutions to structural problems and circumscribe the terrain of struggle within cultural consumption. I then follow with theoretical tools from Gramsci such as common sense and the Philosophy of Praxis to develop call-outs that address the everyday indignities from the level of common sense, reconceptualize the call-out as a means to sift through contradictions so as to develop good sense. Finally, I provide conceptual tools from Gramsci and queer of color theoretical work to begin to develop a more historical materialist conception of queer politics.