Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Assemblages and Identities

Puar, in Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, presents her reader with the notion of an assemblage. She writes that “an assemblage is more attuned to interwoven forces that merge and dissipate time, space, and body against linearity, coherency, and permanency” (212). In presenting this conceptual intervention in Queer Politics and studies, she provides space to engage the tensions between "identity politics" and "queer politics" whereby the identity necessary for identity politics (i.e. rights based movements) is troubled by the contingent, fleeting process of identification. Identity or positionality require a snapshot, a static box that can be held up to fight for a given "x" (i.e. marriage, recogniton). Such notions of identity or position however, as Judith Butler (1990, 1993) has noted, are not natural but constructions constructed throught their repetitions and through such repetition become naturalized or as Puar writes "consolidates the fiction of a seamless stable identity in every space" (212). Identity then demands are coherence over space and inevitably over time...that my identity is the same over space and time. Yet, as queer interventions have argued...such notions of identity are troublesome to those who do not fit into such identity categories or who are violated through such naturalized or privileged identity categories.

Puar's intevention with Assemblage here provokes a recognition and negotiation with the space and time of "being" or "doing" life. She seeks, it appears, to illustrate the problems with identity and positionality and most interestingly theories of intersectionality. It is the assemblage that provides for the engagement with the temporal movement of "doing" life. If one looks at assemblage in art, one realizes that something created through assemblage is dependent on the found objects that are apart of the piece. These found objects are related to the space and time in which the piece is constructed. As a piece of art it can change...its meaning and appearance is dependent on that which is possible in any given time and space. Using this in opposition to identity, an assemblage allows "us" to see the ways in which an engagement with the world and an understanding of that world is related to the time and space in which we are engaged...the exciting although difficult part being an excavation of ways in which such assemblages become naturalized or understood as "identity"...illuminating the tension between identity as a static category and "doing" as a performance assembled from the possibilities possible - be they radical newness, subversive appropriation, or reiteration of norms. It is this tension, the process of "doing" life illustrates how "indeterminancy and determination, change and freeze-framing, go together" (213).

The use of Puar's intervention provides in these queer times, the space to imagine and re-imagine possible ways of "being" or "doing" or "relating" in this world. Yet, it recognizes the complexity of such, refusing to get rid of the necessity of "identity" but recognizing and demanding the recognition of the limitations of such an approach.

Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.
Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge.
Puar, J. K. (2007). Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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