Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Queer Loss and The Falling Man

In her chapter on Queer Feeling, Ahmed evolves the grieving for others into the grieving for the other, specifically the queer subject. The melancholic process of loss, denial, and incorporation that Ahmed suggests as a more productive method of dealing with the loss seems to tie into Berlant’s discussion of the impasse of the present. How much is this retention or sustaining of the lost object through the sustaining of impressions of that object a method of suspension rather than the progress Ahmed suggests?
     I am interested in how melancholia works through visual technology and visual representation of trauma, specifically through images of 9/11. In Cruel Optimism, Berlant described the iconic image of the Falling Man as representative of “anonymous death,” a figure “suspended in the sensorium without hitting a nerve.” (94) She acknowledges the Falling Man’s iconic significance for collective memory of 9/11, at once intimate and national (even global) but argues that his anonymity impairs an emotional impact (alternatively this is perhaps why this image is so disturbing.) The Falling Man is some ways is an inherently melancholic entity since he is lost but not a loss.
         In discussing post-9/11 mourning, Ahmed argues that the National Gay and Lesbian Journalism Association’s tactic of identifying queer losses within the larger group of 9/11 victims using individual names “works to ‘mark’ the others already labeled as losses” and so incorporate their queerness into the total, more expansive and anonymous mass of losses. Anonymity for Ahmed seems to suggest something closer to (hetero)normativity but she describes the “the apparently unmarked individual losses” as “privileged by the media.” Her logic that the “making visible some loses more than others challenges the way in which the nation is secured” highlights the way in which anonymity, as Professor Chun pointed, can be the groundwork for community, and breaking that anonymity by marking individuals as significant or different can potentially undermine community.
Berlant situates the Falling Man in the “imaginary of the impasse,” a figure falling but not hitting the ground, an emotional event permanently deferred from impact. In both cases, identification and anonymity both impede and allow for an emotional response or relation with the mainstream American viewer or public, yet the identification of certain losses as queer makes problematic the cohesion of the total losses where as the Falling Man’s lack of identification prevents his inclusion in the total conception of 9/11 victims.
     Also, I’d like to look further into the idea that the Other is often determined or constituted through a process of melancholia (Franz Fanon’s “closed circuit” or Judith Butler’s memorialized queer subject) and we sustain that figure, as Ahmed argues, through melancholia, “keeping the other…alive in the present.” (159) There may be a tension here between The Other that I am referring to (queer or non-normative identities) and the other that Ahmed is using, but I am curious how would we enter into a new relationship of melancholia with figures who we already have an established melancholic relationship with?

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