the dirt

Look for the dirt behind the shine

— Naomi Klein’s grandfather (in the acknowledgements to No Logo)

overton window

I was reading something recently (but can’t for the life of me track down the original source) about politics and policy and read of The Overton Window. Since then, the Baader-Meinhof effect has kicked in big time and I’m seeing it everywhere.

First line from the Overton Window Wikipedia entry:

The Overton window is a term for the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse.

Later in the entry it says this:

In his “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York, in 1857, abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass described how public opinion limits the ability of those in power to act with impunity:

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37831314

I’m curious about the Overton Window in relation to what people are ready to see and watch in performance or on screen. What is tolerable? How is tolerance changed? How might the choreography or construction of performance or film consider the ways in which the work itself might slide through different tones of being popular, sensible, radical, unthinkable, and back to sensible …?

ahmed and recognising systems

Sara Ahmed is a remarkable writer. She writes in loops and tangles of words in which the words start to behave (or mean things) differently. It’s dizzying, simply, beautiful and challenging.

Here she is on systems:

You come against a system when you point out a system. When there is a system those who benefit from the system do not want to recognise that system.

feministkilljoys.com/2014/11/04/white-men

writing

I recently read a book by the New Zealand poet and academic Helen Sword called Stylish Academic Writing. It’s a thoughtful, considered and very well written guide for students and academics to think about the nature of the language they use. Below are three quotes that stayed with me.

On using the personal voice:

When we muzzle the personal voice, we risk subverting our whole purpose as researchers, which is to foster change by communicating new knowledge to our intended audience in the most effective and persuasive way possible.

Language and power:

Academics who are committed to using language effectively and ethically— as a tool for communication, not as an emblem of power— need first of all to acknowledge the seductive power of jargon to bamboozle, obfuscate, and impress.

Principles:

Academics identified by their peers as stylish writers for other reasons— their intelligence, humor, personal voice, or descriptive power— are invariably sticklers for well-crafted prose. Their sentences may vary in length, subject matter, and style; however, their writing is nearly always governed by three key principles that any writer can learn. First, they employ plenty of concrete nouns and vivid verbs, especially when discussing abstract concepts. Second, they keep nouns and verbs close together, so that readers can easily identify “who’s kicking whom.” Third, they avoid weighing down their sentences with extraneous words and phrases, or “clutter.” Far from eschewing theoretical intricacy or syntactical nuance, stylish academic writers deploy these three core principles in the service of eloquent expression and complex ideas.