Special guest co-host Lindsey Whitmore (Rutgers) joins Rachel and John to talk about Lauren Berlant’s 2011 book Cruel Optimism. Join us as we traverse this notably title-colon-less text in queer theory and cultural studies (among other fields). We start by asking what is cruel about cruel optimism and how it is related to attachment and temporality. From there, we ask after the way affect works in the text, what we might say Berlant’s method is, how her book relates to the work of Sara Ahmed and José Esteban Muñoz, her rethinking of agency and sovereignty, and more. There are some critical questions to discuss as well: What does her analysis of fatness and obesity miss? What other relations to futurity are possible? Is optimism always (already) cruel? The discussion closes by Lindsey telling us about how Berlant’s concept of “slow death” works in her own project on debility and care and by thinking through optimism’s relationship to survival.
In One or Several Wolves?, we analyze a dream about Tina Turner and Hogwarts; In My Tumblr Friend From Canada, we advise on summer body hair.
Thanks to Hanna for suggesting this text. Requests for texts for us to discuss? Dreams for us to interpret? Advice questions for us to answer? Email us at alwaysalreadypodcast AT gmail DOT com. Follow us on twitter. Subscribe on iTunes. Like our Facebook page. Get the mp3 of the episode here. RSS feed here. This episode’s music by Jordan Cass and by B.
- Lindsey’s “Our Bodies, Their Data: Tracing Biopolitical Circuitry and The Illness Experience on PatientsLikeMe.com” in Gnovis: A Journal of Communication, Culture, & Technology
- Berlant’s homepage at Univ. of Chicago; Cruel Optimism at Duke UP
- Interview with Berlant about the book on The Critical Lede Podcast
- Public Feelings Salon with Berlant, José Muñoz, Ann Pellegrini and Tavia Nyong’o at Barnard.
- There’s an amazing punk song by Worriers inspired by the book
- “Cruel Optimism for the Neurologically Queer” by Micki McGee in Social Text