Notes from last week.

July 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Dear AAB friends,

last week we met for our final meeting of the fourth session. Our time together this round was brief, but very stimulating. We examined the dynamics and intentions of the group as a whole, re-evaluating our values, our politics, and our boundaries. Our readings this round were meant to make more explicit a context that we believed to be already implicit in our analyses of the texts in previous sessions. We dealt with issues of race, sex, gender, structural violence, poverty, and colonialism.

For the last meeting, we read Jackie Wang’s “Against Innocence,” which examines the politics of “innocence” as a legitimising criteria for rallying against unjust violence. She cites incidents of violence against black bodies that caused widespread uproar (the most recent and mainstream example of which would be the Trayvon Martin case), whose victims were viewed as innocent (not carrying a weapon, not violent). She also discusses violence against women of colour, sex workers, poor women, et al. as often using the rhetoric of the “loose woman,” a victim-blaming process in which a woman’s chastity is her only evidence of violence done onto her, and any woman who falls outside of the definition of a “virtuous woman” is not a subject who can give consent and is not considered human (NHI). What is also discussed in the text is the popular, but internalised conception that subjects who are not proper (innocent, defenseless, non-violent) victims cannot be acceptable political actors.

We also examined the phenomenon of “safe space,” and how the safety of already privileged individuals tends to override the needs of others and, in fact, re-introduces structural violence and oppressive hierarchies into what is supposed to be a “radical” space.

Our work this session is to chew on these texts, evaluate our own behaviours and interactions. The meetings were filled with accounts of personal experiences that related to the theories discussed in our readings. We’d like everyone to hang onto those for the time being, and please stay tuned for a call for submissions for the next publication.


July 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week we read texts by Frank B. Wilderson III and Angela Davis. They both open the discourse for radical social movements, explicitly addressing how the interconnection to race and racism has been stifled in prison abolition and anti-rape movements.

For Wilderson civil society itself is what has and continues to destroy Black bodies (he refers to prison-slaves and the prison-slave-in-waiting as well as bodies that “magnetize bullets”), and to concede to its democratization solely perpetuates violence and racism. He unflinchingly calls for disorder and “the disconfiguration of civil society” as this aligns with the essential positionality of the Black subject and corporeality. Demanding the system to reform and repair its historical splinters does not put an end to the hegemonic terror and violence inflicted upon Black bodies. He begs the question: can the junior partners (immigrants, white women, working class) be in unity with Black communities if they concede to policies and small crumbs from the State that are fortified upon anti-Black rhetorical structures?

Davis looks at both particular cases of sexual violence and how official policy and the judicial system is often the perpetrator of violence against women. Rape is used as a political weapon, from racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, to racist instructions employed by the US military, to the maintenance and upkeep of civil society. The myth of the Black rapist is an image Davis frequently explores in her work whereby white women are socialized to fear black men and desire protection from white men.

There are tendencies in social movements (rooted in Gramscian discourse) to view capitalism as the base rather than white supremacy. We questioned Marxism’s “conceptual anxiety” as it merely demands to democratize production and labour rather than demanding “production stop.” Production itself being the site of death. We were excited to see this interrogation and adjustments to radical discourse, venturing so far as to see possibilities in necessarily excessive language. Davis’ speeches and writing are clear and unashamed, demanding more from everyone.

Join us for our last week as we read Jackie Wang’s “Against Innocence” published in LIES, a journal of materialist feminism. As a young contemporary, Wang makes reference to many of the writers in this session of about a bicycle, and will compliment last week’s discussions. We will look at how the notion of innocence is “just a code for nonthreatening to white civil society” and how “safe space” becomes appropriated in rhetoric in order to redeem whiteness. The journal in its entirety is available on the schedule and definitely worth a read if you haven’t already done so.

Restating the Problem of One-Size-Fits-All

July 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week, we encountered Rey Chow’s discussion of postmodernism and its various encounters. Postmodernism’s “global” (though unapologetically occidental) perspective groups feminism with other “marginalised discourses”– a sort of levelling out that erases difference between struggles and material experience. Federici gave us an example of a material struggle taking place in various countries in Africa.  Colonialism brought a relation to land that was incompatible with the pre-colonial relation to land. The neoliberal drive to privatise land and sell to outside corporations is acting as a new colonialism. Both processes leave women without land, which means that they cannot subsistence farm, that they cannot feed their families, that they have no income.

This week we’ll be reading Frank B. Wilderson III’s “The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal” and Angela Davis’s “We Do Not Consent: Violence Against Women in a Racist Society,” in which we’ll see the postmodern indifference reproduced in white supremacy, and clashing material struggles within a broadly feminist framework.

Is History Is Writing Is Research Is …

June 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies posits provocative questions: “Is History Important for Indigenous Peoples?” and “Is Writing Important for Indigenous Peoples?” These questions speak to the totalizing feedback loop of colonialism, as but one expression of imperialism, that become reproduced in the current formations of institutional/economic/political/social systems. Writing/Theory/History have been (and continue to be) predicated on a sense of Otherness connecting to “what is worthy of being history” in the industrial state.

There is a tension between what research is and how indigeneity is implicated in it. As well as a friction: carving out space for alternative knowledges and histories don’t replace the concurrent existence of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Smith writes something like how there are always collisions with dominant views while also attempting to transform them. All of these things reside in tandem – the hard fact of land rights yet the complete denial of land rights (subsequently the denial of being a settler) – and it is infuriating. “We” talked through this in relation to value systems (beyond the particular/beyond the universally dominant/what is valued and what isn’t/what is legitimated/what becomes legitimated research becomes monetized).

We”, being settlers in the room, and along with the admission of AAB having yet to formally engage with colonialism discourse head on during sessions, discussed the ways in which the questions directed at researchers (Whose research is it? Who owns it? Whose interests does it serve? Is her spirit clear? What other baggage are they carrying?) are taken up in our collective and individual work. How do we read and interpret a text, like Smith’s, that speaks to a particular subject position where we’re not appropriating the thesis as our own but still internalizing its message in order to decolonize? Speaking for AAB, we talked about how consensus and the mastery of a selected text has never really been of interest, and that the group itself has been structured around encouraging alternative readings of texts – or at least ways of reading and interpretation that are given less traction in the academy.

Naturally there is lots more to say! Best to come join us next week for a reading of Rey Chow’s “Postmodern Automatons” and Silvia Federici’s “Women, Land Struggles, and the Reconstruction of the Commons.” The readings can be found on our schedule. Some of us will be driving northwards, discussing the texts and swatting black flies in tandem!


June 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last week we discussed bell hooks’s “Eating the Other” in conjunction with the poem by Douglas Kearney entitled “Radio.” The texts opened up a great deal of personal experiences and allowed us to view them in a critical light. We were able to examine relations between individuals, often ourselves, framed in the relation between race and desire. bell hooks examined the way dark continents and similarly dark bodies shifted from being undesirable to desirable by the “the west.” Intimate interactions with dark bodies become “spice” and flavour to an otherwise tasteless white palate. “Radio” showed us how representations and desire of black bodies/voices shifted as a result of the radio.

Next week, we’ll be discussing the introduction and first chapter of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies.  As always, the readings will be found on the blog.

Date: Wednesday 18 June 2014

Time: 7:30

“We had our feminist reading group last night.” “Oh yeah, the hen house.”

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last night was festive, intimate and included much necessary debate, to use one of Ahmed’s keywords (“this debate?”), about what counts as feminist theory. After three sessions and producing three journals, we are thinking about the ways we’re positioning ourselves as a group/collective on a political and social level, and also about the ways we become positioned, or more so categorized as a group/collective/individuals.

We’re tightening up. Theoretical kegel exercises, if you will.

A brief recap: We talked about issues around feminist theory becoming it’s own capital “T” theory. Historically theory has used very phallocentric language and feminist work, in opposition to this, involved including women into the discourse. Ahmed is conscious of language’s role in delineating theory as more or less read in the academy, and she brings this to focus when not treating “theory” as a fixed object of study but preferring the verb “theorizing” “as it makes clear that there is a process involved” (99). Theory is in motion, always moving. Movement, then, is another keyword in producing feminist theory whereby some women (“Western bourgeois feminist nomadic intellectuals”) have the mobility and freedom to travel, reaping the benefits of the modern day pilgrimage, while other women (“who do not have passports”) do not. Acknowledging this differentiation in power is one point the other is to consider how “feminist theory is about producing different ways of dwelling and moving in the world in the very act of explaining its own existence, as form of contestation, in local spaces.”

We looked at theory as pattern making, involving a series of questions, as well as the double register and cyclical effect of dispute: contesting capitalist patriarchy and white imperialism, contesting the work of feminists, contesting the personal, contesting … (etc.). We talked about how exhausting this can become, self-sacrificial in ways yet vital to social transformation and social responsibility.

We were also critical of how the academy and institution were framed as recognizing feminist theory as such. Important critiques concerning the feminist theorist as a translator to the “undercommons” (segue to reading groups of plenty this summer) were brought forward.

Next week:

Time: 7:30-9:30 pm

Date: June 11th 2014

We’ll be reading bell hooks’ chapter from Black Looks titled “Eating the Other” and Douglas Kearney’s poem “Radio”, in continuation of addressing the differences within feminisms as well as interrogating the manipulative post-colonial consumption of “otherness.”

See current schedule for links to the articles.


AAB launches at the Post-Saltbox Salon

December 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

AAB launched I’m, like, in love with you! for the second time at the Post-Saltbox Salon in Calgary. This was a debut event for the Post-Saltbox Salon and we look forward to seeing what else  transpires in the space. Thank you to the Calgary contingent and to all the readers who made the evening a special one.

AAB will be on hiatus til Spring 2014! Please send us a message at if you’d like to join us in the New Year.

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AAB launches Issue 3 in Calgary: I’m, like, in love with you!

December 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


Friday, December 13th at 8pm

AAB | about a bicycle

I’m, like, in love with you!

issue 3 | autumn 2013

“To be affected by something is to evaluate that thing” – Sara Ahmed

Join us as we celebrate a special Calgary launch of our third issue, I’m, like, in love with you!

In conjunction with our recent summer project on The Affective State, issue three explores the specificity of the term “affect,” from enabling ugly feelings for political action, to discursively produced affect, to pre-subjective intensities, to the effect of neoliberal precarity on our affective lives, to physiology, psychology, and to the body. The evening features Kathleen Brown, Carmen Derksen, Rafaela Kino, Anahita Jamali Rad, Claire Lacey, Danielle LaFrance, Nikki Reimer, and Rachel Zolf.

AAB is a group of self-identified women, with interest in reading and discussing critical themes that are pertinent to the space and time of the readers. “Community” and “politics” are inextricable, and we seek to cultivate this connection without fear of being called “feminist killjoys.” This project on affect was co-facilitated by Anahita Jamali Rad in Vancouver and by Danielle LaFrance in Calgary and brought together by an affect machine, the machine that keeps love alive, Skype.

Hosted at POST-SALTBOX SALON (531 24 Avenue NW)

**The house has a cat**

The issue will be available for $10 at the launch. Previous issues will be available for free.

(please circulate this invitation)


November 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

This machine can excavate, analyze and output your affective state. It is a critical video response to social practices and theory that aim to colonize, commodify and depoliticize autonomic bodily processes.

Video made from paper cut outs using the technique of stop motion animation, by Rafaela Kino. Music made with moog synthesizer, March of the Martians, by Harry Breuer.

First screened during About a Bicycle’s launch of I’m, like, in love with you! based on a reading series on affect theory.

We’re, like, in love with you all!

October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

The launch of issue 3, I’m, like, in love with you! was a grand success. Hosted at The Reading Room, at which we were able to screen Rafaela’s critical and humourous stop-motion animation, project Jacquelyn’s whimsical images while she read, and at which Dorothy, Danielle, and Anahita (with the help of Penelope, Maria, and Molly) were able to utilise the architecture of the space in order to disorient and/or disrupt a normalised notion of a poetry reading.
Thank you to everyone who submitted, performed, or helped create a magical evening for all who attended.
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