Out in the Country: Youth, Media and Queer Visibility in Rural America

July 2, 2011 § 3 Comments

One of the irritating things about this exam process is that I’m not reading for fun or even for learning, I’m reading for The Test. That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying the process, because I am, sometimes. And that’s not to say that I’m not learning, because that’s also happening. But the exam is structured in such a way that I have to be efficient and practical about what I study and how. In a nutshell, I have to take a ME-ME-ME approach to the things I read — how does this selection fit into MY project, MY interests, MY exam schema. It’s entirely solipsistic, and I don’t like it. But I only have so much time, and have a shitton to read, and am trying to make my life as easy as possible. To do this I’ve identified several likely exam questions (I won’t know exactly what’ll be asked of me till the day of) through which I’ve been framing all my readings. As I read, I identify what I’ll be able to use for each possible testing scenario, which, as you’ve probably seen, I briefly sketch out at the end of each entry. The reading part, though, that’s what’s annoying. For example, as I was reading Mary Gray’s dizzyingly well-researched Out in the Country, I had to focus on the usable bits, since that’s what I’m here to mine. Again, I don’t like it. But such is life I suppose.

In a nutshell, Out in the Country interrogates how and why and in what ways rural queer youth engage media. Furthermore it “questions how the taken-for-granted binaries of rural/urban, closeted/visible, and online/offline work together to privilege ideologies of visibility and produce isolation irrespective of where one lives, universally marginalizing queer lives beyond the metropoles in the process” (29). But could I linger too long over meaningless details like “what the book is about?” Hell no, because I have a test to pass! -And instead focused on the aspects of Gray’s argument that I’ll be able to integrate into my answer. Like I said, the whole thing is pretty gross.

Whatever though, I’m used to it. So, keeping my (likely) questions in mind, here are the recyclables:

1. “in situ”: a concept to describe media artifacts; emphasis on context. “Archeologists use this phrase to describe an artifact at the point of unearthing or sighting, one that is still embedded in a deposit suggesting its age and cultural context” (126) — applicable to the point and purpose of a particular joke.

2. “boundary public”: a concept describing how individuals appropriate –ostensibly public– spaces which “meet the distinct expectations of different social groups ‘both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and…yet robust enough to maintain a common identity.'” (95) In short, a moment of liminality in an otherwise demarcated space. Conditions which engender the need for boundary publics are characterized by “circulation rather than congregation” (89). i.e. no stable home (118) — could be likened to spaces (either geographical or emotional) in which jokes are told. 

3. “reference groups”: concept from sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani, “audiences that are not obviously on the scene” (129)…”Each person performs for some kind of audience; in the drama of life, as in the theatre, conduct is oriented toward certain people whose judgment is deemed important” (131) — relevant to discussions of constitutive humor. 

4. importance of ethnography, connection to permeability between online and offline spaces (Baym quote on 14): the whole point of this book is to challenge the idea that there are any simple “fly-over” answers to the kinds of questions people pose about the media and people’s engagement with/reaction to similar. Everything is overdetermined. In order to know how rl collides with or supplants or augments online life, you have to ask the people whose lives they are (What Sex am I section). — gets back to issues of context and the dangers of  mapping things you’re only seeing from inside an airplane. 

Approach to feeder question and stand-alone question(s) will probably be similar, and will help provide structural support. Boy oh boy aren’t instrumentalist approaches fun!

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§ 3 Responses to Out in the Country: Youth, Media and Queer Visibility in Rural America

  • Dr. Doom says:

    in situ is actually from one of your folklore friends, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett— lovingly known to the museum community and NYU grad students as BKG. You should read her book Destination Culture (the chapter on Jews, of course)- she talks about the limitations of thinking of memory as a type of mediation, and the limitation of mediation as a concept when talking about experience. :)

    • I want a cool acronym. Unfortunately mine is “WMP,” i.e. wimp i.e. NO

      Thanks doctor. Currently I’m reading a book about MUDs written in 2004. Did you know that online and irl behavior/identity is INTERTWINED? It’s a revelation.

  • [...] in New Carthage MUD); Lori Kendall (real life/virtual world crossover in Blue Sky MUD); Mary Gray (rural GLBTQ); Keith Basso (Apaches lollin at comical [...]

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