Thursday, June 10, 2010

Social Works according to Shannon Jackson

Listening to the opening remarks at the Performance Studies International conference in Toronto, I'm inspired by scholar Shannon Jackson's observations that radical artists who oppose the state often find themselves in the awkward position of sharing the neoconservative (aka Tea Party) position that government should be "hands off." But how, she asks, do we reconcile the impulse to say "hands off" when what we are calling for (especially for Jackson, as a professor at UC-Berkeley during massive state budget cuts), when what we really want is a government that's hand on? Her answer is something she calls "infrastructural avowal."

What does that mean? That rather than blindly celebrating independence and pretending that the ideal citizen is autonomous -- with no need for welfare or state-funded education or health care -- we recognize that all of us need each other. And the government is uniquely suited for helping us care for each other. Maybe the image we're all looking for is not "hands off" or "hands on," but hands together.

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