Salon 16 Fluid States of America

In Greek mythology, Proteus is an old prophet who can alter his form, posing as a serpent, a tree, and water, among other incarnations. His shape-shifting fluidity presaged contemporary notions of identity, which transcend boundaries previously considered immutable—nationality, gender, sexuality, race. Today, an open flow of information, culture, and people is contributing to the erosion of sociocultural norms, paving the way for an increasingly fluid conception of personal identity.

For some, this increasing tolerance of identity fluidity—facilitated by societal, political, legal, and medical developments—offers emancipation from narrow definitions that sought to curtail expression, experimentation, and, ultimately, self-realization. For others, such fluidity is an assault on traditional values, fostering social movements dedicated to reestablishing “the traditional family,” “true femininity,” “real masculinity,” and, even more menacingly, “racial purity.”

In this salon dedicated to fluidity, we tackled some of these questions: What are the key mechanisms behind the propagation of fluidity? Do fluid identities foster progressive societies? By extension, do monolithic definitions of identity traits necessarily breed fundamentalism? If fluidity is irreducible from choice, is the protean self a manifestation of market capitalism? If encyclopedic museums have historically exhibited material culture derived from a plethora of discrete cultural identities, how can contemporary (art) museums respond to this age of fluidity? How have artists compellingly explored notions of fluidity in their work, and how has their work helped individuals and communities navigate the spectrum of identity expression? How can we move beyond tolerance and assimilation toward total social equity?

The salon took place on 16 September 2015


Reading Resources

Bauman Zygmunt Liquid Modernity(2000)

Blow Charles M Sexual Attraction and Fluidity The New York Times(09.11.07)

Bunting, Madeleine Passion and Pessimism The Guardian(04.04.03)

Cardenas Micha Shifting Futures: Digital Trans of Color Praxis A Journal of Gender and Technology Studies (2015)

Deboer Frederik It’s Time to Legalize Polygamy Politico (06.26.15) couple’s “love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”The question presents itself: Where does the next advance come?

Harney Stefano & Moten Fren The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (2013)

Karkazis Katrina & Jordan-Young Rebecca The Trouble With Too Much T The New York Times (04.10.14)

Leonard Zoe I Want A President LTTR #5(10.06)

La Roco Claudia Standing Still, Saying Plenty The New York Times (10.08.12)

Motta Carlos (Im)practical (Im)possibilities e-flux (04.13)

Padawer Ruth When Women Become Men at Wellesley The New York Times (10.14.14)

Pham Mind-Ham T. & Nguyen Mimi Thi Blackface,and the Violence of Revulsion Threadbared (10.12.09)

Preciado Paul B Testo Junkies: Sex, Drugs and Biopolitics [an excert] e-flux (04.13)

Rawsthorn, Alice Fluid Gender Identity Drives a Revolution in DesignThe New York Times (05.05.15)

Schulman Sarah The Gentrification of the Mind (2012)

Stanley Eric A & Smith Nat Captive Genders: Transembodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (2015)

Tourjee Diana The Future of Transgender Health Care Original Plumbing (06.26.14)

Tyburczy, Jennifer Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display (2015)

Xie An The Social Ties That Unbind Hyperallergic (02.25.13)