[iDC] Re: The Ethics of Leisure

Tara McPherson tmcphers at usc.edu
Wed Jan 10 17:39:00 EST 2007

Further kudos to Judith.

Having just completed a three-year stint as chair of my division that 
ran parallel to my first few years of parenting, I often noted how each 
duty compelled a similar state of distraction, a mode of daily operation 
that often served to position my time as 'not my own.'  The skill sets 
for doing either job overlap as well: the ability to broker compromise, 
negotiate egos, be constantly available, organize mundane details of 
everyday living, etc.  And, if recent studies are to be believed, women 
often end up bearing the burden of both types of labor: parenting and 
mid-level university administration, contributing to a marked lag in 
promotion to full professor positions, at least in the US.

The increased mediation of the workplace and the blur of any 
public/private divide that this facilitates certainly contributed to the 
24/7 nature of chairing my department.  Virginia Woolf commented on the 
need to have a 'room of one's own' if women were to achieve success as 
writers;  sometimes I think I'll need mine to be unwired...

Tara McPherson

Frazer Ward wrote:
> Bravo to Judith. As someone whose partner is pregnant, I can only add that in the particular circumstances the whole domestic/reproductive process generates a scattering of attention that is not at all productive in standard “work” terms.
> Aside from that, I’m also struck by an aspect of the relation between participation and continuous partial attention. Briefly, participation is typically seen, in a positive light, as contributing to the generation of community or a sense of community. Belonging is a good thing – right?—even if you can only attend to it partially (reading or skimming, say, rather than posting: you are nonetheless “there”). But what if it isn’t? Isn’t the invitation to belong deployed almost universally across the media, and across the poitical spectrum? (Community in a bloodily archaic version is apparently about to be invoked, if it’s true that the Bush administration is about to ask “us” to “sacrifice,” in Iraq.) Perhaps continuous partial attention is actually the condition for  our witting and unwitting participation in a fractured and incoherent range of “communities” (or, in the worst case, niche markets). Which might mean that when we get a chance to think slowly about participation, we might have to conclude that participation needs to be rendered somehow structurally ambivalent about the invitations to which it responds. (Or, after the other Marx, we have to beware of any club that would have us as members.)  
> Frazer  
> Frazer Ward
> Department of Art
> Smith College
> 413 585 3124
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