Winter 2022 In Dance

when I can’t support you in the ways you’re sup- porting me? Does interdependency mean we do the same for one another at all times, as though there’s even such a thing as “the same” when it comes to this stuff? Is it a gentle ebb and flow? What if my ebb will never match your flow? What if it’s sometimes a torrential downpour and one of us is drowning? What do we do then?” This notion of needing interdependence to just “mag- ically work out”—and expectations for reciprocity and equality—is, I believe, one of the main reasons care webs are hard. Not only do we have fluctuating needs and resources over the course of even a single day, so too will we across the course of our lifetime — if we have chil- dren, when we are sick or recovering, or as we age. And looking across a care web, different people will have dif- ferent needs, capacities, and capabilities. I don’t think our society gives us many models for, or opportunities to practice, engaging with others in ways that aren’t a transaction or equal trade; it’s how we are in so many domains of our life: commerce, employment, friendship. I think about the sticky challenges of shifting from what’s equal to what’s equitable. Likewise, we aren’t well-equipped to handle variability or uncertainty. As when the rigid contracts of our expec- tations defer to the more dynamic fluctuations of our physical and mental health. We want predictability and control. We want always, and if we can’t have that, never is better than sometimes. We guard against disappointment — that someone else might not be able to show up for us when we need them. We guard against guilt — that we might not be able to show up for someone else when we said we would. The trying, the turning towards , the being with — how might we prioritize process over product? Even if, yes, some- times someone might not get what they need. Even if, yes, someone’s heart might be broken. Even if, yes, we might have to confront our own fallibilities. This is, still, the practice of freedom. The practice of creating, still, a more loving, generous, and humane world. I think about choreographer Doris Humphrey, known for her theory of fall and recovery: “Movement is situ- ated on a tended arc between two deaths.” Dance—and life—exists between those two extremes. We are ever only falling away from and returning to equilibrium, but asymptotically, never reaching it. Let us fall, and embrace the fall, together. And with that fall, the fail. Or what we think of as failure, recognizing that our normative logics of success and failure do not serve us. As gender and queer scholar Jack Halberstam writes, “Under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbe- coming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative,

everything all together, what needs we have, what prob- lems we face.” 13 Iranian woman Shamina said she felt such “social, personal and psychological safety and care” that she would turn down a UN-run apartment. 14 Often described as an “‘alternative family’ aiming to make City Plaza ‘home,’” 15 it serves as a model for what the provi- sion of care — from basic necessities to individual and community development — can look like. Occupy Wall Street, which began September 2011, serves as a model for the democratic caring with , offer- ing a “radical politics of inclusion” exemplified by its nightly General Assembly that used consensus for col- lective decision-making. It was non-hierarchical and enabled a large number of people to participate. It also used a “progressive stack” by prioritizing the voices of women and people of color before white men. Although—and because—the movement was leaderless, its decisionmaking process was “highly structured, tech- nical, and often laborious,” striving to not reproduce society’s violent power relations. 16

— we can step up ourselves. Likewise, we don’t need the government to “take care of us”; we have the capacity for collective governance, to be the government, to care for all of us. Liberation Now So, how might we get there? That beautiful land where we all live in an abundance of care. Where care is the organizing principle instead of profit. Where we have nightly dance parties on the roof. Where we engage directly with our neighbors and fellow citizens so every- one’s needs can be met. That utopia that feels so different from our present real- ity. But in the spirit of queerness, that’s a false binary. Liberation can be available to us right now. I invoke the following as our guides for liberation: Buddhism on awakening, the Dakota on kinship, and anarchism on pre- figuration — moving from individual to family to society. Buddhism teaches that we all have the seeds of awak- ening (also called enlightenment or liberation) within

more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world.” 9 Losing can be generative. Care webs are as much about care as loss. Scholar Sara Ahmed writes that “in queer, feminist, and antirac- ist work, self-care is about the creation of community, fragile communities … assembled out of the experiences of being shattered. We reassemble ourselves through the ordinary, everyday, and often painstaking work of look- ing after ourselves; looking after each other.” 10 Trans and intersex scholar Hil Malatino describes his care web after top surgery as having been “delicately and elab- orately woven for years, periodically (and always only partially) rent apart and repaired, made as much of loss as it is of sustaining linked threads.” 11 Care creates loss, care is created by loss, care is created by that very care too. To continue to nurture our care webs is to see it through loss, to embrace holes and patches, sutures and scar tissue. How might we meet this with com- passion? Alongside all the discourse about queering queer or cripping crip , how might we care for care — our imper- fect selves, our imperfect care webs, our imperfect fellow weavers, our imperfect weaving, our imperfect loom and thread and the space between those threads that are the very reason for their resilience and stretch? Caring for care: this is, again, our practice of freedom. CARE NEIGHBORHOODS How might we scale up our care webs? One that is suf- ficiently resilient to absorb both the downpours and the droughts? One that takes us closer to a vision of uni- versal care where all needs are met? Where the primary role and responsibility of the government is to build and sustain infrastructures of care. Where the government isn’t the state as other, but a true collective governance. Where the value of care is infused across society, and society is many interweaving care webs. I’m inspired by three case studies of residential, self-governed care webs that I call care neighborhoods: City Plaza, Occupy Wall Street, and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. They serve as models for reimagining our society as one that centers care at every level. City Plaza, an abandoned hotel taken over by a self-governed squat of refugees from 2016 to 2019 in Athens, is an exemplar of both the physical caring for and affective/emotional caring about . Run like a cooper- ative, residents took up “weekly responsibilities based on their individual capacities, from cooking meals to clean- ing, group child care, and basic maintenance.” There were also numerous resident-run amenities like a clinic and library, and programming from English conversa- tion to a nightly women’s dance party on the rooftop terrace. 12 Afghan woman Afaf said, “Solidarity and car- ing are mainly a way of thinking. Here we are discussing

us. We all possess—or rather, are — Buddhanature: the awakened heart/ mind. Unlike Christianity’s doctrine of original sin, Buddhism believes that we are already awakened beings. However, our fundamental goodness is covered up by the three

Indigenious scholar KimTallBear argues that in Dakota culture, “making kin is tomake people into familiars in order to relate.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline protest from 2016 through early 2017 inspires with its capacious conception of kin- ship. For the Dakota, kinship extends to the land, water, and animals on whom they depend. As such, at Stand- ing Rock, the protestors were protecting their relative, Mni Sose (the Missouri River), from threat of an under- ground oil pipeline. The water protectors’ camp also serves as a model for universal care. All were welcome as long as they abided by the camp’s values, including a commitment to protect the water and Mother Earth. “Free food, free education, free health care, free legal aid, a strong sense of community, safety, and security were guaranteed to all.” 17 These three case studies inspire me because they bridge the care web with societal transformation. In each case, people learned skills and capacities such as collective problem-solving and governance, unlearned their con- ditioning, and literally manifested (not just imagined) a new society. They were empowered to take direct action rather than waiting for someone else to fix their prob- lems and usher in the hypothetical liberation. This is, perhaps, what is most compelling to me of all: confronting the ways in which we have been com- plicit in giving up our own power so that we can take it back. Realizing that change doesn’t come from the abstract “other,” someone more knowledgeable or expert, but us. Realizing that we don’t need to be saved

defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion. Becoming awakened is, then, a subtractive process. Through prac- tice, we may come to know and be who we already are. Awakening can be accessed by the most ordinary of activities: breathing. Something as pedestrian as noticing that you’ve been caught in thought is considered a “lower- case a” awakening by waking up to the present moment, gleaning a glimpse into the spaciousness of our Buddhana- ture. Buddhism teaches that liberation is available to us — all the time, because it is what we fundamentally are. Indigenous scholar Kim TallBear argues that in Dakota culture, “making kin is to make people into familiars in order to relate.” She gives the example of Little Crow, a Dakota chief who became an influential leader in large part from kinmaking: he built alliances across many Dakota communities through marriage, birth, and adoption. 18 I am compelled by this concept of kinmaking both because it is a process not an inherited state, and because it invites agency instead of passive acceptance. Don’t know someone? Make them kin so that you can forge a relationship of mutual care and commitment to one another. It seems to sidestep or reverse our usual logic, but that’s the point: we need different thinking if we want to live in a different world. In anarchism, prefiguration is creating the world you wish to live in, now. As one anarchist writes, “We cannot


in dance WINTER 2022 12

WINTER 2022 in dance 13




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In Dance | May 2014 |

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