3 of 7 – Bisexual Epistemologies: A Journey from Nausea to Commitment
Bisexual Epistemologies: A Journey from Nausea to Commitment
An occasional piece by
Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD
For The Journal of Bisexuality’s 10th Anniversary Issue
Hi dear readers!
This seven-in-one piece will be great fun–yours truly promises. Find out all the ins and outs of 10 years of Bisexuality! What does “epistemology”mean? Big word, right? Well, all it means is that when you’re making love you’re producing knowledge. A good thing!
We follow the Introduction with The Journey, and will have five more posts. Really revealing of all those things about bi you’ve always been curious about. Why is it so good? What can it do for you? For the planet? For the future? For authentic intimacy? It’s all here, spiced with a bit of irony and critique of why we’re so behind on our agenda. What’s keeping us from being more efficient.
Also arcane words you’ve been told have no meaning unless you got a PhD are explained–made very easy! “Nausea,” “existentialism”: it’s all about the chakra system–really. Commitment? It’s not about going to jail (as in, “being committed”). But rather, it’s about “being-in-action” about things. Being the one who makes the difference! No mysteries. Woooooow! Come back for more, will you? We’ll post every week, on Tuesdays.
3. The Journey
Solitude, community. Separation, intimacy. Nausea, freedom. Nausea, a manifesto of 20th century existentialism in Europe, is the first novel by Jean Paul Sartre, the French philosopher who was offered the Nobel Prize in Literature and had the gall to refuse it! The novel was published in France in 1938, the fatal year when all bets were off for peace in that region. The protagonist, Roquetin, felt nauseous from inaction in a world where love for love was disappearing, and was being replaced by fear of love, or erotophobia. In trying to respond to the invitation to contribute, my mind went to this book. What did Sartre’s nausea have to do with me? Was I trapped in an existentialist dilemma like Roquetin?
While in the throes of this, through the research networks that serve me I came across the latest report on bisexuality by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission: Bisexual Invisibility. The Report identifies the bisexual contingent as the largest segment in the population that constitutes the LGBT community. In this contingent, the majority are women to a much higher degree than in the general population. The Report also establishes that biphobia, or the fear of bisexuality, runs rampant in LGBT institutions and the population they serve. Last but not least, the Report also quantifies this invisibility in terms of US public funding earmarked for knowledge production and dissemination related to bisexuality. Of the several millions in public funding received by the LGBT community, not one round cent was earmarked as bi in recent years.
Of this I can give personal witness. My period of collaboration with The Journal of Bisexuality largely coincides with the probationary and tenured period of my academic career at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. Its internally funded research programs have been quite generous until last year. The Journal has benefitted from UPR’s internally funded research programs a great deal. How else would I have edited four issues? What is more, by choosing to fund and tenure me based on my guest-edited issues, the UPR Mayaguez campus has perhaps inadvertently produced the only known full professor based at an institution of the Western Hemisphere whose tenure is significantly based on bisexuality research. The other two academics, also women, are quite well known and respected in the US, but they are from other hemispheres. Public US grant institutions classify Puerto Rico as UMI (United States Minor Outlaying Island), which suggests scarce awareness of the island’s population of about four million. US-based public and private funders have turned down my recent grant proposals, predictably. In addition, the assault on the public sector the Republican governor Fortuño has been perpetrating in the past two years has wiped out any vestige of human rights at my institution. It is causing all international colleagues to flee, with the likely effect to plunge the university in the throes of parochialism and fear. As a scholar activist, I have publicly embraced the project of educating the Federal Government grant institutions that have invited me to resubmit. “Biphobia is not in the public’s best interest,” I’ve claimed, “let’s use public funding more efficiently.” The mentioned report Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations, has been the reference document for this. Here, I am offering my reflection as a way to educate private funders too, on the difficulties and life-threatening risks of doing the bisexuality research we do. Thanks Human Rights Commission! You are saving my life too.
|Feb 8, 2004, Dawn at Auroville|
Anniversaries are occasions to celebrate. And the rhetoric I needed to get started on this piece was just not channeling in. What should I do? With this context in mind, dear reader, perhaps it won’t be too difficult for you to empathize with my predicament. What sustainable course of action could I choose that would correspond to authenticity? Five years have passed from the “In Absentia” semi-trance piece. Where was Fritz Klein? What about his legacy? My mind went to my extended research visit to Auroville, in Tamil Nadu, India, also funded by the UPR system in its golden years. Auroville is an oasis of international creativity and a “city of dawn” founded in 1968 and named after its spiritual leader, decolonization activist and eclectic avatar Sri Aurobindo. There, in 2004, I studied patterns of organization, expansion, and sustenance in intentional communities. I noticed a certain staleness and indecisiveness. Some would call it lack of vision. I listened to local informants in the best cultural anthropology, cultural studies tradition. “What’s the problem?” I asked the ones with most acumen. “Dead guru syndrome,” they chimed, “we’re stuck between interpreting his word and allowing the vision to evolve as the world does and as he would if here.” Ouch!
“Perhaps this applies to my case too,” I reflected, “where is my copy of Fritz’s book?” Maybe that’s where I’ll find inspiration for the right rhetorical mode for this. I own a copy of the second edition. And yes, it was all there, the eclecticism, the dialogic ambiguity, the irony and sometime irreverent humor, the admixture of registers from colloquial to erudite, and the searing fearlessness. The dead often visit me. And when they do, a magnetic force gets me to open their books and listen to the voice that’s alive still beyond the page and is witness to a life spent in the endeavor to write what has the makings of a classic, something that speaks across time and space to new generations of readers.
 The issue of human rights in Puerto Rico has been addressed by the ACLU and Rep Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, among others: http://derechoalderecho.org/2011/02/14/human-rights-crisis-in-puerto-rico-aclu/
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Yours truly appreciates your attention. Stay tuned for more wonders.
Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD
Gilf Gaia Extraordinaire
Author of Gaia and the New Politics of Love and many other books
Professor of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
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