Presentation Fear and Podium Effects – Yasmin Gunaratnam

Reading this at a point of time when I am struggling with issues around what it means to not be heard; to have to encounter refusal time and again when words are spoken; to be back in a space where my disembodied voice carries more power; to disembody my voice – to watch it separate and then to see it be heard – when another body with power carries it; to do this time and again – to map what powers may be working – race, class, distinction, gender; to not know then how to deal with the body that can only speak via another; to grind my teeth; to have insomnia; a back pain that only arrives in the ‘living space’; fatigue and silence.

“I have lived with the somatisations of presentation fever as inconvenient, annoying and sometimes exhausting personal foibles. I think it’s time to listen to ourselves more carefully And to take seriously and collectively that our insomnia, worn down teeth, racing hearts and nervousness might be trying to tell us”

Sara Ahmed‘s thoughts on the fragility of the figure of the feminist killjoy describe some of the mixed-up energies and histories that I have begun to think of as ‘podium affects’. There are projections, selective hearing, pre-emptive judgements and the huge emotional labour often put into not being the killjoy who disrupts a seemingly congenial atmosphere with too much critique. These are political feelings for Ahmed. At the same time, she cautions, we should be alert to the consequences of what we do in order to survive. Drawing from Audre Lorde, Ahmed writes, “I have shared this quote from Audre Lorde before:

‘in order to withstand the weather we had to become stone. Becoming stone:

it is a requirement to harden in order to survive the weather, the

relentless pounding on the surface of the body. But she was also

saying here something even more challenging. That by becoming

stone, by making ourselves into harder matter, matter that will less

easily shatter, we might harden ourselves from each other; we might

in becoming less soft, be less able to receive each other’s impression.’ “

Read the paper here:


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