Realising Sara Ahmed’s ‘feminist snap’: Voices, embodiment, affectivity

abstract

This paper is an empirical examination of Sara Ahmed’s anatomy of snap experience and proposes a distributed and rearrangeable model for opening up questions of snap subjectivity. One (multimedially recorded) conversation becomes the basis for such examination. The authors analyse in minute detail what feminist voices embody and how collectivity rearranges experience in relation to the two categories pertaining to the feminist snap – namely, feminist pedagogy and feminist genealogy. We created and worked on an affective-semiotic-material mapping of the conversation, paying attention to the ways a multiplicity of perceptive apparatuses mediates and organises affectivity schemes, which in turn give insight into the workings of the aforementioned snap categories. This ‘transmedial analysis’ is a performative methodology inspired by the work of Lisa Blackman on ‘embodied hauntologies’. Based on our findings, we propose a workshop format, called Snap.tivism.

Introducing Snap.tivism

SLM: I was actually going to ask you to discuss in smaller groups your own snap moments: When did you snap? I think it is such a fantastic concept; if you have not read it, she [Ahmed] uses it to describe the moment where she realised [pause], it is where something happens [pause], somebody said something that makes you snap [pause]. So, [pause] yeah the feminist snap. When was your feminist snap? Oh! I know there are probably several, because I have several […], but can we discuss in groups of 4-5? And there discuss feminist snaps for next 10 to 15 minutes? Ok. (Audio: 3m22s; transcript: 1)

I remember each of these occasions not only as an experience of being violated, but as a sensory event that was too overwhelming to process at the time. I can still hear the sound of the voices, the car as it slowed down, the bike that rushed past, the door that opened, the sound of the footsteps, the kind of day it was, the quiet hum of a plane as I woke up. Senses can be magnified, sometimes after the event. (Ahmed, 2017a: 23)

To snap means to lose it, to lash out. To snap means also to realise, to find out. We learn from Sara Ahmed’s recent writings how the snap (both noun and verb) is primarily a word that stands for a sudden and loud sound. Yet in its semi-metaphorical use for rethinking how we live with painful experiences and especially feminist outbursts, the sudden and the loud might even disconnect. A life-event might already be a distant memory by the time one suddenly realises that what once took place was in fact her own snap; its echo carrying the pain and frustration of years. As Ahmed notes in Living a Feminist Life, ‘[s]enses can be magnified, sometimes after the [traumatic] event’, in a way that one may not just touch lightly upon the issue, but cling on the detailed recollection of components ‘too overwhelming to process’ (Ahmed, 2017a: 23)[1]. When one has found herself in such disconnection, focusing on another’s snap might be catalytic in reworking the composition of what was perceived as personal and solitary. The process of realisation is thus a collective matter, which reworks this perceptive disconnection across time, space, objects and self(-ves) involved.

In this paper, we offer an empirical examination of the recollections, magnifications, intensities and transformations of the ‘feminist snap’. Moreover, we introduce a workshop format that invites readers to continue examining the potential of collectively dealing with snap experiences. We call this Snap.tivism, a term generated during a conversation at the ‘Feminism, Activism, Writing!’ workshop (FAW!), a two-day event based at Copenhagen Business School (CBS), 20-21 November, 2017, which brought together issues of (feminist) activism and (scholarly) writing.[2] Here we focus on one sub-group and the conversation we shared (authors also being participants), which took place in K.4.74 (hereafter, the Room).

As participants, we were introduced to the notion of the snap being something in itself, manifesting at moments of ‘losing decorum’ in the face of injustice, sexism, racism and all sorts of asphyxiation feelings in contemporary institutions. We initially divided into smaller groups, for 40 minutes, to discuss our own incidents and later to identify common ‘characteristics of our snaps on affective level’ (23m06s). For the remaining 1 hour and 40 minutes, we shared these thoughts across the Room, in a round table conversation. The term ‘snap’ came to embody many things. Alongside bigger societal issues, our day-to-day struggles with unconscious bias(es), microaggressions and debilitating, chronic inequality were discussed, as well as those moments of violent disillusionment regarding future prospects inside the institutions we engage with and toxic relations we maintain. We spoke of having experienced ‘good/bad snaps’, ‘in/articulate snaps’, ‘un/conscious snaps’, ‘snap-for-another’, ‘snap-by-proxy’, ‘violent snap’, ‘passive snap’, and ‘snap solidarity’. The snap vocabulary is repetitive yet malleable, and this is part of its tropic capacity for affective and mental association among thoughts, emotions and stories.

The variety of recollections shared in the Room, as well as the range of responses generated are, we argue, worth empirical examination for two reasons. Firstly, the study allows us to navigate the complexity of Ahmed’s ‘feminist snap’ proposal (as reflected in its multiple drafts, namely the 2017 lecture, 2017 blog and 2017 book chapter that together form Ahmed’s anatomy of the snap[3]). This is the task of the theoretical section, where we offer a reconstruction of Ahmed’s thesis on the Snap, while building a more abstract formulation of the concept. This abstraction highlights how two categories, ‘feminist pedagogy’ and ‘feminist genealogy’, operate within the concept as a collective process of realisation. Secondly, we believe Snap.tivism to be a reproducible workshop format, which contributes to the current turn to affect methodologies in feminist scholarship. For such purposes, we provide a methods’ section, devoted to presenting the underpinnings and sequence of steps of the transmedial analysis. The longest section of the paper consists of the findings and observations. We mobilise illustrative examples from the analysis to touch upon our main theoretical points and demonstrate how they express themselves in the Snap.tivism workshop.

On Sara Ahmed’s ‘feminist snap’

A snap is not a starting point, but a snap can be the start of something
(Ahmed, 2017a: 194)

This section is an expose of our theoretical and feminist dues to Sara Ahmed, for always taking us from what feels very personal (vulnerable, secretive and shaming) to what actually does collectivity, day in, day out, when leading a feminist life.[4] We particularly focus on Ahmed’s categories of feminist pedagogy and genealogy; both necessary to explore the intricacies of Snap.tivism (as a workshop format) and the ‘feminist snap’ (as a concept). Ahmed defines the feminist snap ‘not as a single moment of one woman experiencing something as too much, but as a series of accumulated gestures that connect women over time and space’ (2017a: 200). In the following paragraphs, we offer insight into the two ways Ahmed has been examining such gestures of connectivity in her essays and in turn we showcase how stories, visual and literary material, function as illustrative arguments (neither fully empirical, nor purely theoretical). In the process, we slowly ‘distil’ the concept by constructing an abstract schema for how feminist genealogy and feminist pedagogy can be defined as two complementary modes operating within the feminist snap and organising snap subjectivity.

Ahmed examines snap experience as pertaining to a rearrangement of in/visibility and embodied perception. At moments when an individual points out the problems power creates but does not see, one emerges as all that power creates and sees: an isolated, hypervisible yet muted position. Building on earlier work regarding queer(ing) phenomenology[5], she describes how at the moment of snapping (let’s say, when calling out in a public setting a racist or sexist comment) a reversal of positionality takes place. The act of indexing an issue often gets perceived as the issue itself and starts featuring in its stead. After the reversal occurs, the act appears as the violent interruption in the seamless fabric of institutional life and haunts the snappy subject from then on, inducing a suffering directly related to the conditions of institutional in/existence. ‘If you have to shout to be heard you are heard as shouting. If you have to shout to be heard you are not heard’ (Ahmed, 2017b). Figures such as the snappy woman, the willful girl, the killjoy (2017a: 191, 66, 195) are singled out as agitators, their voices rendered irrelevant, their presence unfit. This is much more of a shared experience amongst feminists that one might initially think. The Snap.tivism conversation brought at least five instances that narrate in detail the experience of simultaneously being casualty and perpetrator of institutional circumstance. It takes collective work to break away from such absurd and dangerous positioning.

Much of this necessary work is captured by Ahmed’s provocation towards her readers to realise how the snap ‘is not a starting point’ (ibid.: 194). A feminist take on incidents deemed sudden, violent, angry and overall snappy reorients our attention backwards from their explosive ‘present’ and towards figuring out that the point of origins does not lie in the incident itself. It all starts by listening carefully and then culminates to an actual adjustment of the reader’s sensorial and mental assumptions. One simple example of perceptive adjustment happens within the recurring trope[6] of the ‘broken twig’. Ahmed uses the broken twig to engage one of readers’ major senses (hearing) in a naturalistic setting with no apparent social or political stakes, and yet she turns everything upside down by drawing unexpected connections:

Say you hear the sound of a twig snapping. You might not have noticed the twig before; you might have not noticed the pressure on the twig, how it was bent, but when it snaps, it catches your attention.

You might hear the snap as the start of something. A snap is only the start of something because of what you did not notice, the pressure on the twig. (Ahmed, 2017b)

Going beyond the ‘broken twig’, we claim that there is a powerful argument in all illustrations that Ahmed uses: the snap is not a spectacle to be witnessed from the outside. Stories about another’s violent eruption invite the reader to recognise oneself in another’s distress, in another’s pain. Following the careful listening we mentioned above, mutual recognition within the condition of pain is the second gesture in realising the snap as a collective matter. Collective snaps are borne upon our own wounds, when our eyes roll with disillusionment, when we meet one another’s rolling eyes (another favourite trope of Ahmed).

From the moment a snap is heard and noticed, there is neither a fixed, nor singular subject position to it. Snap subjectivity distributes among the reader/listener, the narrator of the story (Ahmed) and the protagonist’s recollection of body- or emotional- bits and parts in a painful episode. Snap.tivism showcases a process similar to what Ahmed’s text(s) suggest: that it falls to a chorus of feminist allies to intervene (on both the distribution of snap experience and perceptive rearrangement) by extending gestures such as giving space for stories to be carefully heard and for recognition cues to empower realisation of the snap’s potential. Such conclusion encompasses two dimensions of collectivity: the feminist snap is a type of shared lesson-in-feminism and an extended and unconventional kinship-making. Concerning the former, this is the provocation and promise of calling ‘feminist pedagogy’ an equation: the moment of mutual recognition makes us equal, as we recognise how we have all been there before, over and over, and most probably will find ourselves back there in the future. In a complementary mode, Ahmed shows us how to use shared lessons and experiences in order to draw familiar lines that cut across nuclear families, conventions and institutions. There, we argue, lies the invitation of the ‘feminist genealogy’ as a category that allows revisiting the lived experience of snap but not from a solitary point of view. This is a future-oriented genealogy stemming out of bonds we choose and in the face of the inescapability of snap experience within institutions we live and work at. Together feminist pedagogy and genealogy give a formula for the fierce reimagining of solitary suffering as ‘accumulated history’ (2017a: 202) and feminist strategy.

To conclude, although snap experience might form on a premise of isolation and suffering, feminist education and collective intervention have the ability to change the rules of the game. That would be the promise of realising the feminist snap and for that we located a series of feminist gestures that contribute to the process. The gestures culminate within moments of ‘feminist pedagogy’ (as the past lessons that become our guide for the future) and ‘feminist genealogy’ (the legacy we choose to inherit today for our sake within snappy futures). Ahmed warns that this owning up to the inescapability of future embarrassing moments and reclaiming feminist rage can be framed as self-sabotage (ibid.: 198) or even violence (ibid.: 199); yet, it is also the necessary strategy to showcase how sexism, racism and inequality are constituent features of modern institutions. In this way, we conclude with Ahmed, that the snap is about ‘feminist hope’ (ibid.: 210).

Materials and method: Transmedial analysis of the Snap.tivism format

But it is not just that feminist ears can hear beyond the silence that functions as a wall. I referred earlier to how working on the problem of sexual harassment led me to my own act of feminist snap. Once it is heard that you are willing to hear, more people will speak to you. While a snap might seem to make the tongue the organ of feminist rebellion, perhaps snap is all about ears. A feminist ear can provide a release of a pressure valve. A feminist ear can be how you hear what is not being heard. (Ahmed, 2017a: 203)

Methodological sensitivity is not an entirely human affair, and requires many eyes and ears – human and nonhuman – which can work with traces, gaps, absences, submerged narratives, and displaced actors in order to shape a form of mediated perception. (Blackman, 2007: 25)

In the rest of the paper, we explore Snap.tivism as one expression of the feminist snap, asking how a number of strangers were affectively rearranged to emerge as snap-allies within the timespan of a conversation. Since the categories of Ahmed connect multiple pasts and futures, we tried via the choice of methodology to create a suspended present. The word ‘present’ captures both an interest into the voices of speakers, and the remembered ‘present’ of the snap-stories. When such suspension is possible, then the collective past(s) and future(s) expressed in a certain format can coalesce and thus be empirically examined as components of a broader transformation.

For the analysis of the conversation and shared spatiality of the Room, we attended primarily to – what we considered as – affective dimensions of Snap.tivism. We used a method that understands media technologies to take hold and further perceive voice in its embodiment, along with accompanying ‘immediate, visceral, non-intentional ways in which bodies are conscripted by media’ (Blackman, 2012: 18). This echoes the methodological sensitivity and the theoretical investment to try and see through somebody else’s voice (or multiple simultaneous voices), focusing on those traumatic and triumphant stories, like the snaps, that cannot be put into words easily. Our approach draws on the work of feminist scholar Lisa Blackman. Blackman has developed an ‘analytics of experimentation’, which tunes into the inherited, yet forgotten, histories that express themselves in ‘novel’ and controversial research within the field of psychology (Blackman, 2014, 2012, 2007). Blackman’s main focus lies with recovering these histories as active genealogies (sometimes expressed under the more recent term of hauntology[7]) and revisiting their importance for contemporary theorisation of subjectivity and affectivity. Throughout her work, genealogies are shown to mediate the contemporary arena of public contestation and its circulating sentiments (especially the expression of negative feelings). We apply transmedial analysis as one specific operationalisation of Blackman’s much richer concept.

Transmedial analysis embarks on ‘an attempt to explore precisely those carnal generational connections that exist genealogically but which cannot be articulated’ (Blackman, 2012: 127). Voices are taken to embody collective histories and collective tropes into coping with trauma (Blackman, 2010). Thus, we argue that Blackman’s analytics may come to a fruitful interface with Ahmed’s concept of the ‘feminist snap’ and its two components. Both scholars have resisted bordering the subject of affect within a Cartesian mind-body duality or binding it down to bio- or neuro- matter (Ahmed, 2008). Two working assumptions are maintained in respect to the complicated nature of relationality vis-à-vis the body question. The first is that perception is always mediated. This means that it is found distributed across diverse perceptive apparatuses (with the human sensorium being one of those, but neither superior, nor exclusive). That is why narrating the findings appears as not entirely human affair. This becomes clear when tracing and pinning down affectivity schemes: main events, shifts and intensities are located at the intersections of different media representations and this is where powerful and/or insightful collective episodes register. The second assumption is that affect does not pertain to movable and flowy qualities that operate upon subjectivity and corporeality (with the latter two deemed as stable substrata). Ahmed has written extensively on ways to overcome both the inside-out and outside-in model of depicting emotional flow and against transmission (2013, 2010). Similarly Blackman’s analytics offers an ‘explor[ation of] different conceptions of affective exchange which do not presume flow’ (2012: 23). For example, Blackman often captures the problem of affect by drawing on the persistence of the personality riddle: how do we live singularity when confronted with all evidence, all powerful demonstration of multiplicity? We contend that a careful reading of how affectivity schemes emerge and guide the analysis in this paper offers an analytical alternative to presumption of flow, movement or contagion, inspired by both Blackman and Ahmed.

Transmediality was possible due to the FAW! Organisers’ recording of the event via diverse technologies (both electronic equipment, i.e. video and audio recorders; internet based tools and platforms; and office /education gear, i.e. blank poster-sheets and colourful material, ie. markers, post-its, drawing equipment). Consent, both concerning the recordings and the plans of the organisers to encourage study of such material and the potential widespread circulation of it, was obtained early on the first day at the first plenary session. On the matter of using specific quotations from the transcript we sought consent from the speakers (although not in a formalised manner) via our collective, social-media-based platform of staying in touch and coordination.

In an initial analytical round, we sought familiarity with the intensities of the conversation, the pace of each speaker, the patterns, the different media. To this end, the transcript and audio were analysed simultaneously, by playing the recording multiple times while following the writing in the form delivered by the transcriber (a person, not software). The transcript consists of 19 A4-pages and about 10.000 words. The audio is a 1 hour and 50 minutes M4A file. We performed four full-length recapitulations of the process without stopping the flow of the audio and just getting familiar with localisable moments where the two media correspond well or diverge significantly. Localisation means marking inside the transcript text an area with a note, adding the time-frame details from audio. Correspondence and divergence, in their use here, try to capture how different media-outcomes that report on the ‘same’, might still (in their internal structure) end up representing differently ‘one and the same’ voice. This internal structure is taken to index each medium’s perceptiveness, the particularly suggestive or inviting input an apparatus brings on the table of analysis.

After the above is achieved, the analyst has enough insight to ‘navigate’ specific voices and their role in a lasting event. Chunks of conversation start appearing as self-contained, they have a highly locatable start, an observable built-up, a crescendo/peak moment, and an end. We call this process the ‘build-up(s)’. Three such processes were located and we used colours and symbols to demarcate them on a printed version of the transcript. Further work inside the build-ups focused on omissions, paraphrases, the use of explanatory text (inserted by the transcriber), the expression of repetitive utterances (speech act of same speaker) or parroting (speech acts of many). ‘Omission’ refers to the identification of an episode, which although clearly captured by the audio does not translate anyhow into the transcript (it does not apply to background noises not being transferred to the body of the text). ‘Paraphrasis’ refers to a differential insertion: most common are cases where the words used to express a thought have been substituted for synonyms or alternative phrasing. Here is also used when a singular input is found inserted in text but split across many voices, many ‘Speakers’ (capitalised when it names a voice). It does not refer to spelling or hearing mistakes (i.e. not recognising an academic term, or not understanding a name etc). ‘Explanations’ point to ways the transcriber mobilises interpretative skills, or gathers tension via other means around a voice or episode that ends up being ‘explained’. ‘Repetition’ and ‘parroting’ refer to utterances that are clearly heard more than once in the audio but are expressed somehow singularly in the transcript. The latter also does not carry any judgment regarding the consciousness state of the speakers.

The final phase examines the resulting graphic representation of correspondence or divergence moments. Audio and transcript are chopped and reworked in smaller pieces (especially for re-working the build-ups down to their particular characteristics). By becoming the object of study, the build-ups helped to identify the particularities and perceptiveness of secondary media and their contribution. At that point the transcriber emerged as a medium distinct from the product of her labour. Actually, this extracted two types of mediations operating on the first pair of media (the axis ‘audio:transcript’), the position ‘transcriber’ and the position ‘analyst’ (both of which are performative mediations; they do not correspond to the persons). They are of interest only in their isomorphism: ‘transcriber’ emerged through the labour the analyst was inserting, while the latter got implicated into the work of producing the transcription outcome, thus together forming the secondary axis of mediation ‘transcriber:analyst’.

Finally, in the aftermath of the bulk volume of analysis (which was mostly carried out by the first author) all three authors were implicated in debating the results, doing necessary work complementary to ordering the observations, especially debating the choice of excerpts and the style of presentation. There are many ways to express the results that transmedial analysis yields. We decided on one that reports on the conversation as much as analysing it. Making apparent the uneasy co-existence of multiple mediations upon same text is an important facet of this work. Consequently, all excerpts were re-worked to make visible both the original transcription and parts of the analyst’s comments on it. The latter uses brackets when omissions or commentary are inserted post- analysis, while all parentheses belong to the original transcript. Furthermore, the usage of lines that cut an excerpt to smaller pieces indicates the separate steps of a build-up. The transcriber’s decision to alphabetically index voices was maintained and spans from Speaker A to Z5, but the identification at times of ‘audience members’ had to be corrected as there was no audience perspective to Snap.tivism. We strikethrough said identifications when appropriate and in this way the transcriber features as both a mediation maintained and cancelled.

Findings and observations: The characteristics of ‘feminist snap’ as a collective process

The following five points cover the full spectrum of observations stemming from the transmedial analysis. Their enumeration from #1-#5 serves the purpose of presenting first findings that touch upon more general theoretical arguments (#1 and #2) and then de-escalate to the intricacies of specific moments of interest. We draw heavily on the audio/transcript at every observation, yet complement that with analytical points going back to the theoretical categories and making explicit how affectivity schemes appear at each observation, before turning to the conclusion we draw for each.

Observation #1. The ‘feminist snap’ both feels and thinks

We start with an illustrative argument for how feminists always already start in the aftermath of snap experience, with a condition of unavailability – of narrative, of motivation, or emotional readiness. The first task of the encounter then appears to be the collective forging of a snap-specific lexicon, the matrix to imagine and then realise emergent connections inside the Room, which obviously were not there beforehand. Specifically, we examine the introductory minutes into the plenary part of Snap.tivism:

SLM: ok I will try to see if we can get this somehow in plenum without completely losing momentum [many giggles and sudden scratching noises] So sorry if I'm disturbing [13s of chairs being dragged] see, even the room kind of changes [unintelligible] when we do it like this and sit around the table. Does anyone want to chair?

What did you talk about? [more laughs]

[Omitted Speaker A: We had a really good chat up here... and I say that on behalf of all of us]

Speaker A: One thing that we reflected on after sharing our snaps was that we also had really a lot of potential snaps they didn’t make out of our mouth and how we feel so much pressure to sort of snap effectively and your post-snap reflection can be really difficult [omitted: in your own brain] and wish you had articulated certain things for certain effects uhm and sometimes we have the energy in the context to think about it in the moment, sometimes it is afterwards and sometimes there is not any thought because you're so angry… and so there were sort of many levels to our snaps.

Speaker B: yeah we talked about things we negotiate in the moment, our position in the space and ourselves and what kind of relationship to the persons [omitted: in the room] and the relation to the person we are snapping at, also the construction [correction: -iveness] of the snapping in the first place, will they even get what you say? will you make an impact and also how safe the space is?

[Sudden keyboard clicking sounds]

Audience member [substituted by: Speaker L in low voice]: whether you have snap allies

SLM: say it again

Audience member [Speaker L louder]: what one would call snap allies

SLM: oh yeah... because that makes a huge difference, because snapping alone is a difficult one

Audience members: collective Snaps [this repeats three times]

Everyone laughing

(Audio: 40m42s-41m18s; transcript: 2)

As a text, this excerpt sits prominently at the start of the transcript stretching across the A4 surface, while in the audio file, the same part is an almost imperceptible 1m36s, located already 40 minutes into the discussion. Reason for this significant discrepancy between how the two media mark the beginning of the plenary is the non-transcribability of the small groups’ part. From the point of view of the analyst, in the textual representation (transcript), there is nothing to be heard and written before the group discussions are over. On the contrary, the audio demands 40 noisy minutes of full attention. Listening through is tedious yet at times rewarding: sudden shouts, laughs or silences punctuate a homogeneous noise, certain terms and references clearly heard, the surprise of recognising familiar voices etc. The text ‘spares’ one from this mess, as transcription starts with the plenary. At the same time, this remarkable omission does not do anybody any favours: it does not allow for understanding the specific labour or involvement of the transcriber:analyst working with this particular material, for example while waiting for the noise to settle and the job to start on the text. With this sentiment in mind, of one that had to go through a long-lasting yet ‘unproductive’ sensory event (here, imagining the frustration or relief of the transcriber:analyst at the end of 40min of being attentive in the face of unintelligible noise), we proceed to a close examination of the ‘switch’ moment.

Many stories, as well as personal and collective pasts, have already entered the Room in the 40 minutes of unintelligible noise. Yet the plenary initiates in the aftermath of recounting those, of which only a ghostly presence became textually available to us. Speaker A opens the plenum reporting on her group’s ‘post-snap reflection’. We always already start in the ‘post-snap reflection’, in a direct confrontation with the leftover tensions, consequences and questions. Stories and their content is fixed and unavailable inside the unintelligible audio, not only for the transcriber:analyst, but apparently for the speakers as well. Then the discussion turns from reflection towards a sudden, first collective insight: snapping alone is a difficult one → thus, 3 times of collective snaps (twice in a very low voice and one final loud voice establishing the term as available for the Room). A certain affectivity emerges in relation to the Room, schematically ‘mirroring’ the Room:

Enduring an overwhelming sensory event // starting the real work in its aftermath

(Schematic representation)

This schema both touches upon the experience of the axis transcriber:analyst and captures the first lesson drawn inside the Room. Drawn in thinking, drawn in feeling. Neither of these qualities is privileged. There is no fixed priority and no determinism. We view the schema as a companion to Ahmed’s reminder that the snap is not the starting point: we begin with the aftermath, because it is all we are left with. The content of a violent episode might be ‘too overwhelming to process’ (Ahmed, 2017a: 23) yet as Speaker B suggests ‘sometimes we have the energy in the context [of the snap] to think about it in the moment, sometimes it is afterwards and sometimes there is not any thought because you’re so angry…’

These voices capture how participants in Snap.tivism neither start with similar readiness to tackle haunting memories, nor do all share personal stories. Some might not have a narrative available, some might have produced concrete framings regarding the past. Nevertheless, we meet one another in the aftermath, meaning we meet one another where it hurts. Three haunting questions are eventually posed – ‘Will they get what you say? Will you make an impact and how safe [is] the space?’ These questions quickly provoke the ‘snap allies’ term and the idea of ‘collective snaps’. The transcriber also appears to have practically debated how to represent what was taking place at the exact moment of lexicon generation (a debate that creeps into the transcription when an enunciation is made more than once, i.e. when the bold font does not extend to the pluralising -s in ‘audience members’). Overall, at the moment of switching format, the Room proceeds to generate the lexicon (terms and their connections), which accompanied the conversation from that point on. The transformations in our feelings and thinkings that followed the introductory moment become apparent in observations #3, #4 and #5.

Observation #2. The build-up and ending of the ‘feminist snap’

The plenary conversation appears not to rely so much in similarity of opinion, subscription to a certain flavour of feminism or use of rhetorics. Rather, speakers offer words-in-progress – a vulnerable conversational mode that neither seeks a fixed position for the speaker, nor is polemical in its juxtapositions. Furthermore, speakers take conversational turns in unmoderated fashion and make use of a short and symmetrical amount of time. The collective pace and rhythm allow for observing the build-up of a process that is parallel to the inputs and yet autonomous in its trajectory. This might be specific to the Snap.tivism format, which relies so much in shared words and physical spatiality, and in the following observations we use it to imagine further the distributive nature and rearrangeability of Snap.tivism and its words-in-progress.

The analysis recovered three such build-ups (actually 2 and a half, because time pressure forced an early and external end to the 3rd). We label those from here on either as fms1, 2, 3, or ‘build-ups’.

The common characteristics of all three build-ups are the following: 1) structured around one (vocal) automatism that surrounds the inputs and escalates with time, 2) one discursive theme being unpacked and 3) the generation and repetition of playful snap lexicon. These elements support one another by building up from scratch feminist snaps, while facilitate each reaching its peak, showing its potential and confront its limitations. Indeed, we argue that fms1+2+3 start, develop and eventually end at the intersection of feminist pedagogy and feminist genealogy, when feminist hope is achieved simultaneously to the realisation of the inevitability of future snaps (observations #3, #4, #5 explore each build-up in detail and show what happens at the final intersection).

Observation #3: The anti-snap. Recalling the experience – transforming the relation

From 42m51s until 46m50s the second collective lesson drawn in the Room takes place: the anti-snap (at 46m11s -12s. omitted from transcript). This lesson is drawn in a similar fashion as the lexicon generation of observation #1: repetitive enunciations from low voice to louder voice and a burst of laughter all around. We understand the anti-snap as a catalytic moment in which the speakers manage to reverse the negative relation to past snap experiences. The anti-snap is at the heart of fms1.

Fms1 is a good example to demonstrate how the ‘distributed subjectivity’ and ‘perceptive trajectory’ (as argued in the theory section) are expressed in the Room. It builds on ‘laughter’ as a workable proposal and laughter as the little automatisms shared in the Room. In a few words in those 4 minutes, we laugh, at times excessively, and we rework how to relate to past and future snaps, via trying out different styles of laughter.

SLM: you haven’t had good snaps?

Speaker C: no really bad [soft giggle]

SLM: I have had good snaps

Speaker C: no I think most of the times I’ve challenged people [omitted: I have taken away] feeling worse than empowered

SLM: is it because you were alone then? Because that’s the snap allies coming in here

Speaker C: maybe but I also think I have gotten fear of not being articulate enough, not representing the position well enough

[Long pause]

[___(1)__first feminist snap starts building-up about here____]

yeah I think I understand [as I was saying] [unintelligible] take most things with humor and now I’m really repositioning myself on things that have happened and I’m really uhm annoyed at myself for laughing it off and not snapping, you know

SLM: but I recognise that, because sometimes when I snap especially because it is in an affective moment I don’t get to be explained properly so if I would have written it

Audience member: and then you spend the whole day afternoon thinking things you could have said

SLM: I could have said something really, really good to that person but when I snap you know verbally you get into a position where it gets too complex to get the argument across and afterwards you regret if you didn’t formulate it differently because then that would have made the snaps more effective

Speaker D: [omitted: I might even say something like] when you are talking to people and then taking a step back you can say ‘I'm not going to educate you’

Speaker E: because sometimes you are in that situation where somebody is enjoying your agony [...] you know it's exhausting and it's very hard when your politics are so close to you like that. Sometimes it is just best not to exhaust yourself like that and just say ‘let's take a minute to agree to disagree’ and not engage in this

____________________________________________________________________

[omitted: 2 x the anti-snap
followed by slowly rising in intensity laughs]

Speaker F: do you think there is space [pause] you were talking about

Speaker E: [omitted: politics put pressure] to be articulate constantly I would imagine that

Speaker F: do you think there is space for the ‘inarticulate snap’? Because my favourite snap was really inarticulate, it was originally a response to someone who said something very inappropriate and I think it actually worked because it really was direct and inarticulate. You think there is space for that? It was not totally inarticulate, I said what I wanted to say in 10 words (laughing)

Speaker G: I think there is space because when you become inarticulate you are showing like the force of your affective reaction to it you’re showing force how you feel about it so I think it can work

Audience member [Speaker k softly]: like if you punch someone for example

Everybody laughing

Audience member [Speaker E]: Sometimes it is the only way

Speaker G: you were saying something?

Speaker J: no I was just wondering if laughter counts as being not articulate because I often find it liberating when Alison Pullen[8] for instance, she has this tendency if somebody is saying something that’s really absurd she’s laughing

[omitted SLM: like the whole room can hear it]

Speaker J: [resumes] …excessively so and then I start laughing as well because it just seems so absurd and I don’t know if the person is picking it up but at least for me it feels liberating that ‘ok, I know that somebody is agreeing with me that this is absurd right now’, yeah

____[omitted: Speaker E (very softly): oh that was a really good point]_____

Speaker G: that was interesting because there was like the problematic feeling of having laughed something off when maybe we could have dealt with it but laughter can be something powerful, highlighting the absurd

SLM: but you also talked about laughing it off so not engaging in it but just go like ha ha ha

[= this ‘ha ha ha’ is an ironic, cold laughter]

Audience member [Speaker C]: or more like as a defence mechanism as well, so I don’t have to dwell on it

[omitted: sometimes it is powerful,

yes it is powerful,

powerful]

Speaker H: sometimes it is funny but sometimes it is horrible at these levels I think things are so nuanced

SLM: yeah because what else she does is if there is a lecture hall and then there is someone saying something really absurd you go ha ha ha

[= this laughter follows the inflation and intensity of what is commonly referred to as the ‘wicked laugh’[9], Ahhaha]

[the transcriber explains:] Everybody agreeing and laughing

[actually some are imitating the ‘wicked laugh’ while everybody else burst into excessive laughter and giggles]

Audience member [Speaker E]: I think there is an amazing interview with (unintelligible) where she goes like ‘haha how absurd’(=this ‘haha’ is loud, excessive and connected in one breath with the ‘how’,
i.e. HaHaHowAbsurd)

Everybody laughing [specifically = many wicked laughs]

SLM: yeah something like that, and we’re always punished for our piercing voices so maybe we can use them for something

Speaker I: just a comment. Maybe the question is not whether there is any space for not being articulate but […] actually there are occasions that are not worthy of our articulations, because when you’re articulating something you already put so much mental and emotional labour, there are so many conventions and negotiations happening just by the way you arrange one word after the other, in speech or in paper. What if something is totally unworthy of our articulations and we just have the right to laugh it out loud?

(Audio: 42m51s-49m20s; transcript: 2-5)

It might not come as a surprise that speakers initially relate to past snaps in a negative way. Whether felt or remembered, and not explicitly mentioned in the conversation, we talk of ‘bad snaps’, ‘passive positions’, we use subjunctive speech: ‘if only I would have written my snap’, ‘then spend the whole afternoon thinking things you could have said’, ‘I could have said something really, really good’. As explored in observation #1, the conversation starts in the aftermath of the snap experience, so that is where the fms1 stems from: a place of guilt for having laughed it off, insecurity for not being able to speak eloquently and exhaustion for always engaging in dead–end fights. These sensations are magnified by the mere recollection of previous experience and suffering.

The first major change comes in creating the term ‘anti-snap’. It creates a paradigmatic ‘before and after’ event that situates the conversation strongly in relation to it. The negative feelings are expressed before it, but there are no indications of shame or guilt after the anti-snap, no sentences in the subjunctive, no lonely giggles. Let’s follow how:

The anti-snap emerges out of the ‘exhaustion’ comment of Speaker E, succeeded by the provocative question on the ‘space for the inarticulate snap’. Speaker F and E are heard by the transcriber as intertwined inputs:

[omitted: 2 x the anti-snap
followed by slowly rising in intensity laughs]

Speaker F: do you think there is space [pause] you were talking about

Speaker E: [omitted: how politics put pressure] to be articulate constantly, I would imagine that

Speaker F: do you think there is space for the ‘inarticulate snap’? because my favourite snap was really inarticulate

This is one voice speaking, yet heard as the words of two. Technically it is ‘Speaker F’, self-interrupting her own sentence, before re-formulating the question. We suggest what is being registered here is a reversal in the relation to the snap experience. It moves from a negative relation to the snap experience towards negating the snap (in creating the option of anti-snap) for the possibility to relate otherwise: claiming a relation to the labours of speech-acts (‘not worthy of our articulations’, ‘I said what I wanted to say in 10 words’, ‘HaHaHowAbsurd’), from passivity to forming ‘active’ decisions (‘not going to educate you’, ‘punching someone’, ‘laughter can be something powerful, highlighting the absurd’). The anti-snap introduces a necessary relief. We have more leeway in how we relate to the snap and it does not include only negative affective registers (shame, guilt, pain, loneliness, humiliation etc). It is further accompanied by a subsequent collective ‘release’ that is expressed in the combination of the in/articulation theme and spurs of excessive laughing. The latter is of course co-ordinated in different laughing proposals (the ironic and deflating cold laughter, the adoption and rehearsal of the wicked laugh, the gratifying collective laugh[10]).

The way laughter is coordinated inside the Room renders available to analysis another schema of affectivity at play: the speakers proceed from thinking about previous snaps to imagining future ones as both possible and positive scenarios, via means of a schema, which is symmetrical to the Room and to the anti-snap. It speaks of another woman, in another room, doing something recognisable and desirable to us all. In detail, it starts taking shape from the moment Speaker J opens what will become the ‘wicked laughter proposal’ and builds-up to its adoption/rehearsal a few lines down the transcript. Speaker J mentions how it feels liberating for her when another (Alison Pullen):

has this tendency if somebody is saying something that’s really absurd she’s laughing excessively so and then I start laughing as well because it just seems so absurd and I don’t know if the person is picking it up but at least for me it feels liberating that ok I know that somebody is agreeing with me that this is absurd right now.

The liberation that Speaker J invests in, we argue, stems from the point of view of somebody witnessing another woman, another’s response, not following necessarily on her footsteps but taking comfort in a companionship of sorts where ‘somebody is agreeing with me’. We are still in the anti-snap phase, where our words negate the snap experience. We pointed out in the theory section how the snap has no ‘audience perspective’ and here it becomes clear how distribution (think the symmetry between the Room with the ‘whole room [that] can hear her’) and the rearrangement of perception (from total negation to collectively rehearsing future wicked laughter) unfolds in conversation. Imagination and recognition are important here to turn around the terms of the relation. Via means of laughing a powerful laughter, we escape the negative relation to the snap. The reversal opens up a whole collective thinking through session:

______[omitted: Speaker E (very softly): oh that was a really good point]______

Speaker G: that was interesting because there was like the problematic feeling of having laughed something off when maybe we could have dealt with it but laughter can be something powerful, highlighting the absurd

SLM: but you also talked about laughing it off so not engaging in it but just go like ha ha ha

[= this ‘ha ha ha’ is an ironic, cold laughter]

Audience member [Speaker C]: or more like as a defence mechanism as well, so I don't have to dwell on it

[omitted: softly all around: but sometimes it is powerful

yes it is powerful

powerful]

Speaker H: sometimes it's funny but sometimes it's horrible at these levels I think things are so nuanced

Speakers E, C, SLM, G do not offer words of agreement with one another here. We see a trajectory of thought shaping up where every step is a sentence. These sentences collect all available proposals that have fallen on the conversation so far. Its content reads both as a recapitulation of what was mentioned before the anti-snap and what became afterwards, with a special focus to what laughter has been before and after. Speakers associate with one another’s words as words-in-progress, to slowly approach a collective formulation; hence, collective pedagogy session for recalling the experience – transforming the relation. The total release from any reservations comes when it is pointed out how ‘if there is a lecture hall and then there is someone saying something really absurd you go ha ha ha (wicked laugh)’. In its symmetry, this schema includes: 1) the imagination of a loud, public feminist intervention (wicked laughter), 2) in a setting familiar to all of us (a lecture hall), 3) in a situation familiar to us (witnessing the absurd in speech acts), 4) in a setting where we are not alone (‘someone is agreeing with me’). In order to achieve both the reversal of relation and the trajectory of thought, the speakers associate with one another’s words by unpacking the theme of laughter (laughing something off → laughing as witnessing another’s response → laughing together and well against absurdity). At the same time the ‘unpacking’ is constantly encouraged by little automatisms (here in a laughter form) of accumulated volume and intensity: from speaker’s lonely giggle → ironic, cold laughter → collective wicked laugh. Between 48m26s-48m38s the Room is buzzing with loud, wicked laughter. This is the crescendo of the build-up for the fms1. From there on, two speakers register a similar opinion that practically remarks how our time, our labour, is to be valued: ‘there are occasions that are not worthy of our articulations’ and ‘if someone says something, you hand them a card saying “here are some recommended readings”’.

Fms1 comes to an end at exactly 50m37s –there is no dramatic exit and no disagreement, just a reminder for moments when laughter cannot offer a powerful escape. After a cycle of loud laughter, Speaker k registers from a low, very low voice. And changes everything:

Speaker k: I think that’s a great response but sometimes it is microaggressions that cut a little too close and too deep, and they can be produced from family politics and then you just have no choice but to repeat the same argument and the same debate over and over again

(audio: 49m52s; transcript: 5)

The change that Speaker k introduces was evident from the very first round of studying the audio file. It is heard in the low voice that contrasts with the previously established among speakers ‘high pitch’, sarcastic tone and slower rhythm. It is heard in the long pause (4 long breaths) after she finished talking. It is felt in the sadness registering in the voice and the specific words she spoke (the authors all specifically remembered this particular input). All of the above plays a role in hearing a sudden shift in the conversation and its accompanied automatisms. Moreover, one eventually traces the change that has been registered via another means: the transcriber inserts for the first time a speaker in a minor (not capital letter) – Speaker ‘minor k’ (Transcript: 5). This is a coincidence, yet this is exactly the sort of suggestive mediations one works with, when engaged with transmedial analysis. Something unique happened at that exact input, towards which all media somehow register a reaction. There is no other minor letter case Speaker throughout the text and after further analysis recovered the exact build-ups regarding fms1 and fms2, minor k became the meeting point for all involved perceptive apparatuses as it stands in a transition from fms1 towards fms2.

On inquiring the conditions of a fms’ end, we argue that Speaker ‘minor k’ not only demonstrates the inescapability of future snaps via laughter, but also touches on a key point that haunts the Room and our imaginations:

At times you just have no choice but to repeat the same argument and the same debate over and over again ‘I said this because that, what aspect do you want to look it at from, yes we can rehearse it all over again’

This haunting sentiment maintains and repeats itself via other voices. Interestingly it does not acquire a name or a description. At 56m35s, SLM openly associates back to ‘minor k’:

also what you were talking about – you know – about coming home and trying to – you know – do we need to have this conversation again? [emphasis added]

or at 1h10m46s, Speaker X uses the trope to narrate an important snap incident in her life:

I was so pissed off by having what you were saying the same conversation are we going to have it now or are we going to have it later or after dinner or I don’t want to care anymore [emphasis added]

Speaker ‘minor k’, from then on, embodies the point that gets no name (what you were talking about, what you were saying).

Overall, in the first documented build-up, we showed how a collective recollection of snap experience is transformative in terms of the emotional and educational content one attributes to it. We followed the effort of a group of voices to engage and unpack a certain proposal, the satisfaction that is drawn at break-through moments and the realisation of how far this response might take the group. The anti-snap not only reached its potential, but in its ending offered the grounds for the next build-up – which engages the input of Speaker ‘minor k’.  

Observation #4: The snap-by-proxy. Cues of recognition – matters of non-existence

Melene (Speaker I): ok some of the previous thoughts made me realise also that there is some sort of ‘literacy’ in recognising our own snaps or recognising other people snapping

(Audio: 01h02m49s; transcript: 8)

The build-up towards fms2 touches upon issues of snap literacy and how to recognise one another in our vulnerable and explosive moments. It is another illustrative example of how the ‘feminist snap’ develops by drawing on past experience and future inescapability. This time the collective thinking process concerns inequality, with the most available case study being ‘life in the Academia’. Discussing Academia (the work environment for most speakers) features its own automatism: if only we could count the number of ‘hmmm(s)’ and ‘yeahs’ between 1h00m07s until its spectacular end at 1h10m04s.

Inequality in Academia is discussed through a series of stories and examples (in a 10 minute slot, 8 stories and 3 general comments are shared). All pointing to the absurd frequency and force of sexist and violent behaviours we have to deal with on a daily basis. In academic (work) contexts, who may snap and from what positions? This question is at the heart of fms2.

Speaker Q: I sometimes choose to snap for someone else. You can see the other one is actually snapping but doesn't dare or for some other reason sort of doesn't do anything and then I was like ‘I will, I have nothing to lose’ (laughing) I don't know actually if it's a good or bad thing, sometimes it might be good because at times things need to be articulated and said out loud, but sometimes it does diminish the person who didn't snap [unintelligible] vulnerability, I don't know [omitted: perhaps it stands as example, next time you dare to snap yourself] but I particularly recognise in work related situations that this is what I do, it's not necessarily that I am offended, but somebody needs to say it out loud so I will

[All around: hm, uhm, hm, hm, Yeah, hm, hm, hm]

Speaker G: For example in academic circles, like PhD students and young researchers are in more precarious situations, like when I see people snapping on behalf of their, not many people are willing to do that but the few who do that we are so grateful

Everybody agreeing [with ‘yeah’ and with ‘hmm’]

Speaker R: In that situation and context it's an act of solidarity. I can't tell you the amount of times I have been [unintelligible] at my PhD, wishing that someone would come and back me up, like the thing being recognised so it is not great behaviour [if you are at the periphery] I think in that context it's good, but I guess maybe it's about acknowledging the snap by proxy to the person as well, so they are included and they know that you knew that they were feeling quite [unintelligible]

Speaker G: we need like a handshake,

Speaker Y: or code

[yeah, yeah and awkward laughs]

[Omitted: several suggestions for candidate gestures]

Audience member [Speaker Q]: or like a wink

(Audio: 1h05m14s-1h07m13s; transcript: 9)

The snap-by-proxy proposal debates matters of recognition and solidarity. It builds onto thoughts and ideas regarding a shared code or gestures for all snappy people out there: give us a wink, a certain handshake, show your symptoms of suffering the same pain. ‘Perhaps we could even have these conversations beforehand’ (audio: 1h07m17s). Throughout its build-up, fms2 dares to imagine an activism attuned to snap, futures of preparedness and more ‘effective’ responses than mere outbursts, which make its ending all the more intense for the participants.

At the end of this build-up, it is Speaker V and the suggestion that perhaps the Room should consider the issue of academic existence/non-existence as pertaining to a more fundamental question:

Speaker V: But, [what you described] is directed to both male and female so it is not that question, or might be more important to ask – you know – what kind of research is valid research, so not ‘who’ is it being conducted by necessarily. I find, what you said about storytelling as political practice that might not resonate with a department of Politics and Philosophy, regardless of who is conducting the research and that I think unfolds a whole culture of legitimising specific spheres more than others or how they are conducted and that kind-of roots the idea beyond the binary, idea of gender or a quality as being the end of feminist strategy

[_____________Shift to another question_____________]

[__________fms3 starts here__________]

Speaker W: also maybe I wanted to ask everyone about our snaps when they become really vulgar and ridiculous and violent is there anything that can be said from what we mythicise as a radical feminist or whether there are any points where such a response could say something or is it always you think patriarchal tools because you resort into violence?

(Audio: 1h09m20s-1h10m37s; transcript: 10)

At this excerpt, there is an attribution of double Speaker identity to a singular voice, even though there is no pause, no interference in how the audio has captured this voice. Similarly to the occurrence of a minor letter to designate a Speaker, this is an exceptional episode, which manages to cut across different media, marking the end of fms2 and the beginning of fms3. W’s question inquires over the possibility of claiming for ourselves both feminist rage and vulgarity. This is the only moment inside the Room that snap experience, not its aftermath, is so central and so prominent. In contrast to the pausing effect Speaker ‘minor k’ had before, this time the immediate pivoting question leaves zero time for coming to terms with Speaker V’s proposal. Our conversation transcript features only one narration of a snap experience per se and this particular voice appears right after speaker W. The transcriber inserts right next to Speaker’s name a unique explanatory sentence: ((speaker shares her experience)).  Indeed, it is one full episode, with all its intensity, feelings, magnification of senses and all sort of details mixing issues big and small, speaking of the shame and frustration that accompany feminist rage. This results in a number of felt tensions that culminate during the fms3.

Overall, the snap-by-proxy builds on aspirations to both commit to snap experience, while also avoiding it, preparing for it, even escaping from it. V’s assertion, which points to the inescapability of our institutional positioning (no matter the literacy and recognition cues), hits the Room with the unanticipated force of collective realisation.

Observation #5: Technologies of snap. Possible futures – alternative archives

[Omitted Speaker C: I love that name Snap.tivism, like snapping on behalf of others when we feel that is the right thing to do]

[silence for 5s]

SLM: what else shall we do?

[longest silence throughout the conversation: 11s]

Audience member (Speaker L): [omitted: maybe try not to punish ourselves too much for our snaps, we talked on how harsh is the post reflection for each, sometimes] I think life is not perfect, it’s not that you get to revise and resubmit your conversations, so it might be nice for the times you snapped to be less harsh on yourself

(Audio:1h29m44s-1h30m34s; transcript: 16)

With the name ‘technologies of snap’ we introduce the last part of our conversation, which was interrupted due to time constraints, but still managed to build itself up quite significantly. Listening through the transcript, at first it feels like a light conversation on several artefacts that we can create or at least consider to make our snap experiences more successful, more collective, less painful, less scary. Nevertheless, as can be seen in the excerpt above, there were also pauses of silence and moments of dissociation. This dual response of brainstorming and silence is pertinent to our final observation. Especially in the manner it indexes a deep recollection of self-help, self-empowerment practice. ‘Maybe try not to punish ourselves too much for our snaps’. We note that no specific automatism guides or invigorates this build-up. Instead we contend that brainstorming (specifically on technological means and artefacts) takes exactly this role. It felt repetitive and ‘hungry’ (not greedy, but for sure needy), like building a survival kit or to-do list (Do this, do that, or that etc.), where ‘everything goes’ as far as tools are concerned. Moreover, the speakers do not debate in any depth the technological proposals; they are weaving them onto the surface of the conversation. And they remain on the surface (meaning we do not debate the terms and commitment of certain choices versus other etc.), until a contrasting association regarding what is to be done for future snaps builds a direct bridge with intimate and personal statements on past events. In observation #5 we examine the surface and the hidden depths of the last build-up, and propose to see the ‘bridge’, the contrast as our Snap.tivist archival collection.

A number of practical ideas, artefacts, art and activism projects, media platforms and self-help recipes were mentioned in the Room. In terms of solutions, the most prominent of these related to a discussion on archiving practices. Prominent because more than one proposal touches on archiving. Let’s take the following case in point:

Melene [Speaker I]: one possible practice would be like a real appreciation of the work of repetition because affective experiences are re-lived and hit us in the face with same exact intensity and are totally [un]controllable, so like really appreciating repetition means organising it it's really crucial […]

Audience member [Speaker M]: you were also saying like ‘every day feminist’ what it’s called?

[4 Speakers repeat ‘everyday sexism’]

Speaker G: everyday sexism

Audience member [Speaker M]: yeah yeah exactly, that’s appreciation of repetition and also archiving the feminist female experience of sexism in everyday experiences

Speaker G: [a colleague, Ulrike Marx[11]] in our discipline she was talking about [long pause] she was doing a paper, she is a critical accountant who’s talking about the ‘everyday sexism project’ as a way of accounting across institutions, yeah it’s really good, so we have not got any economists but we have got an accountant

Audience member [Speaker I]: but how does this practice look like?

Speaker G: it’s just the ‘everyday sexism project’ so that way of collecting stories, but [Ulrike]’s talking about it as a way of accounting [for feminism and against harassment]

(Audio: 1h26m46s-1h29m18s; transcript: 15-16)

A central facet emerges regarding the ways personal experiences are transformed while discussing alternative snap futures and technologies. It manifests in the fms3 via a unique conversational pattern: speakers ‘throw on the table’ ideas and proposals for the development of future snap-artefacts (see excerpt on ‘the resource’ below), but in their discursive formulations they do not go into details regarding these technologies. The expressed inventiveness is excessive and guides the conversation, the way laughter had done at observation #3. And it is followed by longer than usual pauses, where a perceptive pivot takes place: via means of reference to an artefact, art project or network each Speaker jumps directly to revisiting a past experience, to reliving how it felt.

Speaker Z3: [omitted: the person I interviewed on hysteria runs] a martial arts class for women and non-binary people and it’s amazing, it’s called Charlie Shadow sisters and she kind of talks about sometimes that being

[she pauses for 4s. Something changes]

I think it’s a really hard one because I always like ‘the idea’ of the snap, but the bodily response that I know as a queer woman when I’ve been assaulted in the street, that is completely crippling, and my snap in like the most severe cases was calling the police a few days later and even that for me was like a resistance thing to be even like no that was not ok and I’m going to try and do something about it

(Audio: 1h35m39s; transcript: 17)

We do not take these words as forming a sort of confessional testimony (the Foucauldian truthful subjectivity does not lie within the magnified and hyper-registering sensorium of the fms3). The long pause of Speaker Z3 captures that point precisely. She starts re-considering the hysteria proposal as talk of empowerment and as offered by her interviewee, to then suddenly awaken to her own ‘crippling’ body testimony. The contrast continues between feelings of safety/companionship (by talking on the standardised, sharable, controllable) to feelings of the visceral, the instinctual, the paralysis (by talking on ‘fight or flight response’, hysteria, unproductive reactions). This way of creating sentences and feeding into the conversation allows for a collective perception to open up and become available for analysis.

Specifically, the fms3 is concerned with re-working the relationalities between strength and armour. Many options are suggested and are momentarily endorsed or at least celebrated:

Speaker G: […] having a document just to share those and then some kind of response that might not be a snap it might not be as snappy as a snap but just like a quick way of dealing with it so it doesn't derail the whole experience like actually sharing the classic ones that we get all the time and having to come up with answers ourselves individually too

Audience member: like a snap resource

Everybody laughing

Speaker G: yeah like a spreadsheet because I was going to do within our network so maybe we could combine forces and just share it because it would save us so much energy if we just collectively came up with these ways of dealing with it quickly so we can get on with what we’re going to say

[several omissions in the transcript here: Proposals how to collect, measure, standardise the snap package: Resource, Spreadsheet, Manual, Dictionary, Glossary, CBT manual]

[Speaker Z2: That is like a cognitive behavioural training manual: ‘you’d better be conscious, you’d better be level headed, and do not forget the resource, always look into the resource before you snap’]

Speaker Z2: [omitted: I wish it was that easy, but at least from my responses] there were moments where I felt I didn’t snap hard enough, oh I wish I had that to go to

(Audio: 1h32m56s-1h33m15s; Transcript: 16-17)

Indeed, although some provocative ideas, like the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) manual, are positively responded to, they also come with a layer of irony and pain registering in the voices: ‘you’d better be conscious, you’d better be level headed, and do not forget the resource, always look into the resource before you snap’. The technological options we considered give form and stabilise ways we work through the felt tensions in a collective looking backwards that meets its complementary mode in looking forwards to the inevitability of future snapping. Silence and long pauses open up the speakers to experience made excessive by suffering and trauma; in envisioning a future of ‘snap allies’, ‘snap manuals’ or ‘snap CBT’ the voices are seen to also look backwards at times in which these resources could have, might have, would have helped. They capture the affective-semiotic-material instructions for future Snap.tivists.

Concluding remarks

In this paper, we provide a working model and outline key characteristics regarding Sara Ahmed’s ‘feminist snap’, attending to its thinkings and feelings in equal measure. Our theoretical part focused on Ahmed’s examination of the snap, but also further supported a theoretical elaboration on the feminist pedagogy and feminist genealogy categories via means of presenting how both intervene on the distribution of suffering and re-arrangement of perception during the snap’s realisation (as in becoming real, becoming collective) process.

Through transmedial analysis, inspired by the work of Lisa Blackman, we were able to reach in minute detail what feminist voices embody and how they strive to rearrange experience in relation to the two categories of interest – feminist pedagogy and genealogy. We created and worked on an affective-semiotic-material ‘map’ of the Room, drawing insights from the pace, intensity, and affectivity patterns therein located. Although haunted by negatively charged memories and experiences, through the collective process and the associative patterns of the speakers’ voices, Snap.tivism as a conversational format was found to intensify the volume and mutate the registers of what Blackman calls ‘embodied hauntologies’.

The findings and observations section contains a detailed account of the most insightful episodes stemming from the transmedial analysis of the Room. At first, we demonstrate ways that the temporality of snap experiences plays out in relation to the Room. Especially how different media locate the ‘beginnings’ of the conversation at significantly diverging points in time and in space. We use this discrepancy to rethink Ahmed’s reminder of the snap not being a start in itself, and to observe how collective lessons are drawn in its aftermath. At Observation #2, we offer an overview of the ‘feminist snap’ as expressed in the Snap.tivism conversation. We draw out its processual character and internal ingredients, in what we termed the fms1+2+3 ‘build-ups’. This overview touches upon the theoretical provocations of snap subjectivity: considering how media attribute identity to speakers, split voices in more than one personality, render certain voices superior to others, seek out ‘to explain’ some reactions, etc.

By Observation #3 we take the space to present the full-blown build-up of fms1 in minute detail. We follow how via repetitive automatisms and the examination of a singular topic the ‘feminist snap’ is redistributing negative feelings and rearranges the given pasts, familiar presents and available futures in the anti-snap proposal. We draw on the inner workings of a symmetrical affectivity playing out via means of collective imagination and imitation/rehearsal. The lessons drawn in fms1 become the basis for the next build-up, as explored in observation #4. Here we get even closer to the speakers’ familiar, snap-worthy environments, i.e. Academia, and pursue patterns of recognition and snap solidarity on a day-to-day basis. The analysis of this part highlights how our literal non-existence (the cancellation of our credibility; the violence of rigid structures) in certain institutions gets navigated by doing collectivity. Finally, Observation #5 takes the opening of available futures and the recognisable patterns of the previous two build-ups as starting points for looking backwards, revisiting hurtful pasts and seeking to archive them as the bulletproof armour for future snaps. The affectivity in this process expresses itself in the form of a relationship: investment in feelings of safety and control, in order to find courage in the Room and revisit a haunting past. The temporalities of the personal snaps give the workable components to tweak, to shift perception as a collective stake.

Overall, we sought to suspend the elusive ‘present’ of the Room, in order to examine in detail how the ‘feminist snap’ expresses itself in connection and in education. We discovered ways that we – as speakers and via conversational modes – took stock of past situations and complex emotional states before looking forwards to a future where we are available to others as snap.tivists. We stayed as close to Ahmed’s proposal as possible to seek in our voices’ embodiments the distribution across a queer ‘genealogy, unfolding as an alternative family line’ and the rearrangement of burdens and pleasures of our ‘feminist inheritance’ (Ahmed, 2017a: 192). For such purposes, we also had to trust Blackman’s method in order to create a more pluralistic and suggestive account for what Snap.tivism might be about (beyond our own memories and personal lessons). This has been part of a greater ‘feminist communication system’ (Ahmed, 2017a: 211) and we are proud and grateful at the end of this journey. We invite all you possible snap.tivists out there to ‘give space’ to snap experiences and experiment with the format and terminology offered here. Sharpen your recognition cues, work out your snap gestures and do not despair: at the end of a ‘feminist snap’ lies available the kernel of the next build-up.

 

[1]     ‘Living a Feminist Life’ is the 2017 book of Ahmed. It stemmed out of her blogging endeavors at https://feministkilljoys.com/. It contains conceptually the full continuum of her commitment to diversity work and feminism.

[3]     Links to all three sources can be found here, https://feministkilljoys.com/2017/05/21/snap/.

[4]     This formulation of ‘collectivity being done’ is versed in the social constructivism understanding that sociality is a daily accomplishment, something that is being done (or undone). Same applies when looking the particularities of 'solidarity' or 'collectivity': these concepts do not index a thing intrinsic to an abstract social domain; they 'are done' in practice.

[5]     See. Ahmed, 2007.

[6]    More than a metaphor, the broken twig is an exercise in perceptiveness, connecting the participants of this story across their respective biographies, making their encounter a certain distribution of suffering and responsivity. For these reasons, we call it a trope.

[7]     Blackman specifically draws inspiration from the work of Avery Gordon and Grace M. Cho, to speak of how ‘[e]mbodied hauntologies work with the traces, fragments, fleeting moments, gaps, absences, submerged narratives, and displaced actors and agencies that register affectively – in a profound sense that there is something more to say, that one should look for something more than now’ (2007: 26).

[8]     Many thanks to our snap ally, Alison Pullen, who read and commented on the early draft of the paper and gave consent to mentioning her name. For details on Alison’s work see. https://researchers.mq.edu.au/en/publications/ .

[10]     This takes place a bit later (49m32-35s; 49m42-46s).

[11]    Many thanks to our snap ally, Ulrike Marx for reading the early draft and permitting us to mention her full name. For details on her work, see:

      https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/business/people/academic/ulrike-marx.

references 

Ahmed, S. (2017a) Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. (2017b) ‘Snap!’, blog post posted on 21-05-17 to feministkilljoys [https://feministkilljoys.com/2017/05/21/snap/]

Ahmed, S. (2013) The cultural politics of emotion. 2nd edition. New York: Routledge.

Ahmed, S. (2010) The promise of happiness. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. (2008) ‘Open forum imaginary prohibitions: Some preliminary remarks on the founding gestures of ‘the new materialism’’, European Journal of Women’s Studies, 15(1): 23-39.

Ahmed, S. (2007) ‘A phenomenology of whiteness’, Feminist Theory, 8(2): 149-168.

Blackman, L. (2014) ‘Affect and automaticy: Towards an analytics of experimentation’, Subjectivity, 7(4): 362-384.

Blackman, L. (2012) Immaterial bodies: Affect, embodiment, mediation. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Blackman, L. (2010) ‘Embodying affect: Voice-hearing, telepathy, suggestion and modelling the non-conscious’, Body & Society, 16(1): 163-192.

Blackman L. (2007) ‘Researching affect and embodied hauntologies: Exploring an analytics of experimentation’, in B.T. Knudsen and C. Stage (eds.) Affective methodologies. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

the author(s)  

Melpomeni Antonakaki works as scientific associate at the Munich Center for Technology in Society, affiliated with the Post/doc lab. Engineering Responsibility. Her dissertation is situated at the intersections of Science and Technology Studies and Affect/Transmedial analytics of experimental settings, jointly supervised by Prof. Maasen, MCTS-TUM and Prof. Hilgartner, STS dep., Cornell University. The PhD attends to the multifarious and affective ways through which laboratory practice and scientific authorship are being contested in controversial cases, with special focus on how bodies ‘matter’ in reproducibility attempts and in understandings of automated components.

Email: melina.antonakaki AT tum.de

 

Jade Elizabeth French is a PhD candidate at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research explores the poetics of female ageing in avant-garde texts, with a specific focus on the works of H.D., Mina Loy and Djuna Barnes. She is interested in applying cultural gerontological theories in a modernist context, looking at embodiment and life-courses alongside texts and visual art. She edited the book Let’s Start a Pussy Riot (Rough Trade, 2013) and is also the founder of the London-based academic/arts collective Liminal Spaces, which addresses issues of mental health in academia.

Email: j.e.e.french AT qmul.ac.uk

 

Cansu Guner is a Doctoral Candidate at the Technical University of Munich, based at the MCTS. Her study/research interests lie at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies (STS), Organisational Theory, and Feminist TechnoScience. Her thesis focuses on (re)configuring entrepreneurship and diversity in tech, paying special attention to start-up and digital cultures. She has been active in questions of academic diaspora, and is co-founder of iris, a Turkish online STS Encyclopedia. She is a member of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology, EASST and the network of STS Turkey.

Email: cansu.guner AT tum.de