Andrea Geyer and Sharon Hayes
by Maryam Jafri

Where does politics reside today? A whole host of identities sexual, generational, racial, ethnic linguistic, geographic, cultural have emerged to rupture the presumed stability and unitary nature of the political subject of feminism, challenging feminism much the way feminism and other social movements of the 60s-70s challenged classical Marxism’s privileging of class conflict as the definitive antagonism of society. Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclaus theory of Radical Democracy attempts to take into account the increasing fragmentation of social identities, a trend which they assert that not just Marxist theory but also Liberal theory fails to adequately address. Mouffe and Laclau critique the Liberal concept of the rational political consensus because of its failure to deal with the constitutive role of antagonism within society. They note that difference must not be relegated to a so-called private sphere in order for a rational political consensus to emerge in some privileged public sphere. Instead it is important for subjects even within the same political movement to identify with different, even antagonistic, positions. Difference does not preclude political action nor is it something to overcome by political confrontation but instead forms a part of any political alliance.

For their project "Cambio de Lugar_Change of Place," Sharon Hayes and Andrea Geyer conducted a series of interviews around questions of gender/feminism with women in Mexico City and New York City. Geyer and Hayes chose to keep the same catalog of question for all 27 interviews. All interviews are bilingual Spanish/English. Their decision to document the interviews for their project "Cambio de Lugar_Change of Place" by videotaping only the translator, and not the person being interviewed, calls for an understanding of the subject as always already positioned within the communal context of language and hence as always already a social actor.

The interviews reveal that no one political identity can account for the multiplicity of positions that even a single individual occupies. One of the last questions put forth however, on the interviewee’s response to the election of conservative canidates Bush/Fox, underlines the importance of a continued collective political struggle, particularly with womens access to abortion and other reproductive rights under siege. The installation problematizes both extreme particularism and a violent universality that seeks to neutralize difference between subjects. Four rows of monitors, each showing a different interview, are placed on identical tables. Each monitor becomes a separate unit in a chain of monitors, each monitor itself a placeholder for a chain of voices and subject positions, a chain of subjects speaking through and outside of a single translator on the screen, a potential citizen or member of a contingent political community the video installation itself.

Contemporary political movements today that privilege either particularism or universalism are reactionary movements occupying one political space at the expense of the other. Resistance must position itself against both the hegemony of a minority and the tyranny of the majority because in fact the ongoing negotiation between an extreme particularism and a hegemonic universality is where politics resides today.

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