Undisciplining like a moth to a flame

By Janna Klostermann (@jannaKlos)

Yesterday I undisciplined like a moth to a flame.

In my ‘How to recover from care’ session, I performed a couple works in progress and invited a collaborative exploration of care and personal storytelling.

Let’s just say, it was a workout.

My guiding questions for the session were: How can we use stories to reimagine care on a different metaphorical basis? How can personal or creative storytelling contribute to sociological projects?

Right now, the day after, my answer to both questions is something like … ‘proceed with caution’ or ‘brace yourselves’.

I opened the workshop with a personal story about care as a relationship and about turning toward the disruption that disability makes. I also presented feminist theories of care and feminist insights on how storytelling can be a radical way of generating knowledge.

I loved participants’ enthusiasm for ‘fem’ writing and for stories that write you. I also loved seeing sociologists whip up their hands when I tracked their creative and caring outputs, for example, by asking who had cared for family and friends, who had worked at a social care organization, who had supported someone at the beginning or end of their life, who had helped out with a hangover, who had changed a diaper.

It was fun,           at first,             but hard to keep up the undisciplining momentum.

Midway through the session I shared a poetic work-in-progress to narrate ordinary caring encounters or micro-aggressions. The piece was an attempt to experiment with telling personal stories in the tradition of contemporary American lyric essayists and prose poets. (Yeah, ambitious, I know).

Shortly after reading it, analytical feedback on the financialization of care, on value production and on mothering subjectivities rolled in from the two sociologists I most admire at the conference.

I found myself …

basking in their presence and intellectual insights …

blurting references to my larger doctoral project, to my RAship on care and ageing and to my engagement with feminist theories of care (to show I wasn’t just a poet?) …

scrambling to digest, imbibe and jot down any and all one-liners that could support my future work …

scrapping my plan to have participants narrate their own ordinary encounters and create a collective memoir …

wishing I had presented a conference paper rather than a work of art …

half-scrambling, half-leaning into it, over-thinking it, rolling with it …

undisciplining like a moth to a flame.

Looking back now, I feel grateful for such a lively discussion and for sharing space with so many rad thinkers and carers. I also see how dizzying it can be to undiscipline from the edges.

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