GOSSIP SAVES: Theorizing affective information practices of community care

Emily Guerrero

Abstract

Within gender and queer studies, there is a body of literature which has mapped out ways that a modern conceptualization of “gossip” comes from historic attempts by women, people of colour, and others who experience social marginalization to share information with one another that may be frowned upon by those holding more power (Cifor 2015, VanHaitsma 2016). In situations of information poverty where direct, public communication may be difficult or impossible, indirect or discreet conversations which speak back to the powerful is a tactic often utilized. This is especially relevant when the information at hand is affective in nature- that is, pertaining to emotional experiences, relationships, or memory, types of information that are historically cast as “unreliable” or unverifiable and therefore not True within Western colonial paradigms. Gossip has in this way evolved into a feminized information system, one which continues to be utilized by marginalized bodies in efforts towards collective safety.

GOSSIP SAVES is an autoethnographic research and writing project which examines the use of gossip as an affective information practice, utilized by and within communities facing systemic marginalization. I root my writings in an examination of how gossip plays out in situations of community care and interpersonal safety within queer communities in Vancouver. I argue that gossip can be a window, an opening, through which practices of valuing the affective experiences of others can be cultivated.

I’m undertaking the project to contribute to a small but growing body of scholarly work which examines information practices through the lens of affect theory and a feminist ethics of care (Cifor 2015, Caswell and Cifor 2016, McKinney 2014, Cvetkovich 2003). I borrow from McKinney in particular the phrase “affective information practices,” to engage simultaneously with the study of affect and of practice theory. Considering gossip as an affective information practice gives me a frame for discussing its discursive power, and gives opportunities for considerations of what creating a personal ethic of gossip in support of community care can look like.

References

Caswell, Michelle and Marika Cifor. 2016. From human rights to feminist ethics: radical empathy in the archives. Archivaria. 81: Spring, 23-43.
Cifor, Marika. 2016. Affecting relations: introducing affect theory to archival discourse. Archival Science. 16:1, 7-31.
Cvetkovich, Ann. 2003. An archive of feelings. North Carolina: Duke University Press.
McKinney, Cait. 2014. Out of the basement and on to the internet: digitizing oral history tapes at the lesbian herstory archives. No more potlucks. 34. Accessed from: http://nomorepotlucks.org/site/out-of-the-basement-and-on-to-internet-digitizing-oral-history- tapes-at-the-lesbian-herstory-archives-cait-mckinney/.
VanHaitsma, Pamela. Gossip as rhetorical methodology for queer and feminist historiography. Rhetoric Review. 35:2, 135-47.

Bio

I recently graduated with my MLIS from the iSchool at the University of British Columbia, with a First Nations Curriculum Concentration. I currently work as a Technical and Metadata Librarian at Xwi7xwa Library at UBC. My research interests include affective information practices, developing community-specific metadata, queer archives, intersections of critical race theory and information studies, and gossip as a queer(ed) method of information transmission.