Explanation of a Trash Theory Tumbler.
Let’s put happiness in our trash theory tumbler, and see what sort of Thing squirms out.
Happiness? What could be less a candidate for of a Trash Theory Tumbler; less, that is “on the brink of language, comprehensibility, understanding, and sense” than happiness? Happiness: is it not so natural, so intuitive, so obvious to hardly require comment? We are perfectly clear when we have it, and are even clearer when we lack it. We all know exactly what happiness means. We all want it and pursue it. Why do anything if not for happiness?
Well, enter the critic, who asks: what if “happiness” signifies not an affect, not an interior psychological condition, but an overt political-ideological tool of status-quo conformity, indeed, of oppression? This is what feminist writer Sara Ahmed asks us to consider in her book The Promise of Happiness, “a provocative cultural critique of the imperative to be happy.”
In this Trash Theory Tumbler, we will read the Introduction (“Why Happiness, Why Now?”) and Chapter One (“The Feminist Killjoy”) of The Promise of Happiness. Against the blinding affirmation of happiness’ light, we will sit in the uncertain darkness, together with “the feminist killjoy, the unhappy queer, the angry black woman, and the melancholic migrant,” and listen to what they can teach us about the worm at the heart of “happiness.”
Readings accessed on registration.
Facilitator: Glenn Wallis holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University. He is the author of several books, including Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice and Basic Teachings of the Buddha as well as numerous articles, chapters, and essays on various aspects of Buddhism and Western Buddhism in contemporary society. His more recent work, A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real, employs the “non-philosophical” approach of François Laruelle. Wallis has taught at Brown University, Bowdoin College, and was tenured at the University of Georgia. He is the founder of the blog Speculative Non-Buddhism and Incite Seminars. His most recent books are An Anarchist’s Manifesto and Non-Buddhist Mysticism: Performing Primitive and Irreducible Presence.