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Paroxysm: The Problem of the Fist

Holmes, Rachel (2020) Paroxysm: The Problem of the Fist. Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, 20 (5). pp. 496-509.

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Abstract

This article is about movement, documenting a researcher’s reading, seeing, and feeling with the flaring movements of a young child’s clenched fists as he punches the air in an early years’ classroom. Drawing on postqualitative inquiry and feminist new materialisms, the article aims to engage with a series of images to think otherwise about the fists, aiming to nudge the researcher’s gaze to attend to the unfolding affective forces of movement’s encounters and compositions that touch the structure of subjectivity. The first part of the article addresses the importance of returning to early years’ events to slow them down and open up spaces for not knowing so quickly what seems to unfold in/to the classroom. As an ongoing provocation of thought, I am interested in resisting the accelerated temporality of education by re-turning these images over and over, hovering over the surfaces of histories and politics to interrupt associative chains of thinking–feeling. The article then moves into the problems posed by the fists, stirring the sediments and deposits that are rapidly set in motion as the fists flare. Recognizing the affects of congealed language that genders and racializes my sense-making apparatus, the article mixes in stock notions of the child, reducing him to a body in pugilistic rebellion. The article finally turns to consider movement as another way of becoming oriented within one’s environment. The moving fist-assemblage becomes a potent thread that gathers and disperses meaning and bodies, politics and history, form and movement, and being natural and ideological, material and semiotic.

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