Following cultural critic Sara Ahmed’s insight that “use is a small word with a big history,” we approach the various ways that “use” enters into and exercises power within our lexicon and politics. From our interaction with digital platforms as “users,” to the Marxian notion of use-value, to the labeling of both addicts and emotional abusers as “users” of a different kind, the language of use pops up in far-flung and unexpected spheres. How do we delineate the useful and the useless, the usual and the unusual? How do the boundaries of the useful and useless map onto classifications of race, gender, sexuality, and population? In discussing the “proper” use of things and people, we ask what it means to misuse, abuse, overuse, and underuse, and offer a user manual to use and abuse.
The Working Group on Globalization and Culture http://wggc.yale.edu/ is an interdisciplinary cultural studies laboratory that has been practicing collective research at Yale University since 2003. Over the years, we have presented work at academic conferences as well as at the Left Forum, Occupy Boston, and the World Social Forum. Recent projects have been published as “Going into Debt,” online in Social Text’s Periscope, and as “Spaces and Times of Occupation” in Transforming Anthropology; a collective interview regarding “Matters of Life and Death” appeared in Revue Française d’Études Américaines. The current members—Salonee Bhaman, Michael Denning, Lucia Hulsether, Peter Raccuglia, Iliana Yamileth Rodriguez, Simon Torracinta, Damian Vergara Bracamontes, Clara Wilson-Hawken, and Yuhe Faye Wang—work in history, American studies, religious studies, literary criticism, Latinx studies, science and technology studies, popular music studies, and African-American studies.
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