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Coined by the feminist writer Sara Ahmed (and inspired by Audre Lorde), “sweaty concepts” are a way of describing something that is hard to describe, and something that is often hard to experience. For women, people of color, disabled people, or trans folx (for example), sweaty concepts give language to our abstract experiences (experiences that are invisible to dominant groups; experiences for which the dominant group hasn’t developed language — because it hasn’t had to) and legitimize them. Ahmed writes: “More specifically a ‘sweaty concept’ is one that comes out of a description of a body that is not at home in the world…or a description of the world from the point of view of not being at home in it.” Sweaty concepts create understanding by describing the difficulty of inhabiting these identities.
Sweaty concepts are intellectual labor — “they are sweaty because they are work,” Ahmed writes.
Sweaty concepts make clear what power tries to obscure. This quarter we have the work of gloria galvez — and her collaboration with grassroots abolitionist group Critical Resistance — doing the work to illuminate the carceral logics that seep into our everyday lives. gloria does this through imagining prisons both visible and invisible — the material, abstract, and metaphorical confinements that we encounter day to day.
In a way, this quarter’s theme was inspired by gloria’s own sweaty concepts of “thingification” and “thing solidarity” ― like the kind of political solidarity that she sees in the banana. The language of “thingification” serves to break down artificial hierarchies between objects and people who regularly experience objectification.
What sweaty concepts inform or illustrate your lived experience? What experiences need new language to create new understandings?
Artist in resident: gloria galvez