Assay@NFN15: “Writing from Within a Dissenting Subjectivity”

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Panelists: Tee Clutcher, Rachel Hanson, Toni Nealie, Catina Bacote

Tee Clutcher and Dissent in Body: With a PowerPoint of recent and daring photography, Clutcher opened with what it means to write as a trans-person or someone who speaks against the rigid binary system of gender. They (Clutcher) explained that gender became a metaphor for people who are neither male nor female. Instead, trans-people were said to be performing each gender role, and then they, as a collective, were considered a mesh of “something else”—an other. Clutcher strived for being cohesive or fluid not only in writing, but also in life. They (Clutcher) contends that identity should solely relate to the present, dwelling in the body as it simply exists.

Toni Nealie and Dissent in Landscape: Nealie did not write on dissent until she had moved to the United States, where she encountered the intersections of nationality, race, marriage and motherhood. She confronted how her identity was shaped in the framework of several landscapes and how she found her voice in the platform of the personal essay. Within this space, she explored how writing became an act of rebellion—a person could create change and find a path through her words when her surroundings were otherwise restrictive­. She recalled two poems from her own childhood, entitled “No Ordinary Sun” by Hone Tuwhare and “Bucket of Blood” by James K. Baxter that demonstrated the power of dissent in writing. She then provided an excerpt from her essay, “On the Rights and Privileges of Being an Alien,” published in Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics.

Catina Bacote and Dissent in Community: In 1992, Bacote was a sophomore in college, taking a course in sociology. Her professor asked the students to describe the police in their community. Many of peers who were reared in New Haven, Connecticut answered with “pleasant” or “non-existent.” For Bacote, the first word that came to mind was “brutal,” which described the heinous acts police committed against her community. Growing up in the housing projects presented her with a perspective from the “other America”—a place where the police lived next door to repress citizens through intimidation and control. During the following class session, Bacote exited with a profound regret: her silence allowed students to trivialize the extensive wounds in her community. Here, she forced herself to answer yet another painful question: What could her writing, especially a thesis, do to battle repression? Bacote stated that “writing is what keeps [her] awake and alive” and that “the struggle is what is in [her] control.” Hence, she writes on the people within the community and the dignity they try to maintain.


Etenia Mullins is an essayist and poet from Clarksville, Tennessee. Her work has appeared in Red Mud Review and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts. She is an undergraduate student at Austin Peay State University.

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