The Ethics of Interpretation and Academic Practice: Article Review of “A Sexist View of Prehistory”

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender requirements in Fall 2016.


“A Sexist View of Prehistory,” written by Brian Fagan, is a well organized article in a compare-and-contrast format, with two secondary sources. While both sources are archaeologies of gender, they apply radically different approaches, and in this way they may be considered to be diverse if not in direct opposition. This being said, Fagan’s arguments as to the in/validity of each source could have been enhanced by additional sources. Fagan does make good use of descriptive analysis for the limited use of sources, however, and provides clear and detailed descriptions of each source as well as perceived boons and faults. A single image is provided by the author (in addition to a number of very delightful, and frankly huge, advertisements), however it is quite small, and is only of the cover of Marija Gimbutas’ Civilization of the Goddess as opposed to a figure or example from within the book. While technically appropriate, the article is not in any way enhanced by the image.

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Fagan presents Gimbuta’s Civilization—and concept of a Goddess cult in general—as a popular trend of thought as opposed to an interpretation supported by archaeological evidence. Gimbutas, Fagan claims, uses only a vague interpretation of motif to generate grand inferences about neolithic and Bronze Age figurines and pots from Central Europe. Although these inferences are based in very little actual evidence they have been latched on to by the general public and academics alike, though Fagan doubts if many of them are archaeologists themselves. By way of contrast Fagan offers Christine Hastorf’s “Gender, Space, and Food in Prehistory” as an example of research rooted in contemporary archaeological practice. Fagan summarizes Hastorf’s research as being a study of the Sausa (Andean maize and potato farmers), having taken into account human remains, ecofacts (ex plant remains, seeds, etc), space distribution (ex compounds; kitchens, patios, etc), and ethnographic accounts. Fagan explains that Hastorf specifically examined the changes in diet, communal space, and gendered space post-Inkan conquer, as Sausa population groups changed after the Inka took control (A.D. 1460).

With regard to language use, in describing Civilization Fagan tends towards using more “flowery” prose-like speech in descriptions of Gimbutas’ work and adherents. Such speech is not used in describing Hastorf’s work. In isolating such language to descriptions of Gimbutas, Fagan tends to come off as biased by way of belittling Gimbutas’ work. While I am unaware of the cultural context of this article with reference to the socio-academic archaeological climate of the early-1990s, as an aged piece Fagan’s argument could have been strengthened by keeping a singular tone throughout the entire article. This being said I am not entirely sure if such a change matters in this context, considering how aggressively Fagan tears apart Gimbutas’ methods regardless.

In considering the course objective I believe this article does contribute to my ability to meet said objectives, as it provides summaries of differing interpretive methods for discerning gender in the ancient past, and forces me to consider the consequences of an archaeology of gender on anthropological and archaeological theories. Interpretive skills of some form or another are a necessary component of archaeology, and a comparative analysis of two different methods interpretation such as this is invaluable in highlighting differing standards of practice. As I appreciate the open-learning format of ANTH 320, in moving forward from reading this article I decided to the time to re-read the Archaeological Institute of America’s “Code of Ethics,” (AIA), and the 2012 American Anthropological Association “Principles of Professional Responsibility” (AAA). Although neither are specifically relevant to Gimbutas’ situation, they are both texts with which I have previous knowledge and thus seemed most appropriate for review. In doing so I cannot help but come to the conclusion that while I do not agree with Fagan’s tone in writing on Gimbutas’ Civilization I agree that at best Civilization is at best a very public interpretive misstep, and at worst an ethical misstep with far-reaching consequences. Moving forward I am interested in learning more about archaeological and anthropological ethical standards so as to better inform my position in situations such as this. Additionally, I am interested in learning more about ethical standards cross-communally (ex intercontinentally, etc). Although archaeological and anthropological ethics and standards of practice are topics which have come up in-class on occasion in my near-3 years of university I could likely count those occasions on one hand, which considering the effect ethical faults may have on people/s seems woefully inadequate in hindsight.

Politely: I believe that the purpose of this article is to describe the inadequate nature of Gimbutas’ approach to neolithic female figurines (and other artefacts), and to showcase an alternate approach by which gender may be studied through archaeological practice. Perhaps more realistically: Whenever an article addresses a single author as the source of a perceived problem in academia it can come across as “academic pummeling”—that is to say that because the author who is being addressed cannot immediately respond (and, due to the nature of publishing, they may never be given the opportunity to respond) it can seem as though Academic A is given an unfair advantage over Academic B in a “battle of words.” This is not to say that I condone Gimbutas’ position, but rather that the method in which Gimbutas’ position is being challenged marks the nature of academic publishing as a medium as being (generally) unilaterally discursive. Even if the medium as an entity is not to be considered in such a way, the genre of academic-on-academic derision is one which has existed through time and into contemporaneous publishing practice.


Bibliography

AAA. (2012, November 1). Principles of Professional Responsibility [Web log post]. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://ethics.americananthro.org/category/statement/

AIA. (2016, January 8). Code of Ethics (2016) [PDF]. Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from https://www.archaeological.org/sites/default/files/files/Code%20of%20Ethics%20(2016).pdf

Fagan, B. (1992, March/April). A Sexist View of Prehistory. Archaeology, 45(2), 14-15, 18, 66. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41766076

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Virtuality in Physical Space: “Ingress” as Augmented Reality

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ANTH 370: Space and Place requirements in Fall 2016.


Ingress is a digital application game for mobile devices. The app uses the user’s GPS and mobile data information to place the player in an augmented reality map (Fig. 1, Fig. 4). The purpose of the game is to join one of two factions, and to capture cultural artifacts in the landscape. These artifacts include murals, statues, art installations, and major public buildings. The way in which a player “captures” an artifact is through the hacking and attacking of the defenses of a portal which has been placed in the game near where the artifact exists in unaugmented reality. Looking at a specific portal within Ingress—that of Macewan University Residence—I’ve worked to identify not only how the physical space within which Ingress exists effects players and non-players, but also how the physical and virtual spaces differ.

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Despite a number of gathering spaces located in the residence lobby, the design is overwhelmingly sociofugal. The inclusion of a moat separates people on the tables from the people on the couches from the people playing ping-pong from the people playing pool. Despite this, it is often a center of activity within the residence, as one or more of these spaces is almost always in use. There are large windows along quadrants C and D which look out to a small courtyard with trees and bushes. Between each of these windows there is a false potted tree. While there is extensive construction of the new Centre for the Arts and Culture building visible from the main doors, from the viewpoint of the C and D windows this construction is masked by the trees. This brings the nature of the outside in. The Residence building was designed with the intent of having a low carbon footprint, and the attempts made to bring nature into the space reflect that.

The sociofugal design of the Residence lobby is contrasted by the virtual design of Ingress. As a virtual space, Ingress is sociopedal in its design and requires a sense of cultura in order to be effectively navigated (Richardson 2003, 85-86). There are many opportunities to chat with other players through a built-in chat function, and real-time portal data is provided in the chat stream. Due to the player leveling functions in the game, it often takes groups of 2 or more to completely deplete enemy defense reserves on a high-level portal. As well, the primary method by which points may be earned for a faction is through linking of several portals together, an activity which is difficult to undertake alone (Ingress 2015). Though every portal will have images taken by players attached to the portal data (Fig. 2), due to the digital nature of the app Ingress excludes nature by design. Within the virtual space of Ingress there is a single point of focus, which is the portal. Within the physical space of residence this portal exists at the crux of the four quadrants. Due to the area of influence players inhabit within the game this portal is accessible from outside of residence, as well as in all spaces vertical to the portal. While the Ingress community is friendly overall, during the time allocated for research there was little activity, save for a few users talking about where they were planning to go for the day.

Within the physical space of Residence there are three areas which are the focus of attention, listed indexically: The main entryway, the front desk (which is visible immediately upon entrance), and a pool table. While the pool table is not immediately visible to those who enter the space, it exists as primary hubs of activity within the space. This is likely due to the fact that residents must pass by the table in order to travel to and from their rooms on the West side of the building. The most prominent interaction within the physical space which I was able to observe was that of the people at the pool table. As a small group of five people, I assumed from previous experience that passers-by would stop to join the game. This was not the case, despite the fact that the majority of foot traffic through the physical space at the time in question passed by the pool table. Despite this, the interaction amongst the pool players was familiar and friendly. This contrasted the majority of the traffic in the lobby who appeared to be passive, and only coming through the space in order to leave through the main entryway.

The interactions between the pool players mirrors that of the interactions within Ingress. While there was no activity to the portal at the time in question, there were several people talking about how they were to be spending their day (Fig 3). Though it was a public interaction, in that all players within the City were able to view the interaction, the conversation seemed private enough that no players joined the conversation past the original few.

The quadrant spaces of the lobby exist as expressions of material culture, as in each area there is evidence to their use (marks on the walls, implementation of equipment next to the pool table, etc). Other examples of material culture include posters advertising programs within the residence, and pamphlets available at the front desk. The space overarchingly s>mells of garbage (this is a smell I’ve become accustomed to and am no longer truly aware of). There is also a café which occasionally gives wafts of soup or cooking meats. The lighting specifically is interesting. There is overhead tunnel lighting from the entrance to the front desk, and again from the front desk to the elevator bays. This creates a sense of purpose for those entering residence to come to the front desk, or to return to their rooms. Within Ingress, the whole of the residence lobby exists as a piece of material culture through the existence of a portal. There are several challenge maps which may be undertaken, wherein a player is guided along a path of portals with the intent of hacking each portal along the way. The Macewan Residence portal acts as a starting point for at least three of these maps. As Ingress is available only on mobile devices there is a component of difficulty in discerning who is influencing the portal and who is not.

Residence exists as a primarily private space. The lobby exists both privately and publicly, depending on the time with which it is being accessed. Weekdays, from 7am-5pm, it exists publicly. At any other time it exists privately through the implementation of a “locked door” policy wherein residents and hotel guests must use their passcards to gain access to the lobby. The front desk exists as specifically private space. There exist private offices behind the front desk, and each of the elevator bays and room hallways require a passcard in order to gain access at all times. Ingress mirrors this, somewhat, in that people who do not have a player account are not able to access the full app. Though it is significantly more difficult to gain access to residence, this is not to say that access to the portal is allowed to all persons within the physical space of Residence. Additionally, although the portal is accessible from outside of the lobby, it is not accessible from all areas of Residence due to area of influence players exhibit (Fig. 1).

As an employee of residence I expected to be more aware of the actual number of people moving through the lobby than I was. The fact that there were in excess of 30 exits from residence in the span of only an hour was shocking to me. When not paying full attention to the movings of people within the space, it definitely feels like there is less movement than there is. Doing my quantitative analysis during a Saturday morning shift (one of the slowest shifts of the week) was beneficial as it gave me the opportunity to take more detailed notes on what, comparatively, little movement there was. I would be interested to see the amount and types of movement there is during a weekday morning shift, however it realistically gets too busy for me to take accurate notes while on shift, and the only time I’m not on shift during weekdays is when I’m in class so the opportunity just isn’t there.

As a relatively new player of Ingress I don’t necessarily have a fully fleshed out concept of what would be “normal” activity for the time period I chose. Having said this, I was somewhat surprised to see no activity to the portal at all. The Ingress community is very active in Edmonton, and through the app one is able to see all activity of all portals within a specific area (Fig. 3). Usually late nights and early mornings are the most active times of the day, but on my research day this was not the case. In the future I would be interested in seeing if there is a way to quantify the Ingress portal data through the app, if not to see the activity of a specific portal but of a specific area (ex. neighborhood, city, etc). This data is available in real-time, but finding a way to collect it over a period of time for reference later would be more useful.

Residence acts as a transitory space. This is true not only of the lobby physically, but also in that many who live in residence use the space as an in-between their parent’s home and their first apartment. This is mirrored by Ingress in the way that portals never stay captured by a single faction for too long. This is not to say that the two spaces are identical, as while the physical space is sociofugal in design, Ingress requires cultura.The juxtaposition of the two spaces together shows differing values within the differing communities. Where residence tries to get one out of the community (toward a degree, assumedly), Ingress pulls one in.


Bibliography

“Ingress.” Ingress Wiki. Accessed October 15, 2015. <http://ingress.wikia.com/wiki/Ingress&gt;.

Richardson, Miles. “Being-in-the-Market Versus Being-in-the-Plaza: Material Culture and the Construction of Social Reality in Spanish America.” In The Anthropology of Space and Place, edited by Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga, 74-91. Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

QGCon 2018 Application

Decided to make my QGCon 2018 application public because conference apps always stress me out and I’m always curious about how other people put theirs together so I figured I should be demonstrative of the Academia I Wanna See.


Bio:

Brieal is a fourth-year undergraduate honours student in the department of anthropology at Macewan University in Edmonton, Alberta. They’re interested in far too many things. Primarily, however, they’re interested in linguistic anthropology and language revitalization, archaeogaming and the people who do it, literary theory and its applications in things that aren’t English papers, and how these disparate ideas actually all make sense together (but only if you squint a bit, tilt your head to the side, and whisper “digital humanities” over and over). When they aren’t yelling their way through their degree they spending time with their shiba inu named Sushi and naps.

Website: mxmoireabh.com
Twitter: twitter.com/mxmoireabh

Session Title:

Ontologies of Practice: A Proto-Ontology of Queer Archaeogaming

Session Abstract:

To track the flow of information within archaeogaming I have created a proto-ontology of archaeogaming as it may be perceived through a queer interdisciplinary lens. This project works to identify potential sticking points and holes within the current practice of archaeogaming by placing practices and methodologies within the context of the potentials within queer archaeogaming. To facilitate this, I have taken terms from the bibliographies of several texts and created a series of connections between these terms and an edited Canadian Archaeological Association ethics statement. Additionally, I have taken terms from the instructional manual of an early Pokemon game to demonstrate one of the ways in which this ontology may be put into practice. The method for this project was originally designed as a mind-mapping exercise, however as it progressed it slowly became closer to an ontology in-practice. This is to be considered as a positive change, as in the form of a [proto-]ontology it may be better understood not only by people working within the archaeogaming community, but also potentially in the future by archaeogaming AIs.

This panel will consist of a short (approximately 15-20 minutes) explanation of what archaeogaming is and where this research fits into present archaeogaming practice, and is to be followed by a demonstration of archaeogaming-as-method by using the ontology to map how different resources may be labeled as queer archaeogaming (3 examples, approximately 10 minutes each).

The map described in the above abstract may be found at: https://twitter.com/mxmoireabh/status/951213232416411649

fuckin whoops: 5 texts that are influencing my writing in 2018

I’m presenting these in no particular order, as it’s difficult for me to rationalize a hierarchical system to describe formativity.  This is by no means a complete list, and I provide by no means a complete explanation/summary for each text. The thing that started this entire post is that I really can’t include all of this information into a single media response (half of which I already turned into a Twessay omfg) for ANTH 497, and I needed to figure out a way to frame information in a way which would be useful for said project without going over the 1000-word limit. Thus as opposed to fully historicizing and explaining my thoughts and responses to these readings I’m instead wanting to provide a method of brevity for some of my papers (but the one in particular) coming up this semester.

Basically: I needed to figure out a way to cite myself.

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Self portrait of the blogger.

Pic unrelated, mostly.

Note: I use the term “ugly feelings” more than once to describe my own negative affects upon experiencing texts. This is a term that I know is from one of these readings, but for the life of me I can’t recall which one. Whoops!

On to the listicle:

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 2006. Touching feeling: affect, pedagogy, performativity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

I first read Eve Kosofky Sedgwick’s Touching Feeling around this time last year, and found the experience to be especially formative not only with respect to the way/s in which I choose to approach research but also the way/s in which I am capable of said approach. In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You” Sedgwick delineates (or, rather, attempts to delineate–the distinction is less a binary opposition and more a wibbly wobbly readerly eagerly) between paranoid and reparative methods of reading. Where the paranoid is “anticipatory […] reflexive and mimetic […] a strong theory […] a theory of negative affects […]” and that which “places its faith in exposure” (130) the reparative is that which allows one “to use one’s own resources to assemble or ‘repair’ the murderous part-objects into something like a whole” (128). As a queer and as someone who often experiences difficult or ugly feelings about texts the concept of the reparative reading is especially poignant for me as it offers the opportunity to take those negative affects and turn them into something positive (or, at the very least, into something more whole than shame). This is especially important and poignant to me as not only a queer reader but also a person who tends to find enjoyment in the reading of negative affects.

Allan, Jonathan A. 2016. Reading from Behind A Cultural Analysis of the Anus. The Exquisite Corpse. Regina: University of Regina.

I’m still in the process of reading this one, but I think it’s definitely going to remain influential over time. I struggle with being willing or able to express my love and enjoyment of texts which contain materials other people may find offensive or distasteful (ex. body horror), and more relevantly I struggle to put into words why I find enjoyment in some texts that others are unable or unwilling to. Even in explaining things in this way, however, I feel that I have fallen into a paranoid trap: “[t]he very idea of the reparative reading renders critics paranoid, anxious, worried. We apologize for it before we have even begun to do it” (16). Building on Sedgwick’s reparative reading Reading From Behind has thus far been a mix of emotions, but overall skewing to comfort. There is a comfort in knowing that there is a method by which my ugly feelings may be transformed. In the chapter “Spanking Colonialism” Allan writes that “[c]lose reading is a kind of erotic engagement with literary and visual texts that enables us to move slowly through the density of words or images” (117), and while I’m speeding through this first read-through of Reading From Behind I’m looking forward to sitting on my future responses as long as possible.

Fischer, Hal. 2015. Gay Semiotics: a photographic study of visual coding among homosexual men. Los Angeles, California: Cherry and Martin.

Gay Semiotics has been a foundational reading for me with respect to understanding semiotic coding as it relates to prestige and safety. While visual information is not capital-L-Language it still provides so much contextual information which is/may be important to the understanding of a given text. As semiotics plays so well with understanding the ways in which visual information is expressedly intertextual and intermedial Gay Semiotics provides so much information on the understanding of archetypal images and the ways in which these images may be used to parse further information from a specific set of visual information which we may not elsewise have done. While I think that most texts on semiotics fulfill the use-need I’m describing here because so many of my ugly feelings come from a place of seeing queer images where others may not choosing an explicitly queer (or, in this case, gay) text is important to me.

Brice, Mattie. 2017. “Play and Be Real about It: What Games Could Learn from Kink.” Essay. In Queer Game Studies, edited by Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw, 77–82. Minneapolis, Minesotta: University of Minesotta Press.

The idea that kink could be used as a theoretical framing device literally never occurred to me prior to reading this, despite the fact that it makes so much sense. Queer Game Studies was a huge part of my ANTH 498 final study, and I ended up spending a lot of time thinking about the ways in which my own theory/praxis are influenced by kink and BDSM (heads up: it’s a lot of ways). Brice explains it this way: “Kink isn’t just a topical analogy […] it’s a good framework for challenging these contextless play experiences by reimagining the positions of the designer, player, and play, and what those positions mean” (78). In considering this through a lens of that reparative reading I’m (obviously) such a fan of this has opened up the possibilities for dealing with ugly thoughts and ugly responses I have to texts–by coming to information reparatively and spatially I’m better able to negate the shame and humiliation that I often experience as a reader because I am the reader. It’s a small consideration, but all too important, that “WE ARE ALWAYS PLAYING. WE ARE ALWAYS IN CONTEXTS. CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING” (79). By considering our own positionality to a text we are better able to address our own values and ideologies as they influence our understanding/s.

Barthes, Roland. 1975. The Pleasure of the Text. Translated by Richard Miller. New York, New York: Hill and Wang.

While I tried to keep order out of this list as much as possible, it really is important to be ending with this quote: “No ‘thesis’ on the pleasure of the text is possible; barely an inspection (an introspection) that falls short” (34).

I hope this post ends up being useful to me moving forward, and I do recommend (perhaps obviously) that you check out each of these texts on your own time! Also it really isn’t lost on me that this list is incredibly white and incredibly male, so if you have any recommendations for texts you like that you think may help rectify that let me know!

Let me know your own reactions either here or on Twitter if you get a chance! I’m always curious about others’ perspectives!

Affectual Perfomance via Liminal Rites in John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ENGL 366: English and Anglophone Literature requirements in March 2017.


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Femininity is portrayed in John le Carré’s novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold as that which is positively affectual. This is not to say that women are portrayed as happy-go-lucky or lackadaisical, but rather that femininity is associated with a high level of interactivity and alertness with one’s surroundings. In considering masculinity to be in binarist opposition to femininity, masculinity is thus portrayed through a negative affect. Or, perhaps more accurately, as that which is inaffectual and detached. Characters are encouraged by Control(lers) to perform the affect which is most congruent with their role. In this situation a spy or operator will be required to take on a more masculine affect, for example, so as to not be affected by the circumstances of their position. Thus while there is argument for women as the root of danger in espionage operations in Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold it is rather my argument that bungled masculine affect is a more accurate expression of Carré’s danger. I will support my argument via demonstration of the affectual performances of several characters as they relate to Alec Leamas’ movement through liminal rites of passage: preliminally Leamas is “The Operative,” liminally “The Defector,” and postliminally “The Bungled Man.”

At the outset of the novel Leamas is in Germany, overseeing a group operatives. As the operation progresses his operatives are murdered by Hans-Dieter Mundt. In seeing Karl Riemeck—his last operative—killed in attempting to cross into West Germany Leamas returns to London to be debriefed. In this preliminal stage as “The Operative” Leamas sees those who partake in espionage as those who are capable of a greater level of tolerance. As the title of the novel suggests Leamas considers the best operatives those who are able to withstand “the cold” (15). In comparing himself to Control Leamas sees Control as someone who sits in London, in an office, with his space heater and his tea with “affected detachment, […] courteous according to a formula miles removed from Leamas’ experience” (14). While there are class-based differences which Leamas feels in relation to Control, this passage notes the successful masculine affective performance of Control which denotes him as an effective espionage tool if not an operative.

This delineation between feminine and masculine affects continues through the character of Liz Gold. Liz and Leamas are introduced to one another as Leamas is “put […] on the shelf” (19) and coming to work at a library (26). When Leamas is struck with a fever prior to his punching of the grocer Liz is the one who nurtures him back to relative health, and is thus shown to be a kind and compassionate woman who cares deeply for Leamas (34-37). Additionally, as a member of the communist party (32) she presents her ideological status to be one of communal growth and nurturing. This being said her role within the party is subjected to diminishing comments by male party-members (145) which speaks to one of the many ways in which feminine performance acts as a threat to masculine performances—the affect of women is deemed a threat and is thus diminished. Leamas himself falls into this trap in describing Elvira: “Elvira was dead now, and serve her right. He remembered Liz” (82). There was a danger to Elvira’s femininity and she required diminishing for it, just as Liz requires diminishing by party members. Additionally in connecting the death of Elvira to Liz Leamas also enacts a foreshadowing to the novel’s conclusion.

In considering the true threat to espionage ops to be affective performance it makes sense to call attention to a progression of ideologies with Leamas’ handlers through his liminal rites, as it also calls attention a progression of affect: “Ashe, Kiever, Peters; that was a progression in quality, in authority, which to Leamas was axiomatic of the hierarchy of an intelligence network. It was also, he suspected, a progression in ideology. Ashe, the mercenary, Kiever the fellow traveller, and now Peters for whom the end and the means were identical” (74). Ashe denotes a feminine affect as one who Leamas considers to be a “cissy” (59) or a wholly bungled masculine performance, Kiever denotes a mixed affect of one who can switch roles, and Peters denotes a wholly masculine performance of detachment.

While Ashe succeeds in his performance of the “mercenary” and calls Leamas into his role as “The Defector,” Ashe bungles a masculine performance. As the lowest mark in the intelligence hierarchy Ashe is also the one furthest from “the cold”—the one furthest from successfully performing a detached masculine affect. Much as Liz takes care of Leamas through the preliminal rites of his physical illness prior to attacking the grocer, so too does Ashe take care of Leamas in the liminal rites of Leamas’ calling into the role of defector: “‘Now, don’t fuss,’ he said soothingly; ‘let’s just take things one at a time’ […] ‘I’ve looked after you up till now, haven’t I?'” (54, 57).

In meeting Leamas—and removing Leamas from Ashe’s care—Kiever takes Leamas to a club to further discuss Leamas’ liminal path into defectorship. At the club there is a girl in the bar who appears “pitiful” with a “spindly nakedness which is embarrassing because it is not erotic” (59). As a failed feminine performance—a performance of neither masculinity nor femininity—she is deemed to not be a threat and Leamas and Kiever talk with one another as though she is not present. This girl who stands as an analogy for that which is wholly not masculine and wholly not feminine also marks a mid-point for Leamas with his handlers.

Peters is the furthest in “the cold,” and thus the least femininely affective. Leamas comments to Peters: “[…] don’t pretend like you’ve fallen in love with me,” to which Peters “observe[s] [Leamas] dispassionately” (68). This exchange marks a point of frustration for Leamas, and the final point of his liminal rites. Up to this point he has been guided or handled by those with at least a modicum of feminine affect, and to Leamas this has been a mark of unprofessionalism and impropriety. With Peters, however, there may be connections drawn to Control: where Control is “detach[ed]” (14) Peters is “dispassionat[e]” (68). Peters is thus shown to be someone who is aware of his own impact, and an operative capable of guiding Leamas through these final liminal rites.

At the end of the novel Leamas casts all those who partake in espionage as “pansies, sadists, and drunkards” (217, my emphasis), and in doing so casts a dichotomied role upon agents: the pansy may attempt to play a masculine role, but will ultimately be bungled in his attempt/s through feminine affect. As performers both Leamas and Liz are puppetted by Control: “We happened to fit the mould” (216). Although it is not until the final moments of the novel where Leamas understands the full extent to which both he and Liz are being puppetted by Control in that Liz could never have lived, and was only being brought to the wall so that Leamas would continue to the wall. In seeing Liz shot, and unable to reconcile the role of his own masculine affect of detachment in her death, Leamas allows himself to be shot attempting to traverse the Berlin Wall. With his death (225) Leamas is thus finally brought into the postliminal role of the “Bungled Man.”


Works Cited

Le Carré, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. 50th Anniversary ed. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.