fucking with grammar

Mariana Aboim

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Art practices occupy a space of liminality within academia, being valid, appropriate to illustrate questions and discourses in social sciences and humanities, and not sufficient in mainstream academia to assert what art foregrounds as ‘knowledge’. So, what happens when art has something to claim through non-academic methods of inquiry? Even more complicated, what happens when art allows putting forward theoretical hypothesis involving the immateriality of affect? Departing from a practice-led research focusing on the endurance of white, cisgender, and heteropatriarchic impositions, as well as the ways these impositions materialise themselves on the body, this paper explores the possibilities of Fucking with grammar, a writing method developed throughout the writing of my PhD research.

Linguistics has been stretched for centuries by QUILTBAG individuals — queer and questioning, unsure, intersex, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit, bisexual, asexual and aromantic, gay and genderqueer; swardspeak, lavender, and code-switching all entail ways of reshaping and creating language as response to socio-political necessities, camouflage, or simply to access a jargon that can be more faithful to practices and embodiments of the group creating it. However, there is a different kind of reclaiming emerging, when performance artist, actress, and activist Linn da Quebrada utters “I am a cisgender woman with one breast and a penis,” she is committing the kind of epistemic disobedience that undoes epistemology.

Here, I focus on disobediences that bring western epistemologies to collapse. These challenges that contribute to what Denise Ferreira da Silva calls “the end of the world as we know it” (2014). To end what ‘we’ know requires a different ‘how’, it entails methodological deployments that help bringing into crisis academic hierarchies regarding [research] corroborability. Questioning after Audre Lorde: how does one make tangible the immeasurable and unpredictable without being averted and undercut by the tools still sustaining the master’s house? The approach I propose here is Fucking with grammar. Fucking with is associated with messing with someone; fuck you or fuck me is negatively perceived; in sex, ‘fuck you’ or ‘fuck me’ is one-sided — the act of fucking should be fucking with, because even when saying ‘I want to fuck you’ it is still necessary more than one person for this ‘fucking’ to actually happen. Similarly, in English, the correct preposition following the verb ‘to dream’ is ‘of’ or ‘about’, which makes absolutely no sense: because when one is dreaming, one is embedded in a withness that ‘of’ or ‘about’ cannot account for.

This piece shares how I fuck with grammar within a practice-led PhD research: applying Portuguese and Turkish grammar structures to English, generating verbs or nouns out of adjectives and vice versa[s]. Fucking with grammar is a mode of surpassing some of language’s limitations when speaking of that which is immaterial; it is a semantic slap in the face calling for decolonisation of one’s immediacy of logic when assuming typos and linguistic ignorance within writings not following English normativities. I t is a method that contributes to a broader challenge to formats sustaining hierarchies around what is considered ‘academic’ research.


Keywords: practice-led research, fine art, language, cisheteronormativity, embodied experience