Viscous Knowledge: Water, Gender, and Learning



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What constitutes ‘knowledge’ that we acquire, and how do we acquire it? Through Donna Haraway’s theoretical reconfigurations of objectivity in conversation with D.W. Winnicott’s theory of transitional phenomena, I explore constructions of knowledge creation, particularly as exemplified by my personal history as a swimmer and swim instructor. How does authority factor into knowledge creation? Is there knowledge gained through pain, pleasure, and eroticism? These personal and theoretical explorations leave me with more questions than answers as I wade through concepts of viscosity and fluidity. Viscosity, or the degree of resistance that a substance or ‘thing’ possesses, is a fundamental underlying theme; resistance serves as a key component of care and attentiveness and as a method by which objects reclaim participation in their own observation. Can fluids and water be viscous in their resistance? How does water serve as a metaphor for femininity in its resistance to observation or mastery? This viscous project utilizes resistance and fluidity as structural tools to weave personal narrative with theoretical understanding. My goal is not a finished product of answers, but instead a body of work dripping with questions.



water, gender, feminist science studies, objectivity, knowledge production, swimming, disability studies, queer theory