Complaint! is out!
You can now purchase the book direct from Duke University Press as well as from Combined Academic Publishers if you are in the UK/Europe. Until October 15, you can receive a 50 percent discount using the code FALL21. You can hear or read interviews with me about the book here, here and here.
There will be a virtual launch event for the book on October 20th 6-7.30 pm (BST) and 10-11.30am (PST), which I am co-organising with Leila Whitley and Tiffany Page. The launch is kindly hosted by Critical Gender Studies/Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego. The registration link is here.
In addition, during November and December, I will be available for informal conversations to talk about Complaint! (the book and the work). If you are interested, please do get in touch with me using the contact form on my website. Priority is given to student-led activist groups working on sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and gender based violence, homophobia and transphobia, racism and racial harassment, decolonizing initiatives, ableism and accessibility.
Complaint! is out! I feel like adding some exclamation points!!!!!!!
Thank as ever to my complaint collective for keeping me going. By complaint collective I am referring first to the group I worked with before I resigned from my post and second to the many people I communicated with about their experiences of complaint, whose words, work and wisdoms I share in the book.
Complaint! has two conclusions. I am so honoured that the first conclusion is written by my complaint collective in the first sense. Let me share the introduction to the concluding part of the book to celebrate its arrival.
In killjoy solidarity,
If it can be difficult to know how to start the story of a complaint because it is difficult to know when a complaint starts, it can be difficult to know how to end that story because it is difficult to know when a complaint ends. The kinds of complaints I have discussed in this book do not have a point that, once reached, means we are post-complaint or after complaint. When a complaint is taken through a formal process, the end of that process—you might have received a letter, a decision, although sometimes you don’t even get that, you are left hanging—is not necessarily the end of the complaint. To end the story of a complaint can be to cut it off at some arbitrary point. Perhaps the story ends when we no longer have the time or energy to keep telling it.
There are so many ways of telling the story of complaint. There are so many threads to pull from the stories I have collected. The second chapter of each part of the book thus far has had a concluding section. The titles of those conclusions tell their own story: “Sensitive Information,” “Letters in the Box,” and “Distance from Complaint.” Before I turn to the conclusions of the book, let me to return to these concluding sections. Each offered an explanation of how complaints are contained or end up in containers. That complaints contain “sensitive information” or “sticky data” might be why they end up in containers (chapter 2). In other words, complaints are contained because of what they threaten to reveal. Some become complainers because of what they are trying to reveal. Complaints we express in our own way, in our own terms, can end up contained in the spaces in which they were made or which they were about (chapter 4). Or it might be that doors are closed on complaints, and on those who make them, in order to open the door for others. An open door can be predicated on keeping distance from complaint (chapter 6). Those who complain can end up with nowhere to go. To explain how complaints are contained is thus to explain how institutions are reproduced, how the paths that can be followed are made narrower by stopping those who are trying to question how things are going or who are trying to go a different way.
Even if a complaint is contained or those who complain end up without a path to follow, a complaint might still go somewhere. Complaints might go somewhere because of how they affect those whom they come into contact with. If you leave because of a complaint, you do not just leave the problem behind. The effort you made to deal with that problem, even if you did not seem to get anywhere, becomes part of the institution, part of its history; however hidden, it happened. It might be that the story gets out, the information you gathered gets out, either accidentally or through a deliberate action. We will hear of such accidents and actions in due course. But what can be leaked as a result of complaint is more than information. What we have to do to gather that information, the work of complaint, is even harder to contain. Complaint is an outward-facing action: it involves people, many people, some of whom do not even meet. That involvement matters.
This book ends with two concluding chapters. The first was written by members of the collective I was privileged to join, Leila Whitley, Tiffany Page, and Alice Corble, with support from Heidi Hasbrouck, Chryssa Sdrolia, and others. Not everyone who was part of our collective is named as an author, but given that writing about the work of complaint is a continuation of the work, everyone who was part of the collective has shaped the writing. It is important to them, to us, and it is important for this book that they get to tell the story, in their own terms, in their own way. I learn so much from how they describe a “we” being formed, light, even tenuous, out of differences, each person having their own story of getting to a point that is shared. If we have to combine our forces in order to get anywhere, that combination has a history, that combination has a life of its own; even telling the story can be another way of combining forces.
In chapter 8, I return to the stories I have collected for this book, which include many instances of students and academics working together to get complaints through the system. I show how those who complain often end up politicized by complaint, becoming complaint activists, pressing against organizations, using their time and resources, even wasting their time and resources, to keep complaints alive. The last section of chapter 8—perhaps it is the conclusion of the conclusion—is titled “Survival and Haunting.” We can think back to, think with, the image of the complaint graveyard. Even the complaints that end up there, buried, under the ground, have gone somewhere. What has been put away can come back. To tell stories of complaint, leaky, ghostly, haunting, is to be reminded of what can be inherited from actions that did not seem to succeed. We do not always know where complaints will go.