Murmur Networks—A Syllabus on Gossip

Murmur Networks—A Syllabus on Gossip

by Library of Study

In a white, cis-heteronormative, patriarchal society, the intimate conversations that take place in marginalized communities often get labeled as gossip and carry connotations of being vapid, shallow, and even harmful. But in what ways has gossip endured as a mode of knowledge-sharing for those outside of the mainstream? How do stories excluded from dominant narratives get passed down between mothers and aunties and daughters, between queer families, between immigrant circles? What kinds of stories can only be shared in certain spaces—exchanged in the midst of preparing food in the kitchen, whispered in the club bathroom, told at the barbershop? What remains enticing and indulgent about gossip—about the way it offers us intimate & salacious details, ephemeral accounts that aren’t meant to be recorded anywhere, but consumed in the here & now? We see gossip as: counter-memory; lower-case histories; a method of memorializing “the local, immediate and personal”; meant to be retold, overturned and rehashed; told through friendship, chatter, transcript and diary. We see gossip as a feminized form of sharing, indulging in, and relating to those taboo, non-normative experiences that are expressed in the safety of secrets.

A work of collage featuring three seated women: In spectacular staged photographs and dazzling patchwork paintings made from acrylic, rhinestones, and enamel, Mickalene Thomas celebrates female beauty, sexuality, desire, and power. Her compositions often focus on Black female subjects and feature 1970s-style patterns, bold pops of color, and references to art historical figures including Picasso and Manet.
Mickalene Thomas, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires (The Three Black Women)
A composite image of the book covers/DVD cover art for the five texts listed below.
  • To Sleep with Anger, dir. Charles Burnett (1990) 
  • Depression: An Archive of Feeling, Ann Cvetkovich 
  • Daughters of the Dust, dir. Julie Dash (1991)
  • Women, Race, and Class, Angela Davis 
  • Watermelon Woman, dir. Cheryl Dunye (1997) 
  • Heartburn, Nora Ephron 
A composite image of the book covers/film posters for the six texts listed below.
  • How Should a Person Be, Sheila Heti
  • Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid
  • Poetry is Not a Luxury, Audre Lorde
  • Sula, Toni Morrison 
  • All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Laura Poitras (2022)
  • Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi
A composite image of the book covers/film posters for the six texts listed below.
  • Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, Michel Rolph Trouillot
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi 
  • Wish You Were Here, Sanaz Toosi (2021) 
  • The Joy Luck Club, Wayne Wang (1993)
  • Saving Face, Alice Wu (2004)
  • The Year of Blue Water, Yanyi

Secrets repository

With the secrets repository, we ask readers to anonymously submit a piece of gossip, which is then sent into the ether (aka doesn’t go anywhere (: ).