[eDebate] Threat/Liminality

Jason Radford jr60212
Tue Apr 11 00:13:43 CDT 2006

This is my first post to edebate, amidst the swell of Roe v. Wade and 
the occasion of the disbanding of Oregon's team.  I have not "made a 
name for myself" in the policy debate community because I'm 
unfortunately a neophyte.  Unfortunate because I fear an outright 
rejection of what I will soon say.  In this way, a fear of oppression 
from fear of ignorance tints my words.  However, I feel that the 
occasion of the debate over the Roe v. Wade topic along with the demise 
of Oregon's debate program align into something that has weighed 
heavily on my thoughts about competative policy debate.

It appears to me that the debates over the Roe v. Wade topic and 
Oregon's unfortunate demise stem from the same deficiency of current 
policy debate.  The structure by which we debate and perform the roles 
of debators has become outmoded.  As Laura Sjoberg noted this time last 
year, policy debate was losing ground to parliamentary debate.  Israel 
Pastrana gives this exact account in his post on the death death of 
policy debate at Oregon.  I will not directly talk about why 
parliamentary debate is more attractive than policy debate; however, my 
opinion about this should become transparent.  In the debate over 
overturning Roe v. Wade, a definable crux of the issue is the fact that 
debators must debate for or against.  There is no room for compromise 
on the question itself; though as many of you validly note, there is a 
wide range of options for aligning personal opinion with in-round 
discourse.  The connection?  I believe both indicate a watershed of 
threat/liminality.  Both reveal the severely ambiguous future of policy 

There is little doubt in my mind that the current practice of debate is 
a direct descendent of the Enlightment project dominated by subtle 
gender/race subjectification.  This practice, I argue, is severely 
outmoded and becomes the tool of exclusion and unattractiveness.  The 
aff/neg duality resulting in a zero-sum victory is a perfect example.  
The aff, purposively assertive of some change, some action; is the 
office of the ideal masculine incarnated in the debator's taking its 
position.  The negative, the ever-resisting and ever-passive; is that 
which says no, let us let things go for now.  This description has only 
recently been limitedly subverted by counterplans.  The interact 
between the aff and neg is zero-sum.  The judge stands over both and 
winner takes all in-round.  It is "little boys playing little war 
games" as Scott Elliot notes.  The basic rules of the game, in-round, 
then center on defeating the opponent.  The affirmative stays 
ever-assertive and the negative/feminine must buck-up and go on her own 
offensive. The feminine must become the man to succeed.  In this, I 
find a very corpor(e)al gender disciplining.  The "feminine" in each 
person must take a backseat in this zero-sum war.  I would argue that 
that is one solid reason why men still dominate policy debate.  The 
masculinity in which we are enculturated (though never perfectly) fits 
well with the structure of policy debate.  

Such gendered structures have been thoroughly delegitimized; however, 
many of us (including myself) have simply focused on the really clear 
issues such as pay equity and representation and ask, "what more do you 
feminists want?"  We scratch our heads, men and womyn, wondering how it 
is that our numbers aren't balanced.  This is the problem which I feel 
is bringing the policy debate community to its watershed.  The 
structure of policy debate has too long remained an unrecognized 
artifact of an ideology that is no longer sustainable in our present.  
One only has to look at the waves Louisville has created to understand 
the susceptability of conventional policy debate to ethnocentrism.  

The threat/liminality watershed that I define is exactly this: the 
concurrence of population/interest decline with the continued inability 
of the community to reach inclusionary goals.  I believe decline will 
continue if nothing fundamental is changed, that is Threat.  Liminality 
is the alternative.  It is the account which may arise to interpret our 
times as the period of disfiguration before a new order emerges.  I 
would go into some of the reconfigurations I believe are necessary; 
but, i have laid out a fairly vast foundation of which I am completely 
unassured as to whether it will stand.  If it does not stand, then my 
prescriptive may fall with it.  And it's now 1:00am and I have class in 
8 hours.

So, to all a good night and I hope a warm sun greets you tomorrow.
Jason Radford 

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