Chilly greetings from the Belli gong farmers drudging up shit from the so-called past. It’s been a year since we started this project and we enter this new year with a fittingly foul-mouthed piece by Sasha Durakov, addressing the abstract concept of “health” and its neglected history as an absurd smell-based-science and also more seriously an insidious aspect of colonization, cis-hetero-patriarchy, racism, and policing—a field of inquiry that has grabbed our attention for a while now. Finally, some fruit! And hopefully more sprouts in this field in the coming year as conversations about self-care and health autonomy circulate in radical projects and “mental illness” becomes ever-more a central topic in public discourse. We wipe the tear “stains-of-concern” from our cheeks for a moment to give you these short other updates, the enzymatic activity of our night soil:
We have completed our first Belli Research Institute podcast, which we’re calling The Underbelli. Our hope for The Underbelli is to not only provide audio versions of texts, but also to enhance texts with other aural elements and eventually to create a platform for people to share their experiences or stories pulling inspiration from our various departments. The first episode features some bellifolk and our friends reading Sasha Durakov’s Schizo-Genesis // Mad Apocalypse. Next up is a podcast on sex work and stigma. We’re going to strive to release two episodes a month from here on out [didn’t happen]. Find The Underbelli and subscribe on most podcast streaming apps or listen here!
We have a Belli Store now. If you are an advocate for Pre-Hysteric Shark Girls Against Cops and want an inspirational and cute t-shirt as an affirmation we got that for u [now sold out :(]. We also have zines, copies of The Savage Peace and stickers galore for sale cheap all in the Belli Store. Any profit made is going toward making more stuff like stickers and t-shirts and towards a pooled fund to donate to local projects.
We’ve been talking, researching, reading, eating and thinking a lot about hygiene, sanitation and public health as forms of policing that partly constitute the forces of stigma and social normativity which we understand as necessarily operating via some form of hierarchy, exclusion and abandonment. Our hope this year is to incorporate some of the history from Sasha’s new text The Fragrance of Citizenship//The Acridity of Others: Towards Health Skepticism into the margins of the elusive Belli pro-bacterial fermentation recipe book, for a multi-purpose object that you might keep in your privy vault, cesspit or to accompany and better digest that nice plate of offal.
5 findings from Super Bowl Minneapolis on anti-trafficking operations:
1. Unsurprisingly, we saw live remnants of the anti-prostitution and moral hygiene history of anti-trafficking projects (see our new reader on this, The Myths of Sex Trafficking) emerge in the city-funded investigations and accompanying coverage leading up to the super bowl. One report published by the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research Outreach Center notes (and then ignores) their finding that “the data are inconclusive as to the extent of trafficking by a third-party facilitator in relation to the noted increase in online ads for sex” during major sporting events. This report still recommends increasing surveillance of sex work and the production of ever-stigmatizing trafficking awareness-raising coverage in the Twin Cities.
2. We saw in Minneapolis strip clubs, in the local newspapers, and on bus-stop posters the presumption that more ads online, more out-of-town workers, or new-to-town worker ads posted to online platforms is generally accepted as means for creating panic about trafficking and as leverage to police sex work. Of course we see what is behind this trend generally (the presumption that sex work is a vacuous gateway for sex trafficking) now too in the proposed federal legislation acts FOSTA/SESTA which would further criminalize, stigmatize and marginalize sex workers, sex work, sex workplaces and sex work platforms by framing them as “dangers to public health”. Though it is not as common for politicians, journalists and carceral feminist reformers to talk about “the immoral profession”, they now seek desperately, under microscopes and deep in the annals of city ordinances, to condemn the bodily autonomy of those that do sex work. This reframing of the old “social evil” fits with the more diffuse trending forms of sanitization of the present moment, which stripper friends in New Orleans have framed in terms of gentrification.
3. Follow-ups on “crime” during super bowl included some in-vogue vague-reporting about trafficking stings conducted the week of the event. We learned from various straggling reports in Minneapolis press that close to 100 people were arrested in stings by the MPD’s “East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force” for the “solicitation of juvenile sex” (not one arrest of a “human trafficker”). Some articles make casual statements that “several victims of the commercial sex trade were recovered during the event week” and “contact was made with potential trafficking victims”. But who were these “victims” rescued from the “commercial sex trade” and how does this relate to these particular stings in which no victim or sex worker was involved? These stings served as evidence that the MPD task force was busy doing tasks and as a reassurance to the public that the massive funding law enforcement and anti-trafficking operations had been allotted by the city and NGOs was being put to use.
4. Super Bowl did cast a dark shadow on the city. But what is it? Was it that starry-eyed, winter-novice tourists who left their cars running to warm up were the targets of car theft (the only uptick in crime reported by the MPD)? Or was it the armored military vehicles of the National Guard casually occupying downtown, home to the dwindling presence of most of Minneapolis’ adult businesses? Was it the workers passing through downtown being detained at military checkpoints, costing them their jobs? One MPD officer boasted in a CBS local article, the fact that we had so much law enforcement and military personnel around, I think it made people think twice before choosing to do something inappropriate. Sex traffickers were targets of officers on patrol. We were able to effect a good number of arrests and rescue some people that in fact were being trafficked. Readers here are expected to understand that the football occupation was accompanied by enough of a miltarized show that the anticipated “trafficking” ring-leaders ran back to their mythological underground pits. And so the city rejoices in an apparently successful show of militarized policing and surveillance as well as the suspension of city ordinances for the sake of football. While our stripper sisters in New Orleans were fighting against police raids and closures of their workplaces over alleged violations claimed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, Minneapolis extended their liquor laws at clubs here by two hours just for big boy football weekend.
5. Already known, but reinforced: Pigs and pigskins go hand in hand.
Inspired by recent projects that “flip the lens” in historical study, for example Scene on Radio’s podcast series Seeing White, we’re interested in the scrutinous examination of Quetelet’s normal straight-white-man-specimen – “The Average Man” – and how he came to be. What might we learn by scrutinizing “normal” behavior, whiteness, straightness and other categories that constitute the hegemony, rather than setting up otherness that the latter categories are responsible for creating anyway? How do categories that fit the normal curve create the deviant or the outlier that gets abandoned?