‘Dissensus’ is a word I don’t use often enough. It’s exactly what you might think: the antonym of ‘consensus’. It denotes a lack of univocity within a group; an inability to come to an agreement. What interests me about the term isn’t its definition, but the unique shape of the thing—the instances in which you’d use ‘dissensus’ in a sentence. The implication here is that there is a set of individuals who identify with one another as a group but cannot agree with one another. And yet they remain a group. They continue to acknowledge an association with one another; otherwise there’d be no entity within which to have dissensus. This collective decision—this commitment to group identity despite a lack of clear direction—is contained within the definition of the word.
I think dissensus is the best thing about Bohemia. If you’ve seen our publication, you know that I wrote a little blurb about how dysfunctional we are. The heart of that statement is this: “Our Bohemia is founded in contradiction.” From Day One, we’ve had disagreements over literally everything: what to name our publication, what our focus should be, whether we’re specifically a local entity, whether we’re a magazine or a literary journal. What is our target audience? How can we get people to actually submit stuff? What’s our relationship with other art ventures in the area? Most of those debates are still going. Some of us have filtered on and off as staff (when you can’t afford to pay anyone, the line between staff and accomplice is a porous membrane), but nobody’s gone very far. We maintain a fairly close-knit group because we each believe that this project is necessary. That Waco needs the kind of thing that Bohemia can become. That we need it.
So right now it’s hard to see what this thing will be, fully grown: coffee-table display publication, events and review rag, or something more journalistic; forum for new voices or highly selective realm for the area’s most accomplished artists; freely distributed, subscription-based, or entirely online. At the moment we try to straddle all these categories. I like this space; it lets me do whatever I want, allows us to tailor each issue to our topic. I don’t know if this model is sustainable, but it’s fun.
The debates we have can turn into epic Homeric clashes: impassioned soliloquies, rallies around hero-figures, appeals to various demigods, hubristic declarations of self-worth. I think it’s the personal nature of the project, the idea that this isn’t some business venture, this is my thing. We fight like siblings: it’s heated, it’s dirty, it’s unreserved. And when the argument is over, it’s over. We might not have reached consensus, but we’re still here, we still care, and we have work to do before we all go out for drinks later.
I guess I’m writing this post to thank you for participating (and if you’re reading this, you are a participant) in my thing. And Amanda’s thing, and Jim’s thing, and… well. Send us a submission. Make us your thing. We’ll see where it goes.