Last year in a episode of Netflix’s Dear White People, out and proud Silvio advises Lionel, a shy and closeted student reporter, to “find your label! I’m a Mexican-Italian, gay, vers, top, otter pup.” Labels, Silvio says, “keep people in Florida from drinking Windex.”
Labels are inescapable. We often depend on them to make sense of a chaotic world. We label cans, drawings, spaces, art, and people. Labels can be blunt or nuanced; they abstract our bodies and categorize us; and they reinforce or negate identity. In this issue, we examine labels, where and why they exist (is there anywhere they do not exist?) and how they influence us. What does it mean to label someone or ourselves? Why do we label our work and the work of others? Do labels liberate us?