Since queer theory originated in the early 1990s, its insights and modes of analysis have been taken up by scholars across the humanities and social sciences. In After Sex? prominent contributors to the development of queer studies offer personal reflections on the field’s history, accomplishments, potential, and limitations. They consider the purpose of queer theory and the extent to which it is or is not defined by its engagement with sex and sexuality. For many of the contributors, a broad notion of sexuality is essential to queer thought. At the same time, some of them caution against creating an all-embracing idea of queerness, because it empties the term “queer” of meaning and assumes the universality of ideas developed in the North American academy. Some essays recall the political urgency of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when gay and lesbian activist and queer theory projects converged in response to the AIDS crisis. Other pieces exemplify more recent trends in queer critique, including the turn to affect and the debates surrounding the “antisocial thesis,” which associates queerness with the repudiation of heteronormative forms of belonging. Contributors discuss queer theory’s engagement with questions of transnationality and globalization, temporality and historical periodization. Meditating on the past and present of queer studies, After Sex? illuminates its future.
Contributors. Lauren Berlant, Leo Bersani, Michael Cobb, Ann Cvetkovich, Lee Edelman, Richard Thompson Ford, Carla Freccero, Elizabeth Freeman, Jonathan Goldberg, Janet Halley, Neville Hoad, Joseph Litvak, Heather Love, Michael Lucey, Michael Moon, José Esteban Muñoz, Jeff Nunokawa, Andrew Parker, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Richard Rambuss, Erica Rand, Bethany Schneider, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Kate Thomas
In Against the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and challenges cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest popular theories of identity, pathology, national belonging, and racial difference in American culture. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to specific historical periods, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes such as sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of particular racial injuries and suggested forms of social repair and political redress from the time of slavery, through post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black power movements, to the late twentieth century.
Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.
Challenging what she sees as an obsession with sex and sexuality, Ela Przybylo examines the silence around asexuality in queer, feminist, and lesbian thinking—turning to Audre Lorde’s work on erotics to propose instead an approach she calls asexualerotics, an alternative language for discussing forms of intimacy that are not reducible to sex and sexuality. Beginning with the late 1960s as a time when compulsory sexuality intensified and became increasingly tied to feminist, lesbian, and queer notions of empowerment, politics, and subjectivity, Przybylo looks to feminist political celibacy/asexuality, lesbian bed death, the asexual queer child, and the aging spinster as four figures that are asexually resonant and which benefit from an asexual reading—that is, from being read in an asexually affirming rather than asexually skeptical manner.
Through a wide-ranging analysis of pivotal queer, feminist, and anti-racist movements; television and film; art and photography; and fiction, nonfiction, and theoretical texts, each chapter explores asexual erotics and demonstrates how asexuality has been vital to the formulation of intimate ways of knowing and being. Asexual Erotics assembles a compendium of asexual possibilities that speaks against the centralization of sex and sexuality, asking that we consider the ways in which compulsory sexuality is detrimental not only to asexual and nonsexual people but to all.
Traces a tradition of ironic and irreverent environmentalism, asking us to rethink the movement’s reputation for gloom and doom
Activists today strive to educate the public about climate change, but sociologists have found that the more we know about alarming issues, the less likely we are to act. Meanwhile, environmentalists have acquired a reputation as gloom-and-doom killjoys. Bad Environmentalism identifies contemporary texts that respond to these absurdities and ironies through absurdity and irony—as well as camp, frivolity, irreverence, perversity, and playfulness.
Nicole Seymour develops the concept of “bad environmentalism”: cultural thought that employs dissident affects and sensibilities to reflect critically on our current moment and on mainstream environmental activism. From the television show Wildboyz to the short film series Green Porno, Seymour shows that this tradition of thought is widespread—spanning animation, documentary, fiction film, performance art, poetry, prose fiction, social media, and stand-up comedy since at least 1975. Seymour argues that these texts reject self-righteousness and sentimentality, undercutting public negativity toward activism and questioning basic environmentalist assumptions: that love and reverence are required for ethical relationships with the nonhuman and that knowledge is key to addressing problems like climate change.
Funny and original, Bad Environmentalism champions the practice of alternative green politics. From drag performance to Indigenous comedy, Seymour expands our understanding of how environmental art and activism can be pleasurable, even in a time of undeniable crisis.
Critically Sovereign traces the ways in which gender is inextricably a part of Indigenous politics and U.S. and Canadian imperialism and colonialism. The contributors show how gender, sexuality, and feminism work as co-productive forces of Native American and Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and epistemology. Several essays use a range of literary and legal texts to analyze the production of colonial space, the biopolitics of “Indianness,” and the collisions and collusions between queer theory and colonialism within Indigenous studies. Others address the U.S. government’s criminalization of traditional forms of Diné marriage and sexuality, the Iñupiat people's changing conceptions of masculinity as they embrace the processes of globalization, Hawai‘i’s same-sex marriage bill, and stories of Indigenous women falling in love with non-human beings such as animals, plants, and stars. Following the politics of gender, sexuality, and feminism across these diverse historical and cultural contexts, the contributors question and reframe the thinking about Indigenous knowledge, nationhood, citizenship, history, identity, belonging, and the possibilities for a decolonial future.
Contributors. Jodi A. Byrd, Joanne Barker, Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Mishuana Goeman, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Melissa K. Nelson, Jessica Bissett Perea, Mark Rifkin
For thirty years the "death of the author" has been a familiar poststructuralist slogan in literary theory, widely understood and much debated as a dismissal of the author, a declaration of the writer's irrelevance to the readers experience. In this concise book, Jane Gallop revitalizes this hackneyed concept by considering not only the abstract theoretical death of the author but also the writer's literal death, as well as other authorial "deaths" such as obsolescence. Through bravura close readings of the influential literary theorists Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, she shows that the death of the author is best understood as a relation to temporality, not only for the reader but especially for the writer. Gallop does not just approach the death of the author from the reader's perspective; she also reflects at length on how impending death haunts the writer. By connecting an author's theoretical, literal, and metaphoric deaths, she enables us to take a fuller measure of the moving and unsettling effects of the deaths of the author on readers and writers, and on reading and writing.
In Depression: A Public Feeling, Ann Cvetkovich combines memoir and critical essay in search of ways of writing about depression as a cultural and political phenomenon that offer alternatives to medical models. She describes her own experience of the professional pressures, creative anxiety, and political hopelessness that led to intellectual blockage while she was finishing her dissertation and writing her first book. Building on the insights of the memoir, in the critical essay she considers the idea that feeling bad constitutes the lived experience of neoliberal capitalism.
Cvetkovich draws on an unusual archive, including accounts of early Christian acedia and spiritual despair, texts connecting the histories of slavery and colonialism with their violent present-day legacies, and utopian spaces created from lesbian feminist practices of crafting. She herself seeks to craft a queer cultural analysis that accounts for depression as a historical category, a felt experience, and a point of entry into discussions about theory, contemporary culture, and everyday life. Depression: A Public Feeling suggests that utopian visions can reside in daily habits and practices, such as writing and yoga, and it highlights the centrality of somatic and felt experience to political activism and social transformation.
Deviations is the definitive collection of writing by Gayle S. Rubin, a pioneering theorist and activist in feminist, lesbian and gay, queer, and sexuality studies since the 1970s. Rubin first rose to prominence in 1975 with the publication of “The Traffic in Women,” an essay that had a galvanizing effect on feminist thinking and theory. In another landmark piece, “Thinking Sex,” she examined how certain sexual behaviors are constructed as moral or natural, and others as unnatural. That essay became one of queer theory’s foundational texts. Along with such canonical work, Deviations features less well-known but equally insightful writing on subjects such as lesbian history, the feminist sex wars, the politics of sadomasochism, crusades against prostitution and pornography, and the historical development of sexual knowledge. In the introduction, Rubin traces her intellectual trajectory and discusses the development and reception of some of her most influential essays. Like the book it opens, the introduction highlights the major lines of inquiry pursued for nearly forty years by a singularly important theorist of sex, gender, and culture.
Jean Genet (1910–1986) resonates, perhaps more than any other canonical queer figure from the pre-Stonewall past, with contemporary queer sensibilities attuned to a defiant non-normativity. Not only sexually queer, Genet was also a criminal and a social pariah, a bitter opponent of the police state, and an ally of revolutionary anticolonial movements. In Disturbing Attachments, Kadji Amin challenges the idealization of Genet as a paradigmatic figure within queer studies to illuminate the methodological dilemmas at the heart of queer theory. Pederasty, which was central to Genet's sexuality and to his passionate cross-racial and transnational political activism late in life, is among a series of problematic and outmoded queer attachments that Amin uses to deidealize and historicize queer theory. He brings the genealogy of Genet's imaginaries of attachment to bear on pressing issues within contemporary queer politics and scholarship, including prison abolition, homonationalism, and pinkwashing. Disturbing Attachments productively and provocatively unsettles queer studies by excavating the history of its affective tendencies to reveal and ultimately expand the contexts that inform the use and connotations of the term queer.
For decades, the history of sexuality has been a multidisciplinary project serving competing agendas. Lesbian, gay, and queer scholars have produced powerful narratives by tracing the homosexual or queer subject as continuous or discontinuous. Yet organizing historical work around categories of identity as normal or abnormal often obscures how sexual matters were known or talked about in the past. Set against the backdrop of women’s work experiences, friendships, and communities during World War I, Disturbing Practices draws on a substantial body of new archival material to expose the roadblocks still present in current practices and imagine new alternatives.
In this landmark book, Laura Doan clarifies the ethical value and political purpose of identity history—and indeed its very capacity to give rise to innovative practices borne of sustained exchange between queer studies and critical history. Disturbing Practices insists on taking seriously the imperative to step outside the logic of identity to address questions as yet unasked about the modern sexual past.
From the dagger mistress Ezili Je Wouj and the gender-bending mermaid Lasiren to the beautiful femme queen Ezili Freda, the Ezili pantheon of Vodoun spirits represents the divine forces of love, sexuality, prosperity, pleasure, maternity, creativity, and fertility. And just as Ezili appears in different guises and characters, so too does Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley in her voice- and genre-shifting, exploratory book Ezili's Mirrors. Drawing on her background as a literary critic as well as her quest to learn the lessons of her spiritual ancestors, Tinsley theorizes black Atlantic sexuality by tracing how contemporary queer Caribbean and African American writers and performers evoke Ezili. Tinsley shows how Ezili is manifest in the work and personal lives of singers Whitney Houston and Azealia Banks, novelists Nalo Hopkinson and Ana Lara, performers MilDred Gerestant and Sharon Bridgforth, and filmmakers Anne Lescot and Laurence Magloire—none of whom identify as Vodou practitioners. In so doing, Tinsley offers a model of queer black feminist theory that creates new possibilities for decolonizing queer studies.
Jack Halberstam Duke University Press, 1998 Library of Congress HQ75.5.H33 2018
In this quintessential work of queer theory, Jack Halberstam takes aim at the protected status of male masculinity and shows that female masculinity has offered a distinct alternative to it for well over two centuries. Demonstrating how female masculinity is not some bad imitation of virility, but a lively and dramatic staging of hybrid and minority genders, Halberstam catalogs the diversity of gender expressions among masculine women from nineteenth-century pre-lesbian practices to contemporary drag king performances.
Through detailed textual readings as well as empirical research, Halberstam uncovers a hidden history of female masculinities while arguing for a more nuanced understanding of gender categories that would incorporate rather than pathologize them. He rereads Anne Lister's diaries and Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness as foundational assertions of female masculine identity; considers the enigma of the stone butch and the politics surrounding butch/femme roles within lesbian communities; and explores issues of transsexuality among “transgender dykes”—lesbians who pass as men—and female-to-male transsexuals who may find the label of “lesbian” a temporary refuge. Halberstam also tackles such topics as women and boxing, butches in Hollywood and independent cinema, and the phenomenon of male impersonators.
Featuring a new preface by the author, this twentieth anniversary edition of Female Masculinity remains as insightful, timely, and necessary as ever.
Can Scotland be considered an English colony? Is its experience and literature comparable to that of overseas postcolonial countries? Or are such comparisons no more than patriotic victimology to mask Scottish complicity in the British Empire and justify nationalism? These questions have been heatedly debated in recent years, especially in the run-up to the 2014 referendum on independence, and remain topical amid continuing campaigns for more autonomy and calls for a post-Brexit “indyref2.” Gaelic Scotland in the Colonial Imagination offers a general introduction to the emerging field of postcolonial Scottish studies, assessing both its potential and limitations in order to promote further interdisciplinary dialogue. Accessible to readers from various backgrounds, the book combines overviews of theoretical, social, and cultural contexts with detailed case studies of literary and nonliterary texts. The main focus is on internal divisions between the anglophone Lowlands and traditionally Gaelic Highlands, which also play a crucial role in Scottish–English relations. Silke Stroh shows how the image of Scotland’s Gaelic margins changed under the influence of two simultaneous developments: the emergence of the modern nation-state and the rise of overseas colonialism.
Edited by David M. Halperin and Valerie Traub University of Chicago Press, 2009 Library of Congress HQ75.15.G53 2009 | Dewey Decimal 306.766
Ever since the 1969 Stonewall Riots, “gay pride” has been the rallying cry of the gay rights movement and the political force behind the emergence of the field of lesbian and gay studies. But has something been lost, forgotten, or buried beneath the drive to transform homosexuality from a perversion to a proud social identity? Have the political requirements of gay pride repressed discussion of the more uncomfortable or undignified aspects of homosexuality?
Gay Shame seeks to lift this unofficial ban on the investigation of homosexuality and shame by presenting critical work from the most vibrant frontier in contemporary queer studies. An esteemed list of contributors tackles a range of issues—questions of emotion, disreputable sexual histories, dissident gender identities, and embarrassing figures and moments in gay history—as they explore the possibility of reclaiming shame as a new, even productive, way to examine lesbian and gay culture.
Accompanied by a DVD collection of films, performances, and archival imagery, Gay Shame constitutes nothing less than a major redefinition and revitalization of the field.
Genealogy Of Queer Theory
William Turner Temple University Press, 2000 Library of Congress HQ76.25.T775 2000 | Dewey Decimal 306.76601
Who are queers and what do they want? Could it be that we are all queers? Beginning with such questions, William B. Turner's lucid and engaging book traces the roots of queer theory to the growing awareness that few of us precisely fit standard categories for sexual and gender identity.
Turner shows how Michal Foucault's work contributed to feminists' investigations into the ways that power relates to identity. In the last decades of the twentieth century, feminists were the first to challenge the assumption that a claim to universal identity -- the white male citizen -- should serve as the foundation of political thought and action. Difference matters. Race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality interact, producing a wide array of identities that resist rigid definition and are mutable. By understanding the notion of transhistorical categories -- woman, man, homosexual, and so forth -- feminist and gay male scholars launched queer theoretical work as a new way to think about the politics of gender and sexuality.
A Geneology of Queer Theory probes the fierce debates among scholars and activists, weighing the charges that queer readings of texts and identity politics do not constitute and might inhibit radical social change. Written by a historian, it considers the implications of queer theory for historical inquiry and the distinction between philosophy and history. As such, the book will interest readers of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender studies, intellectual history, political theory, and the history of gender/sexuality.
How Soon Is Now? performs a powerful critique of modernist temporal regimes through its revelatory exploration of queer ways of being in time as well as of the potential queerness of time itself. Carolyn Dinshaw focuses on medieval tales of asynchrony and on engagements with these medieval temporal worlds by amateur readers centuries later. In doing so, she illuminates forms of desirous, embodied being that are out of sync with ordinarily linear measurements of everyday life, that involve multiple temporalities, that precipitate out of time altogether. Dinshaw claims the possibility of a fuller, denser, more crowded now that theorists tell us is extant but that often eludes our temporal grasp.
Whether discussing Victorian men of letters who parodied the Book of John Mandeville, a fictionalized fourteenth-century travel narrative, or Hope Emily Allen, modern coeditor of the early-fifteenth-century Book of Margery Kempe, Dinshaw argues that these and other medievalists outside the academy inhabit different temporalities than modern professionals operating according to the clock. How Soon Is Now? clears space for amateurs, hobbyists, and dabblers who approach medieval worlds from positions of affect and attachment, from desires to build other kinds of worlds. Unruly, untimely, they urge us toward a disorderly and asynchronous collective.
The AIDS epidemic soured the memory of the sexual revolution and gay liberation of the 1970s, and prominent politicians, commentators, and academics instructed gay men to forget the sexual cultures of the 1970s in order to ensure a healthy future. But without memory there can be no future, argue Christopher Castiglia and Christopher Reed in this exploration of the struggle over gay memory that marked the decades following the onset of AIDS.
Challenging many of the assumptions behind first-wave queer theory, If Memory Serves offers a new perspective on the emergence of contemporary queer culture from the suppression and repression of gay memory. Drawing on a rich archive of videos, films, television shows, novels, monuments, paintings, and sculptures created in the wake of the epidemic, the authors reveal a resistance among critics to valuing—even recognizing—the inscription of gay memory in art, literature, popular culture, and the built environment. Castiglia and Reed explore such topics as the unacknowledged ways in which the popular sitcom Will and Grace circulated gay subcultural references to awaken a desire for belonging among young viewers; the post-traumatic (un)rememberings of queer theory; and the generation of “ideality politics” in the art of Félix González-Torres, the film Chuck & Buck, and the independent video Video Remains.
Inspired by Alasdair MacIntyre’s insight that “the possession of a historical identity and the possession of a social identity coincide,” Castiglia and Reed demonstrate that memory is crafted in response to inadequacies in the present—and therefore a constructive relation to the past is essential to the imagining of a new future.
Over the course of a distinguished career, critic Leo Bersani has tackled a range of issues in his writing, and this collection gathers together some of his finest work. Beginning with one of the foundations of queer theory—his famous meditation on how sex leads to a shattering of the self, “Is the Rectum a Grave?”—this volume charts the inspired connections Bersani has made between sexuality, psychoanalysis, and aesthetics.
Over the course of these essays, Bersani grapples with thinkers ranging from Plato to Descartes to Georg Simmel. Foucault and Freud recur as key figures, and although Foucault rejected psychoanalysis, Bersani contends that by considering his ideas alongside Freud’s, one gains a clearer understanding of human identity and how we relate to one another. For Bersani, art represents a crucial guide for conceiving new ways of connecting to the world, and so, in many of these essays, he stresses the importance of aesthetics, analyzing works by Genet, Caravaggio, Proust, Almodóvar, and Godard.
Documenting over two decades in the life of one of the best minds working in the humanities today, Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays is a unique opportunity to explore the fruitful career of a formidable intellect.
The central figure in black gay literary history, James Baldwin has become a familiar touchstone for queer scholarship in the academy. Matt Brim’s James Baldwin and the Queer Imagination draws on the contributions of queer theory and black queer studies to critically engage with and complicate the project of queering Baldwin and his work. Brim argues that Baldwin animates and, in contrast, disrupts both the black gay literary tradition and the queer theoretical enterprise that have claimed him. More paradoxically, even as Baldwin’s fiction brilliantly succeeds in imagining queer intersections of race and sexuality, it simultaneously exhibits striking queer failures, whether exploiting gay love or erasing black lesbian desire. Brim thus argues that Baldwin’s work is deeply marked by ruptures of the “unqueer” into transcendent queer thought—and that readers must sustain rather than override this paradoxical dynamic within acts of queer imagination.
With hair slicked back and shirt collar framing her young patrician face, Katherine Hepburn's image in the 1935 film Sylvia Scarlett was seen by many as a lesbian representation. Yet, Amy Villarejo argues, there is no final ground upon which to explain why that image of Hepburn signifies lesbian or why such a cross-dressing Hollywood fantasy edges into collective consciousness as a lesbian narrative. Investigating what allows viewers to perceive an image or narrative as "lesbian," Villarejo presents a theoretical exploration of lesbian visibility. Focusing on images of lesbians in film, she analyzes what these representations contain and their limits. She combines Marxist theories of value with poststructuralist insights to argue that lesbian visibility operates simultaneously as an achievement and a ruse, a possibility for building a new visual politics and away of rendering static and contained what lesbian might mean. Integrating cinema studies, queer and feminist theory, and cultural studies, Villarejo illuminates the contexts within which the lesbian is rendered visible. Toward that end, she analyzes key portrayals of lesbians in public culture, particularly in documentary film. She considers a range of films—from documentaries about Cuba and lesbian pulp fiction to Exile Shanghai and The Brandon Teena Story—and, in doing so, brings to light a nuanced economy of value and desire.
Under the bold banner of Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Interventions, editors Robyn Warhol and Susan S. Lanser gather a diverse spectrum of queer and feminist challenges to the theory and interpretation of narrative. The first edited collection to bring feminist, queer, and narrative theories into direct conversation with one another, this anthology places gender and sexuality at the center of contemporary theorizing about the production, reception, forms, and functions of narrative texts.
Through twenty-one essays prefaced by a cogent history of the field, Narrative Theory Unbound offers new perspectives on narrative discourse and its constituent elements; on intersectional approaches that recognize race, religion, and national culture as integral to understanding sexuality and gender; on queer temporalities; on cognitive research; and on lifewriting in graphic, print, and digital constellations. Exploring genres ranging from reality TV to fairy tales to classical fiction, contributors explore the thorny, contested relationships between feminist and queer theory, on the one hand, and between feminist/queer theory and contemporary narratologies, on the other. Rather than aiming for cohesiveness or conclusiveness, the collection stages open-ended debates designed to unbind the assumptions that have kept gender and sexuality on the periphery of narrative theory.
The New Woman: Literary Modernism, Queer Theory, and the Trans Feminine Allegory traces the use of the trans feminine as an allegorical figure, from the practice's origins in nineteenth-century sexology through writings in the fields of psychoanalysis, Modernist fiction, and contemporary Queer Theory.
The book is the first to identify the process by which medical sources simplified the diversity of trans feminine experience into a single diagnostic narrative. It then demonstrates that this medical figure became an archetype for the "sexual anarchy" of the Modernist period in works by Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Djuna Barnes, T. S. Eliot, and Jean Genet.
Thus illuminating the trans feminine's Modernist provenance, the book examines foundational works of Queer Theory that resuscitated the trans feminine allegory at the end of the twentieth century. Insightful and seminal, The New Woman debunks the pervasive reflex beginning in the 1990s to connect trans experience to a late twentieth-century collapse of sexual differences by revealing the Modernist roots of that very formulation.
In this searing polemic, Lee Edelman outlines a radically uncompromising new ethics of queer theory. His main target is the all-pervasive figure of the child, which he reads as the linchpin of our universal politics of “reproductive futurism.” Edelman argues that the child, understood as innocence in need of protection, represents the possibility of the future against which the queer is positioned as the embodiment of a relentlessly narcissistic, antisocial, and future-negating drive. He boldly insists that the efficacy of queerness lies in its very willingness to embrace this refusal of the social and political order. In No Future, Edelman urges queers to abandon the stance of accommodation and accede to their status as figures for the force of a negativity that he links with irony, jouissance, and, ultimately, the death drive itself.
Closely engaging with literary texts, Edelman makes a compelling case for imagining Scrooge without Tiny Tim and Silas Marner without little Eppie. Looking to Alfred Hitchcock’s films, he embraces two of the director’s most notorious creations: the sadistic Leonard of North by Northwest, who steps on the hand that holds the couple precariously above the abyss, and the terrifying title figures of The Birds, with their predilection for children. Edelman enlarges the reach of contemporary psychoanalytic theory as he brings it to bear not only on works of literature and film but also on such current political flashpoints as gay marriage and gay parenting. Throwing down the theoretical gauntlet, No Future reimagines queerness with a passion certain to spark an equally impassioned debate among its readers.
Robyn Wiegman Duke University Press, 2012 Library of Congress HM480.W54 2012 | Dewey Decimal 301.01
No concept has been more central to the emergence and evolution of identity studies than social justice. In historical and theoretical accounts, it crystallizes the progressive politics that have shaped the academic study of race, gender, and sexuality. Yet few scholars have deliberated directly on the political agency that notions of justice confer on critical practice. In Object Lessons, Robyn Wiegman contemplates this lack of attention, offering the first sustained inquiry into the political desire that galvanizes identity fields. In each chapter, she examines a key debate by considering the political aspirations that shape it. Addressing Women's Studies, she traces the ways that "gender" promises to overcome the exclusions of "women." Turning to Ethnic Studies, she examines the deconstruction of "whiteness" as an antiracist methodology. As she explores American Studies, she links internationalization to the broader quest for noncomplicity in contemporary criticism. Her analysis of Queer Studies demonstrates how the commitment to antinormativity normalizes the field. In the penultimate chapter, Wiegman addresses intersectionality as the most coveted theoretical approach to political resolution in all of these fields.
Opacity and the Closet interrogates the viability of the metaphor of “the closet” when applied to three important queer figures in postwar American and French culture: the philosopher Michel Foucault, the literary critic Roland Barthes, and the pop artist Andy Warhol. Nicholas de Villiers proposes a new approach to these cultural icons that accounts for the queerness of their works and public personas.
Rather than reading their self-presentations as “closeted,” de Villiers suggests that they invent and deploy productive strategies of “opacity” that resist the closet and the confessional discourse associated with it. Deconstructing binaries linked with the closet that have continued to influence both gay and straight receptions of these intellectual and pop celebrities, de Villiers illuminates the philosophical implications of this displacement for queer theory and introduces new ways to think about the space they make for queerness.
Using the works of Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol to engage each other while exploring their shared historical context, de Villiers also shows their queer appropriations of the interview, the autobiography, the diary, and the documentary—forms typically linked to truth telling and authenticity.
Annamarie Jagose Duke University Press, 2013 Library of Congress HQ23.J34 2013 | Dewey Decimal 306.7
For all its vaunted attention to sexuality, queer theory has had relatively little to say about sex, the material and psychic practices through which erotic gratification is sought. In Orgasmology, Annamarie Jagose takes orgasm as her queer scholarly object. From simultaneous to fake orgasms, from medical imaging to pornographic visualization, from impersonal sexual publics to domestic erotic intimacies, Jagose traces the career of orgasm across the twentieth century.
Along the way, she examines marriage manuals of the 1920s and 1930s, designed to teach heterosexual couples how to achieve simultaneous orgasms; provides a queer reading of behavioral modification practices of the 1960s and 1970s, aimed at transforming gay men into heterosexuals; and demonstrates how representations of orgasm have shaped ideas about sexuality and sexual identity.
A confident and often counterintuitive engagement with feminist and queer traditions of critical thought, Orgasmology affords fresh perspectives on not just sex, sexual orientation, and histories of sexuality, but also agency, ethics, intimacy, modernity, selfhood, and sociality. As modern subjects, we presume we already know everything there is to know about orgasm. This elegantly argued book suggests that orgasm still has plenty to teach us.
This collection brings together the work of both film scholars and queer theorists to advance a more sophisticated notion of queer film criticism. While the “politics of representation” has been the focus of much previous gay and lesbian film criticism, the contributors to Out Takes employ the approaches of queer theory to move beyond conventional readings and to reexamine aspects of the cinematic gaze in relation to queer desire and spectatorship.
The essays examine a wide array of films, including Calamity Jane, Rear Window,The Hunger, Heavenly Creatures, and Bound , and discuss such figures as Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor, and Alfred Hitchcock. Divided into three sections, the first part reconsiders the construction of masculinity and male homoerotic desire—especially with respect to the role of women—in classic cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. The second section offers a deconstructive consideration of lesbian film spectatorship and lesbian representation. Part three looks at the historical trajectory of independent queer cinema, including works by H.D., Kenneth Anger, and Derek Jarman.
By exploring new approaches to the study of sexuality in film, Out Takes will be useful to scholars in gay and lesbian studies, queer theory, and cinema studies.
Contributors. Bonnie Burns, Steven Cohan, Alexander Doty, Lee Edelman, Michelle Elleray, Jim Ellis, Ellis Hanson, D. A. Miller, Eric Savoy, Matthew Tinkcom, Amy Villarejo, Jean Walton
In The Queer Aesthetics of Childhood, Hannah Dyer offers a study of how children’s art and art about childhood can forecast new models of social life that redistribute care, belonging, and political value. Dyer suggests that childhood’s cultural expressions offer insight into the persisting residues of colonial history, nation building, homophobia, and related violence. Drawing from queer and feminist theory, psychoanalysis, settler-colonial studies, and cultural studies, this book helps to explain how some theories of childhood can hurt children. Dyer’s analysis moves between diverse sites and scales, including photographs and an art installation, children’s drawings after experiencing war in Gaza, a novel about gay love and childhood trauma, and debates in sex-education. In the cultural formations of art, she finds new theories of childhood that attend to the knowledge, trauma, fortitude and experience that children might possess. In addressing aggressions against children, ambivalences towards child protection, and the vital contributions children make to transnational politics, she seeks new and queer theories of childhood.
The Queer Art of Failure
Judith Halberstam Duke University Press, 2011 Library of Congress BD175.H33 2011 | Dewey Decimal 121
The Queer Art of Failure is about finding alternatives—to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that claims to break new ground but cleaves to conventional archives. Judith Halberstam proposes “low theory” as a mode of thinking and writing that operates at many different levels at once. Low theory is derived from eccentric archives. It runs the risk of not being taken seriously. It entails a willingness to fail and to lose one’s way, to pursue difficult questions about complicity, and to find counterintuitive forms of resistance. Tacking back and forth between high theory and low theory, high culture and low culture, Halberstam looks for the unexpected and subversive in popular culture, avant-garde performance, and queer art. She pays particular attention to animated children’s films, revealing narratives filled with unexpected encounters between the childish, the transformative, and the queer. Failure sometimes offers more creative, cooperative, and surprising ways of being in the world, even as it forces us to face the dark side of life, love, and libido.
Children are thoroughly, shockingly queer, as Kathryn Bond Stockton explains in The Queer Child, where she examines children’s strangeness, even some children’s subliminal “gayness,” in the twentieth century. Estranging, broadening, darkening forms of children emerge as this book illuminates the child queered by innocence, the child queered by color, the child queered by Freud, the child queered by money, and the grown homosexual metaphorically seen as a child (or as an animal), alongside the gay child. What might the notion of a “gay” child do to conceptions of the child? How might it outline the pain, closets, emotional labors, sexual motives, and sideways movements that attend all children, however we deny it?
Engaging and challenging the work of sociologists, legal theorists, and historians, Stockton coins the term “growing sideways” to describe ways of growing that defy the usual sense of growing “up” in a linear trajectory toward full stature, marriage, reproduction, and the relinquishing of childish ways. Growing sideways is a mode of irregular growth involving odd lingerings, wayward paths, and fertile delays. Contending that children’s queerness is rendered and explored best in fictional forms, including literature, film, and television, Stockton offers dazzling readings of works ranging from novels by Henry James, Radclyffe Hall, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, and Vladimir Nabokov to the movies Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Hanging Garden, Heavenly Creatures, Hoop Dreams, and the 2005 remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The result is a fascinating look at children’s masochism, their interactions with pedophiles and animals, their unfathomable, hazy motives (leading them at times into sex, seduction, delinquency, and murder), their interracial appetites, and their love of consumption and destruction through the alluring economy of candy.
“This book is an imagining.” So begins this collection examining critical, Indigenous-centered approaches to understanding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit (GLBTQ2) lives and communities and the creative implications of queer theory in Native studies. This book is not so much a manifesto as it is a dialogue—a “writing in conversation”—among a luminous group of scholar-activists revisiting the history of gay and lesbian studies in Indigenous communities while forging a path for Indigenouscentered theories and methodologies.
The bold opening to Queer Indigenous Studies invites new dialogues in Native American and Indigenous studies about the directions and implications of queer Indigenous studies. The collection notably engages Indigenous GLBTQ2 movements as alliances that also call for allies beyond their bounds, which the co-editors and contributors model by crossing their varied identities, including Native, trans, straight, non-Native, feminist, Two-Spirit, mixed blood, and queer, to name just a few.
Rooted in the Indigenous Americas and the Pacific, and drawing on disciplines ranging from literature to anthropology, contributors to Queer Indigenous Studies call Indigenous GLBTQ2 movements and allies to center an analysis that critiques the relationship between colonialism and heteropatriarchy. By answering critical turns in Indigenous scholarship that center Indigenous epistemologies and methodologies, contributors join in reshaping Native studies, queer studies, transgender studies, and Indigenous feminisms.
Based on the reality that queer Indigenous people “experience multilayered oppression that profoundly impacts our safety, health, and survival,” this book is at once an imagining and an invitation to the reader to join in the discussion of decolonizing queer Indigenous research and theory and, by doing so, to partake in allied resistance working toward positive change.
In Queer Marxism in Two Chinas Petrus Liu rethinks the relationship between Marxism and queer cultures in mainland China and Taiwan. Whereas many scholars assume the emergence of queer cultures in China signals the end of Marxism and demonstrates China's political and economic evolution, Liu finds the opposite to be true. He challenges the persistence of Cold War formulations of Marxism that position it as intellectually incompatible with queer theory, and shows how queer Marxism offers a nonliberal alternative to Western models of queer emancipation. The work of queer Chinese artists and intellectuals not only provides an alternative to liberal ideologies of inclusion and diversity, but demonstrates how different conceptions of and attitudes toward queerness in China and Taiwan stem from geopolitical tensions. With Queer Marxism in Two Chinas Liu offers a revision to current understandings of what queer theory is, does, and can be.
In this first-ever comprehensive examination of queerbaiting, fan studies scholar Joseph Brennan and his contributors examine cases that shed light on the sometimes exploitative industry practice of teasing homoerotic possibilities that, while hinted at, never materialize in the program narratives. Through a nuanced approach that accounts for both the history of queer representation and older fan traditions, these essayists examine the phenomenon of queerbaiting across popular TV, video games, children’s programs, and more.
Contributors: Evangeline Aguas, Christoffer Bagger, Bridget Blodgett, Cassie Brummitt, Leyre Carcas, Jessica Carniel, Jennifer Duggan, Monique Franklin, Divya Garg, Danielle S. Girard, Mary Ingram-Waters, Hannah McCann, Michael McDermott, E. J. Nielsen, Emma Nordin, Holly Eva Katherine Randell-Moon, Emily E. Roach, Anastasia Salter, Elisabeth Schneider, Kieran Sellars, Isabela Silva, Guillaume Sirois, Clare Southerton
Reclaiming Queer is an examination of the rhetorical linkage of queer theory in the academy with street-level queer activism in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The late 1980s and early 1990s were a defining historical moment for both queer activism and queer theory in the United States. LGBT communities, confronted with the alarming violence and homophobia of the AIDS crisis, often responded with angry, militant forms of activism designed not merely to promote acceptance or tolerance, but to forge identity and strength from victimization and assert loudly and forcefully their rights to safety and humanity. The activist reclamation of the word “queer” is one marker of this shift in ideology and practice, and it was mirrored in academic circles by the concurrent emergence of the new field of “queer theory.” That is, as queer activists were mobilizing in the streets, queer theorists were producing a similar foment in the halls and publications of academia, questioning regulatory categories of gender and sexuality, and attempting to illuminate the heteronormative foundations of Western thought. Notably, the narrative of queer theory’s development often describes it as arising from or being inspired by queer activism.
In Reclaiming Queer, Erin J. Rand examines both queer activist and academic practices during this period, taking as her primary object the rhetorical linkage of queer theory in the academy with street-level queer activism. Through this strategic conjuncture of activism and academia, Rand grapples with the specific conditions for and constraints on rhetorical agency in each context. She examines the early texts that inaugurated the field of queer theory, Queer Nation’s infamous “Queers Read This” manifesto, Larry Kramer’s polemic speeches and editorials, the Lesbian Avengers’ humorous and outrageous antics, the history of ACT UP, and the more recent appearance of Gay Shame activism. From these activist and academic discourses, Rand builds a theory of rhetorical agency that posits queerness as the very condition from which agency emerges.
Reclaiming Queer thus offers a critical look at the rhetoric of queer activism, engages the history of queer theory’s institutionalization and the politics of its proliferation, suggests a radically contextual understanding of rhetorical agency and form, and argues for the centrality of queerness to all rhetorical action.
The Reification of Desire takes two critical perspectives rarely analyzed together—formative arguments for Marxism and those that have been the basis for queer theory—and productively scrutinizes these ideas both with and against each other to put forth a new theoretical connection between Marxism and queer studies.
Kevin Floyd brings queer critique to bear on the Marxian categories of reification and totality and considers the dialectic that frames the work of Georg Lukács, Herbert Marcuse, and Fredric Jameson. Reading the work of these theorists together with influential queer work by such figures as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, and alongside reconsiderations of such texts as The Sun Also Rises and Midnight Cowboy, Floyd reformulates these two central categories that have been inseparable from a key strand of Marxist thought and have marked both its explanatory power and its limitations. Floyd theorizes a dissociation of sexuality from gender at the beginning of the twentieth century in terms of reification to claim that this dissociation is one aspect of a larger dynamic of social reification enforced by capitalism.
Developing a queer examination of reification and totality, Kevin Floyd ultimately argues that the insights of queer theory require a fundamental rethinking of both.
Re/Orienting Writing Studies is an exploration of the intersections among queer theory, rhetoric, and research methods in writing studies. Focusing careful theoretical attention on common research practices, this collection demonstrates how queer rhetorics of writing/composing, textual analysis, history, assessment, and embodiment/identity significantly alter both methods and methodologies in writing studies. The chapters represent a diverse set of research locations and experiences from which to articulate a new set of innovative research practices.
While the humanities have engaged queer theory extensively, research methods have often been hermeneutic or interpretive. At the same time, social science approaches in composition research have foregrounded inquiry on human participants but have often struggled to understand where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people fit into empirical research projects. Re/Orienting Writing Studies works at the intersections of humanities and social science methodologies to offer new insight into using queer methods for data collection and queer practices for framing research.
Contributors: Chanon Adsanatham, Jean Bessette, Nicole I. Caswell, Michael J. Faris, Hillery Glasby, Deborah Kuzawa, Maria Novotny, G Patterson, Stacey Waite, Stephanie West-Puckett
Sex, or the Unbearable
Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman Duke University Press, 2014 Library of Congress HQ75.15.B47 2014 | Dewey Decimal 306.7
Sex, or the Unbearable is a dialogue between Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, two of our leading theorists of sexuality, politics, and culture. In juxtaposing sex and the unbearable they don't propose that sex is unbearable, only that it unleashes unbearable contradictions that we nonetheless struggle to bear. In Berlant and Edelman's exchange, those terms invoke disturbances produced in encounters with others, ourselves, and the world, disturbances that tap into threats induced by fears of loss or rupture as well as by our hopes for repair.
Through virtuoso interpretations of works of cinema, photography, critical theory, and literature, including Lydia Davis's story "Break It Down" (reprinted in full here), Berlant and Edelman explore what it means to live with negativity, with those divisions that may be irreparable. Together, they consider how such negativity affects politics, theory, and intimately felt encounters. But where their critical approaches differ, neither hesitates to voice disagreement. Their very discussion—punctuated with moments of frustration, misconstruction, anxiety, aggression, recognition, exhilaration, and inspiration—enacts both the difficulty and the potential of encounter, the subject of this unusual exchange between two eminent critics and close friends.
Drawing on her own experiences with late-onset disability and its impact on her sex life, along with her expertise as a cultural critic, Jane Gallop explores how disability and aging work to undermine one's sense of self. She challenges common conceptions that equate the decline of bodily potential and ability with a permanent and irretrievable loss, arguing that such a loss can be both temporary and positively transformative. With Sexuality, Disability, and Aging, Gallop explores and celebrates how sexuality transforms and becomes more queer in the lives of the no longer young and the no longer able while at the same time demonstrating how disability can generate new forms of sexual fantasy and erotic possibility.
Shakesqueer puts the most exciting queer theorists in conversation with the complete works of William Shakespeare. Exploring what is odd, eccentric, and unexpected in the Bard’s plays and poems, these theorists highlight not only the many ways that Shakespeare can be queered but also the many ways that Shakespeare can enrich queer theory. This innovative anthology reveals an early modern playwright insistently returning to questions of language, identity, and temporality, themes central to contemporary queer theory. Since many of the contributors do not study early modern literature, Shakesqueer takes queer theory back and brings Shakespeare forward, challenging the chronological confinement of queer theory to the last two hundred years. The book also challenges conceptual certainties that have narrowly equated queerness with homosexuality. Chasing all manner of stray desires through every one of Shakespeare’s plays and poems, the contributors cross temporal, animal, theoretical, and sexual boundaries with abandon. Claiming adherence to no one school of thought, the essays consider The Winter’s Tale alongside network TV, Hamlet in relation to the death drive, King John as a history of queer theory, and Much Ado About Nothing in tune with a Sondheim musical. Together they expand the reach of queerness and queer critique across chronologies, methodologies, and bodies.
Contributors. Matt Bell, Amanda Berry, Daniel Boyarin, Judith Brown, Steven Bruhm, Peter Coviello, Julie Crawford, Drew Daniel, Mario DiGangi, Lee Edelman, Jason Edwards, Aranye Fradenburg, Carla Freccero, Daniel Juan Gil, Jonathan Goldberg, Jody Greene, Stephen Guy-Bray, Ellis Hanson, Sharon Holland, Cary Howie, Lynne Huffer, Barbara Johnson, Hector Kollias, James Kuzner , Arthur L. Little Jr., Philip Lorenz, Heather Love, Jeffrey Masten, Robert McRuer , Madhavi Menon, Michael Moon, Paul Morrison, Andrew Nicholls, Kevin Ohi, Patrick R. O’Malley, Ann Pellegrini, Richard Rambuss, Valerie Rohy, Bethany Schneider, Kathryn Schwarz, Laurie Shannon, Ashley T. Shelden, Alan Sinfield, Bruce Smith, Karl Steel, Kathryn Bond Stockton, Amy Villarejo, Julian Yates
Nadia Ellis attends to African diasporic belonging as it comes into being through black expressive culture. Living in the diaspora, Ellis asserts, means existing between claims to land and imaginative flights unmoored from the earth—that is, to live within the territories of the soul. Drawing on the work of Jose Muñoz, Ellis connects queerness' utopian potential with diasporic aesthetics. Occupying the territory of the soul, being neither here nor there, creates in diasporic subjects feelings of loss, desire, and a sensation of a pull from elsewhere. Ellis locates these phenomena in the works of C.L.R. James, the testy encounter between George Lamming and James Baldwin at the 1956 Congress of Negro Artists and Writers in Paris, the elusiveness of the queer diasporic subject in Andrew Salkey's novel Escape to an Autumn Pavement, and the trope of spirit possession in Nathaniel Mackey's writing and Burning Spear's reggae. Ellis' use of queer and affect theory shows how geographies claim diasporic subjects in ways that nationalist or masculinist tropes can never fully capture. Diaspora, Ellis concludes, is best understood as a mode of feeling and belonging, one fundamentally shaped by the experience of loss.
Marquis Bey’s debut collection, Them Goon Rules, is an un-rulebook, a long-form essayistic sermon that meditates on how Blackness and nonnormative gender impact and remix everything we claim to know.
A series of essays that reads like a critical memoir, this work queries the function and implications of politicized Blackness, Black feminism, and queerness. Bey binds together his personal experiences with social justice work at the New York–based Audre Lorde Project, growing up in Philly, and rigorous explorations of the iconoclasm of theorists of Black studies and Black feminism. Bey’s voice recalibrates itself playfully on a dime, creating a collection that tarries in both academic and nonacademic realms.
Fashioning fugitive Blackness and feminism around a line from Lil’ Wayne’s “A Millie,” Them Goon Rules is a work of “auto-theory” that insists on radical modes of thought and being as a refrain and a hook that is unapologetic, rigorously thoughtful, and uncompromising.
Time Binds is a powerful argument that temporal and sexual dissonance are intertwined, and that the writing of history can be both embodied and erotic. Challenging queer theory’s recent emphasis on loss and trauma, Elizabeth Freeman foregrounds bodily pleasure in the experience and representation of time as she interprets an eclectic archive of queer literature, film, video, and art. She examines work by visual artists who emerged in a commodified, “postfeminist,” and “postgay” world. Yet they do not fully accept the dissipation of political and critical power implied by the idea that various political and social battles have been won and are now consigned to the past. By privileging temporal gaps and narrative detours in their work, these artists suggest ways of putting the past into meaningful, transformative relation with the present. Such “queer asynchronies” provide opportunities for rethinking historical consciousness in erotic terms, thereby countering the methods of traditional and Marxist historiography. Central to Freeman’s argument are the concepts of chrononormativity, the use of time to organize individual human bodies toward maximum productivity; temporal drag, the visceral pull of the past on the supposedly revolutionary present; and erotohistoriography, the conscious use of the body as a channel for and means of understanding the past. Time Binds emphasizes the critique of temporality and history as crucial to queer politics.
Often depicted as deviant or pathological by public health researchers, psychoanalysts, and sexologists, male-with-male sex and sex work is, in fact, an increasingly mainstream pursuit. Based on a qualitative investigation of the practices involved in male-with-male—or m4m—Internet escorting, Touching Encounters is the first book to explicitly address how masculinity and sexuality shape male commercial sex in this era of Internet communications.
By looking closely at the sex and work of male escorts, Kevin Walby tries to reconcile the two extremes of m4m sex—the stereotypical idea of a quick cash transaction and the tendency toward friendship and mutuality. In doing so, Walby draws on the work of Foucault to make visible the play of power in these physical and commercial relations between men. At once a revelation to the sociology of work and a much-needed critical engagement with queer theory, Touching Encounters responds to calls from across the social sciences to connect Foucault with sociologies of sex, sexuality, and intimacy. Walby does this and more, retying this sexual practice back to society at large.
What would it mean to turn to ugliness rather than turn away from it? Indeed, the idea of ugly often becomes synonymous with non-white, non-male, and non-heterosexual physicality and experience. That same pejorative migrates to become a label for practices within underground culture. In Ugly Differences, Yetta Howard uses underground contexts to theorize queer difference by locating ugliness at the intersection of the physical, experiential, and textual. From that nexus, Howard contends that ugliness—as a mode of pejorative identification—is fundamental to the cultural formations of queer female sexuality. Slava Tsukerman's postpunk film Liquid Sky, Sapphire's poetry, Roberta Gregory's Bitchy Butch comix, New Queer Cinema such as High Art—these and other non-canonical works contribute to an audacious critique. Howard reveals how the things we see, read as, or experience as ugly productively account for non-dominant sexual identities and creative practices. Ugly Differences offers eye-opening ways to approach queerness and its myriad underground representations.
In Unruly Visions Gayatri Gopinath brings queer studies to bear on investigations of diaspora and visuality, tracing the interrelation of affect, archive, region, and aesthetics through an examination of a wide range of contemporary queer visual culture. Spanning film, fine art, poetry, and photography, these cultural forms—which Gopinath conceptualizes as aesthetic practices of queer diaspora—reveal the intimacies of seemingly disparate histories of (post)colonial dwelling and displacement and are a product of diasporic trajectories. Countering standard formulations of diaspora that inevitably foreground the nation-state, as well as familiar formulations of queerness that ignore regional gender and sexual formations, she stages unexpected encounters between works by South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Australian, and Latinx artists such as Tracey Moffatt, Akram Zaatari, and Allan deSouza. Gopinath shows how their art functions as regional queer archives that express alternative understandings of time, space, and relationality. The queer optics produced by these visual practices creates South-to-South, region-to-region, and diaspora-to-region cartographies that profoundly challenge disciplinary and area studies rubrics. Gopinath thereby provides new critical perspectives on settler colonialism, empire, military occupation, racialization, and diasporic dislocation as they indelibly mark both bodies and landscapes.
In Unsettling Assumptions, editors Pauline Greenhill and Diane Tye examine how tradition and gender come together to unsettle assumptions about culture and its study.
Contributors explore the intersections of traditional expressive culture and sex/gender systems to question, investigate, or upset concepts like family, ethics, and authenticity. Individual essays consider myriad topics such as Thanksgiving turkeys, rockabilly and bar fights, Chinese tales of female ghosts, selkie stories, a noisy Mennonite New Year’s celebration, the Distaff Gospels, Kentucky tobacco farmers, international adoptions, and more.
In Unsettling Assumptions, folkloric forms express but also counteract negative aspects of culture like misogyny, homophobia, and racism. But expressive culture also emerges as fundamental to our sense of belonging to a family, an occupation, or friendship group and, most notably, to identity performativity and the construction and negotiation of power.
In What’s the Use? Sara Ahmed continues the work she began in The Promise of Happiness and Willful Subjects by taking up a single word—in this case, use—and following it around. She shows how use became associated with life and strength in nineteenth-century biological and social thought and considers how utilitarianism offered a set of educational techniques for shaping individuals by directing them toward useful ends. Ahmed also explores how spaces become restricted to some uses and users, with specific reference to universities. She notes, however, the potential for queer use: how things can be used in ways that were not intended or by those for whom they were not intended. Ahmed posits queer use as a way of reanimating the project of diversity work as the ordinary and painstaking task of opening up institutions to those who have historically been excluded.
Kara Keeling contends that cinema and cinematic processes had a profound significance for twentieth-century anticapitalist Black Liberation movements based in the United States. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s notion of “the cinematic”—not just as a phenomenon confined to moving-image media such as film and television but as a set of processes involved in the production and reproduction of social reality itself —Keeling describes how the cinematic structures racism, homophobia, and misogyny, and, in the process, denies viewers access to certain images and ways of knowing. She theorizes the black femme as a figure who, even when not explicitly represented within hegemonic cinematic formulations of raced and gendered subjectivities, nonetheless haunts those representations, threatening to disrupt them by making alternative social arrangements visible.
Keeling draws on the thought of Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and others in addition to Deleuze. She pursues the elusive figure of the black femme through Haile Gerima’s film Sankofa, images of women in the Black Panther Party, Pam Grier’s roles in the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s, F. Gary Gray’s film Set It Off, and Kasi Lemmons’s Eve’s Bayou.
From the haute couture runways of Paris and New York and editorial photo shoots for glossy fashion magazines to reality television, models have been a ubiquitous staple of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American consumer culture. In Work! Elspeth H. Brown traces the history of modeling from the advent of photographic modeling in the early twentieth century to the rise of the supermodel in the 1980s. Brown outlines how the modeling industry sanitized and commercialized models' sex appeal in order to elicit and channel desire into buying goods. She shows how this new form of sexuality—whether exhibited in the Ziegfeld Follies girls' performance of Anglo-Saxon femininity or in African American models' portrayal of black glamour in the 1960s—became a central element in consumer capitalism and a practice that has always been shaped by queer sensibilities. By outlining the paradox that queerness lies at the center of capitalist heteronormativity and telling the largely unknown story of queer models and photographers, Brown offers an out of the ordinary history of twentieth-century American culture and capitalism.