Saturday, March 9, 2013

Queer's Refusal

some thoughts on the past ...

When I started to study this thing called "queer theory," many a professor said that I need a definition, and I needed to prove why something was queer: in other words, do "proper" academic protocols. exegesis, and taxonomies. I also conflated gay and lesbian (bisexual and transgender were barely being entered into both gay and lesbian movements and certain parts of the academy) with queer, which is still done today. By the time I started my PhD work, I realized that any totalizing definition of queer, as well as any construction of a disciplined and proper methodology, was not only limiting to what I now call the affective force of queer and its radical (un-)becomings, multiplicities, and (un-)doings, but utterly misses the point of queer's work (which I just mentioned).
I decided, against the prodding of one too many faculty, to refuse any totalizing definition or method of queer; I could only ever offer temporary, strategic, and provisional definitions and methods. Interestingly enough, the loudest complaints came from academics who desired the order, systemization, propriety of a discipline, in my case art history. But queer cannot be, can never be, what these academics desired: it is anti-systematic (it is parasitical), it is improper, and it thrives in, and from chaos. Any limits on queer will reduce its generous and generative force, as well as its violent and turbulent becomings.
Since this realization, I have been more open to the momentary, the instant, the ephemeral, and the slight. I have been more able to encounter queerness, then when I worked from a narrow view of "what it was" -- which ironically it "can't be anything." I think the most profound thing we, those of us who "do" queer theory, can do is not only loosen-up our grip on queer theory, but allow queer to grab hold of us: to not ask what I can do with queer, but allow queer to do me, otherwise.

More to follow ...

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