Queer Futurities Abstracts
Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge and Myron as Allegories of Queer Futurities
Eveline Kilian (HU Berlin)
This paper takes Gore Vidal’s novel Myra Breckinridge (1968) and its sequel Myron (1974) as its starting point to explore the temporalities of queer agency. In Myra Breckinridge, the eponymous heroine, a transsexual woman empowered by her newly acquired gender, sets out to ”change the sexes, to re-create Man”. Her project is only partly completed, however, since Myra, after an accident, undergoes further sex reassignment surgery and becomes a man again. Myron in the sequel is happily married, a hundred per cent straight an ultra-conservative. He is made to enter a time-loop when he is suddenly catapulted into the year 1948 and finds himself on the edge of a Hollywood film set. This long episode in the past also includes a constant battle with his alter ego, the ultra queer Myra, who plans to alter the future by castrating men and turning them into women, thus preventing them from breeding and overpopulating the globe – a literalization of Edelman’s queer negativity of sorts. This plan is also only partially realized, since Myron/Myra is finally brought back to the present.
I want to read these two novels as allegories of the project of queer futurities. This will lead me to probe the various implications of the concept of futurity. My investigation will include a questioning of teleological thought that seems to be part of the notion of futurity, an exploration of simultaneity and parallel worlds as alternative structures, and a consideration of the way that queering the past may be a means to reconfigure the future.
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Utopian Thinking and Queer Theory – A Difficult Relationship
The University of Wroclaw, Philosophy Department, Poland
Unquestionably, queer theory has a great potential of projecting Utopian thinking into the future. The source of Utopian thinking of queer theory seems to be located in its deconstructive technique that destabilizes boundaries and binaries as well as in its resistance to normalizing processes. However, nowadays we are bearing witness to the process of domestication of both the theory and the movement, which, in my opinion, is due not only to neoliberalism winning over LGBT community but also to excessive realism (in its political sense) of queer theory and movement. To my way of thinking realism and Utopian thinking are not radically opposed. If, on the one hand, Utopian thinking does not take into account its material base and, on the other hand, realism forgets about its ideological foundations, both become politically and theoretically suspect. In my paper I would like to argue that there is a kind of a tension between queer theory and Utopian thinking. In order to bring this tension out, my argument will run into two directions. Firstly, I will consider criticism launched against Judith Butler by Seyla Benhabib and critical theory that Butler’s theory being yet another poststructuralism with its always immanent critique makes ”a retreat from Utopia” to use Benhabib’s phrase form Situating the Self. Benhabib claims that queer theory’s conceptions of subject, power and agency makes it impossible to imagine ”new worlds.” Next I will consider queer theory’s reception of Monique Wittig’s writing. Why is it that Wittig’s revolutionary ideas were mostly dismissed by queer theory as exactly Utopian that is always too Utopian and, what is more, it was largely due to Judith Butler’s influential reading of that thinker.
In my closing remarks I would like to point out that it is possible to expand queer theory’s Utopian dimension by making ethical thrust of this theory much more pronounced.
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Back to the start: how to resist the illusion of normalization
Dr. Tatjana Greif
Lesbian Section SKUC-LL, Slovenia
Gay movement in Slovenia started in 1984, followed by lesbian movement in 1987.
”Magnus” (after Magnus Hirschfeld) and ”LL” (Lesbian Lilith) were the first gay and lesbian associations not only in Slovenia and former Yugoslavia but also in Eastern Europe. Its beginnings were strongly rooted in the New Social Movements from the mid eighties, which brought together civic movements of different background – peace movement, ecological and green initiatives, alternative arts and culture, feminist movement, gay and lesbian movement. They unified under the idea of resistance, autonomy and civic organization of marginalized and silenced voices in the society. Their progressive and radical goals were recognized as a threat to the political regime of the time. Among most progressive protagonists of New Social Movements were gays, lesbians, transsexual and other queer identities, which were understood as danger to the society, health risk for population (aids), enemies of the nation, decadent eccentrics implanted from the West. The early movement put the issue of homosexuality into the public sphere, demanded civic rights and equality, the right to its own culture and expression. The progressive, leftist, non conformist, independent character of the movement during the 80s and 90s, changed dramatically soon after the independency of Slovenia, the reinforcement of the national state, nationalism and Catholicism. New GLBT associations emerged on the scene, which didn’t bring only new diversified perspectives but also strong tendencies of assimilation, domestication and normalization into the mainstream, of becoming a part of hetero normative society. The conflict was born within the movement divided between homo-conservatism and enlightenment. The paper is identifying the agents of normalization of queer identity, its manifestations and future ways out.
Why not to imagine that writing is not a search for the truth but a play with signs, a play with the writing body which searches for pleasure? Queer writing does not open bright new future for homosexual people. It does not stand beyond the ideology but it disturbs any notion of ideology. It is always a challenge for our own standpoint. My talk will be build around a quote from The Pleasure of Text: ”What is desired is a place of loss, a fault, a break, a moment of deflation, the fading which sizes the reader at the moment of ecstazy”. The concept ‘queer’ is not about imagining utopian future. It is maybe about forgetting the past.
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Center for Gender Research, University of Oslo, Norway/ Sociology, Åbo Akademi University, Finland
The paper discusses the significance of social and political circumstances in the shaping of queer politics and research in local contexts. In matters concerning gender and sexualities, Scandinavian societies, despite variation between the countries, have a certain egalitarian reputation and self-image. It relates to a particular form of universalistic welfare state regimes in the region, which repeatedly have been a platform for the formulation of gender equality policies.
Following in the footsteps of the women’s movements and their ”state feminist” discourses and strategies, the gay and lesbian movements have been comparatively successful in gaining social and legal rights to the sexual minorities that they represent.
Does this success create a liberal discursive platform that facilitates even its critical counterpart, queer discourse, or does it smother more radical sexual politics and countercultural discourse by questioning the need for resistance and formulation of alternative futurities?
The paper reports preliminary results of a study on queer activism in Sweden and Norway. Despite circumstances that superficially seem very similar, the understanding of the concept of queer and queer politics have developed in very different directions in the two countries. While queer in Sweden has become to be understood as a extension, reform or modification of gay, lesbian and transgender politics and research, in Norway, queer is often articulated in opposition to the gay and lesbian politics and research that are currently influential in the sexual politics of the country. Why? Does this difference entail different aims and visions for the future?
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Antu Sorainen, PhD
Christina Institute for Women’s Studies
University of Helsinki
The paedophile is a central figure in current legal debates about freedom of speech, child pornography, censorship of the Internet, penal populism, and registers for sex offenders. Protectionary laws have been passed in many Western countries, or are currently in the parliamentary process. In the UK, sex offenders were the first to get their own Act in 1997. In Finland, a law blocking distribution of child-pornography on the Internet came into force in 2007. The paedophile is, in this context, a figure that centrally organizes our ideas of ’sexual decency’. However, it has been constructed in such a way that a critical or analytical approach is almost inadmissible. Fear around the paedophile has been politicized, and the main effect of this is to enforce the idea that there are no political alternatives – fear is offered as a negative moral foundation for social order. The figure of the paedophile is crucial in constructing contemporary standards of sexual morality.
The figure of the paedophile also challenges the current configurations of queer communities. Lesbians and gays have been co-opted into an agenda of respectability through conferral of ‘rights’. This leads to ’queer’ politics where the category of queer actually evaporates. The increasing tendency towards ’homonormativity’ (Duggan) and ’reproductive futurism’ (Edelman) in lesbian and gay political rhetorics promises the possibility of a privatized and depoliticized lesbian and gay culture. The paper will discuss this political move in the queer realm through a concept of ’queer decency’.
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Affect as Futurity: Queer Thinking and the Lures of the Virtual
Dr. Anu Koivunen
Department of Cinema Studies (Stockholm university)/Politics of Philosophy and Gender (University of Helsinki)
In 2007, South Atlantic Quarterly published a special issue with the appropriately provocative title ”After Sex? On Writing since Queer Theory”. Assessing the current state of queer thinking, the editors, Janet Halley and Andrew Parker, identify two characteristic critical approaches, ‘the so called anti-social thesis’ and ‘the turn to affect’. In this paper, I discuss the proposed distinction; investigating into the many meanings ‘the turn to affect’ takes in this special issue and in recent queer scholarship more generally.
Tracking the uses and abuses of affect for queer theory, this paper asks how and why the notion of affect, in the contemporary situation, holds such significant theoretical and critical promise. On the one hand, I examine the metaphorical and metonymical operations of the notion of affect (as/close to e.g. sex, trauma, public, politics, reparation, collectivity) in queer thinking. On the other hand, I discuss the consequences the notion of affect as potentiality in ‘new materialism’ or ‘new ontology’ entail for queer thinking. What, in terms of methodology and politics, does it mean for queer scholars to think of ‘affect’ as the analytical, critical category for futurity, virtuality, and change. Lastly, the paper discusses the relations between the concepts of affect and the social – does the suggested distinction between ‘anti-social thesis’ and ‘turn to affect’ hold?
While essentially a conceptual analysis, a recent Swedish TV drama, De halvt dolda/The Half Hidden 1-4 (SVT 2009, manuscript by Jonas Gardell, director Simon Kajser Da Silva) will serve as a case study for thinking about the social, the anti-social and the meanings of affect for queer thinking in the public sphere.
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Apocalypse Now! Queer Stagings of the End
Volker Woltersdorff aka Lore Logorrhöe
Freie Universität Berlin,
SFB 447 „Kulturen des Performativen”,
Peter Szondi-Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
This talk focuses both on the potentials and pitfalls of apocalyptical rhetorics within queer politics, elaborating the inherent dialectics between the disruption of time and the emergence of new temporalities. The suspension of progressive time in favour of alternative temporalities, such as reversion, circularity or endless presence, has for long been a strategy of subcultural performance, coming out narratives, AIDS activism, and (other) queer politics. But it also occurs in religious and political rhetorics of millenarism. Such strategies stage a rupture within the linearity of time and discourse. They look at time as if it were the end of time. However, the dialectics consist precisely in radically negating historicity in order to make history.
According to Walter Benjamin, stagings of the end disclose the revolutionary oppurtunity that is contained in any moment of time. Benjamin calls this time ”messianic” because it ”explodes the continuum of time”. Queer movements have articulated such a messianism when they did what was at the same time most desired and most unexpected, like reclaiming queerness instead of normalcy. By actively refuting teleological pragmatism, they succeded in destabilising and subverting the dominant order. Invoking the end of future thus empowers the one who is speaking as it installs an immediate urgency for action and interpellates queer subjects.
The deep insight that time is running out has for example triggered queer AIDS activism. It is therefore the loss rather than the active destruction or negation of futurity, as brought forward in some antisocial approaches, that ought to be regarded as queer momentum in the sense that it aims at reappropriating the future and articulating it in unforseen and queer ways.
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Queer in Space: The Queer Art of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset
Dr. Thomas O. Haakenson, Chair and Associate Professor of Liberal Arts
Department of Liberal Arts, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (<>)
Approved by the German Parliament in December of 2003 but not dedicated until 27 March 2008, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen (‘Memorial to Gay Victims of the Holocaust’) in Berlin’s Tiergarten represents both the problems and the promise of queer theory as applied artistic practice. Consisting of a large, gray block, approximately 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide and costing just under one million dollars, the otherwise apparently impenetrable structure contains a window allowing visitors to look inside. What visitors find, however, may surprise them: A 90-second film, in black and white, showing two men walking toward each other, kissing, and sharing a whispered, intimate secret. The film is looped, repeatedly playing out the encounter. Visitors may find the location depicted in the film familiar. The setting appears to be near the memorial itself. The monument thus presents the visible and knowable, while also alluding to the secretive and hidden. It is this play with visible and invisible, a play that is itself part of the larger question of the contemporary acceptance of homosexuality, that is key to understanding Elmgreen and Dragset’s intervention.
Elmgreen and Dragset’s monument combines the historical, yet immediately apparent and a latent, perhaps shocking continuity. Erik N. Jensen suggests that some memorials are ‘outward’ in that they are directed at the broader community, whereas other memorials are directed primarily ‘inward,’ toward members of the gay community. Jensen’s metaphorical distinction suggests a spatial separation that is untenable in light of Elmgreen and Dragset’s focus on the ideological construction of space.
Gay men covertly use the Tiergarten for sex while others, presumably from ‘beyond the gay community,’ use the same space without recognizing it as a site for (anonymous) sexual encounters. Elmgreen and Dragset’s memorial emphasizes the duality of the space. It forces viewers to use their spatial acculturation to engender both historical recognition for one of the Holocaust’s most-forgotten group of victims, as well as awareness of the continued pervasiveness of homosexuality and homophobia.
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Playing Hooky; or, Figuring as Absentee: Queer Accountability and the Praxis Divide
At a conference I recently attended on the theme of queer theory a question I posed to a panellist was met with an invalidation that went something like this: ”Yes, but forgetting all that theory for a minute, what is it you really think?” It seemed that the presenter, who prefaced his work as recourse to what he called the ”praxis divide” and argued for the importance of ”humour,” ”frivolity,” and ”play” in queer activism, wished for me to legitimate my critique by positioning my subjectivity according to a historical or experiential account of being queer. This paper works towards rejecting such calls for accountability. Elaborating on this dialogue as a starting point I will confront the rhetoric that is often at the forefront of debates concerning the relationship between queer activism and queer theory. In doing this I argue that the praxis divide is often evoked to delegitimize ‘theoretical’ utterances from the political sphere. Bearing on the notion of personal historiographies implicit in the theme ”Futurities Challenging Progressive Time,” I will critique the roll call that, assuming universal relationships to social history, amounts to demanding certain modes of being present consistent with liberalist and homonormative ideologies. Lee Edelman’s argument that, when it comes to the signification of the self, queer is what insists on the ”vicissitudes of the sign” (2004: 7) provides the framework for this critique. My discussion challenges the conception of ‘personal disclosure’ – or the affiliation of one’s self and its victimization in accordance with a particular social identity – as a means of substantiating a ‘truer’ subjective voice and thus one that is more politically grounded. An insistence on the impossibility or slipperiness of accounting for the way we account for our queerness is central, and not antithetical, to being active as queer.
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”Politics of visibility. Past, present, future”
Annamari Vänskä, PhD
Christina Institute for Women’s Studies
University of Helsinki
Visibility has been central to lesbian politics at least since the 1969 Stonewall riots, when the Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement was established through shameless visibility in the urban spaces of the United States and Britain. One of the central ideological tenets of the movement was to encourage people to show their sexuality openly in public and slogans referring to ”coming out” were used in the movement’s advertisements and other recruitment material. Visibility in the liberation politics meant the production of positive images of lesbians and gay men – one of the main goals of the liberation movement was to depathologise lesbianism and homosexuality, which were still listed as mental illnesses in the United States, and to demand the right to be different. In this pursuit, personal and collective visibility represented a political statement about the legitimacy of lesbian and gay identities. Indeed: Public recognition via street theatre, drag shows, demonstrations, and finally the Gay Pride parade have been argued to be important landmarks in the political movement’s history.
Even though one of the main goals of the Liberation Movement was to challenge heterosexuality’s unspoken privileges, namely that of its invisible visibility, it has also been argued that as a side effect, the lesbian and gay population has become assimilated into heterosexuality. It can even been argued that these formerly marginalised groups have become the nouveau heterosexuals, the new middle-class and respectability aspiring members of the society, who breed and buy just like the rest of the population, and keep up the economy with the buying power of the pink Euro. This means that the former politics of visibility, which relied heavily on identity politics and aimed at gaining equal rights in the societies, has also ended up advancing the commercialisation of gay and lesbian cultures, and helped assimilation of these groups in the norms of the prevailing heteronormative society. Lesbians, gay men and other members of the non-heterosexual population have become invisible in a new way.
This paper traces the history of queer visibility and argues that it has a specific history, which should not be undermined in current debates and theorisations of queer. The paper also invites us to think about future queer visibility. What kind of visibility can we imagine for the future in a time where the change from the 1960s pathologised homosexual, inevitably doomed to a miserable life, to the well-off glamour girl and the fashion savvy gay guy living and loving in the 2000s urban scene, has been so well accepted even among the lesbian and gay population? Does this acceptance pose a deadly kiss for queer theory or is there a way to imagine future queerness in places that we do not yet know of? Where does the pathologised queer reside currently – obviously it has not disappeared, but merely changed its figure. And is there room for the demand to have the right to be different – and what might this ”difference” be? Or, is there no future, as Lee Edelman has so provocatively suggested?
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‘Homophobic’ Affect and the Militarization of Intimacy
This paper develops homonormativity critique by placing it firmly within its context of racism and war. The entry into representation by a certain gay subject (in terms of rights such as civil partnership as well as aesthetics such as the public circulation of new kinds of intimacies) does not merely coincide with the disenfranchisement of post/migrants in the metropoles and the military invasions in Asia. Rather, processes such as war, immigration, policing and gentrification are sexually productive. The paper examines raciality, coloniality and militarization as vehicles, spaces and arenas within which gendered and sexual bodies, identities and counter/publics take shape.
I explore this with regard to current media, activist and official texts on ‘homophobia’ in Germany. Homophobia has been racialised and Orientalised as a phenomenon that is outside and prior to German modernity. My immediate objects are the debates around the Muslim Test in Germany, as well as recent demands for hate crimes legislation along the American and British models. As homophobic affect is located firmly in the bodies of backward Others (to be kept out or locked in), queerness and Germanness are allowed to configure in new imaginings of a sexually free community.
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The Arrows of Time in Samuel R. Delany’s Life Writing
Tomasz Basiuk (Dr.)
University of Warsaw, American Studies Center
This paper draws on some autobiographical texts by the SF writer Samuel R. Delany: his book-length memoir The Motion of Light in Water (1988), an essay titled ”Coming/Out” in Patrick Merla’s anthology Boys Like Us (1996), and two more essays published as Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999). In keeping with models of temporality that may be drawn from Science Fiction but that are also present, however less spectacularly, in his life writing, Delany envisions time as multiply directed change. For example, his ruminations on coming out as personal and as social processes have the effect of complicating ”coming out” as a mode of achieved visibility, not least because the term has acquired some meanings it did not have in the pre-Stonewall era, while some of its older uses were discontinued. Like his sense of the past, Delany’s futuristic projections are non-linear and variably determined. Most notable in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, these projections are essentially observations about specific practices enacted in specific locales, yet operating across the barriers of class, race, and gender. They are suggestive of potential social and personal transformations because they gesture toward possibilities that remain unrealized, perhaps even unimaginable. However attractive, they can hardly be said to represent a consistent vision for the future.
I will attempt to contrast Delany’s way of describing future change with arguments about queer futurity that eschew positive content and adopt instead radical negativity (notably in the work of Lee Edelman). Frequently, these arguments call on psychoanalytic concepts such as the death drive and jouissance. This seems to produce a theoretical bias in so far as these concepts imply a single temporal direction. It may, however, be possible to eliminate this bias by turning to models whose implied or explicit temporalities are different. For example, the notion of script, as formulated in affect theory, does not assume that there is one arrow of time. This alternative approach is evidenced in the work of Lauren Berlant, as has been noted by David Halperin in his recent work on abjection. My tentative conclusion is that Delaney’s SF-inflected temporalities are in line with such heterogeneous models of time.
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Burn Your Rainbow (The Skinjobs)
Queer Punk Rock: Expressed Rejection of Futurism
Mag.a Maria Katharina Wiedlack
Gender Research Office
University of Vienna
Punk rock music, understood as ”entertaining” criticism, is the attempt to condemn mainstream society – the ”shitstem” as Johnny Rotten from Sex Pistols puts it (Malott 2004) – and often included the rejection of heteronormativity. Furthermore punk and queer movements had some astonishing similarities in their choice of activities. Both used the tactics of shocking and getting even with rules of good taste and referred to themselves through (former) words of abjection.
Unsurprisingly, since the 1990s there has been a subcultural and political movement, which performed punk rock as a form of queer activism, called ”Queercore”.
Queercore can be termed as ”a queer counter-public sphere in opposition to the institutions of the lesbian and/or gay public sphere” (du Plessis 1997). It promotes sexual and gender diversity, missed in gay and lesbian (sub)cultures and includes anti-capitalistic ideals, antiracist and feminist agendas as well as anti-transphobic and anti-homophobic messages.
Listening to Queercore-lyrics, like those from the Canadian band Skinjobs, it seems as if queerness is understood with Lee Edelman not as a defining, but disturbing identity (Edelman 2005).
Fascinating about those examples is that these performances seem liberating and empowering at the same time. Shouting out loud their discontent with society – including the gay and lesbian subculture – seems to be a real necessity. With queer pride and comfort they criticize society’s exclusivity and injustice without offering an alternative future-concept – they use societies fears and prejudices about queers in their lyrics and turn them against society itself, without explanations or efforts to include themselves into any system.
By using the example of the Skinjobs, the first issue of this research is the exact relation between queer and punk music.
Considering the many queer punk rock-projects from the 1990s and 2000s, the second issue is, if their performances really challenge norms and their functions and power, or in contrast stabilize them. Are such policies able to irritate the binary gender system and defy the assumptions of heterosexuality and heteronormativity?
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Not Like Me? Toward a Queer Epistemology.
Kevin S. Amidon
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA
In the current moment identified by the organizers of this conference, in which the normalization of queer theory and lives reveals tensions between ideas and identities, we seem to be at a theoretical turning point. Is there queerness where political goals sought by self-identified queer people seem to seek certain rights, but fail to recognize the oppressions and exclusions that originally defined – and perhaps centrally define – those rights historically?
I want to suggest that it is not a metaphorical or conceptual ontology of identity that offers a counter-norm future for queer theory. If anything, I am convinced that being queer – or perhaps queer Being – is (to borrow Lee Edelman’s term) a phantasm, and a falsely dialectical one: it is tempting to hope that by queering our worlds (whether they be those of the academy or domestic child-rearing) we inherently resist exclusion and violence. I remain uncertain of that hope.
I would thus like to borrow from another scholar, the heterosexual-queer philosopher Paul Feyerabend, to argue that queer theory has yet to confront something common to all ontologies: the tyranny of the universal. Much of queer theory seems to resist universals or norms or stereotypes, but thereby to re-essentialize identity. Does this tacit ontology undermine any serious encounter with others, or with the Other? Recent scholarship in feminist ethics by Judith Butler and Wendy Brown, in which they seek to resist rhetorical violence, suggests that it might.
Thus I ask what it would be to know the queer. I believe that theory must embed a relationship between the universal and the particular, one that recognizes – in Feyerabend’s vocabulary – that all theory retains a nucleus of incommensurability to the world. And I therefore argue that the theoretical and conceptual source of the queer is here: in the recognition that all theory, and all identity with it, in fact has a queer center, a constitutive Not-Like-Me that cannot and should not be effaced.
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QueerGames & HOMOLYMPICS
Željko Blace /
qSPORT – society for recreational sport in Zagreb and Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht
University of Barcelona
Milo DePrieto <firstname.lastname@example.org> & Zeljko Blace <email@example.com>
Written as a subtler and gentler effort than Swift’s, A Modest Proposal, this presentation attempts to disrupt assumptions and streams of thoughts that are at present guiding organizing of global LGBTQ sport events.
This presentation is made of two pieces, an article written 20 years in the future, and a paper discussing why such an article was written and how it hopes to begin to problematize the processes/thinking behind the actions of Institutional LGBTQ sport today.
The article exists in a future where two concurrent options in LGBTQ sporting events are taken to certain logical extremes. Creating fictional events and organizations in conjunction with extant organizations, it elucidates a radical utopian ideology on the one hand and a consumerist mainstreaming of gay identity on the other.
A short ”history” of these events and organizations that takes the reader from where we are now to this future highlights decisions and thinking prevalent today that can lead down certain paths. Necessity and opportunity as well as simple circumstance have taken existing LGBTQ sporting events and organizations sometimes simultaneously down both paths today. The purpose of this article is to play with the embedded notions and consequences of present thinking/action in the hope of developing present capacities for exploring other possible futures.
While the article is a report on what happened in the future, the paper discusses how this article could contribute to generating future reflections/discussions. It touches on some possible futures, as in thought process and actions, as well as highlighting how two streams of thought taken to conclusive are equally unpalatable to present day readers. A radical queer ideology grounded and voiced within historical notions of emancipation and suffrage has more challenges than simply buy-in. And the consumerization of the gay male has many more challenges than its vapid identity.
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Productive Criticality and Queer Potentiality
Ph.D., senior researcher
University of Jyväskylä
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy
In October 1st 2008 Johanna Korhonen gave out a press release informing that she has been made redundant from her position as an editor-in-chief of a Finnish newspaper Lapin Kansa by the executive director Kai Telanne of the media house Alma Media, because the media house would not condone her registered partnership with another woman. Korhonen’s prominent coming out as an illegally dismissed lesbian editor-in-chief was first of its kind in Finland, and it caused a massive public discussion.
In my paper I will have a closer look at the ensuing vibrant discussion on the largest Finnish media website Ilta-Sanomat, where 2500 postings were sent in within just five days. For theoretical inspiration I turn to the texts written on criticality by Irit Rogoff, with which she would like to replace the practices of both criticism and criticality. By doing an affirmative reading on Rogoff’s text ”Academy as potentiality” I will try to find out ways to trespass the paranoid reading tradition of queer criticism and have another kind of queer look at the empirical material in question.
I will argue that the critical process of working the fields allows the participants of the web discussions to inhibit previously unvisited terrains productively. I maintain that using the approach of criticality to public discussions allows us to notice such ongoing debates about ethical and moral issues, which are opening up novel horizons of potentiality. From thereon one can observe the emerging of new subjects, whose existence will allow us to interpret social worlds in ways that are no longer exclusively darkened by paranoia.
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Queer Futurity Desires the Crip. Queer/Crip Questioning of the Right-to-Die Discourse
Katerina Kolarova, Ph.D.
Department of Gender Studies, Charles University, Prague/Post-Doc Fellow at Universität Konstanz, Kolleg: Cultural Foundation of Integration
The CFP has articulated a concern with the ongoing normalisation of queer life, social relations and bonding. Embracing the call to reconsider imaginations of queer futurity and their political implications, the proposed paper argues for the importance of rethinking queer futurities in relation to compulsory able-bodiedness, and ‘desiring disability’ (McRuer and Wilkerson, 2003).
In particular, the proposed paper subscribes to the critique of heteronormative (and increasingly homonormative) temporality (Halberstam 2005) structured through generativity, productive and progressive time. The discursive outlines of the ‘right-to-die’ debate reveal how this normative perspective on temporality of human life is bringing together disciplination of sexuality and dis/ability. Concretely, the paper discusses the 2004 award-winning film Mar Adentro (The Sea Within/Das Meer in Mir) contextualised through media coverage of other cases of assisted-suicide of people with severe disabilities (predominantly bodily paralysis/quadriplegia). On this example I want to examine how the „cultural logic of euthanasia”(Garland-Thomson 2004) is maintained by/maintains the heteronormative disciplination of sexuality. Here, I follow Heike Raab’s (2007) call to reconsider definition of heteronormativity (e.g. Butler), which Raab coins „kurzschlüssig” in its blindness to its able-bodied foundation/conditionality. Raab calls for a novel emphasis in the queer critique: „die queere Heteronormativitätskritik [müsste sich] mehr als bisher […] auch des Geschlechterkonfiszierens zum Forschungsgegenstand machen” (2007, 141). I hope to demonstrate how the discursive construction of the individual’s right to decide about one’s death not only reinforces the limiting, marginalising notions of, and strengthens abjection towards, severe disability/quadriplegic embodiment, but simultaneously reinforces the ideological fictions of family, generative sexuality and progressive temporality. Or, more precisely, this debate demonstrates how these two normative regimes (compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory able-bodiedness) uphold each other (cf. McRuer 2006). Furthermore, it challenges us into thinking anew the relations between biopolitics, sexuality, dis/ability and flexible normalisation.
Thus, this paper resonates with the aspiration to imagine futurities that would counter normative definitions of able-bodied queer desire. I hold it for crucial that the crip/critical disability emphasis will be part of the process of imagining queer utopias.
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The Limitations of Play: Imagination and the Possibility of an Idiosyncratic, BDSM Futurity.
University of St Andrews
The queerness of the BDSM practitioner, both gay and straight, has become increasingly normalised and mainstream, a presence which of late has entered the media spaces of print, television and cinema as a visibly less radical and less troubling intrusion. The concept of play, as popularised by queer theorists such as Judith Butler, is central to this increasing acceptance. While still classified in the DSM IV as a form of paraphilia, BDSM as play has created a seemingly queer utopia in which accusations of coercion, or the internalisation of patriarchal forms of dominance, can be more easily denied. Viewed in this light, BDSM practice can be defended as merely a set of roles which can be assumed, utilised and exchanged at will: a liberating space. However, as I will argue, rather than play being an emancipating force, its connotations of performance, game and limits has had a profoundly negative impact upon the ability of practitioners to conceive of themselves and their acts in imaginative, idiosyncratic ways, and thereby to design new forms of futurity. However, rather than this association of BDSM and play being a purely modern sanitisation, I will show how in its early forms the practice contained such self-censorship and limitation. Through an examination of early BDSM texts such as Venus in Furs, 120 Days of Sodom, The Damned and Torture Garden, the emphasis placed upon commercial and legal terminology links BDSM with consumerism and a nascent absorption with play. This materialism and fetishisation act as the basis for such forms of exchange and provide the possibility for the modern emphasis upon play. Such an analysis will therefore form the basis of a new queer, BDSM futurity in which idiosyncrasy can provide alternative imaginative possibilities and the domestication and commercialisation of the practice can be reshaped or overcome.