Final Wrap-Up: Nation/Citizen

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My term, nation/citizen, came to represent for me the over-arching concepts of nationality and citizenship and what these mean to queering. The concept of the nation has two implications for queer : the first is the very real and structured oppression of queer citizens through legal power; the second is the theoretical implications of a nationality or a citizenship that helps construct and is simultaneously constructed by heteronormative principles. These two different effects of the nation/citizen concept basically mark where I started understanding my term and where I ended with it.

Because I was more unclear on how to engage with my term at the beginning of the semester, and I wanted a clear and defined (I know, totally un-queer of me) place to begin, I focused on the legal implications of citizenship in the US. In my first annotated bibliography, the sources I cited showed how the citizenship in the US is seen as a privilege that one must earn through merit. Also the first source in my first annotated bibliography also shows the disturbing link between citizenship as natural and the other societal norms seen as natural. This link stems from the name of the process of becoming a citizen, naturalization.

Through more investigation and through our later readings, however, I can to see the term nation/citizen as representing a more ideology that we queered through our readings than as a concrete definition. For instance, in my last annotated bibliography, I found my favorite source of the semester, Gay Bombs. Gay Bombs, along with the readings we encountered later in the semester, showed that nationality and citizenship are defined by what they exclude as much as what they include. The masculinity intertwined with the US nationalist ideal makes queerness a threat comparable to terrorism. Thus nationality and citizenship become synonyms for masculine idealism and intelligibility.

I see queering as looking at the world through the lens of queer. Queering is looking at things in our society and our world that seem to be the unchallenged status quo and turning it inside out. This is uncomfortable for many who are comfortable with the status quo. So necessarily queering makes many people uncomfortable, creates fear in them. Because queering does these things without apology, queering is a fearless action. Queering is appropriating the things that have been perverted into the norm and asking why and how that is. Queer is also looking at things that are already queer and naming that queerness in the subject, like with the queerness of children, . Also, with the queerness of terrorists in Puar's writing, I think it became even more clear to me that queering doesn't have boundaries, that is part of the fearlessness of queering as an action. Queering can be turned on a gender-defining book or advertisement and at the same time queering can be used to interpret the meaning behind suicide bombers. This agility to move to the murky spaces that exist outside of the comfortable reaches of mainstream society is its unique quality.

Tracking my term has been a very new experience over the course of this semester. In some ways, I really felt lost at the beginning- I didn't know quite what I was supposed to be doing with this term or where to start. My thoughts surrounding the term nation/citizen were so jumbled and incomplete that it was hard to try and engage with the text using this term as my underlying association to the material, or lens through which to read, I suppose. It's entirely possible that this process of figuring out what to do with my term was more difficult for me because queer/queering has never been a focus of my studies. It is much less definitive, more imaginative, and more focused on questioning than my previous classes encouraged. With this new subject matter, tracking my term was rocky at first. . I think that it came more easily for me when I found a balance between trying to come up with definitive conclusions and coming up with only questions with absolutely no idea of how to approach them. At some point I found that balance, where asking questions about the readings and answering those questions became really helpful. Through this process, I think I learned a lot about how to go about queering and about investigating what queering means in relation to something like the term nation/citizen. It's important to me to be able to focus this queering ability towards something like citizenship, something that needs to be re-thought in terms of queer, and tracking my term definitely helped me learn to do that to a greater extent than I would've known how before.

The blogging process helped with tracking my term and understanding queer/queering in the first place for me also. I think the main reason blogging versus writing a formal paper helped is because the focus was taken off the specificity of meticulously writing a paper. For me, it's freeing to be able to write more stream-of-consciousness, using the first person, using language that somehow doesn't lend itself to formal writing. Without having to put focus on those smaller details, I was able to focus more on the subject matter that I was (attempting to) engaging with. Also, without opening the debate completely again, I do want to say that I think this blog also speaks to the way that queer/queering is situated in an academic setting- it is disciplined because it requires regular, scheduled work. But also, it is much less confining and constraining than a lot of work done in most academic careers because of the relaxed formality.

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I really appreciate your description of how you struggled with the blog at the beginning of the semester. That process of struggle is, I think, part of the experience. What does it mean to not know but keep on theorizing anyway? It makes me think about J Butler and her discussion of the value of not knowing and of staying in a place of unknowingess; to “know unknowingness at the core of what we know, and what we need…” (Undoing Gender, 227). How does that unknowingness shape our new understandings in creative/productive/original ways? I think when I teach this course again I will be more explicit about that unknowingess and its potential as a source for queering and new forms of knowledge. What do you all think?

On a different note, I wonder: Is nationalism and citizenship synonymous with masculine idealism and intelligibility? Are intelligibility and/or citizenship always bad (oppressive, unqueer, limiting, etc)? Can there be such a thing as queer citizenship?