Recently in Class summaries and queries Category

Queer This or Query #9: Annie sings "Tomorrow"


I just finished re-reading Lee Edelman's "The Future is Kid Stuff" and I couldn't resist posting this brief clip from the movie musical Annie:

What does Edelman have to say about (or to?) Annie and her vision of tomorrow? How does he queer this (Hint: see 24 and 29)? What other ways can you think of queering it?

Note: In your blog worksheet, you can list your response to this entry as either Queer This or Query comments.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll see you tomorrow
Re mem ber to bring your blogs...

(Have I embarrassed myself yet?)

Query #8: Temporality


A couple of you asked in class yesterday about the term temporality. Here is a basic definition from

The condition of being temporal or bounded in time.
In this query, reflect on and answers a few of these question: What does it mean to exist in time? What are some ways that time functions? How does it shape/dictate/regulate/discipline you and your daily practices? How/when is time heteronormative? What are some examples of queer time (or of queering time)?

Query #7: What is queer or queering?


Yesterday in class, I wanted you all to think about your own definition of queer. I asked the question: (in the midst of our discussion of punishment and discipline) Is queer--as an action or an identity or something else--necessarily undisciplined? What is the relationship between queer and discipline or being disciplined?

Drawing upon your experiences tracking your term, the class readings, our discussions, and any other sources, what is your definition of queer?

Query #6: Caster Semenya and the photo shoot


At the end of class we discussed Caster Semenya and I posed this set of questions for you to think about:

1. What sort of performance is the photo shoot for You magazine and by what sort of Subject? That is, what sort of agency/ability to act does Semenya have in her performance as "a glamour girl"?

2. What norms are being cited in this performance? And how is she produced as a subject through them? How does this performance (at the photo shoot) draw upon a history of norms/signifiers that shape how we understand Semenya and also shape why her case has been made into such a spectacle?

Here is handout #4 from class today.

Query #5

Butler writes:

If "identity" is an effect of discursive practices, to what extent is gender identity, construed as a relationship among sex, gender, sexual practice, and desire, the effect of a regulatory practice that can be identified as compulsory heterosexuality (24)?

What does she mean here? Can you think of a few examples? How does this function in Paris is Burning? How do the ideals of whiteness and being upper class also serve to shape the regulatory practices that dictate proper gender performances?

Query #4


Pick A, B, C, or D and answer (at least some) of the questions.
Note: These questions are part of the "query" series. That means you don't have to answer any of them. You are required to post comments on any 3 queries over the course of the semester

In "Is Paris Burning?" bell hooks writes:

The whiteness celebrated in Paris is Burning is not just any old brand of whiteness but rather than brutal imperial ruling-class capitalist patriarchal whiteness that presents itself--its way of life--as the only meaningful life there is (149).

What does she mean here? How is "ruling-class capitalist patriarchal whiteness" represented in the film? In what ways does the film reinforce it? In what ways does/could it challenge/subvert/resist it?

Consider this passage from Butler in connection with these above questions:

it seems clear to me that there is both a sense of defeat and a sense of insurrection to be had from the drag pagaentry in Paris is Burning, that the drag we see, the drag which is after all framed for us, filmed for us, is one which both appropriates and subverts racist, misogynist, and homophobic norms of oppression. How are we to account for this ambivalence? This is not first an appropriation and then a subversion. Sometimes it is both at once; sometimes it remains caught in an irresolvable tension, and sometimes a fatally unsubversive appropriation takes place (128).

What does Butler mean by this ambivalence? Does the film represent/point to ways in which drag (through participation in the balls and everyday practices) can reinforce and undercut "ruling-class capitalist patriarchal whiteness"? If so, how--what are some examples?

How does "realness" function in the film? How does understanding "realness" as a standard (or goal to acheive) reinforce and/or subvert notions of what it means to be normal/acceptable/intelligible/proper?

Think about these questions in relation to this quotation from Butler:

The rules that regulate and legitimate realness constitute the mechanism by which certain sanctioned fantasies, sanctioned imaginaries, are insidiously elevated as the paramters of realness (130).

What is realness?

hooks writes:

At no point in Livingston's film are the men asked to speak about their connections to a world of family and community beyond the drag ball. The cinematic narrative makes the ball the center of their lives (154).

Butler writes:

What becomes clear in the enumeration of the kinship system that surrounds the ball is not only that the 'houses' and the 'mothers' and the 'children' sustain the ball, but that the ball is itself an occasion for the building of a set of kinship relations that manage and sustain those who belong in the houses in the face of dislocation, poverty, homelessness (137).

What do you think? How is kinship working (Butler) or not working (hooks) in the film? How "real" is the reality that is created by those who participate in the ball?

Query #3

As promised, here is the Butler passage about the shift in her thinking from Gender Trouble to Undoing Gender.

From Judith Butler: Philosopher Encounters of the Third Kind
About 30 minutes in...

Well, I think another way of naming Gender Trouble would be doing gender, right. Uh....Gender Trouble was taken as a text which described the ways in which people did their gender...described gender as a kind of doing that was all about acting, doing, making, becoming. What various ways can we do our gender? What are the various things we can do with gender? And, I think maybe, uh, in this text [Undoing Gender], I am asking a different question which is, first of all, how do the norms that constitute gender do us and undo us, that is to say, they make us but they also prevent us from making what we would of ourselves. On the other hand, uh, it seems to me, we don't want to say we never want to be undone again. We only want to do ourselves. That is to privilege a certain idea of self making that I am also criticizing. We are inevitably undone by other people. We become undone in our relations with others. We don't always know ourselves. We learn something new about ourselves. We have certain conceptions of ourselves challenged in the course of our relationships. And this kind of challenge that comes from the other, we have to be open to this. If we knew always what we would become then we would be finished, we would be dead, we would be over. But I think that part of what it means to be a self is to be open to a future that one cannot know. And it is to be open to a future of oneself. What will this self be in the future? That openness only comes about through one's relations with others.

Query: What distinction is she making here? What are the differences between doing gender and being undone by it?

Okay, here's another query. In "Values of Difficulty," Butler writes about the strange:

To honor the moment in which the familiar must become strange or, rather, where it admits the strangeness at its core, this may well be the moment when we come up against the limits of translation, when we undergo what is previously unknown, when we learn something about the limits of the promise of what is different, what is possible, what is waiting for us if we do not foreclose it in advance (209).

It reminds me of Cherry Smith's article "What is this thing called queer?" and her linking of queer with "strange, odd, and eccentric."

Query: What does Butler mean in her passage? What is the value of strangeness? How might focusing on what is strange (unknown, odd, different) be important for queer theory and politics?

Query #2

I ended our discussion of the Cohen article with a set of questions about the differences between Nikki Sullivan's article on queer as being or doing and Cathy Cohen's article on the radical potential of queer politics. I want to offer that set of questions now as a query:

VERSION 1: Something that struck me about Cohen's essay is how different her tone/style/approach is from an essay like Sullivan. How is Cohen engaging in queering theory (and theorizing queer/ing)? What sources/theories is she drawing upon and using to validate or support her own vision of queer theory and politics? What sources does Sullivan draw upon to develop her vision? How does each writer use (or not use) postmodern theories and "cannonical" works of queer theory and activism (like J Butler or Queer Nation, for example) in their own arguments? (How) do these different styles/tones/approach highlight differences between these two visions/versions of queering theory?

Or, put another way:

VERSION 2: What are the "roots" of Cohen's vision of queering theory? Which authors does she cite? What are the "roots' of Sullivan's vision of queering theory? Which authors does she cite? Are these distinctions important? Why or why not?

Query #1

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Note: So this blog is all about experimenting with different ways for us to connect with each other and the material. I am introducing a new category today called "class summaries and queries." In this category (which, depending on how successful we think it is, will become a regular feature), I will post a brief summary of part (or all) of our previous class discussion. Then, I will offer a query to you. You are encouraged to post a comment to that query. I am hoping that this category will enable us to clarify terms and to (better) ensure that we understand the terms/ideas/theories (and what is at stake with them) that we are discussing. This material is difficult and really pushes at "the limits of most sure ways of knowing" (that's Butler-speak) so don't be too afraid to speak up if you don't understand something.

Thanks for a great discussion yesterday. We raised many issues that will be coming up all semester. One set up questions that will come up repeatedly in the readings is this:

How can we talk about the lived (and embodied) experiences of a person/persons in their situated practices in ways that don't reinforce the person/the body/the subject as unchanging and essential?

And, the converse...

How can we talk about the person/the body/the subject as not essential and in flux in ways that don't ignore the lived (and embodied) experiences of a person/persons in their situated practices (and particularly, as Dolan/Mittra and Gajjala/Rak all discuss in different ways, their diverse sexual practices)?

These questions speak to a tension within queering theory (and within Judith Butler's work) that we will push at all semester. So, keep it in mind.

QUERY: Does this set of questions make sense to you? Post a comment explaining them in your own words OR post a comment in which you ask a question about what you don't understand.