Queering and queer theory attempts to question norms, reclaim abjected spaces and identities, and construct new dialogues for ideas about identification, boundaries, passing, temporality, and resistance. Through this course I've been able to understand the ways that Queer is employed as an intelligible identity category, as a noun, which seeks to encapsulate identities that claim to be fluid or outside of the heterosexual matrix. I've been able to understand the ways in which employing Queer as a noun can be problematic because it attempts to make intelligible the unintelligible. Use of the term Queer as a noun has created tension between generation of folks who claim abjected identities because younger generations seem to claim a fluid, unintelligible-reclaimed-abject-Queer identity, but at the same time the term Queer sparks some memories of violence for older generations of gay, lesbian, and transgender folks from when Queer was used to abject and humiliate. Using the term queer as a verb offers some productive opportunities to deconstruct and rework understandings of intelligibility. To queer something means to understand and question the histories and performativity of terms in attempts to construct new dialogues for ideas about identification, boundaries, passing, temporality, and resistance.
Recently in Performativity Category
Performativity is directly tied to the ways in which one cites norms to construct or perform their identity, and the ways that norms are cited by outside powers that perform an intelligible identity on bodies. From their text Gender Trouble (1990), Butler states that "gender proves to be performative - that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense, gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to preexist the deed...There is no gender identity behind the expression of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said to be its results" (Butler, 34). In terms of gender, Butler describes the ways that gender identity is performed by citing norms. It is through the citing of certain norms that constructs the gender identity as intelligible; there is no preexisting gender identity that is true or pure that exists prior to the act of citing norms for its construction. In the article 'Where's My Parade?': On Asian American Diva-Nation, Rachel C. Lee explores the ways in which Margaret Cho as an entertainer on a literal stage, through literal performance makes evident the performativity of static and intelligible racial, sexual, gender, and citizenship identities. Through her physical performance on a stage of the leakiness of these categories, Cho is able to queer the separateness between literal performances (as in a comedian on stage) and the performativity of identities through the covert norms that are cited to construct intelligible categories. In Butler's chapter "Critically Queer" from the text Bodies That Matter (1993), Butler discusses the term queer through the lens of performativity. They suggests that instead of understanding Queer as a fixed notion of identity, there should be an understanding and employment of the term Queer more as a verb that 'queers' stable identity categories, their formations and histories, and converging relations of power. To remain queer, the term Queer must constantly be resignified and reworked, and it is "necessary to affirm the contingency of the term" (Butler, 230).
Understanding performativity is central to queering theory in that in order to queer norms, reclaim abjected spaces and identities, and construct new dialogues for ideas about identification, boundaries, passing, temporality, and resistance, there must be an understanding of the ways that norms are cited in the performance and construction of identities in order deconstruct and rework identities.
In the process of tracking the term performativity through blogging, I was able to see other students' posts through a lens of performativity, and draw connections between all of the terms.
The process of writing on the blog was helpful for this course in the sense that I was able to further my understanding of other terms through the extensive base of information presented in students posts' and collective participation in the blog. The blog was not helpful in the sense that, for me personally, there was too much information on the blog for me to read and sort through, causing me to feel overwhelmed about participating on the blog. I personally learn best in direct and intimate settings (like a small class), where discussions can take place and questions and ideas can get flushed-out with the professor and other students. The blog was helpful for posting links and videos that you can't do in a discussion, but beyond that I generally felt that the material we were discussing in class was not directly related to the required blog participation. This caused me to feel overwhelmed, and I think there was a little too much discussion going between class and the blog which I couldn't keep up with all of it. I have never been a fan of blogs previous to this course, so I suppose that did not help promote a positive outlook on the blog component of the course for me either. I would advise future students to allow a lot more time than they think that they'll need for readings and blog assignments, because there is so much information to sort through and engage with.
Queering and queer theory attempts to question norms, reclaim abjected spaces and identities, and construct new dialogues for ideas about identification, boundaries, passing, temporality, and resistance. In a similar way, because blogging happens in the digital sphere and is not bound by temporal and spatial boundaries, blogging has the potential to claim space for new dialogues about queering theory that is accessible and consumable by many people that might not otherwise have access to queering information or queer dialogue space. On the other hand, I think it is important to remember that much like the way that power always operates above, in, and from all areas of identity, blogging and digital space is dictated by systems of power as well. Blogging is privileged to those who can consume and participate in the dialogues (i.e. - written language barriers, physical and intellectual ability), those who have access to the technological resources to be able to participate in the blog, and those who have the available free time to participate.
Our blog allowed us to create a space for a dialogue of queering theory to happen between students and outside readers and participants. Through the 'Queer This!' section, we were able to engage in the practice of queering norms presented in other digital spaces.
In Butlers chapter "Critically Queer" from the text Bodies That Matter(1993) is one of the few pieces by Butler that I've read and felt connected with. I have had a growing uneasiness with the current usage of the term Queer to encapsulate and define all that is sexually and politically 'radical'. In Butler's text, they question the ways that power and discourse precede notions of identity, or "I", where "there is no 'I' who stands behind discourse and executes its volition or will through discourse" (Butler, 225). It is through the citation and performance of cultural norms that one's identity becomes intelligible. Butler goes on to discuss the ways in which the term Queer has historically operated as a homophobic shaming term, which consisted of "producing a subject through that shaming interpellation" (Butler, 226). In current discourse and in efforts to recast queer agency, the term Queer has been taken up and reclaimed, and attempts to resignify sexual and gender identities which are abjected, radical political movements, and to become a "site of collective contestation" (Butler, 228). I agree with Butler's critique which describes the ways in which 'Queer' is meant to be expansive, but ends up enforcing "overlapping divisions" between who gets to use the term and with what meaning.
The reason that I felt especially connected to this piece as opposed to other Butler texts is that I feel Butler offers several positive and important suggestions for the future of the term Queer. Butler suggests that instead of understanding Queer as a fixed notion of identity, there should be an understanding and employment of the term Queer more as a verb that 'queers' stable identity categories, their formations and histories, and converging relations of power. To remain queer, the term Queer must constantly be resignified and reworked, and it is "necessary to affirm the contingency of the term" (Butler, 230).
In relation to my term PERFORMATIVITY, as I stated above, 'It is through the citation and performance of cultural norms that one's identity becomes intelligible.' Butler describes relations of power preceding identity, and it is through the citation and performance of norms that ones identity is formed. In this text Butler does not discuss the ways that identity is performed on us from outside power. Though we can understand through Foucault's "Method" (1978), that power exists everywhere, and not only do we cite certain norms and thus perform our identity, outside forces cite certain norms to read and make our identity intelligible, and perform identity upon us.
"Making it Perfectly Queer"
Queer as Noun and Queer as Verb Through the Lens of Performance
In the article "Making it Perfectly Queer", author Duggan explores the problems of liberal and nationalistic strategies of "outing" used in lesbian and gay politics of the 1980's and 90's. The liberal strategies of "outing", or the practice of coming out of the closet and revealing a true but hidden sexual identity. This practice is meant to disrupt the mainstream ideals of heteronormativity, and the idea was the more people to 'out' themselves (and the more people they could publicly 'out'), the more of a unified, politically active minority culture gays and lesbians could build upon to claim equal liberal rights. In theory, when successful, this political movement "opens up avenues of political and legal recourse forged by the civil rights and feminist movements to lesbian and gay action" (Duggan, 151). In reality though, as Duggan explores, this move toward a unitary gay and lesbian national identity is problematic because the identities that end up being represented are those of white, gay, males; and does not leave space for the complexity of different identities. "Any gay politics based on the primacy of sexual identity defined as unitary and "essential", residing clearly, intelligibly and unalterably in the body or psyche, and fixing desire in a gendered direction, ultimately represents the view from the subject position "twentieth-century, Western, white, gay male." (Duggan, 155). Duggan then goes on to explore the term 'queer' as a "new community [which] is unified only by a shared dissent from the dominant organization of sex and gender...For others, the "queer" nation is a newly defined political entity, better able to cross boundaries and construct more fluid identities" (Duggan, 157). Duggan ends their article with the notion that "Lesbian and gay liberal politics offer us the best opportunities we have to make gains in courtrooms, legislatures, and TV sitcoms. Queer politics, with its critique of the categories and strategies of liberal gay politics, keeps the possibility of radical change alive at the margins" (Duggan, 162). Duggan asserts that both liberal strategies and queer politics are important and necessary for the "foreseeable future" (Duggan, 163).
I agree with Duggan's argument, in that it is problematic to strive for a unitary alternative identity that lesbian, gay liberal politics, and some radical queer politics strive for. Although, my critique of Duggan's arguments is that they do not full explore the notion of queer as a noun or an identity in relation to the process that many radical queer activists engage in of queering (queer as a verb). There is a tension evident amongst people who take up the term Queer as an identity in the form of understanding queer as an abstract, more fluid identity category, versus queer as actions.
I feel that we should also take into account the, for lack of a better term, radicalness of both liberal identity politics and radical queer politics. We should not dismiss the radical alternative potential of persons taking up static identities, more along the lines liberal politics, out of necessity for survival. In that I am speaking of intersectionality, and positionality, and as a survival tactic because of the intersectionality of ones identity, taking up liberal gay identity is the most radical thing that one can afford to do. I feel this move by many "RADical" queer activists whom strive for a completely fluid identity, and strive to queer everything. I feel that many people with this viewpoint have the space to be fluid because of their positionality within some category of privilege. This radical, utopian queer political view is problematic, and should continue to understand intersectionality in relation to political autonomy.
The lines between liberal politics and queer politics are messy.
The article 'Where's My Parade?': On Asian American Diva-Nation by Rachel C. Lee, is an exploration of Margaret Cho's identity as an Asian American stand up comic.
Lee explores the notion that stand-up comedy has the potential to "make political knowledge evident in everyday life amusing to ponder, and also render political aggression - expressions of desire for power - both palpable and palatable" (Lee, 3). In this way, stand-up comedy has the potential to queer the notion of rational public knowledge, and calls into question the notion of a rational public sphere. Lee also investigates the ways in which stand-up comedian Margaret Cho "stages her own ambiguous body and comments on the political compulsion to disavow the erotics and slippage of the body to speak publically, rationally, and abstractly" (Lee, 2). In this way, Margaret Cho as an entertainer on a literal stage, through literal performance makes evident the performance of static and naturalized racial, sexual, citizenship identities. Through her literal performance on a stage of the leakiness of these categories, Cho is able to ultimately break down the separateness between overt staged performances and covert and unquestioned performed realities.
My critique of this article is first and foremost, that it is unclear what overall point the author is trying to make, therefore makes the reading 'thick'. Lee makes interesting points about stand-up comedy, and Cho's role as a performer, but I feel that in this article Lee fails to flush out their points well enough to make an engaging argument.
In relation to Butler's ideas of performance and performativity, I feel that Lee attempts to highlight the ways in which Cho overtly performs on a stage the falseness of static identity categories. This can be seen to bring to a public sphere the notion that we constantly cite norms in a performance of our identity with and without knowing. Cho's overt performance also highlights the ways in which our identities are performed upon us by others, by the audience's response to Cho's performance.