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Sunday, 21 January 2018
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Home Page> News & Events> Many of those claiming that queer activists/scholars are mired in our own circumscribed identity politics are engaging in projection

Many of those claiming that queer activists/scholars are mired in our own circumscribed identity politics are engaging in projection

Many of those claiming that queer activists/scholars are mired in our own circumscribed identity politics are engaging in projection. Most of "us" read and engage "them." But they do not seriously read and engage us--the projected idea that our interests are circumscribed is their alibi for ignoring our work/arguments, for ghettoizing us. They thus rationalize their own circumscribed interests.
My first book, Sapphic Slashers, is persistently described as "lesbian history," and my tenure report described me as a "lesbian community historian," though there are no actual "lesbians" in the book. The book is about the deployment of representations of predatory lesbians,
through the institutions of modernity (mass press, science and medicine, popular culture) as part of the work of moralizing and circumscribing both citizenship and capital/employment at the turn of the 20th c. But use the marker "lesbian"or "queer" at all, and your work will be ghettoized to "queer studies," which very few outside the field will read.
In my very lefty, majority of color, queer/feminist friendly department at NYU, we have come a long way from ghettoizing work on race, class and to some extent gender. Work with those markers in the title, or job candidates with those fields on their cv's, are not confined to those boundaries and fields. It would be theoretically possible for every faculty member to work on race, class and maybe gender, integrated into their interdisciplinary, geographical, chronologically defined fields, without anyone within the dept seeing that as narrowing--because those topics are as "universal" as any others.
BUT, we are not there with queer work. Any use of that marker defines a candidate as "queer studies," and we already have enough of that, right?
If the work deploys that marker, almost no one outside the field thinks they "need" to read it. The work is labeled as "cultural" even if it uses strong and central political economic analysis. It would be unimaginable for every new hire to integrate queer studies (while we expect integration of race/class, occasionally gender), etc
It's ghettoized.
In my dept, work on class is not confined to "labor history" or Marxist theory, work in race is not automatically slotted into ethnic studies. Work that centralizes gender gets treated ambivalently on the category front. But if "queer" is a term of analysis, it is treated as an identity marker rather than an analytic frame (unlike "feminist," which can escape identity referents to some extent.) And, the work itself is pretty rigidly ghettoized, and appears outside gender/sex courses usually in a special week on the syllabus, if at all.
There are other political/intellectual exclusions in my dept. We are inexcusably weak on Native/indigenous studies and disability studies. We are only barely incorporating new work on environment/animality. Queer work is much more present and included than these areas, even though mostly ghettoized. AND, there are quite a few awesome faculty who do not participate in the exclusions and work everyday to bring in previously excluded perspectives and analyses. AND, my dept is probably, along with Performance Studies, the most inclusive and left/progressive dept on campus.
End of rant. For now!
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Update : 07-12-2017

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