Thinking Queer: Sexuality, Culture, and Education

By Susan Talburt; Shirley R. Steinberg | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Introduction: Some Contradictions and Possibilities of Thinking Queer

Susan Talburt

Like any project that invokes the term "queer," this book is bound to contain contradictions. As presently constituted, queer seeks to disrupt the discrete, fixed locations of identity by understanding sexuality and its meanings not as a priori or given but as constructed, contingent, fashioned and refashioned, and relational. Eve Sedgwick ( 1993) has written: "On the scene of national gay/lesbian activism, in the Village Voice, in the 'zines, on the streets and even in some classrooms, I suppose this must be called the moment of Queer" (xi-xii). She says, "something about queer is inextinguishable. Queer is a continuing moment, movement, motive-recurrent, eddying, troublant. The word 'queer' itself means across -- it comes from the Indo-European root-twerkw, which also yields the German quer (transverse), Latin torquere (to twist), English athwart" (xii). Consonant with poststructural, postmodern, and feminist theories that challenge binary constructions of identities, the unitary nature of subjectivity, liberal ideas of the autonomous individual, and community as predicated on sameness, and consonant also with the political practices of such groups as Queer Nation, ACT UP, and the Lesbian Avengers, the language of queer turns from being and identity to doing, performing, and enacting. Queer has been said not to be a noun, for nouns stabilize in time and space, but an adjective or a verb that cuts across identities, subjectivities, and communities. However, although queer would challenge heteronormative orders, the notion of identity, and gay and lesbian identity politics, queer continues to depend on identity at this particular historical juncture. Symptomatic of this intertwining of queer and identity is what might be called a "return of the repressed," in which gay and lesbian identity haunts "queer," throughout many of the essays in this

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