Double Agencies: Parsing Dissent between LGBITQ Studies and Queer Theory--NeMLA, April 7-11, 2010, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

full name / name of organization: 
Raji Singh Soni, Panel Chair, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), 41st Annual Convention
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Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
41st Annual Convention
Gay/Lesbian Area Panel
April 7-11, 2010
Montreal, Quebec - Hilton Bonaventure

Reflecting a disciplinary turn in the 1990s from studies in feminism to theories of gender, the grand performative shift from identity-based gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, and transgender studies to poststructuralist queer theory has in recent years been subject to scrutiny and reevaluation.

Major concerns looming over the rifts between LGBITQ identity work from the variegated, dualist camps of queer poststructuralism (e.g., the “pessimists” / “negativists” vs. the “optimists” / “positivists”) are perhaps best represented in the outstanding essays collected by David L. Eng, Judith Halberstam, and José Esteban Muñoz in their 2005 special issue of Social Text (vol.23, num.3-4), the title of which asks, “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now?”:


Through the nexus they thread between (increasingly institutionalized) cultural studies, (increasingly popular) critiques of globalization, and work on ethical agency (rather than, say, aesthetic subjectivity), the essayists in this issue of Social Text suggest that responding to the question “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now?” entails thinking about the vicissitudes of “queer” in ways that renegotiate the volatile tensions of universality and particularity—of high (hegemonic?) theory and the politics of accommodation (rather than tokenism, marginalization, or exclusion) and recognition (rather than ventriloquism, assimilation, or effacement).

By drawing critical momentum, disciplinary hindsight, and a revisionist ethos from this special issue of Social Text, NeMLA’s panel session on “Double Agencies” seeks presenters who are eager to parse, to query, and potentially to think through or (with cautionary regard to the appeal of transcendence) “beyond” the kinds of dissent that continue to polarize LGBITQ researchers and queer theorists.

Papers need not engage the contents of the Social Text special issue directly, and panelists should not feel bound to limn dissent/dissenters strictly in comparative terms (for instance, in relation to literary, socio-political, and/or cultural materials, papers may deal either with LGBTIQ work or with queer theory). Ensuing panel discussion, however, might address any (or an admixture) of the following themes, problems, and questions:

 What do disciplinary lineages of LGBITQ identity politics and poststructuralist queer theory tell us about current and longstanding impasses between these fields and their subfields?

 How might one productively reexamine classic works of queer theory (e.g. Bersani’s Homos, Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet, and Butler’s Bodies That Matter, among many others) against recent discussions of queer post/colonialism, queer tourism, “homo-nationalism,” cultural mainstreaming/normalization, and related debates on the role of queer discourse in theories of cosmopolitanism and in universalizing, if not colonizing, projects of “civil society”?

 How do tensions and incompatibilities between ethics and politics in contemporary contexts shape each field’s ideological bearings? Indeed, what is the status or stigma of “ideology,” “identity,” or “position” in each field?

 Where do continuing debates on LGBITQ civil rights, human rights, and (localized or internationalized) activism stand in relation to dominant models of queer theory and accordingly institutionalized pedagogy?

 How are arguments specific to each field (e.g. Jasbir Kaur Puar’s reading of “homo-nationalism” and debates on queer theory’s Bersanian “antisocial thesis”) related?

 Are certain discourses in each field (for example, social theory in LGBITQ work and psychoanalysis in queer theory) ossified or dogmatically overdetermined? If so, then what forms of subjectivity and agency (in readings of literature, politics, and culture) do such allegiances preclude/exclude? What effect/affect does such preclusion/exclusion elicit?

Detailed abstracts may be sent before September 30, 2009, to Raji Singh Soni:

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