Interrogating Complicities: Postcolonial, Queer and the Threat of the Normative (09/05/10; 11/19/10 - 11/20/10)

full name / name of organization: 
Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
contact email: 
complicitiesconf@gmail.com

Title: Interrogating Complicities: Postcolonial, Queer and the Threat of the Normative
Date: November 19th - 20th, 2010

As verb, noun, adjective, "queer" is a term that acts through two somewhat paradoxical forces. While an avowedly dissenting and critical stance towards the normative mainstream, it flattens and even normalizes myriad sexualities, liminal bodies and critical positions.
Like "queer", the postcolonial is positioned as a cultural process and reading practice that goes against and even beyond – in this case, the colonial. However, conversations between these ambitious fields of critical inquiry have made their normalizing gestures and the lacunae in their theoretical vision more apparent. With continued allegations of heterosexism within Postcolonial Studies and neocolonialism within Queer Studies, both disciplinary domains find themselves having to answer the charge of their respective complicities with the normative.
Postcolonial and transnational queer theorists have noted that in reading ‘queer’ as always resistant to and transgressing the norm, we run the risk of conflating "queer" itself with “modernity” and “progress” in uncritical ways. What kind of political action and scholarship become possible when the postcolonial denaturalizes the function of "queer", and finds it colluding with and implicated in dominant formations? How might the postcolonial's interlacing with dominant structures complicate this reading?
We invite work that explores these tensions and that interrogates the purported disciplinary complicity with normativities, especially as '"queer" travels and mutates over scale and space to the postcolony.
Some Questions to Consider:

1. As they travel to postcolonial contexts, do the terms “Queer” and “LGBT” become co-extensive, or does the postcolonial help bring the two terms into conflict?
2. What kinds of historical conditions and contemporary discourses allow for 'gay rights' to become the proof of Western “freedoms”, and the new guise for Western cultural imperialism?
3. What are the connections between the emergence of discourses around a queer "identity”, like global human rights, agency, development and realization of the self; and the ascendance of neoliberal conceptions of labor efficiency and privatization in postcolonial nations?
4. What are the implications of the ways in which "gay rights" deploy nationalist discourses to gain equal citizenship, even as they create spatial disparities (rural/urban, modern/traditional, mainstream/ “vernacular”, national/regional, progressive/orthodox etc) within the nation?
5. How does "queer" travel from its historical specificity within local (US) contexts to non-local postcolonial contexts? What is gained or lost within the predominant conception of "queer", as it moves and becomes more widely circulated?
6. How are 'queer temporalities' calibrated to postcolonial contexts: what are the gains or risks of investing in queer utopias (marriage, property rights, etc.)?
7. What might be the limits or possibilities of oppositional theorizations of queer temporalities within scholarly or activist work in postcolonial contexts?
8. In what ways might the discussion around the distinctions, as well as the tensions, between the postcolonial and the transnational inflect queer theory?

Abstract due: Midnight, September 5th, 2010
Abstract length: 300 – 350 words
Please include a one paragraph bio (do not exceed 100 words) with your abstract to complicitiesconf@gmail.com

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