MLA 2024 Special Session: Place of Identity in Queer Studies

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Rajorshi Das/ University of Iowa
contact email: 

In their Introduction to the Special Issue of Social Text, David L. Eng, Jack Halberstam, and José Esteban Muñoz demanded “a renewed queer studies ever vigilant to the fact that sexuality is intersectional, not extraneous to other modes of difference, and calibrated to a firm understanding” (1). This emphasis on a “renewed” field, in the light of the US ‘war on terror’ and the rise of neoliberal economies, assumed that “queer has no fixed political referent” so that the “subjectless critique of queer studies” is positioned in opposition to the “tenets of positivism at the heart of identity politics” (3). While revisiting the “queer theoretical production” since the publication of this 2005 issue, (1) Jasbir Puar and Eng situate LGBTQ+ identities as being invested in a “politics of incremental recognition” within the US legal system (5). Though Puar and Eng’s argument about the lack of an intersectional lens within the US legal system can be seen as an extension of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s scholarship on intersectionality, it does not account for a fixed trajectory of identity politics in queer theory.  While Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz’s call for “renewed queer studies” is an acknowledgment of the limitations of the field whose ancestors, including the exponents of queer of color critique hail from the Global North, it frames identity politics in a way that leaves out feminist activists and writers whose existence is already queer due to their situatedness as “Third World Women.” Though Muñoz engages with Gloria Anzaldúa and offers a counter to Leo Bersani and Lee Edelman’s rejection of futurity (which is a response to white homonormativity), he too remains wary of “identarian logic” in Cruising Utopia (20). By contrast, the Combahee River Collective statement and E. Patrick Johnson’s ‘quare studies’ situate identity in relation to difference and emphasize intergenerational and intra-community dialogues. More recently, Gayatri Gopinath’s Unruly Visions and Eng Beng Lim’s Brown Boys and Rice Queens try to challenge US-centricity in queer theory by emphasizing South-South relationality. However, this turn is not without its problems and can lead to an uncritical celebration of “people of color” alliances and dialogues. As Shaista Patel and Dia D Costa point out – “Brahmin scholars cite and collaborate with Indigenous and Black scholars, but very likely cannot name any Dalit scholars whose work they engage with, ethically” (15).

Given the complex trajectories in queer studies, this session invites conference papers that address the place of identity in the field, and what identity entails in contemporary times. I look forward to dialogues between queer theory, decoloniality, anti-caste scholarship, and indigeneity that can remap the trajectory of queer studies or reject it altogether. Topics may include but are not limited to the following:


1.     “Quare” Studies

2.     Begumpura and Futurity

3.     Settle Colonialisms in Asia

4.     Who Needs Queer Theory?

5.     Revisiting This Bridge.