Michael Warner (ed) Fear of a Queer Planet - Queer Politics and Social Theory

September 28, 2017 | Author: Jenny Kangasvuo | Category: Queer Theory, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Marxism, Identity (Social Science)
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A classic anthology on queer theory....


Cultural Politics, Volume 6


Queer Politics and Social Theory M I C H A E L

W A R N E R ,


(for the Social Text Collective}

M IN NE SO TA University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis London

Copyright 1993 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota Chapter 1, Jonathan Goldberg, "Sodomy in the New World: Anthropologies Old and New," adapted by the author from Sodometries by Jonathan Goldberg, with the permission of the publishers, Stanford University Press; copyright 1992 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Chapter 3, Diana Fuss, "Freud's Fallen Women: Identification, Desire, and 'A Case of Homosexuality in a Woman,'" used with permission of The Yale Journal of Criticism 6.1, Spring 1993. Chapter 8, Cathy Griggers, "Lesbian Bodies in the Age of (Post)mechanical Reproduction," from Laura Doan (editor), The Lesbian Postmodern, copyright 1994 (forthcoming) by Columbia University Press, New York; reprinted with the permission of the publisher. Chapter 10, "The Black Man's Burden," copyright 1993 by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Chapter 11, Phillip Brian Harper, "Eloquence and Epitaph: Black Nationalism and the Homophobic Impulse in Responses to the Death of Max Robinson," from Suzanne Poirier and Timothy Murphy (editors), Writing AIDS, copyright 1993 by Columbia University Press, New York; reprinted with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Published by the University of Minnesota Press 111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520 http://www.upress.umn.edu Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper Sixth Printing 2004


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Fear of a queer planet : queer politics and social theory / Michael Warner, editor, for the Social Text Collective, p. cm. — (Cultural politics ; v. 6) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8166-2333-3 (alk. paper). — ISBN 0-8166-2334-1 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Homosexuality—Political aspects—United States. 2. Homosexuality—United States—Philosophy. 3. Gays—United States—Political activity. I. Warner, Michael, 1958II. Social Text Collective. III. Series: Cultural politics (Minneapolis, Minn.) ; v. 6. HQ76.3.U5F43 1994 306.76 '6—dc20 93-28703

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.


Introduction Michael Warner

Parti Get Over It: Heterotheory Sodomy in the New World: Anthropologies Old and New Jonathan Goldberg Unthinking Sex: Marx, Engels, and the Scene of Writing Andrew Parker Freud's Fallen Women: Identification, Desire, and "A Case of Homosexuality in a Woman" Diana Fuss How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick The Construction of Heterosexuality Janet E. Halley

Part n Get Used to It: The New Queer Politics Identity and Politics in a "Postmodern" Gay Culture: Some Historical and Conceptual Notes Steven Seidman Tremble, Hetero Swine! Cindy Patton Lesbian Bodies in the Age of (Post)mechanical Reproduction Cathy Griggers Queer Nationality Lauren Berlant and Elizabeth




The Black Man's Burden Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Eloquence and Epitaph: Black Nationalism and the Homophobic Impulse in Responses to the Death of Max Robinson Phillip Brian Harper "Symbolic" Homosexuality, "False Feminine," and the Problematics of Identity in Québec Robert Schwartzwald




Right On, Girlfriend! Douglas Crimp







Michael Warner

What do queers want? This volume takes for granted that the answer is not just sex. Sexual desires themselves can imply other wants, ideals, and conditions. And queers live as queers, as lesbians, as gays, as homosexuals, in contexts other than sex. In different ways queer politics might therefore have implications for any area of social life. Following Marx's definition of critical theory as "the selfclarification of the struggles and wishes of the age," we might think of queer theory as the project of elaborating, in ways that cannot be predicted in advance, this question: What do queers want? For the most part, left traditions of social and political theory have been unwilling to ask the question. They have posited and naturalized a heterosexual society. For left social theorists this book suggests how queer experience and politics might be taken as starting points rather than as footnotes. At the same time, this book urges lesbian and gay intellectuals to find a new engagement with various traditions of social theory. These twin purposes can to some extent be found in each essay, though the volume is divided into two parts. The first, "Get Over It: Heterotheory," takes issue with traditions of theory, especially anthropology, Marxism, psychoanalysis, psychology, and legal theory. The second, "Get Used to It: The New Queer Politics," describes current issues in queer culture: shifting styles of identity politics; intersections of nationality, race, and gender; conflicts over the state and the media; and the building of new cultures. It might seem reductive to suggest that social theory has always vii



ignored such issues. Many of the leading figures of social thought for the past century have in varying degrees thought about sexuality as a field of power, as a historical mode of personality, and as the carrier of Utopian imagination. Some major branches of social theory have made the connection between sexuality and politics an important or even paradigmatic concern: French social thought from Bataille to Deleuze; radical psychoanalysis, elaborated from Freud by Reich and others; the Frankfurt School, especially the strand that resulted in Marcuse's Eros and Civilization; comparative anthropological theory beginning with Malinowski's Sex and Repression in Savage Society; even the critical liberalism of Bentham (or Sade). Liberationist sexual movements from as early as Whitman, Carpenter, and Wilde involved reflections on democracy and socialism; and radical gay social theory revived after 1969 in France, England, and Italy, in the work of Guy Hocquenghem, Jeffrey Weeks, the Gay Left Collective, Mario Mieli, and others. To these traditions Foucault brought such a reinvigorating transformation that his History of Sexuality has become an inescapable text for intellectuals otherwise oblivious to its subject. Meanwhile feminism has made gender a primary category of the social in a way that makes queer social theory newly imaginable. And in recent years feminists have returned powerfully to the topics of sexuality and lesbian/gay politics in the work of Gayle Rubin, Adrienne Rich, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Iris Marion Young, and many others. These writers have argued that a nonoppressive gender order can only come about through a radical change in sexuality, even while they have also begun to argue that sexuality is a partially separate field of inquiry and activism.1 With such an illustrious history, with a literature so massive that it can be sketched this broadly, it might seem that queer left social/sexual theory stands at a convergence point for many of the most important intellectual movements of our time. What could be needed to create this convergence when so many paths of modern thought already lead there? Yet it remains depressingly easy to speak of "social theory" and have in mind whole debates and paraprofessional networks in which sexuality figures only peripherally or not at all — to say nothing of manifestly homophobic work.2 Often the omission paradoxically seems to result from the desire for a general picture of



what is called social reproduction; thus Jürgen Habermas, Anthony Giddens, and others have been able to write ambitiously comprehensive works (with titles like The Constitution of Society) in which sexuality plays no role.3 In most such cases the politics of marginal sexualities seems not so much neglected as blocked from view. In other writers, especially those such as Niklas Luhmann who share a structural or system-theoretical bent, sexuality features more importantly but only as a rather unqueer institution — not only heterosexual but normalized and functional.4 Perhaps more surprising is the absence of a more than fleeting consideration of sexuality in Laclau and Mouffe, in Bourdieu, or in the current theory of post-Fordism. Marcuse has fallen from view, while Foucault's history increasingly tends to be summarized as a treatise on power or on an abstraction called "the body."5 LacanianAlthusserian cultural studies, trying to bring politics and sexuality onto comparable conceptual levels, has relied on categories that make the two equivalent ("phallus") or evacuated into structural effects ("subjectivity").6 Social theory as a quasi-institution for the past century has returned continually to the question of sexuality, but almost without recognizing why it has done so, and with an endless capacity to marginalize queer sexuality in its descriptions of the social world. " Even the literature on the so-called new social movements, where theorists might have been expected to take lesbian and gay politics as a model, continues to treat it as an afterthought, and then often with significant homophobia. Alberto Melucci, for example, refers to the gay movement only twice in a book designed to argue that new forms of democratic social movements are transforming the political landscape. The first instance is in a section called "Reproduction as a Choice." As a heading for sexual politics, this title already inclines toward hetero and voluntarist assumptions, assimilating sexuality to the subject of reproduction and treating dissident sexuality only as a parallel choice: "In addition to the model of the heterosexual and monogamous couple, who are the foundation of the family institution and guarantee of the continuity of the reproductive process, new choices become possible. These parallel models, which are capable of coexisting with the heterosexual model and even of becoming institutionalized, include homosexuality, singles, and a range of mobile and temporary couples living outside a stable



matrimonial friendship."7 Melucci's commitments to "the family institution" and reproductive continuity run so deep that he doesn't seem to have imagined that lesbians and gays might be critical of them. Thus he imagines "homosexuality" only as an additional choice, one that entails no challenge to the heterosexual order and seems to have nothing to do with power. Even this gesture turns out to be too generous for Melucci, who a few pages later takes it back by remarking that gay culture, "depriving sex of its erotic content, reduces it to a gymnastics of orgasm [I]t hastened the reduction of sex to the genital level and revealed the poverty of an exclusively male sexuality without eros."8 This is the kind of stuff that often passes as left social theory of gay politics; that it can do so indicates how little people like Melucci imagine participating in exchange with lesbian or gay intellectuals. At the same time it remains possible to speak of "gay studies" and have in mind a booming field dominated by literary criticism, film criticism, and cultural history. But despite powerful work on AIDS and in feminist social theory, the energies of queer studies have come more from rethinking the subjective meaning of sexuality than from rethinking the social.9 The major theoretical debate # over constructionism seems exhausted. Partly because that debate resulted in a more historicized and localized view of gay interests, and partly because the disciplines of literature and film studies have afforded a relatively free space for lesbian and gay critics, there has been a turn in gay studies toward the production of impressive new readings of particular cultural texts, usually with a psychoanalytic emphasis.10 The effect of this new "queer theory" wave has been to show in ever more telling detail how pervasive the issues of lesbian and gay struggles have been in modern culture, and how various they have been over time. But the success of that work now makes some other kinds of thinking necessary. The essays in this volume suggest that the new wave of lesbian and gay studies is at the point of having to force a thorough revision within social-theoretical traditions, of the kind being won by feminism. There are a number of distinct reasons why that engagement has become necessary: (1) from the most everyday and vulgar moments of gay politics to its most developed theoretical language, the sexual order blends with a wide range of institutions and social ideology, so that to challenge the sexual order is sooner or



later to encounter those other institutions as problems; (2) many of the specific environments in which lesbian and gay politics arises have not been adequately theorized and continue to act as unrecognized constraints; (3) concepts and themes of social theory that might be pressed to this purpose are in fact useless or worse because they embed a heteronormative understanding of society; and (4) in many areas a new style of politics has been pioneered by lesbians and gays, little understood outside of queer circles. Let me briefly clarify each of these.

Sexual Politics and the Social Order There are many people, gay and straight, who think that sexual orientation is a fairly clear and simple political matter, that discrimination should be eliminated but that gay people have no further political interest as a group. Those who hold this view have certain obvious political facts to rely on, not least of which is that gay men and lesbians can be found on both sides of any political issue. The argument can be made in an old-fashioned conservative-libertarian way (sex is a private matter that should be left to choice and # kept out of public p
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