Criminal Intimacies & Queer Counterpublics

By queer culture we mean a world-making project, where “world,” like “public,” differs from community or group because it necessarily includes more people than can be identified, more spaces than can be mapped beyond a few reference points, modes of feeling that can be learned rather than experienced as a birthright. The queer world is a space of entrances, exits, unsystematized lines of acquaintance, projected horizons, typifying examples, alternate routes, blockages, incommensurate geographies. World making, as much in the mode of dirty talk as of print-mediated representation, is dispersed through incommensurate registers, by definition unrealizable as community or identity. Every cultural form, be it a novel or an after-hours club or an academic lecture, indexes a virtual social world, in ways that range from a repertoire of styles and speech genres to referential metaculture.

We are trying to promote this world-making project, and a first step in doing so is to recognize that queer culture constitutes itself in many ways other than through the official publics of opinion culture and the state, or through the privatized forms normally associated with sexuality. Queer and other insurgents have long striven, often dangerously or scandalously, to cultivate what good folks used to call criminal intimacies. We have developed relations and narratives that are only recognized as intimate in queer culture: girlfriends, gal pals, fuckbuddies, tricks. Queer culture has learned not only how to sexualize these and other relations, but also to use them as a context for witnessing intense and personal affect while elaborating a public world of belonging and transformation. Making a queer world has required the development of kinds of intimacy that bear no necessary relation to domestic space, to kinship, to the couple form, to property, or to the nation. These intimacies do bear a necessary relation to a counterpublic–an indefinitely accessible world conscious of its subordinate relation. They are typical both of the inventiveness of queer world making and of the queer world’s fragility.

From “Sex in Public” by Lauren Berlant & Michael Warner

Be A Beautiful Corpse

“We will discover an honourable and sustainable way to live intelligent and blissful lives as gay men and to be able to detach from a commercial and predatory gay culture whose deathwish mantra is Live Fast, Die Young, Be A Beautiful Corpse.

— From the Edward Carpenter Collective’s Alchemy: Tyger Tyger! Weekend.

A Few More Rednecks

Given the thinly-veiled self-congratulation and condescension that informs such intellectual efforts, it is not surprising that self-consciously rustic people often become emphatically anti-intellectual…Charlie Daniels (1990) follows a lyrical call for “a few more rednecks” with the threat that “you intellectuals might not like it but there’s nothing you can do,” while Aaron Tippin (1993) glorifies “pride, honor, and dignity” of the “working man’s Ph.D.” It is tempting for intellectuals to dismiss such criticism as “rural idiocy,” but once we recognize anti-intellectualism as an aspect of identity politics, we need not take it personally. Instead, we can see it as a part of urban hegemony: as long as rustic discontent is directed exclusively at intellectuals, its poses no great political threat. Nevertheless, when rustics target intellectuals or champion conservative causes, they render their identities less interesting to scholars fascinated by the resistance potential of identity politics. These intellectuals thereby collude with “liberal” urbanites in casting rustics as homogeneous oppressors of other marginalized groups. Thus demonized, rustics seem to merit whatever degradation and neglect they may experience.

Barbara Ching and Gerald W Creed, Knowing Your Place: Rural Identity and Cultural Hierarchy (New York: Routledge, 1997): 11.