This is the Truth-Event

I’m less interested, then, in the “turn toward time” than in the turning or troping by which we’re obliged to keeping turning time into history. Whether polyphonous or univocal, history, thus ontologized, displaces the epistemological impasse, the aporia of relationality, the nonidentity of things, by offering the promise of sequence as the royal road to consequence. Meaning thus hangs in the balance—a meaning that time, as the medium of its advent, defers while affirming its constant approach, but a meaning utterly undone by the queer who figures its refusal. This is the truth-event, as Badiou might say, that makes all subjects queer: that we aren’t, in fact, subjects of history constrained by the death-in-life of futurism and its illusion of productivity. We’re subjects, instead, of the real, of the drive, of the encounter with futurism’s emptiness, with negativity’s life-in-death. The universality proclaimed by queerness lies in identifying the subject with just this repetitive performance of a death drive, with what’s, quite literally, unbecoming, and so in exploding the subject of knowledge immured in stone by the “turn toward time.”

– Lee Edelman
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First Comes Love, Then…

Domestic privacy can feel like a controllable space, a world of potential unconflictedness (even for five minutes a day): a world built for you. It may seem of a manageable scale and pacing; at best, it makes visible the effects of one’s agency, consciousness, and intention. This leads to another reason the couple form and its spinoffs so effectively siphon off critical thought about the personal and the political: to refuse the maturational narrative of “a life” would require a confrontation with another idea, that social forces and problems of living that seem not about the private “you” are, nonetheless, central to the shape of your story.

I learned to think about these questions in the contexts of feminist/ queer pedagogy; and how many times have I asked my own students to explain why, when there are so many people, only one plot counts as “life” (first comes love, then … )? Those who don’t or can’t find their way in that story–the queers, the single, the something else–can become so easily unimaginable, even often to themselves. Yet it is hard not to see lying about everywhere the detritus and the amputations that come from attempts to fit into the fold; meanwhile, a lot of world-building energy atrophies. Rethinking intimacy calls out not only for redescription but for transformative analyses of the rhetorical and material conditions that enable hegemonic fantasies to thrive in the minds and on the bodies of subjects while, at the same time, attachments are developing that might redirect the different routes taken by history and biography. To rethink intimacy is to appraise how we have been and how we live and how we might imagine lives that make more sense than the ones so many are living.

Lauren Berlant, “Intimacy: A Special Issue,” Critical Inquiry 24, no. 2 (January 1, 1998): 281–88.

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

History v. Heritage

Part of what needs to be done is to reconstruct the genealogical descent of why one form of place identity (called ‘history’) is supposed to be taken as more legitimate than another (called ‘heritage’). Regarding rural places, research attempting to develop this sense of a conjunctural non-essential identity has begun to consider the rural as a constellation of ‘social representations’ and ‘interpretative repertoires’ (Halfacree, 1993; Moscovici, 1991; Shields, 1991). In short, any further work on the intersections of meaning and the spatiality of social relations as regards the rural will have to overcome what Philo (1993, p. 433) begins to identify as ‘the assertive modernist impulse…which heroically assumes the duty of assessing from without the realities of ‘other lives’ against transcendental yardsticks of ‘right’/’wrong’ and ‘good’/’bad’ that may have little relevance for the peoples and places concerned.’

Mark Lawrence, “Heartlands or Neglected Geographies? Liminality, Power, and the Hyperreal Rural,” Journal of Rural Studies 13 (1997): 15.