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Are We Post-Queer? A Roundtable on the Present and Future of Queer Theory in Medieval Studies
Society for the Study of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages (SSHMA)
Roundtable Panel: Jennifer N. Brown (Marymount Manhattan College); Zan Kocher, (University of Louisiana–Lafayette); Tison Pugh (University of Central Florida) Felipe E. Rojas (University of Chicago); and Lisa Weston (California State University Fresno)
This was part of an excellent panel discussion on the future of Queer Theory, pedagogy, gender and the cross over between Queer Studies and politics. Each participant answered the question: “Are we post-Queer?” The resounding answer to this was no, we are not post-Queer but the dialogue around teaching Queer Studies, problems that arise, and next steps was engaging and thought provoking.
“As medievalists, we are always going to need this disjunctive look at the past that Queer Theory allows us”
Queer Pedagogy looks at how a queer lens can open up some illuminating reading. Students are very informed about current and social issues, such as indicating and asserting their preferred gender pronoun, however, they are unaware of how to read a text as Queer. They think their sexuality is so fluid, yet still want a label. The question of taxonomy in Queer Studies is very interesting. Students are the future and will take Queer Studies to a new level but they need a groundwork.
Are we post Queer? No. Professor Kocher imdicated he couldn’t imagine being post Queer while things like marriage equality are still being debated. There are many “posts” that would come along with “post-Queer”. The idea of Queerness relates to transgression; we might not view ourselves are transgressive but we can be to others. Queer Theory is needed more than ever. He asked the questions: Why not relocate Queer Studies into historiography? Or place names into Queer Studies? We are already in bed with literature but need to expand Queer Studies into other areas.
Professor Pugh asked: What’s the next prevailing school? There isn’t a new dominant outlet that has emerged. Queer Theory is part of the palate of literary analysis and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Are we becoming too “normative”, i.e. marriage equality. Is marriage a threat to Queerness? There is an anxiety about Queer Theory; students love the term but use it without any sense of meaning, tending to slap labels like “heteronormative” and “Queer” on everything without much analysis. There are some qualms about how people are using Queer Theory, “We need to map out how we’re moving from an earlier Queer to a new sense of Queer”.
Are we post Queer? Professor Weston said that “As long as there are categories – one can fuck with them. Queer Theory is an academic trickster and tricksters are never out of style”. She asked if Queer theory was queer enough? Has Queer Theory become insufficiently edgy? “To accept post-Queerness is to accept that the days of activism are over”. Do you still need to militate for anything? The term “post” can be a get out of jail free card for controversy, i.e., we’re “post racial” because we have a black President, or we’re “post feminist’ because women’s issues, healthcare, and equal pay are problems of the past, right? It’s a neo-liberal dismissal of problems the mainstream no longer want to deal with or discuss. Another problem is that Queer Theory can be viewed as “non-vocational”; the age-old question of: What are you going to do with that degree?.
Queer is such a huge category and it was suggested that maybe a qualifier is needed. Queer politics versus Queer Theory: can we move forward with the politics and leave the other behind? Can we separate the two categories? If equal marriage becomes legal around the world – we would still be doing Queer Studies. One doesn’t end the need for the other. Students now are coming to Queer Theory from a totally different perspective – they are being raised in Queer friendly environments where they didn’t have to do much of the work that past scholars have and there was some frustration with the lack of knowledge on Queer history.
This was a very insightful panel on a topic I’m interested in but is still very new to me. I enjoyed the session, and the different perspectives put forth. The question and answer period proved almost as informative as the panel discussion.