AbstractsPolitical Science

Queer as a Political Concept

by Jacek Kornak

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Gender Studies
Year: 2015
Keywords: gender Studies
Record ID: 1138608
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/152620


The subject of this study is the term: queer which I analyse as a political concept. In many English-speaking countries queer has been a common abusive term for homosexuals and other sexually non-normative individuals. From around the end of the 1980s the term was picked up by many activists and academics as a tool for political engagement. Initially queer was politicized in the context of the AIDS crisis but soon afterwards, the term was used to address political, social and cultural marginalization of sexual minorities. Queer has ever since remained one of the most significant concepts in contemporary sexual minority politics. I examine how queer became a powerful political signifier and I study political messages that the term carried. My study focuses on multiple uses of queer , rising from various forms of direct political activism to numerous academic publications. I argue that the term often functioned as a type of alternative identity, a basis of community, an incitement for political action and even a philosophical category. Rather than trying to establish common elements between the uses of queer , I present the multiplicity of routes by which queer was mobilized politically. The research here described investigates an underexplored topic in the academic literature, as most publications to this day offer analyses of queer theories or activism, while the very concept queer has often been overlooked. By discussing the political uses of the term, my study therefore goes beyond the scope of so-called queer theory. Instead, I analyse these theories from a novel standpoint, reflecting on the conceptual politics that queer performs in various texts. This thesis traces the conceptual change that queer underwent to become an umbrella term for various political claims. At the end of the 1980s, queer was used by ACT UP activists and, subsequently, by other groups and individuals to express disagreement with mainstream U.S. sexual politics. From about 1991 queer enters academia. I study texts by Teresa de Lauretis, Michael Warner, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Lee Edelman and several others. I offer conceptual analyses of their use of queer as a political concept. I also engage in discussion about the consequences of certain political claims for sexual minorities. My findings indicate that queer was one of the central concepts used in academic debates concerning sexual minorities in the 1990s. For instance, Teresa de Lauretis used the term to criticize the previous lesbian and gay discourse and to incite development of a new language that would accommodate the multiplicity of experiences of lesbian and gay people. Judith Butler used the term to address intersections of sex, class and race. For Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick queer is a specific deconstructive term, whereas for Jack (Judith) Halberstam it is an anarchic term that opens a horizon of an alternative politics. Over the past recent decades there have been countless uses of queer as a political concept. My thesis…