Author: Duke University Press

Pride Month Reads

June is Pride Month, and we’re proud to take this opportunity to revisit recent books and journal issues that center on queer studies, trans studies, and LGBTQ+ histories.

The contributors to “Left of Queer,” an issue of Social Text edited by David L. Eng and Jasbir K. Puar, offer a detailed examination of queerness and its nearly three-decade academic institutionalization, exploring how emergent debates in three key areas—debility, indigeneity, and trans—connect queer studies to a host of urgent sociopolitical issues. Taking a position that is politically left of the current academic and political mainstreaming of queerness, the essays in this issue examine what is left of queer—what remains outside of the political, economic, and cultural mandates of the state and the liberal individual as its prized subject.

In Wild Things Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which the wild—a space located beyond normative borders of sexuality—offers sources of opposition to knowing and being that transgress Euro-American notions of the modern subject.

The HIV/AIDS crisis is often imagined as over, yet it remains in ongoing relevance to trans life and trans death. Contributors to “Trans in a Time of HIV/AIDS,” an issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly edited by Eva Hayward and Che Gossett, examine the intersection of HIV/AIDS and trans studies, theory, and politics. Topics include differences between past and present conjuncture of trans and the virus; how HIV/AIDS matters for present-day trans studies scholarship, especially in our purportedly post-AIDS-crisis moment; and the relationship between the virus and “trans visibility.”

Queer Political Theologies,” an issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies edited by Ricky Varghese, David K. Seitz, and Fan Wu, brings together queer studies and political theology in order to explore the relationship between the self and politics, theism, and queerness. Going beyond previous work in queer political theology that has focused primarily on Christianity, contributors to this issue consider how queer sexualities appear in other theological contexts, including articles on astrological, Blackpentecostal, Thirunangai, hijra, and sarimbavy ways of life, recentering marginalized and underrepresented minorities, beliefs, and practices.

Drawing from ethnographic work with queer activist groups in contemporary Turkey, in Queer in Translation Evren Savcı explores how Western LGBT politics are translated and reworked there in ways that generate new spaces for resistance and solidarity.

In “The AIDS Crisis Is Not Over,” a Radical History Review issue edited by Emily K. Hobson and Dan Royles, contributors trace histories from around the globe and examine how HIV/AIDS has been shaped by the political economies of neoliberalism and state violence. They expand understandings of the AIDS crisis to include issues of labor, housing, and carcerality and consider ways to teach the global history of AIDS and examine key questions in writing, preserving, and remembering histories of AIDS activism.

In Sexual Hegemony Christopher Chitty traces the 500 year history of capitalist sexual relations, showing how sexuality became a crucial dimension of the accumulation of capital and a technique of bourgeois rule. The book, published posthumously, is edited by Max Fox.

The Sense of Brown, which he was completing at the time of his death, is José Esteban Muñoz’s treatise on brownness and being as well as his most direct address to queer Latinx studies. The book is edited and introduced by Joshua Chambers-Letson and Tavia Nyong′o.

In The Small Book of Hip Checks Erica Rand uses multiple meanings of hip check—an athlete using their hip to throw an opponent off balance and the inspection of racialized gender—to consider the workings of queer gender, race, and writing.

In Information Activism Cait McKinney traces how lesbian feminist activists in the United States and Canada between the 1970s and the present developed communication networks, databases, and digital archives to use as a foundation for their feminist, antiracist, and trans-inclusive work.

Ricardo Montez traces the drawn and painted line that was at the center of Keith Haring’s artistic practice, engaging with Haring’s messy relationships to race-making and racial imaginaries in Keith Haring’s Line.

And finally, congratulations to Ashon Crawley, whose book The Lonely Letters was awarded the Lambda Literary Award in Nonfiction earlier this week.

Exploring “Viral Culture”

Today’s guest post is authored by Mark Featherstone and John Armitage, editors of the new Cultural Politics issue “Viral Culture.” Learn more about “Viral Culture” or purchase the issue here.

In this blog post we want to explain the originality and relevance of the idea of ‘viral culture’, which we explore in the special issue of Cultural Politics devoted to the idea. However, before we talk about originality, it is important to note that it is possible to find precursors to what we are calling ‘viral culture’ in the work of a number of writers who understood what was happening with processes of globalisation and informationalisation from the 1960s onwards. It is important to acknowledge their influence upon our theory of ‘viral culture’ because in a sense what we have done is picked up the debates they started and explored them in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In looking for these influences we might track back as far as the 1960s and think about Jacques Derrida’s early work. In his early works, such as Of Grammatology, Derrida was interested in the informationalisation of biology through the discovery of DNA and communication processes filtered through computers that translated meaningful language into mathematical symbols. In his view this transformed everything, what he spoke about in terms of ‘the living’, into a kind of text that was endlessly on the move and fundamentally unfinished and unfinishable. In much the same way that one never finishes writing, Derrida saw that reproduction is endless and really represents the transmission or communication of DNA code to a new generation through sexual contact. This final point about sexual contact and the combination of DNA in the formation of a new person or animal was very important for Derrida because it represented communication and the emergence of new life, new meaning, and new possibilities. As the new is born, so the old must die out. This is why in his later works he writes about auto-immunity, which really means maintaining openness to the other through opposition to processes immunity that seek to shut down communication.

Now, of course, the problem we are facing today in the world of Covid-19 is that auto-immunity has become a serious problem. We need immunity and cannot afford the immune system to attack itself or become confused, which is precisely what happens in the case of the ‘cytokline storm’ that seems to be a major cause of death in cases of Covid-19. In straightforward terms what this means is that a lack of immunity and an excess of openness to otherness has now become a serious threat. The virus itself is clear evidence of this problem. Unlike complex organisms that reproduce through sexual contact, the virus simply replicates, and in this respect represents the strange form of life Freud wrote about in his famous essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which was coincidentally written in the teeth of the Spanish flu epidemic that killed his daughter Sophie one hundred years ago in 1920. While complex organisms, humans and animals, live, reproduce, and die, the virus represents endless life that simply repeats itself and therefore never dies. It does not need otherness. Having said that, the catch is that the virus needs a host to replicate, which is precisely why we need immunity to save ourselves from infection.

If this concern for immunity is what is missing from Derrida’s work, precisely because he is always looking to defend the principle of difference and communication, another French writer Jean Baudrillard clearly understood the problem of virulence in his book, The Transparency of Evil, translated into English in 1993. For Baudrillard, the Derridean universe of difference and communication, a universe of intertextuality, is a universe of virulence and contagion. In other words, Baudrillard saw that we cannot live in a world of globalised communication and information exchange without tipping over into excess and the production of what he calls evil and we might talk about in terms of diseases such as Covid-19 that represent the dark side of what happens when processes of globalisation enter a kind of terminal phase. What we mean by this idea of ‘a terminal phase’ is that everything that once represented communication and freedom, such as long-distance travel and meeting people from distant places, now threatens our very existence and causes us to look for ways to immunise ourselves from the outside. We know all about the forms this tendency to immunisation takes today—vaccine nationalism, the closure of borders, endless testing, masks, and interminable lockdowns—and we can learn more about the long-range impacts of this shift to suspicion of the other when we read Michel Foucault’s works, such as Madness and Civilization, which contains a discussion of ‘the great confinement’ and the emergence of disciplinary attitudes towards difference.

This is the tradition of thought that our concept of ‘viral culture’ draws upon in the context of the current global pandemic. ‘Viral culture’ represents the situation we find ourselves in somewhere between Derrida’s concern to recognise difference and accept the other and Baudrillard’s understanding of virulence and the emergence of a globalisation of evil symptoms that infect every aspect of life, which is precisely what we seek to address in our collection.

While the biological impact of the pandemic is clear because we are all susceptible to disease, Covid-19 has also transformed the political sphere that is now caught between a defence of liberal values and harsh authoritarian measures designed to protect us from the other. The same problem impacts economy and economics. The choice is between liberalisation and a model of state centralisation that now looks increasingly realistic. Similarly, the social world is torn between sociability and a need to maintain distance and sever the connection between self and other with the result that many fall into loneliness and suffer related mental health issues. Finally, the cultural sphere, the place where meaning itself is negotiated, is, we think, the privileged space where these decisions are thought through, worked out, and negotiated. Now we must recognise that every one of these decisions is political, and it is a mistake, as Bernard-Henri Levy notes, to simply let techno-science tell us that they are only about biological health, because we cannot remain immune, immunised, from the other for ever more. This is why this issue of Cultural Politics is not simply about Covid-19 in a narrow sense, but rather ‘viral culture’ and the range of problems that living under Covid has forced us to have to confront. In this respect the originality of our collection resides in the way we explore the cultural politics, and the politics of meaning, around the Covid pandemic from a range of perspectives making use of a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives. What, then, is the wider relevance of the concept of ‘viral culture’ for understanding the contemporary moment?

(more…)

The Biopolitics of Plasticity

The newest issue of Social Text, “The Biopolitics of Plasticity,” edited by Kyla Schuller and Jules Gill-Peterson, is now available.

Contributors to this special issue argue that plasticity—the capacity of living systems to generate and take on new forms—is a central feature of biopolitics. Moving away from celebrating plasticity’s disorganizing and disruptive features in relation to normalizing and dominating systems of power, the authors investigate how race and state power actually depend on plasticity and enlist its malleability and formlessness to govern living populations and individuals.

In these four essays, the contributors propose a critical reckoning with the racial politics of this important concept to ask new questions about how to understand the organic malleability of the body and categories like race, sex, gender, and sexuality.

Check out the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Pride Month Reads

This month we approach Pride with mixed feelings—it is difficult to celebrate amid so much injustice, but the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that protects LGBTQ workers from job discrimination is heartening as a step forward.

We’d like to take this moment to lift up our latest scholarship in queer and trans studies.

Our Revisiting Queer Studies Syllabus highlights articles, books, and journal issues on topics such as queerness in poor and working-class populations, decolonizing queerness, antinormativity, queer migration, and contemporary coming-out stories. Our Trans Rights Syllabus addresses trans rights and politics globally, exploring coalitional models of social justice, black trans feminisms, surgery, disability, surveillance, and more. Both syllabi offer free journal content for a limited time, and books can be purchased from your local bookseller or online at dukeupress.edu.

978-1-4780-0820-0Poor Queer Studies by Matt Brim shifts queer studies away from sites of elite education toward poor and working-class students and locations, showing how the field is driven by those flagship institutions that perpetuate class and race inequity in higher education. In a recent op-ed, Brim linked his research to cuts in higher education due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people have seen parallels between today’s pandemic and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. In AIDS and the Distribution of Crises, contributors outline the myriad ways that the AIDS pandemic exists within a network of varied historical, overlapping, and ongoing crises borne of global capitalism and colonial, racialized, and gendered violence.

The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world in which Ashon T. Crawley meditates on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the black church, theology, mysticism, and the potential for platonic and erotic connection in a world that conspires against blackqueer life. These letters may especially speak to people isolating alone in the pandemic. In an interview with New City Arts, Crawley talked a bit about being alone at home and in nature during this time.

The Queer Games Avant GardeSome people may be spending more time playing video games while socially isolating. To learn about some queer game makers and their projects, check out The Queer Games Avant-Garde: How LGBTQ Game Makers Are Reimagining the Medium of Video Games by Bonnie Ruberg. The book presents twenty interviews with twenty-two queer video game developers whose radical, experimental, vibrant, and deeply queer work is driving a momentous shift in the medium of video games.

In Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women, E. Patrick Johnson combines magical realism, poetry, and performative writing to bear witness to the real-life stories of black southern queer women in ways that reveal the complexity of identity and the challenges these women face.

Pride is celebrated worldwide, including in Korea. Check out Queer Korea, a collection edited by Todd A. Henry. The contributors offer interdisciplinary analyses of non-normative sexuality and gender nonconformity in Korea, extending individualized notions of queer neoliberalism beyond those set in Western queer theory.

GLQ_26_3_prWe publish two journals that focus exclusively on queer and trans studies: TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly and GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. Both journals offer individual subscriptions.

Recent special issues of TSQ center on trans futures, pornographyreligion, and Latin American trans and travesti studies.

GLQ’s recent special issues consider queer theory in relation to Africa, the ontology of the couple, and the impact of GLQ itself over the past 25 years.

Care in Uncertain Times Syllabus

As we collectively deal with the implications of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and a global pandemic, questions of care and self-care have become ever more important.

Free to read online through June 30, the books, journal issues, and articles in our new Care in Uncertain Times Syllabus investigate different ways that care can bind together individuals and communities where larger institutions or governments fail to intervene. They show how radical care is essential to enduring precarity and to laying the groundwork for new futures.

Start reading here.

The Return of Economic Planning

“The Return of Economic Planning,” the latest issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, edited by Campbell Jones, is available now.

Contributors to this special issue propose placing economic planning firmly back on the agenda of Left politics. Today, capital and the capitalist state are fully planned, yet economic planning remains a key site of political struggle, and it exists in diverse places and forms—in algorithms, in sites of dispute, in communes, in music, and coming from above or below.

The authors explore new ways of seeing and thinking about economic planning, arguing that the question is no longer whether or not to plan but rather what kind of economic planning is taking place, what purpose it is serving, and who is included in making and executing plans.

Check out authors Matteo Mandarini and Alberto Toscano’s article, “Planning for Conflict,” freely available for three months.

The issue’s Against the Day section, “Mediterranea: Sea Rescue as Political Action,” brings together researchers and activists to discuss migrant projects of freedom. All articles in this section are freely available for six months.

Browse the issue’s contents and read the introduction, freely available.

Legacies of ’68: Histories, Geographies, Epistemologies

In the newest issue of Cultural Politics, contributors discuss the historical significance and cultural legacies of 1968 from the vantage point of contemporary politics. “Legacies of ’68: Histories, Geographies, Epistemologies,” edited by Morgan Adamson and Sarah Hamblin, maps out the transnational connections between the various 1968 movements and traces the legacies of these ideas to see how the year continues to shape political, cultural, and social discourse today.

Topics covered include the Third World student strike at San Francisco State College, the decade-long revolution known as May ’68 and its connection to anticolonial struggle and the emergence of “the world university system,” and radical feminist author Shulamith Firestone’s Dialectic of Sex.

Check out author Quinn Slobodian’s article, “Anti-’68ers and the Racist-Libertarian Alliance: How a Schism among Austrian School Neoliberals Helped Spawn the Alt Right,” made freely available for three months.

Browse the issue’s contents and read the introduction, freely available. Be sure to sign up to receive email alerts about new issues of Cultural Politics!

Archives, Archival Practices, and the Writing of History in Premodern Korea

In premodern Korea, archives were gathered and housed not only in official or state storerooms but also in unofficial sites such as libraries of lineage associations and local academies. Contributors to the newest Journal of Korean Studies, “Archives, Archival Practices, and the Writing of History in Premodern Korea,” edited by Jungwon Kim, take these archives beyond their usual definition as collections of historical documents of the past by revealing how these archives cast light on what and who were left out of the conventional historiography of premodern Korea.

Topics addressed include how premodern Korean record-keeping was used to shape contemporary historiographical knowledge of Chosŏn Buddhism, the role of the Catholic Archives in documenting life in Chosŏn Korea, and whether the term “archive,” as used in European traditions, is relevant to premodern Korean traditions.

Browse the issue’s contents; and read the editorial note and the introduction, both freely available. Be sure to sign up to receive email alerts about new issues of the Journal of Korean Studies!

Memory, Amnesia, Commemoration

In the newest issue of English Language Notes, “Memory, Amnesia, Commemoration,” edited by Ramesh Mallipeddi and Cristobal Silva, contributors explore the interrelationship between history (the study of past events) and memory (the ways in which the past is remembered and accessed). Specifically, they investigate how catastrophes—colonization, slavery, war, genocide, and disease pandemics—impact memory; how traumatic events are remembered by victims, survivors, and descendants; and the collective forgetting of traumatic pasts.

Topics include traces of trauma and resilience in Native and Colonial North America, the contemporary new diaspora of African Americans fleeing the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina, the memorialization of black southern experience, dementia in Holocaust literature, and a major blind spot in comparative memory studies.

Browse the issue’s contents and read the introduction, freely available. Be sure to sign up to receive email alerts about new issues of English Language Notes!

Literary History after the Nation?

The current field of literary history is rapidly expanding, presenting an exciting but also bewildering time for historians of literature. Designations of literary periods have become progressively more flexible while some scholars have simply abandoned the idea of distinct literary periods and geographically limited literary histories altogether. In the newest issue of Modern Language Quarterly, “Literary History after the Nation?” edited by Peter Kalliney, contributors consider the status of modern literary history in this moment of flux. They pose the question: now that the unspoken national and regional assumptions of literary studies are being challenged, how should we write literary history?

Topics include the works and theories of Russian poet Keti Chukhrov, an examination of the term “world poetry,” arguments for and against linear periodization, and a 1930s Soviet project to found a “world literature.”

Browse the issue’s contents and read the introduction, freely available. Be sure to sign up to receive email alerts about new issues of Modern Language Quarterly!