I spent most of this weekend at the LA Queer Studies Conference at UCLA. It was the third time I’ve been to the conference, the second time I’ve presented there, and as always it left me with lots to think about. The key theoretical presences seemed to be Jasbir Puar’s Terrorist Assemblages and/or Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” (you can read parts of that here). The conjuncture of those texts’ concerns led on the one hand to analyses of art and practice attentive to the ties between gay/queer imaginaries, whiteness, the state and global hegemonies, and on the other to a focus on taxonomies and critiques of them and the continuing importance of rethinking and redrawing boundaries.
I’ve been reading Saba Mahmood’s Politics of Piety, and thinking a lot about how she criticizes queer theory and other forms of radical scholarship for narrowing their vision of agency to an either/or system of hegemony and resistance (to be wildly reductive about her complex argument). One of the points that seemed to be made over and over by papers at LAQS was that any automatic connection between nonstraight sexuality and ‘resistance’ doesn’t make much sense , but that it’s absolutely crucial to pay attention to the fissures where there exist alternatives to neoliberal regimes that want to incorporate everything: from the queer diasporic art Gayatri Gopinath showed to Juana Maria Rodriguez’s profoundly hot sexual utopianism and through a whole lot of other things besides.
All of this, particularly the threading of ideas about critical utopianism and the importance of not giving up analysis at failure, is absolutely central to the dissertation project I have percolating in my head, which I hope to translate from scattered notes into an actual proposal in order to take exams by the end of the academic year (and yes, that is why this blog has been so quiet). The paper I actually gave at LAQS is probably quite tangential to said project, but I’d like to share it so that more than the brave souls who came to the 9am panel (including the writers and artists I actually quote) can read it.
Since I’ve surprised myself by rambling on in great abstraction about the conference, I’ll post it in the next entry.