REASONS FOR THE LGBT STUDIES/QUEER THEORY DIVIDE. BY STEVEN BENSON

1. Sadly,vested academic interests in one OR the other(yet a further binary!). I have noticed, generally, academics are very territorial of their patch of interest/research.

2. Often understandable human fears and insecurities in expanding beyond one’s safe sphere of refererence and identity; eg. in regard to sexual orientation identity. There are obvious politico-historical reasons for this(the need to still fight for FULL lgbt equality in law; never mind in social attitudes, which drag behind the law). However,in countries where we are lucky enough to have (near) equality,( legally anyway), I fail to see why we cannot look at lgbt(equality/reparative, in its TRUE sense of healing/reclaiming our obscured pre-decriminalization history)AND queer studies simultaneously; so we KEEP the hetero/homo binary(with bisexuality in a uncomfortable middle ground)for political and equality and anti-discriminatory purposes; but also pursue the “performativity”(ie role and game playing) of Queer Theory. Of course, this links to

3. the claim that Queer Theory is deliberately obscurantist and needlessly complex in its terminology. Richard Norton is particuarly vitriolic about this(on this sitehttp://rictornorton.co.uk/theoroea.htm andhttp://rictornorton.co.uk/identity.htm)

I think he has a very valid point on the continued need for fighting for lgbt rights, everywhere,but especially in countries where the death penalty or other restrictions on human rights for lgbt people exist. So, I admit I am speaking from a relatively privileged position(the UK).But as to the obscurantism/jargon charge,yes I struggle with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; but it gets easier and, contrary  to what Norton claims, most of the words ARE in the dictionary; and , yes, I did need to keep a file to refer to individual words’ meanings to help explicate the dense text. But you read MOST philosophical texts(philosophical in its sense of searching after wisdom) and you will enounter a jargon/”jargon”, or, less perjoratively, a language(partly) of its own, which, also, BUILDS on and progresses from previous philosophies/theories;ANY philosophical writing is dense; you have to do your homework: eg Queer Theory is largely predicated on many ideas of deconstructionism,as I have already written about(and will do again), and that in turn requires knowlege of poststructuralism( of which it is part), which, in turn, dialectically challenged Structuralism; or hegelian dialecticalism was, to a degree, the precursor for marxian dialectical materialism; you cannot understand one without the other. But

4. I think also if you are propounding new concepts-citationality/differance/ the Derridean “trace”/nuance-you largely need new words; ok you could say for “citationality” “reference to entities (usually in aesthetics) that have gone before and are included or referenced in the new(eclectic) text.” Does that work?!

So, to return to Derrida, less division/binarisation; and where we have the luxury/scope for pursuance of BOTH types of study/theoretical exploration, let us do both and not be so frightened of others’  “poaching” our ideas(or syntheses of others’ ideas!); ie a dialogical model not a competitive one.

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
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2 Responses to REASONS FOR THE LGBT STUDIES/QUEER THEORY DIVIDE. BY STEVEN BENSON

  1. Jacob says:

    It’s definitely a problematic puzzle to sift through when trying to understand entire concepts when reading philosophical text. It takes time for readers of this esoteric jargon to break down the parts and take that and delineate and deduce it or otherwise make it relative and applicable to concrete situations in reality. I think the more accessible and relative the material is, the more the authors genuinely want to help achieve their ends. Otherwise I see a lot of these philosophers get an arrogance about them that they have the competence to create and understand a separate language no one else can and they giggle about it mockingly. It’s rather frustrating. Though, it isn’t impossible to work through it, it can be rather inefficient when condescending and pretentious intellectuals feel high and might because they can make no sense to anyone but a select few. If that is their position, which is certainly the position of some, then, I lose a respect for them as they are purposefully being abstractly inaccessible and complicated and therefore aren’t really helping anyone to make the world better.

  2. decayetude says:

    Jacob, thanks for your reply:). My advice is to sift through/out the philosophers/critical theorists whom, in your vew, are saying something worthwhile and/or different and then you can decide whether its worth doing the work; I think critical theory CAN and does inform practical,political change: eg. the expansion out from (solely) a traditional Marxist dwelling on class relations, instead of, for example, gender or sexual orientation inequalities, HAVE affected and EFFected changes in law and attitude, gay law reform being a particuarly good example from this expansion outwards, which has partly come form theory(Althusser etc). i think philosophies./schools of critical thought which , at first sight , seem deliberately and(even) pretentiously obscurantist, often repay closer analysis, because they are struggling to find NEW words for CONCEPTS they are often actually trying to bring into existence from nothing or very little; because words DO, ultiamtely, make up most of the limits of, and how we see, the world: an example would be words like “trace” in Derrida or (de)territatorialisation(in Deleuze), which are concepts not easily described in one word(“alienation” is not sufficient for the latter as it does not have all the literal and metaphorical resonances available to Deleuze’s word, ie geographical, psycho-social,psychological, political,sociological, psycho-geographical-all these words are in all dictionaries!)Of course, i agree there will always be some people, academics or not, who just like showcasing their knowledge.Thanks for your input, Steve

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