The first three questions I will conclude with serve to summarize the end of Chen’s argument. The final three attempt to speak to the beginning of Chen’s essay.
1. Chen writes, “And how is it that we are doing this, doing all this, to ourselves? Yet even as the toxins them- selves spread far and wide, such a “we” is a false unity. There are those who find themselves on the underside of industrial “development” (276). How might impoverished communities, here and abroad be “queer?” How might these communities fit into the framework of intersectionality? Of assemblages?
2. Chen writes, “The kinds of bonds that link these groups, bonds that are recognized in the potent affinities of transnational labor and immigrant activism, have been laid there from without, to suture and reinforce multiple transnational systems of racialization, labor hierarchy, and capital — and ultimately of affection or nonaffection. These groups are industrial- ization’s canaries” (276). The canary metaphor has also been used to describe the ways homonormative communities in the U. S. serve as the vanguard for gentrification. What do you make of this?
3. Chen gets into a particularly complex area at the very end, writing, “For would not my nonproductivity, my nonhuman sociality, render me some other human’s “dead” — as certainly it has, in case after case of the denial of disabled existence, emotional life, sexuality, or subjectivity? Or must couches be cathected differently from humans? Or do only certain couches deserve the attribution of a (sexual) fetish? These are only questions to which I have no ready answers, except to declare that those forms of exceptionalism no longer seem reasonable.” Is Chen advocating for a new subjectivity of the object? Are the fetish communities to become one of the assemblage communities?
4. Chen writes, “I . . . consider how vulnerability, safety, immunity, threat, and toxicity itself are sexu- ally and racially instantiated in the recent panic about lead content in Chinese- manufactured toys exported to the United States” (266). How might gendered ideas about Chinese bodies also be instantiated in this this discourse?
5. Chen writes that she plans to: “interweave biopolitical considerations of immunity into an account of the peculiar intimacies and alienations of heavy metal poisoning, rendered in the first person” (265). How does this move toward “authenticity” support Chen’s assertion that the toxic body becomes “queered?”
6. Chen writes that part of her project is to “investigate the potential to resignify toxicity as a theoretical figure, in the interest of inviting contradictory play and crediting queer bonds already here: the living dead, the dead living, antisocial love, and inanimate affection” (266). How does each of Chen’s four designations play within Queer theory discourse?
Blessed are the queer in spirit —
for theirs is the home and harbor of God.
Blessed is anyone who mourns
one single friend or a whole family lost,
for there is comfort
in, through, and after the tears.
Blessed are those who are coming out tomorrow,
for they will inherit themselves.
Blessed are those starved for change
and parched for legal victories —
for every cold call, email, rally, parade,
information table, knock on the door,
will be satisfied.
Blessed are the ONA, reconciling,
more-light, room for all … places,
where folks wander in to scuffed pews, worn carpet,
someone’s lost mitten, and sanctuary.
Blessed are the purely gay, lesbian, transgender,
bisexual, queer, questioning, gender free —
the pure in heart,
in the old and the next word, in every language.
God sees them and they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
long ago and always, they are the children of God.
Blessed are those who lose a job,
or see a smile freeze,
those slapped by veiled denial in a liberal church,
or averting their child’s face
from ugly Westborough Baptist posters.
Rejoice and be glad —
for reviled and rejected has a gospel pedigree.
It’s called resurrection.
You are the pride of the earth.
If pride loses its spine, it slumps for everyone.
You are the rainbow of the world.
People will turn to your bright spectrum
and say – this is holy.