Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz’s introduction to the special issue of Social Text, “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now?” provides the background and validates the necessity of the shifts that are occurring in contemporary queer studies. They argue that the “mainstreaming of gay and lesbian identity—as a mass-mediated consumer lifestyle and embattled legal category –demands a renewed queer studies ever vigilante to the fact that sexuality is intersectional, not extraneous to other modes of difference, and calibrated to a firm understanding of queer as a political metaphor without a fixed referent” (1). Contemporary queer studies includes examinations of “the late-twentieth-century global crises that have configured historical relations among political economies, the geopolitics of war and terror, and national manifestations of sexual, racial, and gendered hierarchies” (1). The shifts that are occurring in queer studies not only expand the field but also reassess earlier research and at times are critical of the western white male patriarchal dominance that at times has tainted the validity queer studies. This dominance has been perpetuated through media and consumer culture and exploited by the United States‘s attempts at diverting national and international viewpoints of social issues. The expansion of queer studies and the evaluation of earlier research creates the space that permits the symbiotic relationships between “the limits of queer epistemology, the denaturalizing potentials of queer diasporas, and the emergent assumptions of what could be called queer liberalism” to be examined (1).
Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz are critical of the normalization that has occurred in both queer studies and within the politics and gays and lesbians. They postulate that the field of queer studies and the politics of gays and lesbians have been influenced by “mechanisms of normalization” that institute a prescribed order of “privileged subjects, standards of sexual conduct, and political and intellectual engagements” (4). The negative effects of normalization “demands that queer epistemologies not only rethink the relationship between intersectionality and normalization from multiple points of view but also, and equally important, consider how gay and lesbian rights are being reconstituted as a type of reactionary (identity) politics of national and global consequence” (4). In order to rethink these relationships, queer studies must include examinations of “race, gender, class, nationality, and religion, as well as sexuality” (4). This will expand the lens of queer studies to include diverse fields that are “internally coherent while giving social and political difference their discursive power” (4). This is creates a mode of knowledge production that does not privilege certain groups, ideals and politics. Additionally, recovering those that were omitted or the “lost others” will create “queer counterhistories of space and time, alternative narratives of development that have become central to the notion of queer subcultures, counterpublics, and utopias” (5).
1. According to Eng, Halbestam, Muñoz, and their collaborators, the white queer man has been appropriated by the media, government and capitalism. For example, the television show The New Normal is about a two white married men. The title of the show is enough to support the arguments presented by Eng, Halbestam, Muñoz, and their collaborators but despite initial high ratings the show failed to capture an audience and has been cancelled. Smash the show about the ups and downs of producing a Broadway show was also cancelled. Smash had several gay characters of multiple ethnicities, social class and age groups. Neither show was able to capture a straight or queer audience. The New Normal utilized a normalized conception of the queer man while Smash used stereotypical queer identities associated with the theater. Why did the shows fail at at capturing an audience?
2. The introduction discusses at length why and how queer studies has and needs to continue to shift towards a more inclusive field of study. Yet, Eng, Halbestam and Muñoz do not discuss any potential losses to the field that may occur through expansion and reevaluation. Do you think that there are positive elements of the field that may be lost through this process?