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(cfp) Gayness In Queer Times Novembro 22, 2018

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, queer theory, teoria queer, Uncategorized.
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(cfp)  Gayness In Queer Times

Workshop & Conference

University of Brighton, UK

June 13th & 14th 2019

Keynote speaker: Prof David Halperin (University of Michigan)

Author of ‘How To Be Gay’ and ‘Gay Shame’

Invitation from the conveners: Introducing the English translation of Mario Mielli’s 1977 ‘Towards A Gay Communism’, Tim Dean describes Mieli’s articulation of gayness as ‘loosening gayness from an exclusively sexual orientation to something more capacious’ (Mieli 2018:xi). Yet Mieli was writing before the emergence of queer theory, and in contemporary scholarly work around sexuality and sexual identity, queer appears to have achieved a hegemonic status. Over the past decade the articulation of theory or politics that is explicitly gay (rather than queer or LGBTQ) has often been attached to limiting, exclusionary, and oppressive practices, particularly regarding race and gender. As an unsurprising result, in both academia and activism ‘gay’ is frequently framed as the normative, assimilationist, and exclusionary past to queer’s fluid, radical, and inclusive present and future.

Yet critically engaging with what gay and queer mean (or could mean) nowadays can be elided precisely because of this problematic juxtaposition. While in many ways we broadly align ourselves with queer thought, we are sceptical of knee-jerk tendencies to unquestioningly surrender gay to a politics of exclusion and neoliberal assimilationism. We want to challenge and interrogate assumptions of how gay can be known and conceptualised, beyond conflation with / reduction to homosexuality. Consequently, this conference invites a focus explicitly gay scholarships, theories, identities, identifications, politics, cultures, histories, and futures. It asks:

‘Does gay have anything useful to offer in queer times?’

As part of its engagement with this question, the conference will include a limited-attendance half-day workshop with Prof David Halperin, focused on his influential text ‘How To Be Gay’.

We invite scholarly, activist, and artistic submissions. It has always been unclear how far queer scholarship, let alone gay scholarship, escapes a focus on gay men. Therefore we give special consideration to submissions by or about gay women, and gay people with other gender identities. Submissions might discuss some of the following provocations (though contributions beyond these are welcomed):

  • How can gayness be re/conceptualised? – identities, politics, activisms
  • What is gay culture, and what is the state of it now? – race, appropriation, mainstreaming
  • What opportunities and challenges do trans lives offer for understanding gayness?
  • When did gayness become exclusive? – bisexual, lesbian, & other ‘non-straight’ perspectives
  • How does gayness exist beyond gender binaries?
  • What are the vehicles of gay acculturation? – elders, spaces, media
  • How can gay space be made more trans-inclusive? – groups, bars, bedrooms
  • What are the boundaries of gay space, and what happens in its liminalities and margins?
  • Can or should gay escape its Western origins?
  • Do we need a re-engagement with radical gay writing? – histories, activisms, theories

To Apply: Please send abstracts of ~250 words, plus a short bio, to convenor Ian Sinclair (i.a.sinclair@brighton.ac.uk) by Friday Jan 11th 2019. Registration fees are on a sliding scale through £80 (institutional support), £40 (postgrad), and £10 (unsupported). A limited number of travel bursaries are available for presenters without any funding. We are happy to discuss your submission with you before the deadline.

The Gayness In Queer Times conference is convened by Dr Nick McGlynn, Ian Sinclair, and Sophie Monk. It is supported by the University of Brighton’s Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender, and the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics.


(cfp) Close Relations: a multi- and interdisciplinary conference on critical family and kinship studies Novembro 22, 2017

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Close Relations: a multi- and interdisciplinary conference on critical family and kinship studies (call for papers)
Uppsala University 24-26 October 2018

Few questions raise more heated debate than those of family and kinship, and few areas demonstrate more clearly the interconnectedness of the private and the public. Recent years have witnessed a growing emphasis on “family values” in the EU, with ongoing debates about marriage, migration, procreative practices, parental leave, meanings of childhood, and gendered divisions of (care) labour. In a time marked by globalization and migration, as well as neoliberalism and the rise of nationalism, an increasing recognition of non-conventional families and kin constellations has run parallel with re-affirmations of the nuclear family form. Growing anxieties around the (welfare) state’s (future) ability to care for its citizens also refocuses the family’s caretaking and wealth extending function. The conference Close Relations offers a platform for exploring urgent issues for critical family and kinship studies, across disciplines and areas. We wish to explore how changes in family and kin formation materialize in everyday lives, in stories, in fiction and art; how they are facilitated, contested, or hindered in cultural, political, legal, and medical contexts; how close relations play out, become closer or closed off, in specific contexts and situations.

The conference opens with a plenary lecture at 4 pm Wednesday October 24, and closes at 4 pm Friday October 26; the program comprises plenary lectures and a panel discussion, as well as parallel sessions with paper presentations.

Confirmed plenary speakers are:

David Eng, Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, US

Susan White, Professor of Social Work, University of Sheffield UK

Rikke Andreassen, Professor of media and communication, Roskilde University DK

For the parallel sessions, we now seek abstracts for 15-minute presentations.

Contributions may address areas including, but not limited to, the following:

Assisted reproductive technologies

The child, the parent, the state – negotiating the child perspective with a focus on migration

Conceptualizing family and kinship

Family/Kinship and sex/intimacy

Migration/Transnational family and kinship

Motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood

Kin/NonKin, care, and responsibility

Kinship beyond the human

Solo by choice or single by chance? – (L)one-parent families


Queer kinship

Researching family and kinship: critical methodologies

Time and place – the wheres and whens of families and kin

Trans* kinship

Submit abstract (max 300 words) and a brief bio (max 50 words) to helena.henriksson@gender.uu.se no later than January 31, 2018. Please write “abstract famkin” in the subject line. Acceptance will be communicated by the end of February. The conference registration will open no later than May and the registration fee will not exceed 3000 SEK (300 EURO; reduced fee for students).

The Swedish Network for Family and Kinship Studies is a multi-disciplinary network for scholars with an interest in exploring the meanings, boundaries, shifts and continuities in family and kinship, their links to power relations, and how they are maintained or disrupted by cultural values, social practices, or symbolic representations. We explore and develop critical perspectives on family and kinship historically as well as in the present. The Network is funded by FORTE 2016-2018 and based at Uppsala University.


(cfp) ‘Doing Sex: Men, Masculinity and Sexual Practices’ Janeiro 25, 2017

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, geografias das sexualidades, geographies of sexualities, queer theory, sexualidades e géneros, Uncategorized.
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Call for Papers
Doing Sex: Men, Masculinity and Sexual Practices’ Conference
Newcastle University, United Kingdom
July 14-15, 2017
Submission Deadline: February 6th 2017


This colloquium aims to bring together the study of sexual practices and desires and critical studies of men and masculinities. We are explicitly interested in returning to some of the provocations of sexology in the twentieth century to think through men’s sexuality today. For Kinsey there is an inherent paradox in “man’s absorbing interest in sex and his astounding ignorance of it; his desire to know and his unwillingness to face the facts.” Whilst we can see some of the failings and problematics in Kinsey, Masters & Johnson, and other Sexologists, it is critical to reflect not simply as criticism of these, but also of what they are suggestive and enlightening.


Today, nearly seventy years after the publication of Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, after the sexual revolution, after the censorship trials, after the rise of feminism, queer theory, increased visibility of trans* and genderqueer identities, and LGBT activism, we wish to ask: what are men doing sexually? Men’s sexual practices, more often than not, are pathologized, diagnosed, managed, treated. Whilst productive and valuable work has been undertaken in the areas of rape culture and sexual violence, this symposium aims to explore the diversity and scope of male sexual practices. More specifically, current discussions on masculinity and sexuality tend to marginalize the fear, the excitement, the shame, the pleasure and the embarrassment that men experience when doing sex. This symposium addresses this by focusing on men doing sex.


For more information see: https://doingsexconference.wordpress.com/

What Gender Is, What Gender Does Maio 6, 2016

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, queer theory, teoria queer, Uncategorized.
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Genders are neither binary nor essential. Nor are they singular, unchanging, invariable, inherent, or flatly definitive. Genders are not names, labels, or identities; they are neither nouns nor adjectives. Gender is a verb, a process. Genderings constantly change. Individuals are always more than one gender. These multiple genderings are culturally intelligible.

To gender is to signal, mask, obscure, suggest, mislead, misrecognize, and simplify the uncontainable, uncategorizable chaos of desires and incommensurabilities characteristic of subjects, but energetically contained by society. Gender’s job is always to make the subject fit.

Insofar as one of two binary gender distinctions tends to stand in for and obscure the complex negotiations genders represent, “to gender” is always to reduce, locate, and simplify processes that extend through history from the psychical terrain of the subject to the sociocultural manifestations, ramifications, imperatives, and possibilities attached to genders’ binary resolutions.

Preface of “What Gender Is, What Gender Does” by Judith Roof, University of Minnesota Press, 2016

REVOLUCIÓN por PAUL B. PRECIADO Dezembro 18, 2015

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, activismo, queer theory, Uncategorized.
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Partilho, vindo de Parole de Queer, este texto demasiado bom para não ser partilhado. Partilho uma ideia de questionar e repensar a necessidade de transversalizar as opressões, os movimentos, as ideias, as políticas!


La palabra “pride”, orgullo, tenía sentido en un contexto en el que la homosexualidad y la transexualidad eran consideradas como enfermedades mentales y estaban en muchos casos criminalizadas. Las minorías sexuales llevamos muchos años luchando por la descriminalización, la despatologización y el reconocimiento de los derechos fundamentales. Desde 1969 hemos entrado en un proceso al mismo tiempo de normalización e integración. En simultáneo, han ido apareciendo otras exclusiones, de clase, de raza, de discapacidad que están presentes incluso en contextos en los que la homosexualidad se ha ido progresivamente normalizando y en parte ha habido en los últimos años una reafirmación de las convenciones heteronormativas.

Para mí una palabra que funcionaría hoy mucho mejor que “Orgullo” podría ser “Revolución”. Necesitamos un cambio de paradigma epistémico, el cuestionamiento del marco médico y jurídico en el que se asigna la diferencia sexual. Necesitamos una revolución de nuestros modos de amar, de entender la producción de placer, la filiación. Las minorías sexuales nos sentimos parte de un movimiento más amplio de transformación social, reclamamos un proceso de democratización política total, incluida la democracia sexual, pero sin olvidar la justicia racial, de clase o ecológica.

Uno de los problemas de las luchas actuales es que han quedado atrapadas en las lógicas de la identidad en la que cada movimiento (gay, lesbiano, trans, intersex, etc.) pelea por su propia representación y visibilidad. El reto es establecer alianzas que presten atención a la transversalidad de la opresión y que sean capaces de inventar procesos abiertos de experimentación social para producir otros modos colectivos de vivir.


a few things theory knows today Novembro 25, 2015

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, activismo, queer theory, sexualidades e géneros, teoria queer, teoria social, Uncategorized.
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(clarificando, ou apenas questionando. um pedaço de um belo texto de Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick a que volta e meia regresso. faz-me bem.)

Here are a few things theory knows today.

Or, to phrase it more fairly, here are a few broad assumptions that shape the heuristic habits and positing procedures of theory today (theory not in the primary theoretical texts, but in the routinizing critical projects of ‘‘applied theory’’; theory as a broad project that now spans the humanities and extends into history and anthropology; theory after Foucault and Greenblatt, after Freud and Lacan, after Lévi-Strauss, after Derrida, after feminism) when it offers any account of human beings or cultures:

1. The distance of any such account from a biological basis is assumed to correlate near precisely with its potential for doing justice to difference (individual, historical, and cross-cultural), to contingency, to performative force, and to the possibility of change.

2. Human language is assumed to offer the most productive, if not the only possible, model for understanding representation.

3. The bipolar, transitive relations of subject to object, self to other, and active to passive, and the physical sense (sight) understood to correspond most closely to these relations are dominant organizing tropes to the extent that their dismantling as such is framed as both an urgent and an interminable task. This preoccupation extends tosuch processes as subjectification, self-fashioning, objectification, and Othering; to the gaze; to the core of selfhood whether considered as a developmental telos or as a dangerous illusion requiring vigilant deconstruction.

4. Correspondingly, the structuralist reliance on symbolization through binary pairings of elements, defined in a diacritical relation to one another and no more than arbitrarily associated with the things symbolized, has not only survived the structuralist moment but, if anything, has been propagated ever more broadly through varied and unresting critique—critique that reproduces and popularizes the structure, even as it may complicate an understanding of the workings, of the binarisms mentioned above along with such others as presence/absence, lack/plenitude, nature/culture, repression/liberation, and subversive/hegemonic.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick “Shame in the cybernetic fold: reading Silvan Tomkins (Written with Adam Frank)” in “Touching Feeling – Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity”, pp. 93-94



(cfp) Trans- Political Economy Outubro 14, 2015

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, queer theory, teoria queer.
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TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly Issue 4 Volume 1, 2017

Special issue on Trans- Political Economy

Co-editors Dan Irving (dan_irving@carleton.ca) and Vek Lewis (vek.lewis@sydney.edu.au)

Trans* embodiment, subjectivities, networks, advocacy and resistance are mediated by global capitalism and neoliberal regimes of accumulation on national, state and local levels. This issue invites trans scholarship that engages with political economy as an assemblage of dynamic processes that frame but do not completely determine the material lives of non-normatively sexed and/or gendered individuals and communities.

This issue aims to problematize the multidimensional circuits and flows of capital, labour and bodies across various types of borders. How do the material experiences of trans* subjects advance understandings of the political economy of intra- and transnational mobilities? What do the politics of trans migration reveal about the gender/labour/violence nexus and racialized hierarchies that facilitate the advancement of passable bodies while hindering others? How is the legibility of gendered, racialized, sexualized bodies contingent on being properly located in relation to social, economic and cultural capital? How do trans/feminist and other social justice scholars and activists hold particular trans subjectivities (especially trans women) personally responsible for their participation in geopolitical and biocapitalist relations in ways that other gender non-conforming individuals are not?

Debates concerning post-Fordist productive/consumer relations, gender and immaterial labour represent another point of entry for scholarly-activist inquiry into the political economic relations governing these new times. While the expansion of the service economy within post-industrial societies is characteristic of Post-Fordism (e.g. food and hospitality services, childcare, retail), this regime of accumulation emphasizes the centrality of service relations between workers and consumers in all sectors. Capitalist relations exceed narrowly defined economic processes (i.e. commodity production/consumption) and pivot around affective labour, moral or emotional economies.  In other words, individual bodies and personalities are put to work to create positive consumer experiences (i.e. workers’ appearances must be attractive, voices soothing, and behavior must signal enthusiasm, dedication, and/or deference to authority).  How do the un/der/employment experiences of trans men and women, demonstrate the failure of particular bodies to produce feelings of security, safety, belonging, and satisfaction? How does trans labour contribute to economies of desire? What logics and interests underline the criminalization and/or precarity of such labour and the lives and status of those implicated?

We are producing trans- political economic analysis in times of war, economic and ecological crises. Such precarious times demand inter/disciplinary inquiry into the ways that gender non-conforming bodies and/or Trans Studies as a body of literature, artistic and activist production serve as sites of contestation. How are the logics of capital being embodied and resisted on micropolitical levels, through non-profit organizations, via social service agencies and through other efforts to achieve substantive equality and transformative justice?

Possible topics may include:

  • trans* affective economies
  • trans entrepreneurialism and economic empowerment
  • the structural realities of race and gender in locales of trans* mobilities
  • Trans and allied critical work and activism that seeks to interrupt ruling relations of contemporary capital and Empire to forge a transformative and decolonial project of social and economic justice.
  • trans* intranational and international migration
  • Trans Studies as marketable brand
  • trans theories of value
  • criminalized economies
  • neoliberal biopolitics and/or administering life chances
  • economies of trans representation within neoliberal market society
  • accumulation processes and bodies that matter
  • trans/gender and immaterial labour
  • biomedicine and global capitalism
  • Trans sexualities, commodification and re-appropriation in contemporary junctures.
  • Trans lives in the context of parallel powers, para-state formations and economic contention.
  • Capital and the uses/misuses of stigma
  • substantive equality in contradistinction to formal equality
  • trans necro political economies
  • The profitability of “diversity” in neoliberal contexts and discourses
  • Trans lives, states of exception, disposable labour and market value in the shadow of law and state
  • trans* specific and inclusive social service provision in austere times
  • trans subjectivities and class
  • theorizing economic and ecological crisis
  • Politics of public/private in trans lives
  • Trans sexualities, commodification and re-appropriation in contemporary junctures.
  • trans un/der/employment
  • trans networks and circuits of human, cultural and social capital

To be considered, please send a full length submission by January 31, 2016 to tsqjournal@gmail.com. With your article, please include a brief bio including name, postal address, and any institutional affiliation as well as a 150 word abstract with 3-5 keywords. The expected range for scholarly articles is 5000 to 7000 words, and 1000 to 2000 words for shorter critical essays and descriptive accounts. Illustrations should be included with both completed submissions and abstracts. Any questions should be addressed by e-mail sent to the guest editors for the issue: Dan Irving (dan_irving@carleton.ca) and Vek Lewis (vek.lewis@sydney.edu.au).

TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly is a new journal, edited by Paisley Currah and Susan Stryker published by Duke University Press. TSQ aims to be the journal of record for the interdisciplinary field of transgender studies and to promote the widest possible range of perspectives on transgender phenomena broadly defined. Every issue of TSQ will be a specially themed issue that also contains regularly recurring features such as reviews, interviews, and opinion pieces. To learn more about the journal and see calls for papers for other special issues, visit  http://lgbt.arizona.edu/tsq-main.   For information about subscriptions, visit http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?productid=45648.


privilégio queer? Fevereiro 21, 2015

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, actvismo, queer theory.
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Este texto (que publico no original inglês) obriga a uma leitura atenta. A uma leitura situada. Situada a partir do seu autor e da forma como o lemos. Leitura feita a partir da interseccionalidade das nossas múltiplas posições. A complexidade do conceito de privilégio e o modo interseccional como o este se estabelece social e politicamente, deverá naturalmente questionar o modo como avaliamos as diferentes formas de opressão.


‘Queer privilege’ is only a dirty term when you don’t acknowledge your privilege.

The title of this article alone is going to result in me receiving harsh criticisms from members of the queer community, because over the last five years or so the term ‘privilege’ has become part of an overarching social justice lexicon that serves to highlight the ways in which people are inherently treated better than others in society. This, in my mind, is unarguable. The fact that heterosexual people have rights that queer people do not is proof that society in structured unequally. The fact that people with disabilities and mental illness sufferers cannot access adequate services belies that same inequality. The fact that people of colour are disproportionately found to be the victims of violence, poverty, substance abuse, and incarceration all show that things are not equal. What we benefit from is called ‘homonormativity’.

The usual response? ‘I’m not at fault for that merely because I’m (insert: white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, etc.)’. It’s a strange response, because at no point does the concept of privilege, as outlined above, lay blame at the feet of any individual. It puts the onus on society as a whole – that society’s values, and the practices, actions, behaviours that stem from those very entrenched values. Any free-thinking, rationally-minded person cannot equivocate blaming a society with blaming an individual. It would seem to me, not that these respondents actually believe they are the sole cause of privileged oppression but rather, that they – subconsciously – feel guilty or defensive for not doing anything about it. In essence, they are not acknowledging their privilege.

 The first step is to acknowledge the privileges we both do and do not hold.

I can see that I’m white. I’m not followed around a department store by the suspicious clerk, brow furrowed. I’m able-bodied. I’m not forced to snake my way around campus in a wheel-chair, avoiding stairwells and looking for elevators. I’m male. I’m not scared, walking through the ill-lit streets surrounding my city at night, of being raped. These are all things that make my life immeasurably easier, just because I was born the way I was.

 Similarly, I can see where I don’t have privileges. I’m gay. In my country, I cannot marry, though I’ve seen countless friends from my high school posting lovely pictures of their wedding ceremonies and receptions recently (now that we are all hitting our mid-to-late twenties). I come from a working class family. Other kids got the new gaming console for Christmas, or were not made to ‘grow into’ their school uniform, or were bought a car upon hitting seventeen years old. It seems illogical to say that where you are born on the social ladder doesn’t effect how easy or enjoyable parts of your life are.

The Western, adult gay and lesbian community is very privileged. There I said it (and shall await the influx of emails). As a white, gay, man, I’m pretty sure I’m in a good position to state that. Western homosexuals have hit a point in the zeitgeist where we are fairly insulated from overt forms of discrimination and oppression. We do not receive the death penalty or incarceration for our sexuality; we earn almost comparable wages across a diverse range of industries (not being able to marry or have kids also has the upside of giving us higher disposable incomes and less debt, too); we own houses, run companies, garner fame; we are the subculture that has almost literally taken ownership over the male physique and the quest to perfect it (just as we’re assumed to have contributed the most to the female aesthetic through fashion and design). The mainstream, televised, consumed gay lifestyle includes designer clothes, designer hair, designer teeth, designer stubble, designer abs. Our ‘success stories’ are almost invariably white, able-bodied celebrities (Ru Paul being an exception on the white part). It is an incredibly privileged position to be in – if you conform enough to the cultural expectations of being white, male, able-bodied, or upper-class, then being queer doesn’t get in your way anymore.

However, it would seem, it probably means you are not that queer anymore, either.

I understand the keen need people have for acceptance. I get it. Assimilating into the culture around you serves to protect you from a whole lot of the ill will some elements in society direct at queers. It also has the added bonus (*cough* privilege *cough*) of being much more desirable, in terms of looks, wealth, influence, opportunity, respectability.

The harsh reality is that, just as you cannot conform to being straight, other groups cannot be what they are not. You can be ‘straight-acting’ as much as you want, and society will not see you as a threat to long-held beliefs on sexuality; but femininity will continue to be seen as weak. You can use your whiteness against people on Grindr (“No Asians, Blacks, or Arabs”), but a person of colour cannot erase their race. You can use your income to buy a designer life; working class people cannot trick society into thinking they are upper-class. You can fetishise the perfect body, feeding the gym-junkie obsession; but some physically disabled people will never be able to live up to your standard of beauty. Trans women are hit from all sides – not being seen as a ‘real’ man or woman (whatever that means), being described as ‘mentally ill’, and not being able to afford to transition or receive mental health treatment through disproportionate amounts of poverty and employment discrimination.
These are our privileges. Life is at least a little bit easier for you (and me), for no justifiable reason whatsoever other than the luck of birth. It’s kind of our responsibility to, at a bare minimum, acknowledge that. Once we do, we can get onto the real discussion – what to do about it.

‘All Lives Matter’? an interview with Judith Butler Fevereiro 7, 2015

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in queer theory, racism.
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Esta é uma longa entrevista com Judith Butler em torno de questões relacionadas com o seu pensamento político, dando particular destaque às temáticas do racismo reinante nas sociedades contemporâneas. É um texto que merece uma leitura atenta e, com certeza, uma desenvolvimento atento de algumas destas ideias que nos permitem abrir caminhos bem interessantes.


What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?


This is the fifth in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the department of comparative literature and the program of critical theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of numerous influential books, including “Dispossession: The Performative in the Political,” which she co-authored with Athena Athanasiou. She will publish a book on public assemblies with Harvard University Press this year. — George Yancy

George Yancy: In your 2004 book, “Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence,” you wrote, “The question that preoccupies me in the light of recent global violence is, Who counts as human? Whose lives count as lives?” You wrote that about the post-9/11 world, but it appears to also apply to the racial situation here in the United States. In the wake of the recent killings of unarmed black men and women by police, and the failure to prosecute the killers, the message being sent to black communities is that they don’t matter, that they are “disposable.” Posters reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot,” “I Can’t Breathe,” communicate the reality of a specific kind of racial vulnerability that black people experience on a daily basis. How does all this communicate to black people that their lives don’t matter?

Judith Butler: Perhaps we can think about the phrase “black lives matter.” What is implied by this statement, a statement that should be obviously true, but apparently is not? If black lives do not matter, then they are not really regarded as lives, since a life is supposed to matter. So what we see is that some lives matter more than others, that some lives matter so much that they need to be protected at all costs, and that other lives matter less, or not at all. And when that becomes the situation, then the lives that do not matter so much, or do not matter at all, can be killed or lost, can be exposed to conditions of destitution, and there is no concern, or even worse, that is regarded as the way it is supposed to be. The callous killing of Tamir Rice and the abandonment of his body on the street is an astonishing example of the police murdering someone considered disposable and fundamentally ungrievable.

When we are taking about racism, and anti-black racism in the United States, we have to remember that under slavery black lives were considered only a fraction of a human life, so the prevailing way of valuing lives assumed that some lives mattered more, were more human, more worthy, more deserving of life and freedom, where freedom meant minimally the freedom to move and thrive without being subjected to coercive force. But when and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force? One reason the chant “Black Lives Matter” is so important is that it states the obvious but the obvious has not yet been historically realized. So it is a statement of outrage and a demand for equality, for the right to live free of constraint, but also a chant that links the history of slavery, of debt peonage, segregation, and a prison system geared toward the containment, neutralization and degradation of black lives, but also a police system that more and more easily and often can take away a black life in a flash all because some officer perceives a threat.

So let us think about what this is: the perception of a threat. One man is leaving a store unarmed, but he is perceived as a threat. Another man is in a chokehold and states that he cannot breathe, and the chokehold is not relaxed, and the man dies because he is perceived as a threat. Mike Brown and Eric Garner. We can name them, but in the space of this interview, we cannot name all the black men and women whose lives are snuffed out all because a police officer perceives a threat, sees the threat in the person, sees the person as pure threat. Perceived as a threat even when unarmed or completely physically subdued, or lying in the ground, as Rodney King clearly was, or coming back home from a party on the train and having the audacity to say to a policeman that he was not doing anything wrong and should not be detained: Oscar Grant. We can see the videos and know what is obviously true, but it is also obviously true that police and the juries that support them obviously do not see what is obvious, or do not wish to see.

So the police see a threat when there is no gun to see, or someone is subdued and crying out for his life, when they are moving away or cannot move. These figures are perceived as threats even when they do not threaten, when they have no weapon, and the video footage that shows precisely this is taken to be a ratification of the police’s perception. The perception is then ratified as a public perception at which point we not only must insist on the dignity of black lives, but name the racism that has become ratified as public perception.

In fact, the point is not just that black lives can be disposed of so easily: they are targeted and hunted by a police force that is becoming increasingly emboldened to wage its race war by every grand jury decision that ratifies the point of view of state violence. Justifying lethal violence in the name of self-defense is reserved for those who have a publicly recognized self to defend. But those whose lives are not considered to matter, whose lives are perceived as a threat to the life that embodies white privilege can be destroyed in the name of that life. That can only happen when a recurrent and institutionalized form of racism has become a way of seeing, entering into the presentation of visual evidence to justify hateful and unjustified and heartbreaking murder.

So it is not just that black lives matter, though that must be said again and again. It is also that stand-your-ground and racist killings are becoming increasingly normalized, which is why intelligent forms of collective outrage have become obligatory.

G.Y.: The chant “Black Lives Matter” is also a form of what you would call “a mode of address.” You discuss questions of address in your essay, “Violence, Nonviolence: Sartre and Fanon,” where Fanon, for example, raises significant questions about sociality in talking about his freedom in relationship to a “you.” “Black Lives Matter” says something like: “You — white police officers — recognize my/our humanity!” But what if the “you,” in this case, fails to be moved, refuses to be touched by that embodied chant? And given that “racism has become a way of seeing,” is it not necessary that we — as you say in your essay “Endangered/Endangering: Schematic Racism and White Paranoia”— install “an antiracist hegemony over the visual field”?

J.B.: Sometimes a mode of address is quite simply a way of speaking to or about someone. But a mode of address may also describe a general way of approaching another such that one presumes who the other is, even the meaning and value of their existence. We address each other with gesture, signs and movement, but also through media and technology. We make such assumptions all the time about who that other is when we hail someone on the street (or we do not hail them). That is someone I greet; the other is someone I avoid. That other may well be someone whose very existence makes me cross to the other side of the road.

Indeed, in the case of schematic racism, anti-black racism figures black people through a certain lens and filter, one that can quite easily construe a black person, or another racial minority, who is walking toward us as someone who is potentially, or actually, threatening, or is considered, in his very being, a threat. In fact, as we can doubtless see from the videos that have swept across the global media, it may be that even when a black man is moving away from the police, that man is still considered to be a threat or worth killing, as if that person were actually moving toward the police brandishing a weapon. Or it could be that a black man or woman is reaching for his or her identification papers to show to the police, and the police see in that gesture of compliance — hand moving toward pocket — a reach for a gun. Is that because, in the perception of the police, to be black is already to be reaching for a gun? Or a black person is sleeping on the couch, standing, walking, or even running, clearly brandishing no gun, and there turns out to be evidence that there is no gun, still that life is snuffed out – why? Is the gun imagined into the scene, or retrospectively attributed to the standing or fleeing figure (and the grand jury nods, saying “this is plausible.”)? And why when that person is down, already on the ground, and seeks to lift himself, or seated against a subway grate, and seeks to speak on his own behalf, or is utterly subdued and imperiled by the chokehold, he never stops looming as a threat to security, prompting a policeman to beat him or gun him down?

It may be important to see the twisted vision and the inverted assumptions that are made in the course of building a “case” that the police acted in self-defense or were sufficiently provoked to use lethal force. The fleeing figure is coming this way; the nearly strangled person is about to unleash force; the man on the ground will suddenly spring to life and threaten the life of the one who therefore takes his life.

These are war zones of the mind that play out on the street. At least in these cases that have galvanized the nation and the world in protest, we all see the twisted logic that results in the exoneration of the police who take away the lives of unarmed black men and women. And why is that the case? It is not because what the police and their lawyers present as their thinking in the midst of the situation is very reasonable. No, it is because that form of thinking is becoming more “reasonable” all the time. In other words, every time a grand jury or a police review board accepts this form of reasoning, they ratify the idea that blacks are a population against which society must be defended, and that the police defend themselves and (white) society, when they preemptively shoot unarmed black men in public space. At stake is a way that black people are figured as a threat even when they are simply living their lives, walking the street, leaving the convenience store, riding the subway, because in those instances this is only a threatening life, or a threat to the only kind of life, white life, that is recognized.

G.Y.: What has led us to this place?

J.B.: Racism has complex origins, and it is important that we learn the history of racism to know what has led us to this terrible place. But racism is also reproduced in the present, in the prison system, new forms of population control, increasing economic inequality that affects people of color disproportionately. These forms of institutionalized destitution and inequality are reproduced through these daily encounters — the disproportionate numbers of minorities stopped and detained by the police, and the rising number of those who fall victim to police violence. The figure of the black person as threat, as criminal, as someone who is, no matter where he is going, already-on-the-way-to-prison, conditions these pre-emptive strikes, attributing lethal aggression to the very figure who suffers it most. The lives taken in this way are not lives worth grieving; they belong to the increasing number of those who are understood as ungrievable, whose lives are thought not to be worth preserving.

But, of course, what we are also seeing in the recent and continuing assemblies, rallies and vigils is an open mourning for those whose lives were cut short and without cause, brutally extinguished. The practices of public mourning and political demonstration converge: when lives are considered ungrievable, to grieve them openly is protest. So when people assemble in the street, arrive at rallies or vigils, demonstrate with the aim of opposing this form of racist violence, they are “speaking back” to this mode of address, insisting on what should be obvious but is not, namely, that these lost lives are unacceptable losses.

On the one hand, there is a message, “Black Lives Matter,” which always risks being misheard (“What? Only black lives matter?”) or not heard at all (“these are just people who will protest anything”). On the other hand, the assembly, even without words, enacts the message in its own way. For it is often in public spaces where such violence takes place, so reclaiming public space to oppose both racism and violence is an act that reverberates throughout the public sphere through various media.

G.Y.: I’ve heard that some white people have held signs that read “All Lives Matter.”

J.B.: When some people rejoin with “All Lives Matter” they misunderstand the problem, but not because their message is untrue. It is true that all lives matter, but it is equally true that not all lives are understood to matter which is precisely why it is most important to name the lives that have not mattered, and are struggling to matter in the way they deserve.

Claiming that “all lives matter” does not immediately mark or enable black lives only because they have not been fully recognized as having lives that matter. I do not mean this as an obscure riddle. I mean only to say that we cannot have a race-blind approach to the questions: which lives matter? Or, which lives are worth valuing? If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, “all lives matter,” then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of “all lives.” That said, it is true that all lives matter (we can then debate about when life begins or ends). But to make that universal formulation concrete, to make that into a living formulation, one that truly extends to all people, we have to foreground those lives that are not mattering now, to mark that exclusion, and militate against it. Achieving that universal, “all lives matter,” is a struggle, and that is part of what we are seeing on the streets. For on the streets we see a complex set of solidarities across color lines that seek to show what a concrete and living sense of bodies that matter can be.

G.Y: When you talk about lives that matter, are you talking about how whiteness and white bodies are valorized? In “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity,” you discuss gender as “a stylized repetition of acts.” Do you also see whiteness as “a stylized repetition of acts” that solidifies and privileges white bodies, or even leads to naïve, “post-racial” universal formulations like “all lives matter”?

J.B.: Yes, we can certainly talk about “doing whiteness” as a way of putting racial categories into action, since whiteness is part of what we call “race,” and is often implicitly or explicitly part of a race project that seeks to achieve and maintain dominance for white people. One way this happens is by establishing whiteness as the norm for the human, and blackness as a deviation from the human or even as a threat to the human, or as something not quite human. Under such perceptual conditions built up through the history of racism, it becomes increasingly easy for white people to accept the destruction of black lives as status quo, since those lives do not fit the norm of “human life” they defend. It is true that Frantz Fanon sometimes understood whiteness in gendered terms: a black man is not a man, according to the white norms that define manhood, and yet other times the black man is figured as the threat of rape, hyper-masculinized, threatening the “virgin sanctity” of whiteness.

In that last formulation whiteness is figured as a young virgin whose future husband is white — this characterization ratifies the sentiments that oppose miscegenation and defend norms or racial purity. But whose sexuality is imperiled in this scene? After all, black women and girls were the ones who were raped, humiliated and disposed of under conditions of slavery, and it was black families who were forcibly destroyed: black kinship was not recognized as kinship that matters. women of color, and black feminists in particular, have struggled for years against being the sexual property of either white male power or black masculinity, against poverty, and against the prison industry, so there are many reasons it is necessary to define racism in ways that acknowledge the specific forms it takes against men, women, and transgendered people of color.

Let us remember, of course, that many black women’s lives are taken by police and by prisons. We can name a few: Yvette Smith, 48, in Texas, unarmed, and killed by police; or Aiyana Stanley-Jones, age 7, killed while sleeping on her father’s couch in Detroit. After all, all of those are among the people on the street, outraged and demonstrating, opposing a lethal power that is becoming more and more normalized and, to that degree, more and more outrageous.

Whiteness is less a property of skin than a social power reproducing its dominance in both explicit and implicit ways. When whiteness is a practice of superiority over minorities, it monopolizes the power of destroying or demeaning bodies of color. The legal system is engaged in reproducing whiteness when it decides that the black person can and will be punished more severely than the white person who commits the same infraction, when that same differential is at work in the question, who can and will be detained? And who can and will be sent to prison with a life sentence or the death penalty? Angela Davis has shown the disproportionate number of Americans of color (black and Latino) detained, imprisoned and on death row. This has become a “norm” that effectively says “black lives do not matter,” one that is built up over time, through daily practices, modes of address, through the organization of schools, work, prison, law and media. Those are all ways that the conceit of white superiority is constructed.

G.Y.: Yes. Whiteness, as a set of historical practices, extends beyond the skin. And yet, when a person with white skin walks into a store, it is assumed that she is not a threat. So, there is an entire visual technology that is complicit here, where the skin itself, as it were, is the marker of innocence. It is a visual technology that reinforces not only her sense of innocence, but that organizes the ways in which she gets to walk through space without being profiled or stopped. Hence, she contributes to the perpetuation of racial injustice even if she is unaware of doing so.

J.B.: Well, of course, class is also there as a marker of how anyone is perceived entering the door to the public building, the office, the post office, the convenience store. Class is in play when white people fail to look “moneyed” or are considered as working class, poor or homeless, so we have to be clear that the “white” person we may be talking about can be struggling with inequality of another kind: whiteness has its own internal hierarchies, to be sure. Of course there are white people who may be very convinced that they are not racist, but that does not necessarily mean that they have examined, or worked though, how whiteness organizes their lives, values, the institutions they support, how they are implicated in ways of talking, seeing, and doing that constantly and tacitly discriminate. Undoing whiteness has to be difficult work, but it starts, I think, with humility, with learning history, with white people learning how the history of racism persists in the everyday vicissitudes of the present, even as some of us may think we are “beyond” such a history, or even convinced that we have magically become “post-racial.” It is difficult and ongoing work, calling on an ethical disposition and political solidarity that risks error in the practice of solidarity.

Whiteness is not an abstraction; its claim to dominance is fortified through daily acts which may not seem racist at all precisely because they are considered “normal.” But just as certain kinds of violence and inequality get established as “normal” through the proceedings that exonerate police of the lethal use of force against unarmed black people, so whiteness, or rather its claim to privilege, can be disestablished over time. This is why there must be a collective reflection on, and opposition to, the way whiteness takes hold of our ideas about whose lives matter. The norm of whiteness that supports both violence and inequality insinuates itself into the normal and the obvious. Understood as the sometimes tacit and sometimes explicit power to define the boundaries of kinship, community and nation, whiteness inflects all those frameworks within which certain lives are made to matter less than others.

It is always possible to do whiteness otherwise, to engage in a sustained and collective practice to question how racial differentiation enters into our daily evaluations of which lives deserve to be supported, to flourish, and which do not. But it is probably an error, in my view, for white people to become paralyzed with guilt and self-scrutiny. The point is rather to consider those ways of valuing and devaluing life that govern our own thinking and acting, understanding the social and historical reach of those ways of valuing. It is probably important and satisfying as well to let one’s whiteness recede by joining in acts of solidarity with all those who oppose racism. There are ways of fading out whiteness, withdrawing its implicit and explicit claim to racial privilege.

Demonstrations have the potential to embody forms of equality that we want to see realized in the world more broadly. Working against those practices and institutions that refuse to recognize and mark the powers of state racism in particular, assemblies gather to mourn and resist the deadly consequences of such powers. When people engage in concerted actions across racial lines to build communities based on equality, to defend the rights of those who are disproportionately imperiled to have a chance to live without the fear of dying quite suddenly at the hands of the police. There are many ways to do this, in the street, the office, the home, and in the media. Only through such an ever-growing cross-racial struggle against racism can we begin to achieve a sense of all the lives that really do matter.

This interview was conducted by email and edited. Previous interviews in this series can be found here.

George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Duquesne University. He has written, edited and co-edited numerous books, including “Black Bodies, White Gazes,” “Look, a White!” and “Pursuing Trayvon Martin,” co-edited with Janine Jones.

trans iberic love Junho 26, 2013

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in queer theory, sexualidades e géneros.
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