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Queer Theory

Queer Theory And Difference

Although queer theory is prominently organized around sexuality, its critical pursuit of nonnormativity means that it is potentially attentive to any order of difference that participates in the regimes of sexual normalization and deviance. Rather than separating sexuality from other axes of social difference—race, ethnicity, class, gender, nationality, and so on—queer theory has increasingly structured inquiry into the ways in which various categories of difference inflect and transform each other, an approach that considers "all the disparate factors comprised in the registration of various social identities and in their adjudication against the standard of social normativity" (Harper, p. 24). A vital strand of this discussion is concerned with the capacity of queer theoretical models to address substantive questions of race and ethnicity in the constitution of the queer subject.

Race-based critiques and activisms have long been part of the feminist and lesbian-gay contexts crucial to the evolution of queer theory, particularly in their persistent challenge to the reification of allegedly foundational identities such as women or homosexuals. Recent work on the formation of sexuality alongside race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, and diasporic identities challenges queer theory not only to consider the significant ways in which sexual and racial identities are inextricable but also to abandon its self-representation as "the neutral ground on which the identities, cultures, and social movements of people are 'explained'" (Quiroga, p. 135). Reciprocally, queer theoretical models have sometimes effected significant transformations in the traditional formations of academic fields organized by the rubric of racial or ethnic identities. Noting this mutually transformative relation, Jasbir K. Puar writes: "Envisioning and expanding on queer diasporas as a political and academic intervention not only speaks directly to the gaps around sexuality in ethnic studies, Asian American studies, and forms of postcolonial studies; it also points gay and lesbian studies, queer studies, and even women's studies … toward the need to disrupt the disciplinary regimes that continually reinvent bodies of theory cohered by singular, modernist subjects" (pp. 405–406).

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