Course 2: Desire, Power and Fantasy (Lecturer: Antke Engel)
How does queer theory reflect upon the relationship between desire and power? Queer theory provides analysis of desire fueling and/or subverting social power relations, but also of gendered, sexualized, and racialized social powers constituting specific understandings and practices of desire. The aim of the course is to understand how desire can function simultaneously as a most conservative force that reproduces hierarchically gendered and normatively heterosexual social relationships, as well as a promising force that drives transformative imagination, social experimentation, and engagement in new technologies of the self. In order to understand this simultaneity one needs to consider the central role of fantasy in queer concepts of desire. Fantasies, intertwining social stereotypes with personal, idiosyncratic imagery and affect, influence subject constitution as well as macro-political processes such as the economy and the state.To what extent do we need to think about the double- edged interplay of power and desire in order to foster socio-political transformations?
My particular interest concerning my own approach as well as the students’ work lies in combining theoretical concepts and cultural material. For that matter I would like to suggest one or two theoretical texts as reading material for each day and engage those in order to discuss a film, video, or visual art work, which we watch together in class.
Course 3: The Violence of Inclusion and the Ethics of Betrayal
(Lecturer: Tomasz Sikora)
Is not it ironic that at a time when same-sex marriage or other so-called civil rights are being progressively extended onto “gay subjects” across the world’s liberal democracies, one observes a concomitant growing opposition to these developments among more “radical” queer thinkers, activist’s and artists? Doesn’t this, in fact, amount to a “radical drag” that effectively turns into conservatism and a betrayal of the ideals of equality and inclusion? Isn’t queer, decadently, turning against itself? These are paradoxical times, indeed: a tolerance of (a straight concept) of “homosexuality” is becoming not only normative, but even essentialized as part of the modern liberal-humanist identity that continues to distinguish itself against its barbaric “others” (see, for example, the phenomenon of “pink washing”). No wonder that much of queer reflection today is shifting away from its more traditional critique of social, political and cultural exclusion toward a critique of dominant forms of inclusion. Thus, it is of vital importance that we recognize how difference in general, and queerness in particular, are getting subsumed under, folded into, and functionalized by the grand project of liberalism that comprises a) the political framework of representative democracy with its “politics of recognition,” b) the economic framework of a global “free market” and its fetishistic “free choice” philosophy, c) the imperialistic, neo-colonial notions of universal humanism, and d) a particular essentialist view of “human nature” that serves to justify and legitimize all of the above, implicitly or explicitly.
One of the key queer questions today can be formulated as not so much the question of belonging versus unbelonging or inclusion versus exclusion (these are not simple binary oppositions, anyway) as the question of queer (dis)loyalties. How, indeed, can we imagine “queer loyalty” today? To what kind of “common good,” what kind of “us,” what kind of future? Is queer loyalty being traded off in exchange for the liberal state’s formal concessions, such as legalizing same-sex marriage? Can a “negativist” betrayal or boycott of the existing forms of sociality and polity (see the case of Bradley Manning) be considered an instance of loyalty to a radically queer social impulse, to a “future unprogrammed by its past,” to use Wortham’s Derrida-inspired phrase? Could that be a post-capitalistic, and yet not apocalyptic, future? What if queer loyalty is attached less to whatever (received) entities, constituencies and organized wholes, and more to the very transversal movements of desire? I propose to consider a queer ethics of betrayal, where “ethics” is certainly not supposed to be read as any normative model, but rather as a rhetorical gesture whose aim is to disconnect betrayal from the opprobrium it often, too often, evokes.