Queer Epistemicides: Languages, Knowledges, Sexualities
In 2020, queer theory celebrates its thirtieth birthday. This contentious and contested body of thought has come a long way since Italian feminist theorist Teresa de Lauretis proposed the phrase ‘queer theory’ at a conference in Santa Cruz, California, and then used it more expansively in a special issue of differences which came out a year later. She would go on to disavow the phrase, but by then it had gained its own momentum and significant disciplinary and geographical reach.
Thirty years on, queer theory cannot be contained within a single explanatory rubric or associated with a single field or form of knowledge. Yet one of its abiding concerns has been and still is to do with epistemology, and with the difference a queer optic makes to understandings of how knowledge is produced. Language has been central to the project of queer theory, yet it has to be acknowledged that languages, understood in their multiplicity as diverse semiotic and cultural systems, have not. Though clearly indebted to ‘French theory’ and still in frequent conversation with French culture in translation, Anglophone queer theory has rarely reflected on its regional biases, and queer practices and forms from outside the Anglosphere have tended to be seen as supplementary, contrastive, or merely illustrative rather than as constitutive for the field.
This conference on ‘Queer Epistemicides’ takes as its point of departure the premise that queer knowledge produced outside the Anglosphere is indispensable. Conference participants are encouraged to consider a wide range of queer knowledges, cultures, objects, and practices and to engage with an equally wide range of languages, creoles without formal status, and language areas. We invite proposals informed by queer of colour critique as well as by queer and trans critiques of homonationalism, homocapitalism, and homonormativity.
Proposals might take up some of the following questions, among others: What forms of knowledge have been forgotten or foreclosed by queer theory? What can queer theory learn from these subaltern and subjugated knowledges, including knowledges shaped by anticolonial struggles and traditions of postcolonial and decolonial critique? How can queer theory continue to redefine itself without presupposing that the signifier ‘queer’ is always and everywhere translatable? What would it mean for queer theory to attend to the many languages and registers in which queer theorising takes place? We encourage proposals which investigate, in order to promote or advocate, forms of trans-inclusive queer thinking and everyday practice which expand and diversify our sense of what counts as a queer object of knowledge. But even more pertinently, we seek reflections on what counts as a queer place from which to know differently. What role can Modern Languages as a discipline of transnational cultural inquiry play in this collective project?
Queer rubrics are not inherently democratic, but while the conference cannot reasonably aim to overturn existing formations of dominance, it can offer opportunities for their contestation. Engaging in this kind of contestation means reflecting on – and reckoning with – what we call ‘queer epistemicides’.
In keeping with our commitment to diversification, we will feature conference interventions in a range of formats including plenary talks, twenty-minute presentations, brief position statements, videos, and artistic interventions, among others. Please email proposals for any of these to firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 October 2020. We will work to make as much of the conference as live and in-person as it can be, but under current conditions of pandemic we may also need to experiment with a range of digital and hybrid formats. We ask for participants’ understanding in advance.