Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Quare" Studies, or (Almost) Everything I Know About Queer Studies I Learned from my Grandmother

E. Patrick Johnson is the chair of the Performance Studies department at Northwestern University, and a faculty member of the African American Studies department. In addition to co-editing our class textbook, he has also written Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity, and an oral history of southern black gay men entitled "Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South". He also tours the country as a performance artist, and has done so since 1999.

In his essay, "Quare" Studies, or (Almost) Everything I know about Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother, E. Patrick Johnson explains the word "Quare", telling us that it means queer, "slightly off kilter", or odd, and that it comes from the African American vernacular for "queer". As a noun, for example, this means a person whose sexual and gender identities intersects with their racial subjectivity.

Johnson tells us that "Quare" studies is a theory of and for GLBT folks of color, and that it is a position that values the experiences of GLBT folks of color, and takes into account the fact that the unfair treatment they receive as members of the GLBT community and their racial communities affects the way they view the world, and therefore how they theorize about it. Quare studies is necessary, says Johnson, because there is a lack of understanding about these issues in the general queer theory. The problem that Johnson sees with queer theory is that it does not, as a general rule, take other factors like race and class (which have a large influence in creating identity) into account when theorizing about queer life. This means that the queer narrative is missing a big chunk of people's experience.

1 comment:

  1. I think another important facet of the "quare" identity that Johnson posits is its aspects markedly similar to those of Munoz' concept of disidentifying. "Quare" is a word which specifically speaks to the embodied, lived experiences of QPOC (queer people of color), and, I think, does things that are similar to Munoz's process of disidentification. By "quaring" the "queer," an individual is able to hold onto what could be seen as disparate aspects of their identity. "Quare" makes space for intersectionality where "queer" doesn't, letting the "quare" individual reject notions of compartmentalized existence and identities, and instead allowing them space to bring close to them all parts of themselves. In my mind, this is very much like Munoz' proposition of rejecting identities and counteridentities, and instead disidentifying with both, in order to hold onto both. "Quare" has wiggle room, it has give, it is more malleable and elastic.