Wiegman, R. and E.A. Wilson. 2015. “Introduction: Antinormativity’s Queer Conventions.”

Wiegman, Robyn and Elizabeth A. Wilson. 2015. “Introduction: Antinormativity’s Queer Conventions.” Difference: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 26(1):1-25.

“Heteronormativity, homonormativity, whiteness, family values, marriage, monogamy, Christmas: all have been objects of sustained critique, producing some of the most important work in the field in the nearly three decades of [queer theory’s] formal existence” (1).


Thesis: Can queer theorizing move away from its historical prioritization of an anti-normative approach? If so, what will we study, and how will we study it? What political/social/critical work can stem from this?

Fully: “In its “failure” to present a unified stance on what a queer theory without antinormativity might mean, the issue  demonstrates the ongoing value of queer thinking as a contestatory, highly mobile, and decentered practice, one dedicated less to resolution than to serious engagement with the content and consequences of its own political and critical commitments” (3).


Antinormativity as unifying thread in disparate queer theorizations – however, discussions within this tome both reflect on  role of norms/normativity/normalization as well as the “disarticulation of queer from radicality” (3) through neoliberalization, formation of religious/national identities, and transnationalism.   Antinormativity provides continuity to the queer studies field.


Queer as response to identity rubrics of gayness and lesbianism – incorporates diverse fields to “denaturalize heterosexuality and interrogate sexual normativity” (uncited essays – purposful) – identity/experiential considerations of “nonheterosexist and nonnormative gender positionalities” — drawing power from challenging norms/normativity/normalization, even those that have emerged from queer inquiry.

Historically has studied: “Normative sexualities, normative genders, normative disciplin­ary procotols, normative ideologies, normative racial regimes, normative political cultures, normative state practices, and normative epistemes” (10).


Halperin (1995) – queer as critical values – homosexual definition through opposition and relation – positionality, not positivity – not as thing, but resistance. Halperin (2003) would reject this same position, noting “resistance to the norm” as resistance to “the normalization of queer theory” — queer becoming commodified/exploited by hungry academics.


Tensions: “the impossible project of a queer oppositionality that would oppose itself to the structural determinants of politics as such, which is also to say, that would oppose itself to the logic of opposition” (Edelman 2004: 4) – queer isn’t antisocial, but what makes sociality and subjectivity possible – structural negativity, not oppositional negativity.


Edelman (1994): “Opening spaces, reclaiming them, may be central to the enterprise of queer theory as it proliferates, but defining a space or a state of our own, insist­ing that we recognize and collectively accede to some common territorial boundaries, this is a fantasy [. . .] on which the heterosexual colonialization of social reality is predicated” (343). Queer must demand continuous challenge of institutionalization, must remain impossible. Duggan (2002) defines homonormativity as the “sexual politics of neoliberalism” (here 8) – homonormativity termed by Berlant and Warner (1998)


Stryker (2006): “[T]ransgender phenomena constitute an axis of difference that cannot be subsumed to an object-choice model of antiheteronormativity. As a result, queer studies sometimes perpetuates what might be called ‘homonormativity,’ that is, a privileging of homosexual ways of differing from heterosocial norms, and an antipathy (or at least an unthinking blindness) toward other modes of queer difference” (7)  ==== forwarding notions of cisnormativity, similar to heteronormativity, promotes: ““the expectation [. . .] that those assigned male at birth always grow up to be men and those assigned female at birth always grow up to be women [. . .] shapes social activity such as child rearing, the policies and practices of individuals and institutions, and the organization of the broader social world” (Bauer 2009)


On Foucault: “Every post-Foucaultian queer theorist understands that the claim that sexu­ality has been repressed is caught in spirals of power-knowledge-pleasure that make such a claim an enactment of norms (rather than a transgression of them). There has been much less attention paid, however, to the way in which an oppositional posture underwrites the repressive hypothesis. Even as it allies itself with Foucault, queer theory has maintained an attach­ment to the politics of oppositionality (against, against, against) that form the infrastructure of the repressive hypothesis” (11-12).


Norms serve to restrict and exclude – but authors dispute this – can norms be emancipatory and inclusive? Previous authors abide by prior canon. Norms as “appraisal of the structure of a set; and this operation generates each one of us in our particularity” (16).  Multiplicity of gender options on Facebook, here, is not anti-normative, but an expansion of norms. However, norms create conditions of differentiation, by which antinomativity exists.  Norms possibly as relationalities?

“T]he norm invites each one of us to imagine ourselves as different from the others, forcing the individual to turn back upon his or her own particular case, his or her individuality and irreducible particularity. More precisely, the norm affirms the equality of individuals just as surely as it makes apparent the infinite differ­ences among them. The reality of normative equality is that we are all comparable; the norm is most effective in its affirmation of differences, discrepancies, and disparities. The norm is not totalitarian but individualizing; it allows individuals to make claims on the basis of their individuality and permits them to lead their own particular lives. However, despite the strength of various individual claims, no one of them can escape the common standard. The norm is not the totality of a group forcing con­straints on individuals; rather it is a unit of measurement, a pure relationship without any other supports” (Ewald 1990: 154)


“a relationship of suc­cession, linking together separate terms, pars extra partes, following the model of a mechanistic determination”; rather, it is “the simultaneity, the coincidence, the reciprocal presence to one another of all the elements it unites [. . .] [T]here is no norm in itself’” (Macherey 1992: 186).




Bauer, Greta, Rebecca Hammond, Robb Travers, Matthias Kaay, Karen M. Hohenadel, and Michelle Boyce. 2009. “’I Don’t Think This Is Theoretical; This Is Our Lives’: How Erasure Impacts Healthcare for Transsexual People.” Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care 20(5): 348-361.

Berlant, Lauren and Michael Warner. 1998. “Sex in Public.” Critical Inquiry 24(2): 547-566.

Duggan, Lisa. 2002. “The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism.” Pp. 175-194 in Materializing Democracy: Toward a Revitalized Cultural Politics, edited by Russ Castronovo and Dana D. Nelson. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Edelman, Lee. 1994. Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory. New York: Routledge.

Edelman, Lee. 2004. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ewald, Francois. 1990. “Norms, Discipline, and the Law.” Representations 30: 138-161.

Halperin, David M. 1995. Saint Foucault: Toward a Gay Hagiography. New York: Oxford University Press.

Halperin, David M. 2003. “The Normalization of Queer Theory.” Journal of Homosexuality 45(2-4): 339-343.

Macherey, Pierre. 1992. “Toward a Natural History of Norms.” Pp. 176-191 in Michel Foucault Philosopher. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Serano 2007: NO CITE

Stryker, Susan. 2006. “(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies.” Pp. 1-17 in The Transgender Studies Reader, edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. New York: Routledge.



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