Negativity Rules (On the Antisocial Thesis in Queer Theory)
This lecture returns to the antisocial thesis in queer theory and the debate that marks it about the politics of race, reparativity, and utopian thought. Organized as an extended deliberation on Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman’s recent book, Sex, or the Unbearable, the lecture reads their collaboration in broader terms than they offer, linking the institutional, analytic, and affective terrain in which their conversation moves. It opens by considering what they most share—-a commitment to the value of negativity and nonsovereignty for social theory—-before exploring the distinctly different sensibilities they offer, with Edelman insisting on a negativity born of the death drive and Berlant finding political sustenance in ordinary acts aimed at social change. Parsing these differences, the lecture ends by plotting what their framing of the antisocial thesis occludes in order to delineate the arguments, largely about race and negativity, that remain worth having.
Presented by IRWG's Lesbian-Gay-Queer Research Initiative (LGQRI) with cosponsorship from the Department of Women's Studies, the Department of English Languages and Literature, and the Center for Research on Learning & Teaching.
Robyn Wiegman is Professor of Literature and Women’s Studies at Duke University, where she teaches courses in feminist and queer theory, U.S. Studies, and critical race studies. She has published Object Lessons (2012) and American Anatomies: Theorizing Race and Gender (1995), and numerous anthologies that focus on the institutional and political formation of identity knowledges, including The Futures of American Studies (2002); Women’s Studies on Its Own (2002); and Feminism Beside Itself (1995). Her current work includes Arguments Worth Having, which locates points of critical tension and dissension in contemporary encounters between feminist and queer theory, and Racial Sensations, a study that considers the affective politics of race thinking. She is the former director of Women’s Studies at both Duke and UC-Irvine, and former co-director of the Dartmouth Institute for the Futures of American Studies. She currently serves on the international advisory board of Signs.