Culminating Project Title
Date of Award
Culminating Project Type
English: English Studies: M.A.
College of Liberal Arts
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Keywords and Subject Headings
Queer Temporality, Sovereignty, Slavery, Desubjectivation, Sadomasochism, Queer Antinormativity
Greg Thomas insists, “Any sexual transformation that does not willfully transpire on fiercely indigenous, anti-colonized terms is only a racist pretext for cultural destruction, whether this pretense is staged in heteroerotic or homoerotic, masculine or feminine fashion.” Following queer theory’s practice of locating desubjectivation through the erotic—the self-shattering of jouissance, to its current manifestation of locating the shattered self in enslaved flesh, this thesis is primarily concerned with white queer cooptation of the subjugated black subject position as utopic. The operation question of this inquiry is: How it is that a sadist, imperialist nightmare is rescued and recouped as a (white) queer ideal? Ultimately, I argue the invocation of sadomasochism into this scene of racialized desubjectivation reinscribes racialized erotic violence and the perpetual calcification of the black body in the temporality of enslavement.
I adduce as examples what Mari Ruti terms the “pulverized subject” of critical theory at two additional sites: the queering of the Marquis de Sade and E.M. Forster. Queer theorist Gert Hekma moves beyond the existentialists who wish to distinguish Marquis de Sade’s texts as mere philosophy to prescribing his tenets as materially viable—and queer. Likewise, the queer literary recapture of our gay writers has overlooked the foregrounding imperial operatives evidenced in some “gay” literature. For instance, E.M. Forster’s work evidences precisely this colonizing of brown bodies toward a reckoning of a white queer self.
The colony in colonial literature and the subject(less) position of the black body in American enslavement have been presented as ideations in sexuality by specific white queer theorists. In both locations, the subjugated body is not only the location of transgressive sexuality but also a utopic site of temporal interruption—out-of-time, no-where and deontologized. What this illustrates is a historically congruent, colonial maneuver, queered: a desire for the nonnormative—the uncivilized, the “primitive.” Foregroundingly, the site of the subjugated body is the site of acute violence exercised upon the Other, who, through this imperial narrative, is naturalized as a masochist. The act of erotic violence (or, S/M) does not, in fact, dissolve the subject position of the sadist, however, but reifies it. I conclude by inquiring what a vanguard of queer ethics might do after desubjectivation.
Lemmer, Stephanie, "On Twisted Sovereignty: White Queer as Master and Slave and Other Poststructural Perversions" (2018). Culminating Projects in English. 119.
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