AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
My interest in writing this text is guided by the hope that, as queer theory continues to interrogate the institutions by and through which the many forms of social oppression continue, we can find ways to oppose what appears to be our ever increasing complicity, as emerging queer subjects, in the ominous, seemingly unstoppable, global environmental crisis. In other words, my essay forges a self-reflexive critique which might converge with the exigencies of environmental ethics to accept responsibility for an otherwise uncritical incorporation and recuperation of behaviors that perpetuate ecological peril. More specifically, I want to subvert a shortsighted materialism that is invading queer cultural identity formation; which is to say that I am afraid that the relatively new emergence of queer subjectivity is being co-opted by consumerist ideologies. We are becoming increasingly complicit in the perpetuation of certain modes of social behavior that seem suspiciously similar to the heterosexist, androcentric, and anthropocentric modes against which ecologists, radical feminists, and ecofeminists exert so much critical energy.
Following a review of the deconstructive agenda, I propose a radical constructivist conceptual analysis. The next phase of discussion covers the question of rights and subjectivity; then an exploration of the concept of disposable persons and the disruptive power of such bodies. After an exploration of the ecological implications of compulsory heterosexism and symbiosis as an alternative metaphor, I conclude with the retextualization of the corporal.
The Deconstructive Agenda
If queer theory is already involved in the deconstruction of compulsive heterosexuality embedded in western concepts of nature, the discussion-this current moment in the deconstructive process--offers the possibility of expanding the horizons of critique to include the specifically material conditions through which new identities might emerge. A leading question, then is this: How are material conditions affected by our identity formations and what alternative metaphors do we have or might we create as emulative models? I believe this question must be addressed if our political interests are to move in the direction of radically democratic cultural change. I believe that this change, this demand for social justice, is ultimately about long-term survival, and that queer identity theory needs to recognize the eco-social implications of our desire to survive. Thus, we need to impel the project well beyond the artificial parameters of humanist interpretations of justice. That is, we need to wonder about the ways in which modernity has framed our debates and inquiries and take heed of the ecological impossibility of a purely human or merely human realm within which discussions about identity tend to circulate.
A wider context within which a discussion about queer identity is situated could be described as an anti- or post-modern attempt to deconstruct the relationships between the cultural production of western identities in general, and the corporeal conditions out of which such identities must emerge. In this context, the terms "anti-" and "post-modern" imply attempts to formulate a conceptual framework that overturns, or at the very least bypasses a longstanding tradition of dualistic, oppositional, value-hierarchical logics. Such logics have long since thoroughly integrated themselves into the textual narrative of what it means to be a legitimate Western patriarchal subject. An anti- or post-modern conceptual framework strategically deconstructs these logics in order to secure the possibility of forging alternative, eco-socially non-oppressed and non-oppressive personal identities and subjectivities.
In one sense, this project is a response to the west's preoccupation with difference. It seeks to establish a conceptual field within which we might investigate the relationships between various historically and culturally conditioned ontologies of difference--including those of space/time difference, of species difference, and of human sexual difference--and the identities, both human and nonhuman, that logically follow or conceptually flow from such ontologies. As such, the aim of inquiry is to understand how these ontologies depend upon historically contingent and culturally specific concepts of nature. It would analyze the interplay between concepts of nature and the ontological questions from which such concepts arise. The project would therefore require the deconstruction of various historical configurations of the concept of nature in order to understand the extent to which both human and nonhuman bodies are essentialized by such concepts. In other words, by exploring the ways in which the ontologies of difference have been articulated historically, we can understand how such ontologies work as mechanisms for human identity production, which would then allow us to analyze the interplay between human identity production and nonhuman identity production, perhaps to further articulate a radically non-humanistic, non-patriarchal, non-phallocentric ontological reconceptualization of who we are becoming as eco-social subjects-in-the-making.
Within this wider context, then, this paper is a cursory investigation into the progressive development of a queer feminist ecological theory of identity, a theory that no longer recognizes as valid many of the specific ways in which difference has been previously articulated in the West. For example, such a theory will reject the conceptual antagonisms between man and animal, man and woman, soul and body, mind and body, god and nature, being and becoming, heaven and earth, straight and queer, etc., nor will it recognize the value systems associated with these archaic ontological distinctions. Such an identity theory is a queer theory because the oppositional logics of our tradition have already identified certain bodies--my own being one of them--as illegitimate patriarchal subjects. To call this identity theory queer is then to mimic the category of queerness to subvert the logic that produces the category in the first place. It is a feminist theory because the oppositional logics of our tradition identify and define all bodies that do not win the status of the patriarchal subject as Other. And it is an ecological theory because identity itself depends upon the material conditions of the earth and because the political and ethical dimensions of identity production entail our relationships to both human and nonhuman beings. Thus, such a theory would be trans-human in scope, historically situated, non-racist, non-sexist, nonoheterosexist, non-anthropocentric, and whatever else such a theory needs to be for promoting the construction of alternative, ecologically informed cultural scripts.
Such a project is also interdisciplinary in its approach, inviting …