Rather than maintain existential elucidation (Jaspers 1970b) as queering Existenz, consider the disclosure of possible Existenz always already as Wyrding.
‘Q’ then, will never be a coherent letter tacked as a bridge on some list of identities. The past decade shows the poverty or ruin of every attempt to do so. We’ve said already that these words are magic. We might add that they are wyrd – the Old English for fate and all the other invisible and nonlinear causalities we are woven into and which gives us the modern word ‘weird’. The queerest insurrection demands the weirdest, the most enmeshed in the unseen, the most in relationship with all that teems just beyond the normative filter we are still fighting to unlearn. Find those who straddle that filter, a foot in each world. Share your methods, share what you’ve learned, share the stories of your dead. The dead we hold in common make us family – some other form of kinship than the Norm and its terror. We need each other today more than ever. We want to win this time, to win all the time, and the dead want that too.—Mary Nardini GangMary Nardini Gang. 2018. Be Gay Do Crime. San Francisco: Contagion Press.
When I began my dissertating journey last year, I had no idea how much queer theory and the methods of queering would become a big part of my work. I should not have been surprised by this, I suppose. After all, the reason I wanted to write about playfulness and Tarot concerned my own path from quietly closeted child to open out-spoken adult.
I have read and made use of queer theory (QT) for a long time; nonetheless, I never referred to myself as a queer theorist. Over the last few months I have completed a few projects that had to do with applying QT to topics I was exploring, such as queering Tarot, queering resistance, queering Dasein. It was a way to make sure I was fully understanding what I was discovering among the likes of Foucault, Sedgwick, Butler, Hall, O’Rourke, etc et al. And this has been very productive; however, it is not quite how I should dissertate concerning the import of hermeneutic playfulness.
The terminology and the methodology of QT have become fairly set. QT has specific parameters within the Academy; it also has been used with some success since the 90’s to advocate for identities previously silenced in society at large. Nonetheless, after integrating more QT into my thinkering, I see that the AnarchoCynic phenomenology I will be doing is not precisely…
Queering: a method in queer theory to “read” socio-cultural texts in order to offer a critical examination of how the biases arising from heteronormativity hide in plain sight thereby reifying as “natural” many harmful sexual/gender binaries.
I have to thank my advisors for this realization. When I made my prospectus pitch to my dissertation committee–Adam Briggle (director, UNT Philosophy & Religion), Terra Rowe (member from UNT Philosophy & Religion), and Tyson Lewis (member from UNT Art History, Art Education)–all gave helpful feedback for getting underway as well as staying on course. One issue of concern they shared with me centered on my claim that “everyone is queer.”
Initially, I argued how the framework of Existenzphilosophie (Jaspers 1970a,b,c) discloses each person as a singular nexus of possibilities rather than one example of a human type. Of course, our adoption of static definitions of self and cultural notions of essence have a certain utility. We don’t have to keep meeting each other all over again, for instance. Such practices make everyone not so strange to everyone else: we are not totally identical but neither are we so very different. At its best such a position offers a liberal presumption that the superficial differences between me and you are not so important as the underlying substance of our humanity. At its worst, such presentations lead to careless conservative presumptions that folx who appear different really should not live together in the same society.
Affirming the work of Jaspers, de Beauvoir, Ortega y Gasset and many others, I deny that human beings have a fixed “nature” (essence) other than the freedom inherent as authentic possibility (Existenz). The appearance of difference–not the imposition of categorical identity–points to our ontological truth.
We do not go straightly-toward each other so much as we move queerly-froward. Recognizing this to-and-fro can allow for some intriguing exchanges only when the dialectical tension ultimately resolves itself in a new thinkering. Otherwise, the “fro” will slowly slip back into the gravity well of “to,” merely tolerated as an oddity.
Prof. Rowe made a good argument that I should take-care putting too much emphasis on this. My queer comrades and I struggle in a public sphere where many take refuge in self-identifying in a particular way. We suffer within institutional associations that require queering to reactivate the history of QUILTBAGs, a story that has been misinterpreted, straight-washed, or outright erased from public view. In that environment, to refer to everyone as “queer” might begin a process of appropriation where many well-meaning, a few lazy, and some nasty folx claim “queerness” for themselves, in effect going straight-to “colonizing” queer identities and safe spaces. Obviously, this dis-empowers what little security queer folx have been able to eek out in our current political climate.
Within QT, there are lots of different mind-walkers already seeing some slippage toward institutional appropriation (Halperin 1995; Hall 2009; Ruffolo 2009; Huffer 2010; O’Rourke 2014; Mary Guardini Gang 2018). Not just by corporations and local businesses committing themselves to rainbow campaigns. Not even by “progressive” politicians seeking to broaden their base by being an “ally” to queer folx. Rather, among academics “applying” QT and thereby accomplishing a disciplinary capture that often debilitates the real political radicality of queering. As Halperin notes, it has become “…an unproblematic, substantive designation for a determinate field of academic practice, respectable enough to appear in advertisements for academic jobs and in labels on the shelves of bookstores…” (1995: 113).
Taking this into consideration, and adopting my own AnarchoCynic direction for post-queer struggle (see Ruffolo 2009), it made sense to seek out another way of thinkering, one that might offer a synthesis that shakes off dualistic categories. Among the many paths I have followed on my life-quest, I have never made much more than tacit use in my academic work of one particular idea…
Wyrding: discovering our ownmost path as a singular threading-of-will within the always-already unfolding fabric of reality.
The first time I read Beowulf in 1992, I was surprised to learn that the etymology of “weird” goes back to the Old English term for Fate: WYRD. I used to say to folx when they would call something weird, “Well, weird is just the Old English notion of Fate. So if this is weird, there must be something really important going on.” Usually this would get a chuckle or shrug.
Obviously over time, weird has gone from unnatural or supernatural in some grand sense—Frankenstein’s creature is weird—to just meaning odd or off from the everyday—It’s weird that Starbucks was out of iced cold brew. Words of great gravity tend to lose weight over time.
Wyrd reconsiders the meaning of destiny not as a forever-fixed doom but as a kind of patterning–material and spiritual–that requires playful engagement to-do-Self-becoming. In this way, it is very much an Anglo-Saxon parallel to concepts like Dào or Kismet or Karma, when these themselves are not reduced to immutable doom for the actor (see Bates 1983: 12).
While some might think me appropriating neo-pagan thinkering en lieu of queerness, this is a part of my own belief system as well as something different from the socio-political identity used by queer folx with some measure of security in our culture if not outright safety. I will continue mind-walking this path over the next few weeks before I begin teaching in the second summer session. So stay tuned for more.
Next up: Wyrding as Dialogical Becoming
Bates, B. 1983. The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon sorcerer. London: Arrow Books.
Butler, J. 1993. Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex.” New York: Routledge.
Hall, D. E. 2009. Reading sexualities: Hermeneutic theory and the future of queer studies. New York: Routledge.
Halperin, D. M. 1995. Saint Foucault: Towards a gay hagiography. New York: Oxford Univ Press.
Huffer, L. 2011. Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the foundations of queer theory. New York: Columbia Univ Press.
Jaspers, K. 1970a. Philosophy, Vol 1: Philosophical world orientation. Trans. E. B. Ashton. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press.
___. 1970b. Philosophy, Vol 2: Existential elucidation. Trans. E. B. Ashton. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press.
___. 1970c. Philosophy, Vol 3: Metaphysics. Trans. E. B. Ashton. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press.
Mary Nardini Gang. 2018. Be Gay Do Crime. San Francisco: Contagion Press.
Kollias, H. 2012. Queering it right, getting it wrong. Paragraph, 35 (2): 144-63.
O’Rourke, M. 2014. The Afterlives of queer theory. International Social Science Journal, 63(207-208), 25-37.
Ruffolo, D. V. 2009. Post-Queer Politics. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
Sedgwick, E. K. 2008. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkley, CA: Univ of California Press.