The term queer is slang for homosexual. It is also a synonymous of odd, curious or suspect. It is also the most recent in a series of words that have constituted the semantic field of homosexuality. But queer is not simply the latest example in a series of words that describe same-sex desire; it is rather a consequence of the constructionist strain of thought which calls into question any supposedly universal term. In recent years, it has indeed been used to qualify marginal sexual self-identifications or to define an emerging theoretical model exploring the contestations of the categorisation of gender and sexuality notably by opposition to the traditional lesbian and gay studies. It is narrowly linked with the post-structuralist movement and with postmodernism focusing on deconstruction and on the role of language. The problem is that, as Michael Warner says the appeal of queer theory has outstripped anyone's sense of what exactly it means . In fact, the definitional indeterminacy and elasticity of this notion is one of its essential characteristics and its political efficiency depends on its resistance to definition .
[...] There is then two points to examine: firstly, the definition of queer theory: what does it mean, what is its history and background, what kind of approach does it use; secondly, is it useful notably concerning the production of knowledge about sexuality and if yes, how? In this essay, I shall argue that queer theory offers a new way of thinking the sexual BUT is very limited because too theoretical and by some aspects reactionary and politically counter-productive. My essay has been divided into three parts. [...]
[...] Steven Epstein, Queer Encounter: Sociology and the Study of Sexuality” in Steven Seidman, Queer theory/sociology, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), p Example taken from wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer_theory. David Halperin. "The Normalizing of Queer Theory." Journal of Homosexuality v.45, p.339-343. Pickett, Brent, "Homosexuality", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2006 Edition), Edward N. Zalta URL =
[...] This new perspective is notably due to Eve Sedgwick in her book Epistemology of the Closet cited in Steven Epstein A Queer Encounter where she proposes “that many of the major nodes of thought and knowledge in twentieth-century Western culture as a whole are structured by a chronic, now endemic crisis of homo/heterosexual definition”. Queer politics thus emphasises outsiderness as a way of constructing opposition to the regime of normalisation. By highlighting, as Judith Butler did, that fundamental notions of gender and sex which seem natural and self-evident in the modern West are in fact constructed and reinforced trough everyday actions privileging and naturalising heterosexuality, queer theory problematises the assumptions of gay liberation and lesbian feminism. [...]
[...] Queer theory's main project is exploring the contestations of the categorization of gender and sexuality. By considering that there is no natural sexuality, it offers new perspectives. This is what we are going to see. This part has been divided into two subsections. The first shows how queer theory includes previously considered normative” sexualities and sexual practices. The second explains how the critique of the natural destroys the notion of heteronormativity which can be, as authors like Judith Butler showed it, individually and socially harmful. [...]
[...] Since queer theory wants to not be normative at all it allows the inclusion of everything and does not lay any limit between what is acceptable and what is not. It could thus lead to tolerate things like paedophilia or extreme fetishism. The third concerns its political efficiency. Because of the perverse connotation of the term and the will of queer theorists that it keeps it, it allows attacks and suspicion against those who do not have the sexuality of the majority. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee