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What is queer theory and how does it help explain the production of knowledge about sexuality?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The social constructionist vs. essentialist debate.
  3. Defining the queer theory and the purpose of the definition.
  4. Gay liberationist and lesbian feminist understandings of identity.
  5. The notion of identity.
  6. Epistemological and methodological criticisms.
  7. Potential dangers and negative-side effects of queer theory.
  8. Conclusion.
  9. Bibliography.

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 = . Pickett, Brent, "Homosexuality", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2006 Edition), Edward N. Zalta URL = . Pickett, Brent, "Homosexuality", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2006 Edition), Edward N. [...]


[...] The imprecision of the notion of queer theory, its impossibility to be clearly and precisely defined is its main characteristic and what it makes it useful, original and innovative in ?traditional? gay and lesbian theory. As Judith Butler affirms ?normalising the queer would be, after all, its sad finish[28]?. This new term is not only a new label for old realities, it points to a changing reality, both in the way a society labelled homosexuality and in the way those stigmatised saw themselves[29]. [...]

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