Notes on Pride

Desiring Desire: Margot Weiss' "Always After"

June 29th, 2021

Xandra Ibarra aka La Chica Boom

"Spictacle I: La Domenatriz Del Barrio

"Queer, from its start, was meant to point beyond or beside identity—specifically gay and lesbian—and instead signify transgression of, resistance to, or exclusion from normativity, especially but not exclusively het- eronormativity. Thinking this way, queer is less an object of study (a who that we might study) and more an analytic (a how to think sexual/gendered norms and power)" (Margot Weiss, 2016, p. 628).
"Queer also points to our own desires—our desires to know and inhabit a different way of thinking, a path of solidarity that does not rely on facile identity (that we are both queer) or iden- tification (that my own politics in the academy might be shored up through my interlocutors’ activism, say), but on the more vulnerable and queerer work of trying to know another. Queer is not only how I might conceptualize and categorize the activism and world-making projects of my interlocutors but also how I reckon with my own" (Weiss, 2016, p. 634).
"For institutionalization has not been the end of queer, even as queer doesn’t carry the transgressive promise it once had. Instead, it is precisely the limitations of our ways of knowing, the frustration of the (political- analytical) desires that motivated the field to begin with, that push us toward and link us with new objects, new analyses, new horizons. This fracturing has produced a wider than ever range of queer work—work on nonhuman animals, on temporality, on affect, on objects and vitalities that uncouple queer from sexuality/gender (see, for instance, Holland, Ochoa, and Tompkins 2014, 2015; Chen and Luciano 2015). I say this not to herald a new queer vanguard, but rather because I think it shows that we are still after queer—still seeking it, investing in it, desiring it—even though, no, because we don’t know what it is" (Weiss 2016, p. 634)

Rounding out the end of the month I want to return to the many ways to think about the word queer. Margot Weiss’s short retrospective on queer anthropology uses the field of anthropology as a way to problematize the ways that queer has become a proper object of sorts. By this, Weiss means that queer has become so institutionalized as an identity rooted to sexuality and gender that it has become domesticated, safe, and rigid in its meaning. Offering us three broad eras of queer anthropology (identity, antinormativity, and desire) Weiss shows us how queer’s meaning has shifted. In thinking about the third era, that of desire, Weiss points out how the move from queer as identity (who is queer and what is queer?) to queer as desire (how can queerness help us think/live differently?) returns to us the open mesh of possibilities and the “provocation to think otherwise” that first made queer such a potent concept. What Weiss reminds us is that queer is not just about identity categories or embodiment. It is a way of seeing, a mode of thinking, that compels us to push beyond the narrow limits of a normative world. Thus, the power of queer is not in its status as adjective or noun but as a verb, as a way of doing things, pushing limits, and challenging the status quo.