‘Imagining Queer Methods’ Tackles New Ways to Do Queer Theory
By BETH HARPAZ
What methods should be used to study an interdisciplinary field that defies conventional categories, both in academia and in terms of the human experience? Imagining Queer Methods, co-edited by Professor Matt Brim (College of Staten Island, The Graduate Center) and Amin Ghaziani, looks at new approaches to research and analysis in queer studies and queer theory.
In their introduction, the editors note that some fields have made progress in thinking about sexuality in more nuanced, less traditional ways. For example, epidemiologists coined the term “men who have sex with men” (MSM) as a way to track the behavior of this group for public health studies without pigeonholing MSMs’ sexual identity as either gay or closeted.
In addition to serving as co-editor of the book, Brim contributed a chapter about a collection of stories and novellas called Counternarratives. Brim used Counternarratives in a class he taught “as a primer” for addressing “black queer illiteracy.” Among Counternarratives’ most powerful stories is “Rivers,” which reorients perspectives on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. In “Rivers,” Jim, the runaway slave from Twain’s story, encounters Huck as a Confederate Civil War soldier and unhesitatingly shoots him.
A number of other CUNY scholars contributed chapters to Imagining Queer Methods.
Ph.D. candidate Laurie Hurson (The Graduate Center) and Professor Shelly Eversley (Baruch College, The Graduate Center) wrote about a website they created, EqualityArchive.com. It’s a resource for “learning about the people, history, and issues around the fight for self-identified women’s gender equality in the United States.”
Professors David P. Rivera (Queens College) and Kevin L. Nadal (John Jay, The Graduate Center) looked at how LGBTQ scholars have “queered the academy through challenging empiricism and creating their own queer spaces.” Their “case study” for “recentering … academia on the lived experiences of LGBTQ people” is CLAGS, the Center for LGBTQ Studies at The Graduate Center.
Professor Sarah Schulman (College of Staten Island) proposes that we forget “about who calls themselves a lesbian, why or why not.” Instead she urges a more holistic, less binary approach to analyzing and documenting lived experiences. She offers painters Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keeffe as examples of individuals whose sexuality and relationships are not easily categorized.
Brim’s forthcoming book, Poor Queer Studies: Confronting Elitism in the University, due out in spring 2020, has already earned praise from The Advocate.