Doubletree By Hilton Bloomington
April 4-7, 2018
The Queer Turn
Over the past thirty years, Chicana/o/x Studies has been irrevocably transformed through critical work on gender and sexuality. This metamorphosis parallels (but is not necessarily congruent to) similar effects in other disciplines and interdisciplines wrought by shifting the lens towards a more expansive understanding of the roles gender and sexuality play in identity formations, especially racial-ethnic identities.
Chicana feminisms and Chicana lesbian feminisms pushed the field of Chicana/o/x Studies to reinterpret foundational tropes of Chicano Movement thinking, such as the family, women’s and men’s sexual and social roles, carnalismo, cultural nationalism, and Aztlán. Subsequently, feminist scholars of color worked to excavate the intersectional tensions between race, gender, and sexuality, as they meet other socio-economic formative factors in Chicana/o/x Studies, such as class, education, skin color, and immigrant status.
This Queer Turn in Chicana/o/x Studies did not happen overnight, nor without pitched and often intensely personal battles between factions over who is and what exactly constitutes the appropriate Chicana/o/x subject. The echoes of these disagreements and tensions still resonate through NACCS, and the larger interdiscipline of Chicana/o/x Studies as a whole.
Thinking more expansively, we can apply the concept of the Queer Turn towards more than the critical, necessary intervention of gender and sexuality in Chicana/o/x Studies. Chicana/o/x Studies, and the United States as a whole, both seem poised on a literal and figurative Queer Turn with multiple meanings for the interdiscipline, the profession as a whole, and the broader social and political context.
Here, the polymorphous meanings of the term ‘queer’ can be applied. We are living through a moment of great change and tumult, whose final outcomes cannot be predicted, and whose parameters seem beyond the bounds of the normative. Academia is undergoing a radical metamorphosis. The social and political order of the United States is fractured in ways that are at once old as well as new. Resurgent racism, misogyny, political and state violence, and rising hate crimes belie the myth of a post-racial state with equality under the law. The very identity category of Chicana/o/x is transforming before our very eyes. Our challenge is to understand the Queer Turn as a productive allegory for successfully surviving and thriving in a historic moment of chaos, mutation, and perhaps transfiguration.