IInnovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Border Zones: Travel, Fantasy and Representation

Without Queering there is no Border: theories and histories of the relationship between translocality and the sexual "I"

Hanna Hacker (Vienna)



A starting point of my paper is the exploration of relationships between bodies and space - this is, between desire and migration, sexual subjectivity and transcultural moves, marks of sex/gender and geopolitical marks.

I will concentrate on two analytical perspectives that seem particularly pertinent for the purpose of this exploration, namely Border Studies and Queer Theories.

Within Cultural Studies, both the concept of "Border" and that of "Queer" are largely showing their high productivity, to the point of unfolding a certain omnipresence. In both cases, their use frequently relates to similar epistemiological frameworks (poststructuralism, discourse analysis); both are closely intertwined with further rather recent disciplines (such as Postcolonial Studies, Migration and Diaspora Studies); and more often than not, they adopt a similar political stance (critique of globalisation and hegemonic structures).

Does this mean that contesting geopolitical boundaries, and subverting hegemonic sex/gender systems are basically one and the same? Is it all purely and simply border-less, gender-bending, transient, in a continuous slippage between sexuality and geography, between bodies, places, and moves? Or are they rather, from the very beginning, logically incommensurable, "Border Zone" being a metaphor, "Queer" a political practice, "Border Studies" showing no coherent theoretical profile, "Queer Studies" subject to a rigorous canon? And then, what are the implications for the contours of a theoretical framework, as well as for historical/local specifications?

Thus, I will first follow up these questions and specify where I locate important intersections of and differences between Border Studies and Queer Studies respectively. Particularly important here are Chicana feminist texts, and readings of Gloria Anzaldúa’s "Borderlands/La Frontera" (1987).

Subsequently, I will focus on the discussion of how to situate Queer Studies and Border Studies concepts in a historical perspective. If the theoretical deconstruction of geopolitical borders on one hand, and of sex/gender boundaries on the other, is intricately bound into discourses and practices of the late 20 th century, how can we then explore the relationship between geography and sex/gender in a historical frame?

I will discuss this question of historical situatedness in the light of two texts of quite different genres, namely Richard Francis Burton’s "The Sotadic Zone" (1885), the "terminal essay" in his translation of "Arabian Nights", and Laurie Essig’s study "Queer in Russia" (1999), in particular the fictional parts in her terminal chapter "Sex. Conclusion".

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-29