Queer Kinship Course Description

In this course we will explore the critical, creative and activist possibilities put in motion by placing the terms queer and kinship in conversation.

One definition of queer is that which questions, upsets, opposes, or subverts ideas and practices of normality, particularly in relation to (but not limited to) the binary relationship of “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” as the main axis on which human sexuality is mapped, and the binary structure of “male” and “female” as the main axis on which gender is categorized. Kinship is often defined as relationships based in consanguinal (“blood”) or affinal (“by marriage”) ties, in other words, kinship is commonly understood to be about biological and legally sanctioned relationships.  As such, the terms “queer” and “kinship” often seem to be oppositional and have caused some theorists to suggest that as kinship is always already heteronormative it cannot be Queer. However, other connotations for kinship invoke relationships based in shared temperament or passion, shared circumstances or spiritual/political stance, or shared lineages of scholarly and creative work. As a noun Queer has been reclaimed from an insult hurled to a self-nominated category of identity and pride. When used as an adjective, queer may mean something strange, odd, funny, or peculiar. Queer kinship, understood with these connotations, is a useful concept for exploring non-normative modes of relationality, not only in terms of families, linages and intimacies but also in terms of the potential for, and the organizing practices of, activist, cross-community political coalitions.

Our readings/films are thematically connected through their investigations, representations and contemplations of queer kinship. These texts offer distinct approaches to the representation of intimacy, temporality, history and memory. They explore the ‘queerness’ of: childhood, aging, gender identity, sexuality, sex acts, parenting, adoption, coming of age, illness, death, class, ethnicity, immigration, migration, diaspora, racism, colonialism, religion, art and politically activist alliances.

This course is concerned with developing our ability to read “queerly” as well as our focus on training and honing our critical readings skills within the traditions of literary studies. We will also “queer” our experience as a learning community by attending not only to what we are learning but how we are learning it and how we might further extend, and put to use, this learning.

This course meets on Thursday 6:45 -9:15 | Room GSB 110