Thursday, 17 January 2008

No Future

Hmm. One chapter in and full of thinky... I think Edelman's argument has a lot in common with some things I'm thinking about queerness and differance, but he takes his whole argument through Lacan (where I take it through Derrida), and I just... don't get Lacan, or don't like Lacan, or something. There's something about thinking politics psychoanalytically that bothers me, and I'm not sure why - I suppose I'm never quite sure about the fit between the subject of psychoanalysis and the subject of politics. (But then the gap between the two of them - or politics as the attempt to cover up the gap within the subject of psychoanalysis, to create rigidly-identified stable subjects as the subjects of politics - is what Edelman is on about in this book, and that's one of the things that is very exciting about his project to me.)

Something that seems to be missing from this book, and which is (as is probably clear from my last few posts!) quite dear to my heart, is the queer child - Edelman says that 'queerness, for contemporary culture... is understood as bringing children and childhood to an end', and so the subject position of the queer child is foreclosed ('the cult of the Child permits no shrines to the queerness of boys and girls'). He does say that the Child must not be confused with the lived/historical experience of actually-existing children, but it's striking to me that although Edelman is very careful to set out the complexity of the relationship between queer people or queer subjects and the figuration of The Queer - in fact this is what the first chapter is all about, in a way - he doesn't seem to extend the same careful thought and complexity to the gap between children and The Child. Children are only objects, 'realizations' of a fantasmatic structure that casts them as the future of the social. But it seems that the queer opposition/resistance to The Child must, for Edelman, involve real queer people in a repudiation of relationships with real children. (In some ways, I know I'm reading this from the wrong perspective, and that for Edelman, trying to figure out how to save children for queerness, how to have children within queerness, would be just a symptom of my investment in hope and futurity and a social order which can accommodate queerness... but there's something here I do want to puzzle out.)

So far, at least, there's no reflection on the material social conditions which make access to children possible or impossible for queers (and I'm phrasing that deliberately to equivocate over whether those queers are nurturing/parenting children, or 'recruiting'/destroying them), or on the gap between real children and the figure of The Child - Edelman seems to take it for granted that all parenting, whether done by queer or straight people, and whether initiated through biological reproduction, adoption, or some mixture of the two (or other), must involve an investment in 'reproductive futurism', in the Child as suture-and-future, as the reproduction of the social order in its sameness. It also seems to me that there are important differences between queer women and queer men in terms of the way in which their relationship to The Child is constructed and lived.

Another thing, particularly in the light of the project within which I'm reading this book and my emerging thinking about daddy/boy:

Not for nothing, after all, does the historical construction of the homosexual as distinctive social type overlap with the appearance of such literary creations as Tiny Tim, David Balfour, and Peter Pan, who enact, in an imperative most evident today in the uncannily intimate connection between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, a Symbolic resistance to the unmarried men (Scrooge, Uncle Ebenezer, Captain Hook) who embody, as Voldemort's name makes clear, a wish, a will, or a drive toward death that entails the destruction of the Child.

What's going on in that slippage from 'uncannily intimate connection' to 'Symbolic resistance'? What about the queerness of the relationship to the child?

At the end of this chapter, Edelman quotes Hocquenghem, proposing a queerness which is 'unaware of the passing of generations as stages on the road to better living'. Is that a queerness which is unaware of the passing of generations tout court? Can there be a queerness in relation to the future as a-venir, the future-to-come (which can only be proposed in the form of an absolute monstrosity), rather than to the future as sameness, as desire's fantasmatic projection forward of its (retrospectively constructed) memory of a lost plenitude?

The other thing I wonder about this book is whether Edelman is, to coin a phrase, IN UR QUEER STUDIES BEIN A GAY HOMOSECKSHUAL: although he insists on a 'queerness' which is beyond identity politics, his rhetorical structures seem to be mainly drawn from a specifically gay male repertoire. Like I said in my last post, I think the book is dangerously blind to a gay male history of the valorization of male masculinities in opposition to a (feminized) domesticity; he claims to oppose oppositional identity politics (which, yayy) but I wonder whether it's actually structuring his argument in a way that he's not noticed? Maybe he'll address some of this later in the book, though.


Charlie said...

On the Child/children thing, have you read Karin Lesnik-Oberstein: "Children's Literature"? It may just irritate you (it does me, most of the time) but it's worth a gander.

nixwilliams said...

good times!

i would write more, but i'm exhausted. i love reading your blog, though, just so you know.

Ika said...

Charlie: no, and our uni library doesn't have it - do you have a copy I could gander at, or should I ILL it?

Nix: thanks for the link! I was too lazy to look it up. And thanks for the compliment, too. And ::hugs:: on the exhaustion, am not at all surprised - will email you. xx

Charlie said...

There's a copy at my uni - I'll bag it for you.