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Queer Futurities, Today: Utopias and Beyond in Queer Theory

The Finnish Institute in Germany, Berlin

18/19 May 2009


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Symposium in Berlin

Time: Monday 18-Tuesday 19, May 2009
Location: The Finnish Institute in Germany
Organizers: SQS‹Society for Queer Studies in Finland,
Institute for Queer Theory in Berlin
In cooperation with Finnland-Institut in Deutschland, Berlin and
Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICI-Berlin)

Untimely utopias are inhabited by those who interrupt the here and now, who
occupy positions which are yet to be articulated, who have learned to hope
for times that will open up new spaces and who never cease to re-invent
themselves. ­ María do Mar Castro Varela

Recent years have witnessed a normalizing domestication of the queer. Once
held back by the closet, gays and lesbians are now basking in the public
spotlight and enjoy high visibility in media, television and popular
culture. They are featured in mainstream films and are targeted by
advertisers as a major consumer group. What¹s more, they are getting married
and having children like there is no tomorrow. For some, this kind of
visibility in the public sphere is a utopia come true ­ it is seen as
political and social progress, the realization of true equality.

During the past decade, however, many activists and scholars have questioned
this development and argued that it is a reactionary response, linked with
neoliberal politics and privatization. One of the most ardent critics of
this development, Lisa Duggan, argues that lesbian and gay politics have
reached an era best described in terms of ³homonormativity,² which she
defines as ³a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative
assumptions and institutions but upholds and sustains them.² Another
influential queer theorist, Lee Edelman, insists that the term ³queer²
should always imply a resistance to normalized social forms ­ including the
norm of what he calls ³reproductive futurism.² For Edelman, reproductive
futurism demands a faith in the consistency of the heteronormative social
and installs the image of the child as a promise of a progression into the
future, and is therefore something that the queer movement should reject.

Futurities Countering Normalization
Yet, if a main thrust of queer politics is to oppose normalization, does
that necessarily entail jettisoning all visions of the future? Can there be
a form of utopian thinking that is not idealistic or normative? Might we
entertain the idea of heterotopia as a space that suggests the co-existence
of different social relations? Perhaps, rather than seeing society¹s turn
into a homonormative dystopia as a failure of queer politics, one could make
use of dystopia as a space of queer productivity.

Futurities Challenging Progressive Time
With the title of our conference, we not only want to proliferate the idea
of ³future² into ³futures² but also, by introducing the term ³futurities,²
we want to question the idea of progressive time. This questioning includes
building a different relationship between the past and the future: How can
we understand political agency if the relationship between the past and the
future is not mediated by the present?

Imagination Designing Futurities
Finally, what is the role of imagination when we take up the question of
queer futurities? Do imaginations project ³a beyond² or, rather, can they be
a way for futurities to inhabit contemporary social relations and political
practices? How do these differing ideas of imagination materialize in
cultural products or quotidian practices?

³Queer Futurities, Today² is an international symposium that welcomes a wide
range of presentations, from academic papers to performances, visual
presentations and any other ideas. We invite you to submit abstracts
relating to one of the three organizing themes: ³Futurities Countering
Normalization,² ³Futurities Challenging Progressive Time² and ³Imagination
Designing Futurities.²
We are excited to welcome Lee Edelman as the keynote speaker of the
conference. He will give his address on May 18 at ICI-Berlin
(www.ici-berlin.org)

Abstracts (200-300 words) for twenty-minute papers should be submitted as an
email attachment to
mail(at)queer-institut.de

by March 11, 2009. Please use your surname as the document title.

Abstracts should be sent in the following format: (1) Title (2) Presenter(s)
(3) Institutional affiliation (4) Email (5) Abstract. For more information,
contact us at mail(at)queer-institut.de. After the seminar, the papers can
be offered as articles for publication in SQS: Journal of Queer Studies in
Finland (http://sqslehti.wordpress.com/).

Looking forward to your abstracts,
Jessica Dorrance, Antke Engel, Livia Hekanaho, Tuula Juvonen, Harri Kalha,
Leena-Maija Rossi, Antu Sorainen, Laura Tulehmo, Annamari Vänskä