As part of a larger research project hosted by Utrecht University, the BCRW and Barnard’s Religion Department held a roundtable discussion in November on the intersections of queer studies and religion. Grappling with definitions of ‘queer’ and the thorns of importing contemporary Western terminology to ancient religious/transnational contexts, 10 scholars, theologians, and activists furthered the interdisciplinary study of religion and gender. Here’s what they had to say:
What does ‘queer’ mean?
- Identity without an essence; impossible possibility; a remainder that cannot be accounted for
- Verb, not a noun
- Perspective; a body of theory
- Political intervention in the normalization of heterosexuality
- Multiplicity; movement; flow; yes & no
The panelists’ (dis)locations of ‘queer’ placed the term not only in identity politics, but in the divergences of practice and knowledge. One scholar pointed out race issues involved with using ‘queer’—to them, queer studies is often associated with whiteness, and as pointed out by another panelist, with Western discourses. Nothing flows entirely in one direction, but the flow is driven by political power: such is the case with the colonial exportation of terms (e.g., gay, lesbian). We cannot examine queer studies and religion without incorporating postcolonialism as a major component. There must be a stronger queer body of color critique, as well as space for critical studies of whiteness. After all, queer theory originates from queer women of color feminism.