Sunday, February 22, 2009

8. "Queer Theory and Social Change" by Max H. Kirsch

Kirsch, Max H. Queer Theory and Social Change. London: Routledge, 2000.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love

Queer Theory and Social Change was one of those life-changing books for me. I tend to be a pragmatic and practical person. I get more satisfaction from actively doing things and I enjoy being productive. This book gave me a new outlet for my work—a way to both think and do.

Kirsch is highly critical of queer theory but makes a clear distinction between queer theory and queer politics. He defines queer politics as a positive social movement. Queer politics allows for recognition of queer identity and the use of queer as a sort of umbrella under which LGBTI individuals can unite and form solidarity. Queer politics are active and productive. Kirsch defines queer theory as a theory of non-identity. He makes a parallel between queer theory and capitalism because of queer theory’s individualistic and apathetic nature. He claims that queer theory only reaffirms capitalist goals rather than dismantling capitalism like it claims to. Capitalism is reaffirmed because of the way queer theory doesn’t allow for community.

Kirsch is highly critical of Judith Butler and I must say he makes a few excellent points. He breaks down her work even to the particulars of her writing style. He argues that queer theory, Butler’s work in particular, needs to find a way to reconcile the individual vs. the community otherwise it is doing more damage to the queer movement than good. He writes about queer theory being the new “novelty” in academia when really, capitalism has already told the same stories.

This book is written in an easy-to-read prose. He uses solid evidence and whenever he presents a dense quote, he unpacks it so that readers are sure to understand. This is part of why I love this book. Hopefully, when I further my career in academia and am writing about densely theoretical work, I can do as a good a job as Kirsch does in making my work clear and easily understood. His logic is sound and he not only picks apart some of the problems of queer theory but offers some solutions as well. This book is certainly worth the read for anyone frustrated with queer theory but still wishing to embrace queer politics.

5 darts out of 5

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