Queer Life in the Queen City and Beyond: Resistance, Space, and Community Mobilization in the Southwest Missouri Ozarks, 1945-2003
Queer lives in the post-World War II southwest Missouri Ozarks have been defined through gender non/conformity and performativity, racial relations, socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, and public discourses on sexual morality. This dissertation builds on recent rural and southern LGBTQ historical scholarship by moving beyond the traditional metronormative trajectory of progress. I situate the narrative within a context where people quite often travelled between the rural hinterland and the semi-urban cityscape and argue that while the ‘New Christian Right’ had a stronghold in the ‘buckle of the Biblebelt,’ the region’s queer populationpushed back in a myriad of ways. They established resistance networks, from rural outposts of lesbian separatist communities to gay male cruising spaces, and formed grassroots organizations, such as Aids Project of the Ozarks and the Gay and Lesbian Center of the Ozarks. Despite the existence of exclusively gay or lesbian social spaces and organizations, LGBTQ-identified people in southwest Missouri created new, more inclusive, spaces that traversed sex and gender boundaries in order to mobilize against incredibly vocal, and sometimes violent, homophobic opposition.
Everyday Aesthetics: A Deweyan Perspective
Everyday aesthetics is a relatively new subfield within aesthetics. At its core are two claims: (1) contemporary aesthetics has typically been confined to examining art and art related issues, and (2) the scope of the aesthetic needs to be expanded to include the experiences of everyday life. The central tension within everyday aesthetics regards the way and the extent to which the scope of the aesthetic ought to be extended. Some theorists argue that the concepts of art-based aesthetics can be extended to everyday life, while others have argued that such concepts are inadequate and that the everyday requires its own set of concepts. In this dissertation I develop an ecological approach to everyday aesthetics based on the writings of John Dewey. While many theorists of everyday aesthetics recognize Dewey as one of the first philosophers to see the aesthetic significance of daily life, the majority of them reject his aesthetic theory as an adequate way to approach the everyday. I shall address their criticisms and argue that Dewey offers a valuable perspective for everyday aesthetics. In the last chapter, I shall argue that this Deweyan ecological perspective can be fruitfully extended to aesthetic issues within environmental philosophy.
Monstrous Erotics: The Poetics of Embodiment in Black Diasporic Women’s Performance
My interdisciplinary dissertation analyzes contemporary black diasporic women’s performance as a site of monstrous self-fashioning, a repository of knowledge and a means to decolonize and heal the black female body. It foregrounds performance as a way to understand and examine expressive behavior and embodied action as epistemology: knowledge production that exists beyond and challenges Western prioritization of written text. “Monstrous erotics” I explore in my project are those performative moments where the notion of self-fashioned corporeal monstrosity “disidentifies” with, to use José Esteban Muñoz’s term, and explodes the monstrous categories mapped upon black women’s bodies by dominant discourse, and playfully reimagines them in spaciously different and new ways in the flesh. Deploying performance studies methodology, women of color feminist praxis, critical race theory, queer theory, disability studies theory and studies of African diaspora, this project interrogates into performance of blackness, gender and sexuality as everyday acts of resistance. How performative texts enable a shift away from only the textual to a more multigenre approach and how they shape an alternative archive that consists of nuanced embodied actions that evoke and challenge the historical fungibility of black bodies, are my points of inquiry. The focus on embodiment and its poetics opens up a space to acknowledge black women’s agency in the twenty-first century.
Love and Politics – Towards a New Politics with Sexual Difference
My dissertation explores the possibilities of a shared world in terms of a new politics in the context of sexual and cultural difference. In my dissertation, I advance the theoretical intersections between sexual difference and cultural difference along with the problematic that Luce Irigaray opens up concerning the feminist universal. Irigaray herself develops the arguments from a non-Western cultural perspective to criticize Western metaphysical thinking and masculine culture. She also offers insightful critiques of the premises of Western politics in her later works. However, she does not cite any concrete non-Western political model to demonstrate her ideas and extend her political proposal, besides her vague discussions of Indian culture. Thus, I propose to reinterpret her project from a non-Western perspective, by focusing specifically on the dominant chinese cultural/philosophical tradition of Confucianism. Confucianism has a clear proposal of ethics and politics centered upon self-cultivation and family. By negotiating between Irigaray’s feminist politics centered on erotic love and sexuate rights and Chinese Confucian understanding of politics as the extension of family, I propose to rethink Irigaray’s ideas of a new politics in terms of cross-cultural understanding of self-cultivation, mutual affection, and human rights. In so doing, my dissertation proposes a new politics of sexual difference open towards cultural difference.