Notes: David Harvey, “Calculating Risk: Barebacking, the Queer Male Subject, and the De/formation of Identity Politics”

Harvey, David O. (2011). Calculating risk: Barebacking, the queer male subject, and the de/formation of identity politics. Discourse, 33(2), 156-183.


Harvey discusses the rhetorical challenges of barebacking discourses and works to departicularize them from queer experience by articulating how these discourses operate.

Keywords: barebacking, biopolitics, queer, queer theory, queer rhetorics


“The definitional ambiguity about the practice will shed light on what I understand as a queer mode of world-making that blurs the connection between the behavior of barebacking and its connection to a specific and namable mode of being” (p. 158).

“Considering barebacking as an intricately vitiating force may be unsettling, but accepting the validity of such an insight need not an exclude an acknowledgment of the dangers associated with barebacking. Moreover, the manner of calculation in relation to barebacking is not limited to its practitioners; it includes the discourse by which these persons are narrated, accounted for, and figured. Risk again animates these discussions, as many fear the risk barebacking poses not only in the war against HIV/AIDS but also in the campaign for gay equality” (p. 159).

“A biopolitical import can be gleaned within this tacit disagreement between discourses of print and media and discourses of the queer everyday if we understand the mechanics of prescriptive culpability operating behind finger-pointing discursive models. These models ultimately serve to locate and isolate the particularized bodies that behave outside their laws of calculability, laws that are instantiated upon the discovery of a physiologically and sociopolitically hazardous mode of sexuality” (p. 175).

Amy Villarejo, “Tarrying with the Normative: Queer Theory and Black History”

Villarejo, Amy. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.


Villarejo develops a queer of color critique that tends to the symptom (the affective) and system (the normative).

Keywords: affect, bodies, critical race theory, embodiment, film studies, queer, queer theory


“[Q]ueer theory seems to me most equipped to ‘tarry with the normative’ when it forsakes its claims to the literal and makes for the more dangerous—but also more commodious—complications of relationality and variegation.1 Queer is but one name, hurled back with pride, for social abjection, exclusion, marginalization, and degradation; it provides, by this logic, but one opening toward freedom” (p. 70).

“Queer theory offers a view of relationality that is not strictly speaking symptomatic; it offers ways to fly with language and desire away from homology and continuity. Queer theory can offer, in other words, a way to grapple with feeling and with response (affect), a way to work in the interstices of contacts, affiliations, relations” (p. 75).

“The powers of the normative do not yield themselves at all times according to systematic rules of equivalence, where what is progressive lines up historically or theoretically with content alone…. The challenge is to parse the difference between prescription/symptom and living/agency, to resist the desire to tell the old story about how black nationalism is a ruthlessly masculinist enterprise, or to remark the heteronormative assumptions without moving on. The challenge is not, finally, to confuse similarity with equivalence” (p. 82).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Lesbian Feminism” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Lesbian feminism. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 213-234.


Ahmed moves in this chapter to recall lesbian feminism in order to show lesbian feminism as confronting structures that inflict violences. From lesbian feminisms withdrawing from and building from the ruins of oppressive systems, Ahmed calls for an intersectional feminist army.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, intersectionality, queer, queer theory, theory, transgender


“When a life is what we have to struggle for, we struggle against structures. It is not necessarily the case that these struggles always lead to transformation (though neither does one’s involvement in political movements). But to struggle against something is to chip away at something. Many of these structures are not visible or tangible unless you come up against them” (p. 214).

“The desire for recognition is not necessarily about having access to a good life or being included in the institutions that have left you shattered. It is not necessarily an aspiration for something: rather, it comes from the experience of what is unbearable, what cannot be endured” (p. 221).

“To build from the ruin; our building might seemed ruined; when we build, we ruin. It is lesbian feminist hope: to become a ruin, to ruin by becoming” (p. 232).


Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Feminist Snap”

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Feminist snap. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 187-212.


Ahmed puts forward the idea of the snap as a site of feminist work and the creating and maintaining of crises to make the violences of experience visible.

Keywords: embodiment, feminism, feminist theory, queer, queer theory, theory


“We can see how resilience is a technology of will, or even functions as a command: be willing to bear more; be stronger so you can bear more…. Resilience is is the requirement to take more pressure; such that pressure can be gradually increased” (p. 189).

“Feminism: a history of willful tongues. Feminism: that which infects a body with a desire to speak” (p. 191).

“A case for a feminist life can be made in a moment of suspension: we suspend our assumptions about what a life is or should be. Just opening up room for different ways of living a life can be experienced by others as snap” (p. 196).

“We thus learn the need for caution about harm: difference and deviation are often registered as damaging those who are different, those who deviate. So much conservation of power rests on the assumption that not to conserve the familiar forms of an existence would cause damage to what might be or who might be” (p. 197).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Fragile Connections” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Fragile connections. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 163-186.


Ahmed describes how the uneven distribution of diversity work wears and shatters nonnormative bodies and also how diversity work can be a work of breaking. Ahmed offers a different orientation toward breaking, one that holds the tension of nonnormative bodies within institutions as a site of resistance.

Keywords: bodies, critical race theory, disability studies, diversity, embodiment, feminism, feminist theory, queer, queer theory, theory


“It might be that in order to inhabit certain spaces we have to block recognition of just how wearing they are: when the feeling catches us, it might be at the point when it is just too much” (p. 164).

“Clumsiness might provide us with a queer ethics. Such an ethics attends to the bumpiness of living with difference, so often experienced as difference in time; being too slow or too fast, out of time” (p. 166).

“Bumping into each other is a sign that we have not resolved our differences. The resolution of difference is the scene of much injustice. Things might be smoother because some have had to adjust to keep up with others” (p. 166).

“Racism becomes the requirement to think of racism with sympathy, racism as just another view; the racist as the one with feelings, too” (p. 177).

“Perhaps we need to develop a different orientation to breaking. We can value what is deemed broken; we can appreciate those bodies, those things, that are deemed to have bits and pieces missing. Breaking need not be understood only as the loss of integrity of something, but as the acquisition of something else, whatever that else might be” (p. 180).

Notes: Jean Bessette, “Queer Rhetoric in Situ”

Bessette, Jean. (2016). Queer rhetoric in situ. Rhetoric Review, 35(2), 148-164.


Bessette argues for a deeply contextual, weaker theory for queer theory within rhetorical studies.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetoric, Rhetorical Theory, Rhetoric


VanHaitsma, Pamela. (2014). Queering the language of the heart: Romantic letters, genre instruction, and rhetorical practice. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 44.1, 6–24.

Villarejo, A. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.


“[S]ome approaches to importing queer theory into rhetoric may render it arhetorical and by consequence, less productively queer. Instead I argue for a queer rhetorical methodology with increased attention to (1) the historical specificity of a potentially queer rhetorical act, (2) the nuanced complexity of power relations within broad categories of queerness and normativity, and (3) the diversity and range of audiences for any given rhetorical act, which might render it both queer and normative at the same time” (p. 149).

“Sedgwick raises a question that should give rhetorical critics in particular pause. ‘Suppose we were ever so sure,’ she inquires, of the facts of circumstances where nonstraight, nonwhite, and/or nonmale lives are made exploited and expendable in the processes of normalization, “what would we know then that we don’t already know?” (p. 150).

“Perhaps, in reading paranoidly, we see less of the precise, historically and contextually specific manifestations of normativity, queerness, and their agonistic interface. Paranoid analysis is one way but not the only way; it productively reveals some things (large systems of oppression) but may blind us to others (the intricate, unexpected ways normativity actually hypostasizes in a given time and place, for a given set of bodies)” (p. 150).

“I want our understanding of normativity to be more nuanced, flexible, and contextual” (p. 151).

“[W]hile texts are situated in the context of their deployment and reception, the meaning of queerness doesn’t seem to shift with time, nor does the meaning of the normativity it opposes” (p. 152).

“[I]mporting early queer theorists’ affect and connotations of queerness and normativity into other rhetorical moments requires some more reflection” (p. 153).

“[A]nything taken as universal has been established through a rhetorical process of making claims and supporting them with the invention and delivery of implicit and explicit regulations…. This regulation, of course, is precisely what queer theory sets out to expose: that the norms governing accepted forms of gender and sexuality are constructions that privilege some and profoundly harm others” (p. 154).

“I am advocating a queer rhetorical methodology in situ, one that asks: Queer to whom? When? Where, and how? Normative to whom? When? Where, and how?” (p. 157).

Notes: Ragan Fox, “‘Homo’-work: Queering Academic Communication and Communicating Queer in Academia”

Fox, Ragan. (2013). “Homo”-work: Queering academic communication and communicating queer in academia. Text and Performance Quarterly, 33(1), 58-76.


Fox uses narrative inquiry into many of his experiences of communication in pedagogy and in other academic spaces to develop a queer pedagogy that examines the peri-performative aspects of queer communication.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Rhetorics, Queer Theory, Rhetoric, Communication


Yep, Gust A. (2002). From homophobia and heterosexism to heteronormativity: Toward the development of a model of queer interventions in the university classroom. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(3-4), 163-76.


“Some may not understand what it means to ‘‘queer’’ a statement of teaching philosophy because queer epistemologies continue to be marginalized in academia, and some queer instructors *myself included*sometimes feel personally attacked or insulted when colleagues and students do not understand queer theory’s relevance and intricacies” (p. 60).

“Like queer people, peri-performative discourse exists in the margins, speaks the master language (the explicit performative), and potentially disrupts performativity’s habituated reiteration” (p. 62).

“Queering pedagogy involves revealing the wizard behind academia’s curtain. Periperformative communication draws attention to implicative performance, noting who is implicated in performative speech and what discourse is cited in a particular speech act. By investigating speech about queer speech, we come to understand a primary way that epistemology and identity are co-constituted and maintained” (p. 71).

Notes: Charles Morris & John Sloop “Other Lips, Whither Kisses”

Morris, Charles E., & John M. Sloop. (2017). Other lips, whither kisses? Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 14(2), 182-186.


Morris and Sloop, in response to the Pulse shooting in June, 2016, respond to the performance and discourse surrounding two men kissing, asking after performances of race, ethnicity, and ability that are omitted in this dominant discourse.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Rhetorics, Queer Theory, Queer Futurity, LGBTQ, Rhetoric, Communication, Intersectionality


Muñoz, José Esteban. (2000). Feeling brown: Ethnicity and affect. In Ricardo Bracho’s “The Sweetest Hangover (and Other STDs)”, Theatre Journal, 52(1), 67–79.

Chávez, Karma. (2015). The precariousness of homonationalism: The queer agency of terrorism in post-9/11 rhetoric. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 2(3), 32–58.


“[I]t is fair to ask on what grounds we invoked queer worldmaking when our analysis and vision exhibited noexplicit markers or sustained analysis of intersectionality” (184).

“Both of these interventions offered a vibrant critical visual mass, but more, they helped us realize that kissing’s queer futurity… has so much to do with performance, affect, race and ethnicity—which is to insist that we’re seeking here the very specific bodies-in-pleasure gathered on Latinx Night at Pulse before they were cut down, brown bodies in pleasurable excess affectively interconnected, who in their racial and ethnic specificity were subsequently and unsurprisingly erased in large measure by mainstream public discourse” (184).

Notes: Caroline Dadas, “Messy Methods: Queer Methodological Approaches to Researching Social Media”

Dadas, Caroline. (2016). Messy methods: Queer methodological approaches to researching social media. Computers and Composition, 40, 60-72.


Dadas explains the queer methodology that ran through her social media research, highlighting the queering of private/public binaries, the complicated role of ethos, and the possibility of queerness as techne.

Keywords: Research Methods, Methodology, Queer Rhetorics, Queer Theory, Technology


Browne, Kath & Catherine J. Nash (Eds.). (2010). Queer methods and methodologies: Intersecting queer theories and social science research. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

Cushman, Ellen. (1996). The rhetorician as an agent of social change. College Composition and Communication, 47(1), 7-28.

Law, John. (2004). After method: Messiness in social science research. New York, NY: Routledge.


“As more and more citizens are turning to social media platforms for civic work, rhetoric and composition must continue to develop methodological approaches that help study these online spaces. In particular, how do researchers ethically gather data from such sites, considering the tendency for users to treat online spaces as private interactions (McKee & Porter, 2009)? How might we use social media not only as sites of study but also as a method for conducting qualitative research? How can we adapt established research methods to better meet the needs of such dynamic spaces?” (61).

“Queer theory’s rich tradition of interrogating the public and the private provided me with the framework for establishing connectivity between my methods, data, and theoretical approach. The resonances between queer theory and digital research practices in terms of publicity and privacy make queer methodologies particularly fruitful for online research” (61).

“Glasby offered the “rhetorical negotiation” as a way of working through competing ideas (in her case, the dissonance between her personal and scholarly orientations to marriage equality) without expecting the kind of neat resolution that often dominates academic discourse. Rather, as Glasby”s (2014) approach showed, queer epistemologies honor the tensions, fissures, and gaps that often emerge in our research” (62).

“In this context, then, queer methodology functions both as a commitment to researching sites that have not previously found legitimization, as well as a willingness to draw from a range of disciplinary methods. Likewise, Kath Browne and Catherine Nash (2010) emphasized queer research as a way of challenging frameworks of power, located both in the disciplinary tools available to the researcher, as well as in her chosen topic(s). For Browne and Nash, ”Queer research’ can be any form of research positioned within conceptual frameworks that highlight the instability of taken-for-granted meanings and resulting in power relations’ (2010; p. 4″ (62).

“Uninterested in using queerness simply as a theoretical application or a framework for influencing research methods, they [Browne and Nash (2010)] argued that queerness should intersect with ‘those sets of logical organizing principles that link our ontological and epistemological perspectives with the actual methods we use to gather data’ (p. 2). Just as any methodology addresses the relationship between theory, data, and method, queer methodologies help negotiate methods that often do not yield clear-cut results” (63).

“Law (2004), more explicitly than most researchers, acknowledged the profound unknowability of many phenomena that we attempt to study; in doing so, he proposed that we embrace a more messy approach that does not purport to ensure the inherited Enlightenment-era notions of replicability, reliability, or objectivity” (63).

“[A] queer methodology is sensitive to moments when attention from a researcher might bring unwanted publicity to a participant/cause (Banks & Eble, 2009); it also acknowledges the benegits of publicity, particularly when conducting civic-based research, and seeks to harness those benefits in rhetorically savvy ways” (66).

“[U]sing queer ethics as a method involves establishing a more intimate relationship with participants… I drew on a queer ethic to divulge my sexual orientation. Due to the nature of the study…, I believed that disclosing my sexual orientation might be the primary gesture I could make toward establishing intimacy with them. At the same time, I worried that doing so would alienate those potential participants who opposed marriage equality” (66).

“[A] queer methodological stance will often not yield convenient results” (66).

“[A] queer methodology can help weigh all the factors involved and arrive at a decision that demonstrates a commitment to advocating for social justice while also showing care for our participants and ourselves. Such a methodology recognizes that the boundaries between safety and danger are not clear cut, and that acknowledging the fluidity of identity can help us navigate these boundaries in rhetorically savvy ways” (67).

“In other words, transparency can look very different at various stages of research. While being up-front about aspects of one’s life can enrich a project and benefit the researcher-participant relationship, other moments within the same study may require a more reserved approach. Implementing both strategies does not signal inconsistency but rather a kairotic sensitivity” (67).

“The methodology that I claimed, then, allowed for residing along various points on the public/private continuum as a researcher. Queering the methodological notion of transparency allowed me to be ‘public’ in one scenario and to privilege a more private approach in another—and to negotiate the seeming inconsistency by embracing the fissures that emerged in my method” (68).

“In this sense, queerness does not mean being either transparent or not with participants; what is queer is allowing for a broad range of possibilities when it comes to interacting with participants and data. Being able to adjust one’s approach throughout the course of a study, depending on the context, is a valuable tool at a researcher’s disposal” (69).

“Rhetoric and composition as a field has wrestled with its methodological diversity, sometimes seeking out categorization and classification as a way of demonstrating rigor and clarity in our research…. Because queerness flies in the face of clarity, reconciling it with methodological rigor might seem contradictory. In response, I turn to Boelstorff’s (2010) question about what queer studies would look like if it were less concerned with producing episteme than with techne…. When applied to the notion of queer methodologies, techne offers the possibility of troubling normative attitudes toward research rather than setting out a fixed set of characteristics that define such a methodology” (70).

“[V]iewing queerness as techne helps us to reorient toward the process of adaptation, the flexibility of method, the need to constantly change our approaches” (70).

“Using a lens of failure, we can see these disruptions as instances of nonlinearity: that research does not necessarily progress through sequential stages of (private) data collection and analysis and then on to a (public) presentation of the findings when the researcher is ready. Refusing this linear progression is one way that we might adapt established research methods to better meet the needs of dynamic online spaces” (71).

Notes: José Muñoz, “The Future Is in the Present: Sexual Avant-Gardes and the Performance of Utopia.” in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity

Muñoz, José E. (2009). The future is in the present: Sexual avant-gardes and the performance of utopia. in Cruising utopia: The then and there of queer futurity. New York: New York University Press, 49-64.


Muñoz argues that utopian critiques work by insisting the dialectic relationship between the present and the future, showing moments of queer public performances that anticipate and reveal queer-future possibilities.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Futurity


“Certain performances of queer citizenship contain what I call an anticipatory illumination of a queer world, a sign of an actually existing queer reality, a kernel of political possibility within a stultifying heterosexual present” (49).

“I want to suggest that it is a pathos that undergirds the ageism and, for lack of a better word, lookism of all gay male erotic economies” (59).

“This economy eschews the standardized routes in which heteronormative late capitalism mandates networking relations of sex for money” (59).

“The stickers function as performing objects inasmuch as they solicit a response from spectators. Sometimes people attempt to rip the stickers down; at other times people write directly on the stickers. The stickers themselves then become forums for public debate, where people work through pressing social issues in a space away from the corrupt mediatized majoritarian public sphere. The performances that the stickers demand from viewers open the possibility of critical thinking and intervention; they encourage lucidity and political action. They are calls that demand, in the tradition of African American vernacular culture, a response” (61).

“The peaceful vigil become something else. It became a moment when queer people, frustrated and sick of all the violence they had endured, saw our masses. The police responded by breaking up the group, factioning off segments of our groupings, obscuring our mass” (64).

“The state, like Delany, understands the power of our masses, a power that can be realized only by surpassing the solitary pervert model and accessing group identity. Doing so entails resisting the privatization of queer culture… The riot was sobering because the mechanisms of policing were partially displayed, revealed for an evening, and it became very clear to everyone how the idea of queers making contact in a mass uprising scared the state. The utopian promise of our public performance was responded with shattering force. Even though this impromptu rebellion was overcome easily by the state, the activist anger, a productive, generative anger, let those assembled in rage glean a queer future within a repressive heteronormative present” (64).