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Heather Love: Norms, Deviance, and the Queer Ordinary?

Jun 22,19:30, 2015
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The study of norms and deviance is central to the intellectual genealogy of queer studies. While social science scholars have recognized commonalities between the sociological study of deviance and contemporary queer studies, queer humanities scholars have been slow to do so. A significant aspect of what Gayle Rubin has described as the “obscured” history of the field, research on deviance and social problems in the social sciences shaped queer studies’ commitment to subcultures, to non-normativity, and to a constructionist view of sexuality. However, early queer theorists transformed the study of deviance by turning non-conforming behavior from an object of study to a political program. This collapse of the position of the scholar and the social deviant produced transformations in the ethos and style of scholarship, and yet it did not profoundly change the material conditions or the power relations between professional academics and the marginal subjects they study. While queer studies has understood itself alternately as interdisciplinary and as anti-disciplinary, it has failed to grapple with methods of description and objectification that would allow for a fuller apprehension of social worlds and of the position of the researchers who study them. Through this return to the history of post-war sociology, Love argued the account of deviance as part of the social world rather than a departure from it offers an important model for queer scholarship and for the apprehension of the queer ordinary.

Heather Love is the R. Jean Brownlee Term Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include gender studies and queer theory, modernism and modernity, affect studies, disability studies, film and visual culture, psychoanalysis, sociology and literature, and critical theory. She is the author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Harvard, 2007) and the editor of a special issue of GLQ on Gayle Rubin (Rethinking Sex). She is working on projects on reading methods in literary studies, the history of sexuality studies after WWII, and pedagogy and mentorship in queer studies. In 2014-2015, she is the Stanley Kelley, Jr., Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton.

Flyer (PDF)

Time: Monday, 22 June 2015, 19:30
Venue: ICI Berlin
In English



The English verb ‘to err’ has largely lost its positive connotations. It no longer invokes wandering, rambling, or roaming, and is now understood negatively in relation to a prescribed path or goal. To be sure, errors are acknowledged to play an important role in the pursuit of knowledge and happiness, but usually only to the extent that their recognition allows for their elimination, correction, and avoidance. Recognizing that a critique of ideals of productivity, success, goal-orientation, and determination is necessarily paradoxical, the ICI Lecture Series ERRANS will take the shifting meanings of ‘erring’ – connoting the violation of norms as well as the activity of wandering – as a prompt to explore the critical potentials and risks of embracing error, randomness, failure, and non-teleological temporalities, and to do so across different disciplines and discourses.


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