UC Santa Cruz
Queer Remains: Insurgent Feelings and the Aesthetics of Violence
- Author(s): Stanley, Eric A.
- Advisor(s): Haraway, Donna J
- et al.
Through an archive of court cases, prison interviews, morgue reports, film, and video, I argue that the promise of liberal democracy and the larger projects of humanism are built through the slaughter of other types of (non)sociality. Specifically, I attend to the murders of trans and queer people of color, histories of racialized violence, prisons, HIV/AIDS, and the animal industrial complex to knot together spaces of friction where non-mimetic histories might tell us something about one another. In other words, my project is not about substituting abject bodies, but shows how mechanisms of destruction are used and reused in the multiple projects of epistemic violence. To this end, I am interested in the ontological limits for those named as objects, under relentless force. Utilizing theories of the postcolonial, work in Black studies, feminist science studies, political and bioeconomies, and psychoanalysis, I argue that queer life is necessarily produced as the underside of gender normative, able bodied, white heterosexuality.
Queer Remains is about the material remains of trans and queer people, the flesh and bones of those that once were, and also indexes the ways past violations haunt the present. The introduction, "The Afterlives of Social Death" opens with a reading of a closed circuit TV scene of Duanna Johnson, a black trans woman who was brutally beaten by Mississippi police while in custody in 2009. Here I situate my work, and its interventions, in various genealogies of Black, Queer, and Trans studies. The first chapter, "Queer Crypts: Overkill and Ontological Capture," thinks through an archive I assembled of murdered trans and queer people. I work through the gruesome horror of these murders to try to piece together a reading of violence that resists the "bad apple" model that popular LGBT politics argues. The true terror is not only in the pageantry of the murders, but the reality that they are not "outlaw practices," rather they constitute the norm of dominant culture. My second chapter, "Necrocapital: AIDS/Affective Accumulation/Viral Labor," argues that even within the biopolitical state, the reproduction of death is also a space of capitalist accumulation. The violence I highlight is the reality that the HIV cell lines are the alienated cell labor of a person living with HIV, and this labor produces drugs that the same laborer might not be able to afford. My third chapter, "Forced Life: Animality, Trans Captivity and Abolitionist Time," is an extended meditation on forms of "living" that might signify a space of (non)being more unthinkable than death. This chapter's materiality is the dual histories of the prison industrial complex and factory animal farming. Here I am interested in resituating abolition as a way of dislodging the work of humanism as the barometer of liberation. My conclusion, "Death Drops," offers a reading of a 14-year old gay youth's suicide letter, written before he hanged himself in 2010. While such acts are read to be pathological, Seth Walsh suggests in his note that he hopes by taking his own life, he will make those who bullied him "hurt like [he] hurts." Here I position the devastating act of queer suicide as a form of revolutionary violence and not only a "cry for help," but also a demand for action.