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Anarchic Intimacies: Queer Friendship and Erotic Bonds

  • Author(s): Dumortier, Laurence
  • Advisor(s): Doyle, Jennifer
  • et al.

What makes a friendship “queer”? The queerness of the friendships I will explore in this project is, in part related to, but not co-extensive with, the sexual orientation of its participants. In all of the pairings I examine, at least one, if not both, of the friends is non-heterosexual. However, what makes the “queerness” of each of these friendships is not only the orientation of its participants, but the relationship’s exceeding of the conventional boundaries and definitions of friendships.

“Friendship” is a contested and yet vague term, in both straight and queer relationships, in part because of the opposition between ‘éros’ and ‘philía’ in the conception of human relationships. For gays and lesbians—often excluded or distanced from their birth families—one appealing way of understanding friendship has been through a reworking of the structures of kinship. There has been substantial important work on gay and lesbian kinship since Kath Weston’s pioneering Families We Choose (1991), including Elizabeth Freeman’s nuanced contemporary analysis in “Queer Belongings” (2007).

While theorizations of queer kinship tend to enfold and absorb friendship into the rubric of “chosen family,” one of the things that makes friendship friendship is its ability to exist as an alternative to family, even as these queer friendships can also offer the possibility of forming a kind of family that departs from heteronormative models. In other words, the important work done on queer kinship cannot take the place of the still-necessary work on queer friendship. The deep difference between friendship and family cannot be resolved by the catch-all-ness of kinship. My dissertation argues for a theorizing of relationships that is not coextensive with either romantic and sexual couplehood, or kinship, a theorization that has the potential to open up the greater possibilities of the way human beings can relate to one another, not outside of, but pushing or playing against the conventions of family, couplehood, and sexual exclusivity, in ways that are affectively meaningful and politically potent.

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