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UNCANNILY QUEER IBERIA: THE PAST AND PRESENT OF IMPERIAL PANIC Mary Gossy Rutgers University It often happens that neurotic men declare that they feel there is something uncanny about the female genital organs. This unheimlich place, however, is the entrance to the former Heim [home] of all human beings, to the place where each one of us lived once upon a time and in the beginning. There is a joking saying that 'Love is home-sickness'; and whenever a man dreams of a place or a country and says to himself, while he is still dreaming: 'this place is familiar to me, I've been here before', we may interpret the place as being his mother's genitals or her body. In this case too, then, the unheimlich is what was once heimisch, familiar; the prefix 'un-' is the token of repression. (Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny" 245) The introduction to the book that gives this Symposium its name does a greatjob of drawing together the words "queer" and "Iberia", especially, I think, when it links Américo Castro's project with a deconstructive understanding of the difference it takes as its subject: "Castro and his school effected in essence a 'queering' of Iberian history by exposing the Semitic roots of modern Spanish identity and by outing as the descendants ofJews or Muslims such icons as Fernando 'el Católico,' Teresa ofÁvila, and Cervantes" (Hutcheson and Blackmore 3). The authors continue, "[i]t is in this sense that we might understand queerness, as that which normativity -in this case a cultural normativity- must reject or conceal in order to exist". There is much evidence supporting the logic of the conscious or unconscious linkage of anti-semitism with homophobia. "[T]hat which is rejected or concealed " is also feminized; it is in this respect, too, that the "queer" is also uncanny. Freud says that the "uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known ofold and long familiar" (220) - known and embodied, but repressed. The "queer" is "always palpable in the incongruities, excesses, or anxieties of normative discourse, but La corónica 30.1 (Fall, 2001): 228-30 Return to Queer Iberia229 it is only exceptionally given expression [one might guess, when the internal pressure builds to an intolerable level, or, conversely, when it seems safe or meaningless to do so], and this only at the margins" (Hutcheson and Blackmore 3). The collection amply and convincingly demonstrates the ways in which queerness is embedded in the fiction that is the building and maintenance of empire. There are some clarifications I would like to add to that statement, though. First, although I know that the imperial is a fiction, I also know that it is a fiction with real power of life and death over bodies of flesh and blood. The queer can and does constantly point to the fictitiousness, the constructed-ness, that is, the unnaturalness of empire. "Queer" and "empire" can be read as binary oppositions, with "empire" ever dependent on, and ever denying, its need for "queer". My concern for today has to do with advancing the project of Queer Iberh in this context, which brings me to my second clarification. To what degree is queer not only embedded in empire, but also in bed with empire? If queerness is "what normativity must reject or conceal in order to exist", then what does normative queerness disown? One would think that "normative" and "queer" could never work as a pair, yet millions of happily married straight couples sprint avidly to new Almodovar films. An essay like Greg Hutcheson's on Alvaro de Luna shows clearly how queer-baiting can help sustain myths of nation or empire. But I am suggesting a next move: are we willing to analyze the "queer" in Queer Iberia, now that the concept of a queer Iberia has been normalized as a canonical text by a prestigious series at a prestigious university press? (It even has a "life-partner", Bergmann and Smith's¿Entiendes?) In the past, we who study Iberia have sometimes waited for scholars in other disciplines to do this kind of work first, and then picked up their...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 228-230
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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