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  • Queer Futures:The Then and There of LGBTQ Theatre Scholarship
  • Kareem Khubchandani (bio)

Introduction: Queer Genealogies—Remembering the Future

“Queer Futures” was a follow-up to the panel on LGBTQ Historical Scholarship, as well as an opportunity to remember the contributions of the late José Esteban Muñoz, whose future-oriented scholarship positioned queerness and performance as sites of political possibility. Panelists mapped the strange pasts that shaped their scholarly trajectories, and gestured toward new directions in scholarship and artistic practice. This essay maps queer genealogies that emerged during the panel: the citations of mentors and advisees, the morphing meanings of queer, the fleeting contacts that left deep impressions, the origin stories of research projects, and the evolutions of ideas. The five panelists—E. Patrick Johnson, Omi Osun Joni Jones, Brian Herrera, Sean Metzger, and Clare Croft—offered us itineraries of their current projects, promising a rich and generous future for queer performance scholarship.1

The room was filled with generations of queer performance scholars, and each speaker took a moment to acknowledge mentors and inspirations. Johnson recalled Sharon Bridgeforth’s influence on his mixed-media approach to presenting intellectual work, and Croft marked the presence of several of her graduate mentors in the room: Jill Dolan, Stacy Wolf, and Omi Jones. Metzger not only cited his mentor Sue-Ellen Case, but pointed out two newly minted PhDs from the program he teaches in, Lisa Sloan and Sheila Malone, present in the audience. These citations resonated with me; my dissertation advisor—Johnson—was on the panel, but I am also a product of Dolan’s family, as her advisee, Ramón Rivera-Servera, was on my committee. In addition, Muñoz’s advisee, Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, informally mentored me as a fellow queer person of color through my last years of study. The mentorships named in the room spoke to the ongoing legacy of queer studies. They rendered citation a political practice, and made evident the systems of care that LGBTQ people, women, and people of color know to be necessary in surviving the academy.

I was reminded as well of the ubiquity with which origin stories shape queer performance scholarship. Croft described the first time someone called her “queer,” in a dance studio beneath a poster of Mikhail Baryshnikov at age 8. In this, I heard resonances with many other projects, including Muñoz’s, which often returns to teenage and childhood anecdotes that affectively undergird the urgency of his arguments. Herrera’s young self as an early career graduate student and Johnson’s hometown of Hickory, North Carolina, that led him to research black gay men in the South made appearances as important characters in the genesis of their work. These testimonies tell us that the way we deploy “queer” is not only developed through a scholarly journey, but is made across the course of a lifetime. This was especially evident in Jones’s comments; she told us that while “I have always been queer,” there is a price to living a secret life that “cramped a creative and spiritual life.” [End Page 45] The possibility of opening a queer praxis, then, involves reckoning with the queerness we have always known. Origin stories are one way to know that we always knew.

The panel reinvigorated queer studies not only by framing queer as a useful sociopolitical optic—“queer is threat,” “queer is strange,” “black is queer,” “nonnormativity,” “new forms of affiliation,” “the break”—but also as a methodology. Johnson showed us clips from an upcoming documentary about his play Pouring Tea. In a scene from this film, an elderly gay male, interracial couple directs his performance of their story. Johnson comments that such dialogic praxis “pulls back the veil of artistic practice and research process” and “pushes at the boundaries of art, narrative, and social science.” While scholars like Johnson have used queer to disarrange theoretical and epistemological borders, Croft suggests that queer studies has tended to study the body primarily as metaphor. Describing the anthology she is editing, Croft suggests that dance offers queer studies the tools to think more intently with and through embodiment. Herrera reiterates the importance of embodied knowledge in archiving queer desire...


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pp. 45-46
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