- Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion ed. by Ryan Conrad
Every now and again the landscape of queer politics pulsates alongside the rhythms of juridical decision-making, intertwined with the often-conflicting energies of nonprofit organizations, political leaders, radical queer activists, queer academics, and small-town organizers. Amid a generative current of public feeling following a ruling in 2013 against California’s Proposition 8, Against Equality completed its anthology, Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion (edited by cofounder Ryan Conrad). As an anthology of previous collections, Against Equality’s newest curation is all the more auspicious as publics ponder “what’s next?” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage ruling. Described as an “archive anthology” foregrounding a dynamic queer public culture, Against Equality is a timely collection that promises to ignite, agitate, and, one hopes, regenerate public imaginations relative to the politics of kinship, intimacy, survival, and violence. As a useable archive, Against Equality’s trenchant observations of the “holy trinity” of marriage, militarism, and the carceral state will prove to be instructive as thinkers and activists continue to craft a vocabulary for queer politics fit for our contemporary landscape.
Against Equality is written for a broad audience, making it ideal for undergraduate and graduate classrooms, activist reading groups, and prison libraries. The book is well-suited for conversations engaging kinship and the law, queer activism, and queer media. The voices of the anthology might best be described as a “coalition at the limits”—highlighting a constellation of perspectives, experiences, and politics that rub against the promises of universal inclusion within these institutional contexts. Part I, “Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage,” features texts published in the early 2000s that “agitate for a much needed dialogue” about the privatization of kinship relative to neoliberal imaginations (21). These texts reframe narratives of progress by situating marriage advocacy within a context of queer historical memory, political economy, intersectionality, and coalitional politics. In Part II, “Don’t Ask to Fight Their Wars,” analysis turns toward the question of inclusion within a military actively engaged with troops [End Page 136] on the ground and drones in the air in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Finally, Part III, “Prisons Will Not Protect You,” reflects on the palpable double bind felt by those generating critiques of the prison industrial complex while simultaneously demanding forms of accountability for racist, transphobic, transmisogynist, and homophobic violence (166). Reflecting on the question of “what does it mean to feel safe,” these pieces prioritize frameworks of survival for those most vulnerable, dismantling unjust carceral systems and logics, in addition to imagining and building alternatives (170–71).
Although these short essays rehearse familiar frustrations in the terms of institutions and radical resistance, the critique does not end there. Indeed, falling into the seeming incommensurability between so-called assimilation and oft-romanticized queer resistance may not afford a more pleasurable mode of reading. Although some essays reiterate a critique driven by the “normalization” of possibilities for queer lives under the terms of privatized kinship, the collection as a whole is united by a commitment to accessible analyses of political economy. As such, it draws attention to operations of institutional life interwoven into the social and historical fabric, directing attention to the material constraints of social action. In this regard, Against Equality offers popular texts to teach alongside feminist and anti-racist perspectives often omitted from the foreground of contemporary queer worldmaking.
Against Equality imagines a particular vision of queer worldmaking that links kinship with economics, one that collective cofounder Yasmin Nair describes as “not simply the celebration of an outsider status, although it is often that, but an economic critique” (20). The collection’s strongest contribution is its own awareness as a work of imagination beyond any specific piece—one that addresses its critics’ desires for pragmatism while acknowledging that the life of the anthology will be largely shaped by the dialogue it inspires. For example, in the introduction, collective members Conrad, Karma Chávez, Nair, and Deena Loeffler write, “Our hope is...