- Queering Pedagogies
Running Interference and Going Feral: Twin Strategies That Work in Two Ways—into and out from the Academy
I am a queer-identifying teacher, artist, and activist operating both within and beyond the disciplinary confines of a theatre department in a conservatoire training environment—the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), University of Melbourne. I have been struggling for some time now with the ambivalences and contradictions this throws up, and have been asking: "As a queer artist (outside!) turned artist-scholar (inside!) who has been utterly domesticated by being subsumed into the normative institution of academia … how [can I] continue to exist within that environment? What inequalities does one have to avert one's eyes from in order to stay inside, to hold this position?" (Campbell 177).
To really queer pedagogy, we first need to acknowledge the colonial bias and basis of our ongoing assumptions about education and academic institutions; at times, I have felt that this actually requires the literal and/or metaphorical burning down of our houses, or at an individual level leaving academia. In A Third University Is Possible, however, pseudonymous author la paperson merges decolonizing thought with queerness in a radical but reparative/utopian move that insists it is possible to work from inside to produce change; to utilize the knowledge acquired within these very systems to question them and build new worlds. They assert:
Within the colonizing university also exists a decolonizing education. … Regardless of its colonial structure, because school is an assemblage of machines and not a monolithic institution, its machinery is always being subverted toward decolonizing purposes. The bits of machinery that make up a decolonizing university are driven by decolonial desires, with decolonizing dreamers who are subversively part of the machinery and part machine themselves. These subversive beings wreck, scavenge, retool, and reassemble the colonizing university into decolonizing contraptions. They are scyborgs with a decolonizing desire. You might choose to be one of them.
Scyborg—composed of s + cyborg—is a queer turn of word that I offer to you to name the structural agency of persons who have picked up colonial technologies and reassembled them to decolonizing purposes.(1–2)
This work and concept have reinvigorated my thinking and helped me to stay inside, leading me to argue in this note that queering pedagogies requires a two-way set of strategies based on what we can do inside the academic institution (and specifically within the theatre/drama/performance disciplines) and what we need to take outside the institution. In the first instance, this is about welcoming more queer students, staff, and researchers into the academy (and keeping them), and in the latter, taking the institutional bounties of our privileged positions out to queer communities and artists and sharing knowledge in a more grassroots way—or as I like to put it, going feral. I will document this dual set of strategies in this note. [End Page 117]
Personal Catalysts toward Recognizing the Need for Queer Pedagogies
At the heart of queer pedagogies in the theatre or performance fields is a practical question about how queer artists learn to do what we do, about how we learn to be a (queer) artist, and at a deeper level, how we negotiate life as queer folk. While I have long identified as a "queer artist" (which has its own inherent terminological problems), setting up the queer performance assemblage wreckedAllprods with my long-time creative partner Lachlan Philpott in 2001 (www.wreckedallprods.com), the "problem" of being a "queer academic" did not really solidify for me personally until a series of events left me quite clear that to be "in" academia had entailed a slow though inexorable process of compromises and shifts in priorities that had gradually erased my lived experience as queer, while simultaneously, ironically, that academic position was shored up by research into queer performance.
The first catalyst was an invitation to talk as a queer theatre-maker at Queer Provocations 1 (2016), a series of "thinking" events attached to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. This was a very grassroots environment and I felt immediately (and quite viscerally) how much I stood out in that...