- Introduction to the Special Issue
In In a Queer Time and Place (2005), Judith (Jack) Halberstam argued that “part of what has made queerness compelling as a form of self-description [ . . . ] has to do with the way it has the potential to open up new life narratives and alternative relations to time and space” (1–2). Queer uses of time and space can operate “in opposition to the institutions of family, heterosexuality, and reproduction” (1). Halberstam suggests that we consider queerness beyond the merely sexual to understand queer identity as a mark of “strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules, and eccentric economic practices” (1). Elsewhere, David Lloyd has argued, in Irish Times (2014), that Irish culture is marked by “layered time”: haunted by unfinished pasts that may resist capitalist logic and historical time. In the call for papers, we asked: how might these insights be thought together?
Queering Ireland 2017, the conference upon which this special issue is based, was a joint event— the nineteenth annual University of South Carolina Comparative Literature Conference, and the fifth in a series of Queering Ireland conferences. In 2009, the first Queering Ireland conference was held at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, bringing together a small international contingent of Irish studies and sexuality studies scholars. Queering Ireland 2011 was held in Cork, Ireland, and focused on activism and activist communities, a felt absence at the 2009 conference. Queering Ireland 2013 moved to Buffalo, New York, with a focus on diaspora. The 2015 conference, focused on queer politics, was held in Dublin in August of that year, the perfect time and place for thinking about the relation of queer politics to neoliberalism and [End Page vii] normative identity politics, given the passage of the marriage equality referendum in May, the first successful national vote on marriage equality in the world. Over four international conferences in three countries, Queering Ireland has remained small, which has encouraged a rich and developing conversation. The conference has always included activists and performers alongside academics. Also consistent has been an ethos of collaboration and support and a special attention to the needs of graduate student scholars and activist-scholars outside the academy. The 2017 conference was the first to include a session on dance, and the collaboration with the University of South Carolina’s Comparative Literature conference facilitated a broader conversation on sexuality and citizenship.
The conference took as its theme Queer Times, asking that participants think about strange temporalities, queer life schedules and narratives, eccentric economic practices, as well as issues of age and movement sustainability. How can queer times help us to understand Irish times, we asked? What can queer times say about the representation and politics of marriage, about the intersections and disjunctions of queer and feminist politics? How do we think about queer time across borders, nations, communities? How can queer time reframe economic crisis, austerity politics, the biopolitical, and narratives of nation, economy, culture, and family. How can the theoretical work on queer time by Carolyn Dinshaw, Lee Edelman, Elizabeth Freeman, Jack Halberstam, Heather Love, José Esteban Muñoz, Kathryn Bond Stockton, and others, enrich our understanding of Irish history, literature, and culture.
We asked that participants consider such topics as: queer and trans temporalities (queer life narratives, legibility, and limitations), queer futurity and a queer political imagination, queer methodologies and temporality, the relation of the body to time, temporality and narrative (histories and counter-histories, secret histories, cause and effect, duration, chronology), memory studies (trauma, commemoration and public memory, queer nostalgia), generational differences and continuities, HIV/AIDS, and archives and archival work. (University of South Carolina archives staff put together a small exhibit of queer and Irish materials from the University of South Carolina Hollings Library, Special Collections.) We also asked that participants think about the relation of queer time to citizenship, as migration studies and sexuality [End Page viii] studies have developed a rigorous and multi-faceted account of the relation of sexuality to citizenship, from the sociological overviews of gay and lesbian cultures by Jon Binnie to more recent studies of migration, sexuality, and citizenship by Eithne Luibhéid, Jasbir Puar, and others...