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Queer Windows (Critical and Cultural Theory)

a talk on queer publics, media histories, and online fandom at The Evergreen State College

Julie Levin Russo

on 7 November 2016

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Transcript of Queer Windows (Critical and Cultural Theory)

Flash Forward to...
Queer Female Space vs. Quality Fandom
Private Personhood?
"'Private' has come to signify both the domain of capitalist economies and the domain of personal freedom and domestic intimacy...
J/7 Pulp Fiction Cover Art Series! No. 6, "I Prefer Girls" by Tenderware (by permission of the artist) original cover painting by Robert Maguire, 1963
"Many fan writers say that what they do is fix things that are wrong with the shows they love, or pick up and carry out possibilities that are unavailable to television. In the case of erotic fan fiction, one thing fans seem to indignantly assert is lacking in the mass media is public characters and discourses that are meaningfully embodied and erotic. Slash makes the additional demand that queer sexuality and relationships be publicly celebrated...
"Cyborg Sex in Public" (by me ~2000)
Queer Windows
Julie Levin Russo • CCT • April 7, 2014
"Older people, gay and lesbian people, homeless people, unmarried people, and people of colour were simply written out of these community spaces – relegated back to the cities." (Spigel)
Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window
People gather around a television outside a store window on a New York street as President John F. Kennedy speaks during a press conference on November 21, 1962.
"Does a Window belong to the inside or the outside? In [1946's] "Here Is Television, Your Window to the World," [Hutchinson] split the difference:
Television actually is a Window looking out on the world. Radio brought sound to the home - television adds the visual image.... Television means the world in your home and in the homes of all the people in the world.
(x-xi)" (Keenan)
...market-fueled digitalization is celebrated for democratically multiplying the shapes, rhythms, and vectors of publicness... Yet digital technologies are also blamed for overextending the domain of the public." (Robbins)
"Habermas notes that 'subjectivity, as the innermost core of the private, was always oriented to an audience' [through print cultures], adding that the structure of this intimacy includes a fundamentally contradictory relation to the economy: ...'a private autonomy denying its economic origins'" (Berlant/Warner)
heteronormativity: private publics / public privates
"citizens have been led through heterosexual culture to identify both themselves and their politics with privacy. In the official public, this involves making sex private" (Berlant/Warner)
"The window served as the membrane between inside and outside... as if to enact the separation between private and public space...
...As the window grew in relation to the wall... it became more and more of a permeable interface, its transparency enforced a two-way model of visuality: by framing a private view outward - the "picture" window - and by framing a public view inward - the "display" window."
"The window implies a theory of the human subject as a theory of politics, and the subject's variable status as public or private individual is defined by its position relative to this window... [But] if the window is the opening in the wall constitutive of the distinction between public and private, it is also the breaching of that distinction itself."
- Thomas Keenan, "Windows: of vulnerability"
"During the 1950s millions of Americans – particularly young white couples of the middle class – responded to a severe housing shortage in the cities by fleeing to new mass-produced suburbs... the central preoccupation in the new suburban culture was the construction of a particular
discursive space
through which the family could mediate the contradictory impulses for a private haven on the one hand, and community participation on the other...
...Given its ability to merge private with public spaces, television was the ideal companion for these suburban homes... Television was caught in a contradictory movement between private and public worlds, and it often became a rhetorical figure for that contradiction."
- Lynne Spigel, "The Suburban Home Companion"
move-in day (1950)
"sexuality cannot be separated from other categories of identity and social status... If queer theory's project is characterized, in part, as an attempt to challenge identity categories... then critiques of naturalized racial categories are also crucial to its antinormative project... Heternormativity must itself be understood, then, as a racialized concept" (Somerville)
"[Because of] the fundamentally unequal material conditions whereby the institutions of social reproduction are coupled to the forms of hetero culture... Queer is difficult to contextualize

The queer project we imagine is not just to destigmatize those average intimacies... [but] to support forms of affective, erotic, and personal living that are public in the sense of accessible, available to memory, and sustained through collective activity." (Berlant/Warner)
necessarily urban?
necessarily real/embodied?
"The plot of "Freeing Kathryn" revolves around a subtly enumerated interrogation of how and why Janeway and Seven's sexual relationship should be made public knowledge. For Seven, Janeway's struggle to reconcile her needs as a captain and as a woman is connected to Seven's own acceptance on Voyager as a former Borg... This story paints a picture of a new mode of intimacy in which two transformations are considered inseparable from each other: the transformation of publicity into a space open to sexual and homosexual experience and the transformation of sex into a pleasurable site for embracing the cyborg's subversions."
"I would like to begin to think about [media] consumption from the perspective of the cyborg, who sees positions as contingent, contradictory, unstable, and intangible, and defines culture as connectivity, simultaneity, impurity, and information. And from a queer perspective which calls into question the appropriate distinctions between and substance of the private and the public."
"Most academic research on slash fan communities has located a disruption of heteronormativity in straight women’s fannish engagement, sidestepping issues of queerness beyond the fact that stories’ protagonists are presented in homosexual relations... Again and again, slash fans invoke narratives of closetedness, of coming out."
- "'Yearning Void and Infinite Potential':
Online Slash Fandom as Queer Female Space"
Alexis Lothian, Kristina Busse, Robin Anne Reid
"I think that slash fandom is a space that invites queer potential. Not all acts within its diffuse borders are queer, but many of them are. Not all slash products are queer in their content, but they can be—and many of them in ways more profoundly transgressive than simply containing m/m or f/f relationships. Not all slash fans identify as queer, but this space provides room for people to queer their identities. Queerness isn’t a mandate here—it’s an open possibility."
flashback to late 1990s...
...online media fandom
[Melanie Kohnen]
[Suzanne Scott]
implications for online fandom as a *potential* queer counterpublic?
Queer Futures
not embeddable; see source:
The Glass - fanvid by thingswithwings
A Reading @
my wedding...
ambivalences of queer politics...

romantic couple
smashing through
the Window (Screen)
“Queer” by Siobhan B. Somerville and “Public” by Bruce Robbins. In
Keywords for American Cultural Studies
, edited by Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler. NYU Press, 2007.

Berlant, Lauren, and Michael Warner. “Sex in Public.”
Critical Inquiry
24, no. 2 (1998): 547–566.

Friedberg, Anne.
The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft
. MIT Press, 2009.

Keenan, Thomas W. “Windows: Of Vulnerability.” In
The Phantom Public Sphere
, edited by Bruce Robbins and Social Text Collective. University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Lothian, Alexis, Kristina Busse, and Robin Anne Reid. “‘Yearning Void and Infinite Potential’: Online Slash Fandom as Queer Female Space.”
English Language Notes
no. 42.5 (2007): 103–111.

Spigel, Lynn. “The Suburban Home Companion: Television and the Neighborhood Ideal in Post-War America.” In
Feminist Television Criticism, A Reader
, edited by Charlotte Brunsdon, Julie D’Acci, and Lynn Spigel. Oxford University Press, 1997.

definition of slash:
Full transcript