PhD Student in Information Science at University of Colorado Boulder
Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity.Muñoz, José Esteban. 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press.
Introduction: Feeling UtopiaMuñoz opens with the unattainability of queerness; queerness is an ideality of the future, and thus, here and now, we are not queer. Queerness is "not simply a being but a doing for and toward the future" (pg. 1). This book is influenced by the German idealist philosophies of Kant and Hegel, and concretized through the critical Marxist philosophy of Adorno, Benjamin, and Marcuse. He also engages with Bloch's The Principle of Hope as a theorization of utopia. He focuses on Concrete Utopias, which Block define as relational and historically situated, in contrast to Abstract Utopias, which are untethered to historical reality. Thus, Muñoz situates the vision of queer utopia around the time of the Stonewall riots of 1969. He uses his own experiences and historical events to promote "the idea of hope, which is both a critical affect and a methodology" (pg. 4).
He discusses the aesthetics of hope and optimism in performance art, and the work of pop artist Warhol and poet O'Hara, as expressing a queer relationality "imbued with a feeling of forward-dawning futurity" (pg. 7). He differentiates potentiality from possibility. Possibility is a thing that simply might happen, but potentiality is "a certain mode of nonbeing that is eminent, a thing that is present but not actually existing in the present tense" (pg. 9). For example, through the reading of a 1960s poem, Muñoz imagines a non-fully-manifested reality where men could love each other outside of the repression of heterosexuality. Reading potentiality is "the ways it might represent a mode of being and a feeling that was then not quite there [in the past or present] but nonetheless an opening" (pg 9).
Of course, hope can be met with disappointment. Muñoz positions disappointing me as a difficulty in his critical approach, but states that disappointment must be risked to resist political pessimism. His major thesis is fighting the antiutopian and antisocial queer theories emerging in academy during this time (2008). In particular, he is oppositional to Edelman's book No Future, which poses an "antirelational thesis" that denounces relationality by distancing queerness from race, gender, and "other particularities that taint the purity of sexuality as a singular trope of difference" (pg. 11). Muñoz argues that queerness must be undersood as collective. Further, contrasting Edelman's perspective that futurity is childish, Muñoz posits queerness as futurity and hope, as something always on the horizon.
Queerness as Horizon: Utopian Hermeneutics in the Face of Gay PragmatismThis chapter starts from the past, what Boch called the "no-longer-conscious," the work the past does, the performative force of the past (pg. 19). Specifically, he visits the manifesto written in Gay Flames by Third World Gay Revolution in 1971 calling for a new revolutionary socialist society. The piece, at its time, called for a future society. Now, it also presents an opportunity to look back and readopt and reimagine its tenants for a future society. In contrast, more recent calls (in relation to the text) like Freedom to Marry do not imagine a liberation consistent with utopianism, because they employ a homonormative stance that benefits only a few. He feels that "gay pragmatic organizing is in direct opposition to the idealist thought that I associate as endemic to a forward-spawning queerness" (pg. 21). Instead, he seeks to look beyond the "hollow nature of the present" (ibid). He rejects "straight time" which posits no future beyond the here and now of everyday life. Looking to a future horizon does not reject everyday reality; rather, engagement with everyday reality should be utopian. Muñoz searches for utopian statements of queer relationality in poetry and art.
"Queerness is utopian, and there is something queer about the utopian" (pg. 26). He posits that it is queer to live within "straight time" but desire and imagine utopian times and places of collective futurity are available to all. He discusses a queer utopian hermeneutic, which seeks out queer relational formations within the social. "Ultimately, we must insist on a queer futurity because the present is so poisonous and insolvent" (pg. 30).