Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics

Muñoz, José Esteban (1999). Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

I have thus far only read one chapter of this book.

Performing Disidentifications

Disidentification refers to how one situates themselves within and against the discourses we are called to identify with. Disidentification becomes the survival strategy of negotiating existence in a phobic public sphere (pg. 4). He notes this is not always an adequate mean of survival, but it can be a means for some who do not wish to follow the conformist path. Muñoz demonstrates this with the example of Marga Gomez reconfiguring the sad and pathetic dominant discourse around lesbians to one that is luxurious and glamorous. he writes: "The fiction of identity is one that is accessed with relative ease by most majoritarian subjects. Minoritarian subjects need to interface with different subcultural fields to activate their own senses of self" (pg. 5).

In developing a theory of disidentification, Muñoz positions herself outside of what He calls the essentialist vs. anti-essentialist debate, understanding identity "as a site of struggle where fixed dispositions clash against socially constituted definitions" (pg. 6). Here, essentialism refers to the notion some identities are naturally certain ways (e.g., men are like x). From a political theorist standpoint, he positions identity as "a point of contact between essential understandings of the self (fixed dispositions) and socially constructive narratives of the self" (pg. 6). For Muñoz, the enacting of the self occurs "at precisely the point where where discourses of essentialism and constructivism short-circuit" (pg. 6). The term identities-in-difference captures the disidentification of failed interpellation of the minoritized subjects into the dominant sphere. When we identify with something, we are always counter-identifying against something else. he references Pechaux's extension of interpellation theory as it relates to three subjects. The Good Subject, who walks the straight line of dominant discourse. The Bad Subject, who actively resists the dominant in everyway, though while risking the reinforcement of the dominant discourse. And the third, unnamed disidentification subject, which neither adopts or opposites the dominant discourse directly, but works on and against it to create permanent structural change.

In disidentifying with theory, he points out the segregation of identity in different identity theories - from gender theory to race theory. For example, he critiques Fanon's compulsory heterosexuality in "Black Skins, White Masks," noting the attribution of queerness to whiteness in critical race theory. He notes that a disidentification with Fanon may be the only way to utilize his powerful theories for queerness. Disidentification enables politics to be built on theorists that are otherwise homophobic, misgoynistic, or queerphobic, adopting the good while reformulating the bad. The process of disidentifying is to read oneself into a narrative that is otherwise not coded to "connect" with you. He discusses how fiction can become a "technology of the self" where one can disidentify with one's reality and reworked into something else. he states that disidentification requires a token of utopianism, as a way of critiquing the past and imagining the future.

Muñoz explicitly embraced queer of color theory as a geneaology oft ignored in queer theory. He discusses how "The Bridge That Called My Back" broke with white first wave feminist expectations around identity, identification and counteridentification. First wave feminism called for a non-racialized, non-classed, and unified identification with "female." He critiques de Beauvoir's "Second Sex" for the epistemic creation of the white Western woman in constant battle with the Man, where counteridentification with men was the feminist way of being a woman. Alarcon, a contributer of "The Bridge that Called My Back," critiqued the lack of engagement with class and color antagonisms among women.