York Sociology Seminar Series
Queer critiques of linear narratives of ‘progress’ succinctly capture the difficulty of imagining new or more liberatory futures, particularly when these futures are conceived through lenses of the present. The ‘cruel optimism’ of a promise of a happier future creates affective ties to narratives, behaviours and legal methods that may often have little to offer the most vulnerable. As queer international relations scholarship has shown, narratives of ‘progress’ in international LGBTQI+ rights can work to sanitise queer lives and struggles by directing them through already established structures, of state, capital and law: LGBTQI+ futures must be achieved through the institutions of the present. These temporal limitations are equally evident in postcolonial interventions that make clear that the issue here is not just the problem of a single progressive temporality, but the interaction of multiple temporalities operating at different scales. Or, as Rahul Rao suggests, ‘time matters differently in the queer postcoloniality’.
Focusing on these temporal debates, the talk engages with questions of how we might think queer futures beyond progress narratives and their accompanying institutional structures. It engages with time as multidimensional to argue that that simply countering linear narratives of LGBTQI+ progress will not escape the logics of the present or account for injustices of the past. Instead, it is necessary to reverse those logics and conceive of the present as a dimension of the future even if we do not know what that future will be. This reframing of time’s directionality makes visible the way in which international institutions assume their own atemporality and continuation into a future that resembles the present. In so doing, it also gives greater capacity for refusal of those structures of the present that are limiting, unjust or absurd. Using this framework, the talk identifies what elements might be required to think futures of LGBTQI+ justice in a non-linear fashion, where the future is not tethered to the present or reliant upon a single path of progress.