Cruising Utopia

Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity

José Esteban Muñoz
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    Cruising Utopia
    Book Description:

    The LGBT agenda for too long has been dominated by pragmatic issues like same-sex marriage and gays in the military. It has been stifled by this myopic focus on the present, which is short-sighted and assimilationist.Cruising Utopia seeks to break the present stagnancy by cruising ahead. Drawing on the work of Ernst Bloch, Jose Esteban Munoz recalls the queer past for guidance in presaging its future. He considers the work of seminal artists and writers such as Andy Warhol, LeRoi Jones, Frank O'Hara, Ray Johnson, Fred Herko, Samuel Delany, and Elizabeth Bishop, alongside contemporary performance and visual artists like Dynasty Handbag, My Barbarian, Luke Dowd, Tony Just, and Kevin McCarty in order to decipher the anticipatory illumination of art and its uncanny ability to open windows to the future.In a startling repudiation of what the LGBT movement has held dear, Munoz contends that queerness is instead a futurity bound phenomenon, a "not yet here" that critically engages pragmatic presentism. Part manifesto, part love-letter to the past and the future, Cruising Utopia argues that the here and now are not enough and issues an urgent call for the revivification of the queer political imagination.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5951-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Feeling Utopia
    (pp. 1-18)

    QUEERNESS IS NOT yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain. Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. The here and now is a prison house. We must...

  5. 1 Queerness as Horizon: Utopian Hermeneutics in the Face of Gay Pragmatism
    (pp. 19-32)

    I BEGIN THIS chapter on futurity and a desire that is utopian by turning to a text from the past—more specifically, to those words that emanate from the spatiotemporal coordinate Bloch referred to as the no-longer-conscious, a term that attempts to enact a more precise understanding of the work that the past does, what can be understood as the performative force of the past. A 1971 issue of the gay liberation journalGay Flamesincluded a manifesto by a group calling itself Third World Gay Revolution. The text, titled “What We Want, What We Believe,” offered a detailed list...

  6. 2 Ghosts of Public Sex: Utopian Longings, Queer Memories
    (pp. 33-48)

    In 1989 I saw Douglas Crimp give a rousing and moving talk titled “Mourning and Militancy” at the second national Lesbian and Gay Studies conference, held at Yale University.¹ Crimp explained the workings of mourning in queer culture as he cataloged a vast, lost gay male lifeworld that was seemingly devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I want to call attention here to a specific moment in Crimp’s talk in which an idea of Freud’s is put in conversation with queer spaces and practices from a historically specific gay male lifeworld:

    Freud tells us that mourning is the reaction not only...

  7. 3 The Future Is in the Present: Sexual Avant-Gardes and the Performance of Utopia
    (pp. 49-64)

    FUTURITY CAN BE a problem. Heterosexual culture depends on a notion of the future: as the song goes, “the children are our future.” But that is not the case for different cultures of sexual dissidence. Rather than invest in a deferred future, the queer citizen-subject labors to live in a present that is calibrated, through the protocols of state power, to sacrifice our liveness for what Lauren Berlant has called the “dead citizenship” of heterosexuality.¹ This dead citizenship is formatted, in part, through the sacrifice of the present for a fantasmatic future. On oil dance floors, sites of public sex,...

  8. 4 Gesture, Ephemera, and Queer Feeling: Approaching Kevin Aviance
    (pp. 65-82)

    THIS CHAPTER HAS two beginnings.¹ One is a story culled from personal memory, and the other is a poem by a prominent twentieth-century North American poet. Both openings function as queer evidence: an evidence that has been queered in relation to the laws of what counts as proof. Queerness has an especially vexed relationship to evidence. Historically, evidence of queerness has been used to penalize and discipline queer desires, connections, and acts. When the historian of queer experience attempts to document a queer past, there is often a gatekeeper, representing a straight present, who will labor to invalidate the historical...

  9. 5 Cruising the Toilet: LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Radical Black Traditions, and Queer Futurity
    (pp. 83-96)

    AMIRI BARAKA D ENOUNCED much of the life of LeRoi Jones, a writer, editor, and bon vivant in the bohemia of New York City’s Greenwich Village during the late 1950s and early 1960s. A difficult play by LeRoi Jones (Baraka),The Toilet, is emblematic of the life that Baraka eschews with hardly a backward glance.¹The Toiletwas produced in 1964, on a double bill with a play by Frank O’Hara, one of the members of the demimonde that Jones inhabited. Though I read the play as a narrative of violence and negation, it does nonetheless generate the possibility of...

  10. Color illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. 6 Stages: Queers, Punks, and the Utopian Performative
    (pp. 97-114)

    How does one stage utopia? Which is to say, how do we enact utopia? In the various chapters of this book, some form of that question is almost always articulated. It is one of those good questions that help writers clarify their arguments, to propel their thinking forward. One thing I have learned from this question is that utopia is an ideal, something that should mobilize us, push us forward. Utopia is not prescriptive; it renders potential blueprints of a world not quite here, a horizon of possibility, not a fixed schema. It is productive to think about utopia as...

  12. 7 Utopia’s Seating Chart: Ray Johnson, Jill Johnston, and Queer Intermedia as System
    (pp. 115-130)

    THE STONEWALL RIOT was a manifestation of pent-up energies that erupted on the streets of Greenwich Village in 1969. Today I live and work in the Village, and it is hard to find any residue of those energies. Yet the task of finding traces of those transformative political potentialities is nonetheless important, and in my research I often return to that moment of countercultural fecundity. Stonewall is of course the birth of the modern gay and lesbian movement and the initial eruption that led to a formalizing and formatting of gay and lesbian identities. Although this turn to the identitarian...

  13. 8 Just Like Heaven: Queer Utopian Art and the Aesthetic Dimension
    (pp. 131-146)

    MY FATHER HATES the color green. He will not dress in green, nor will he furnish his home in the color. I grew up knowing this but not really thinking about it. Once, in the midst of my self-absorbed adolescence, I bought him a green sport shirt for Father’s Day, and he reacted badly. Noticing my disappointment in his reaction to the present he quickly explained that the color green reminds him of the military, and specifically of the forced agricultural labor camp to which he was sent after he applied to move with his family from Cuba to the...

  14. 9 A Jeté Out the Window: Fred Herko’s Incandescent Illumination
    (pp. 147-168)

    SURPLUS VALUE IS a loaded concept. Its origins exist in Marxian political economy. Surplus value is the value of work done or commodities produced that exceeds what a worker needs. It is the source of profits for the capitalist in bourgeois society. The process of production is essentially the production of surplus value. Within capitalism surplus value becomes profit in the form of capital for the capitalist, and it is at the expense of the alienated worker. This strict economic understanding of surplus value is transformed when we consider aesthetic theory. In Ernst Bloch’s work, surplus becomes that thing in...

  15. 10 After Jack: Queer Failure, Queer Virtuosity
    (pp. 169-184)

    JACK SMITH IS the progenitor of queer utopian aesthetics. His influence washes over this book and its desire to conjure a queer utopian sphere of potentiality. In Mary Jordan’s documentaryJack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantisseveral of Smith’s friends and collaborators explain that invoking the fabled lost continent of Atlantis was Smith’s way of invoking the utopian. The aesthetic practice that I have previously described as disidentification focuses on the way in which dominant signs and symbols, often ones that are toxic to minoritarian subjects, can be reimagined through an engaged and animated mode of performance or spectatorship.¹...

  16. Conclusion: “Take Ecstasy with Me”
    (pp. 185-190)

    WE MUST VACATE the here and now for a then and there. Individual transports are insufficient. We need to engage in a collective temporal distortion. We need to step out of the rigid conceptualization that is a straight present. In this book I have argued that queerness is not yet here; thus, we must always be future bound in our desires and designs. The future is a spatial and temporal destination. It is also another place, if we believe Heidegger, who argued that the temporal is prior to the spatial. What we need to know is that queerness is not...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 191-208)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-216)
  19. Index
    (pp. 217-222)
  20. About the Author
    (pp. 223-223)