Queering Knowledge: Analytics, Devices and Investments after Marilyn Strathern – Paul Boyce, EJ Gonzalez-Polledo and Silvia Posocco, Editors, forthcoming.
This collection of essays draws on the significance of Marilyn Strathern’s work in respect of its potential to queer anthropological analysis and to foster the reimagining of the object of anthropology. Strathern’s ethnographic contributions to studies of personhood, kinship, gender relations and reproduction in Melanesia and Britain have achieved wide recognition in anthropology, gender and science studies. Her analytic devices, rhetorical forms and figurations, such as (partial) relations, binaries, scales, homologies and analogies, and her strategy to conflate conceptual and empirical ontologies, have had profound effects on anthropologists’ responses to the crisis of representation, especially for those who have drawn on the productive, transformative and subversive capacities of her analytic thinking to conjure up the ethnographic present. Against this background this volume focuses on how, and to what effects, Strathern’s analytic forms might inform, reverberate and refract the object of anthropology through and against the constitution of queer subjects and objects, nature-cultures and forms of desire – rendering these as ‘newly’ unfamiliar.
Arguably, although the relation between the aims and scope of queer and anthropological analysis remains, as ever, awkward, engagement with Strathern’s work has the potential to advance queer anthropological thinking. We have invited contributors to consider, for example, ways in which ethnographic work might move beyond conceiving ‘queer’ as a subject category for use in culturally comparative work. While we each support and engage in such work, we are also concerned that the employment of the rubric ‘queer’ as a domain term to describe ethnographic subjects runs the risk of collapsing sexual difference and dissidence into what has become an (overly) familiar, if still marginal subject designation. Conversely we have invited authors to utilize a range of ontological imaginings and subversions to focus on how people might relate to queer object categories partially, merographically, or in terms of a sense of dissonance from signifier and self. In this sense we seek to evoke a sense of queer representational estrangement and explore how varied analytics, devices and investments that, and after Marilyn Strathern, may queer anthropological knowledge.
The volume is organized after a specific Strathernian device, the merograph, a term that denotes ways in which parts of things may become shared to effect both differences and connections through the act of being contrasted as things. The imaginative act that brings together separate parts as attributes for recognising differences comprises an apposite analogy for the present collection, wherein each chapter comprises a convergence through and around specific Strathernian analytical devices. The volume, therefore, proposes a reading that both flows and diverts in connected and unfinished analytic forms, especially in that we hope and imagine that the synergies and divergences that the book may offer may extend beyond those contained within its pages. Across contributors’ multiple analytic approaches, devices and investments, the volume asks:
-What forms of anthropological thinking do the analytic forms that we propose conjure up? How and in what contexts do they become relevant to figuring out intimacies, desires and the politics of sexual and gender diversity?
– How do knowledge practices of composition and decomposition, contextualization and out-contextualisation, estrangement, parting and re-assembling of queer objects, subjects and relations operate and to what effect?
– What ethical, political and aesthetic reconfigurations emerge in using these devices in contexts near and far?
– How do these conceptual/analytic devices (queer) how anthropology knows?