Queer Pedagogy: Some Questions

The following discussion questions are taken from my class summary notes for the 25th of January, 2011.


1. What is paranoid reading? How do we distinguish it from reparative reading? Can an emphasis on reparative reading enable us to get out of the destructive/productive model that seems to always place ethics in opposition to queer/ing practices and visions?

2. What are the implications for pedagogy and queer/ing classrooms/University spaces of shifting from a focus on “knowing (as learning through transmission, acquiring knowledge, etc) to ignorance, in the forms of: failing to know, resisting knowing, risking unknowingness, staying at the limits of intelligibility?

3. How can/does/should failure function in the learning/reading/engaging process?

4. On page 188, Shahani draws upon J Butler to suggest that “there is always the possibility of reworking failure in more reparative directions by identifying the constraints that ‘mark at once thelimits of agency and it most enabling conditions‘.” How can we rework failure? Is it possible to emphasize limits and failure without always falling into a logic of exposure/paranoia?

5. On page 195, Shahani asks: “how are the material conditions that surround the classroom inextricably linked to the failures within the classroom?” What are the material conditions that shape our classroom space? Do you see any parallels between Shahani’s discussion of excellence (196) and the UofM’s “driven to discover” campaign? How does the drive to discover (and the slogan “because”) shape our learning/teaching/engaging experiences?

6. Explain: “The queer insistence is that non-straight sexualities are simultaneously marginal and central, and that heterosexuality exists in an epistemic symbiosis with homosexuality” (Luhmann 3).

Here are a few passages from Luhmann that we can discuss:

1. Crisis

If subversiveness is not a new form of knowledge but lies in the capacity to raise questions about the detours of coming to know and making sense, then what does this mean for a pedagogy that imagines itself as queer? Can a queer pedagogy resist the desire for authority and stable knowledge; can it resist disseminating new knowledge and new forms of subjection? What if a queer pedagogy puts into crisis what is known and how we come to know (Luhmann, 5)?

2. How do we come to know?

Instead of focusing on the common concerns of teaching, such as what should be learned and how to teach this knowledge, pedagogy might begin with the question of how we come to know and how knowledge is produced in the interaction between teacher/text and student (Luhmann, 6).

3. pedagogy posed as ? of what knowledge does to students

As an alternative to the worry over strategies for effective knowledge transmission that reduce knowledge to mere information and students to rational but passive beings untroubled by the material studied, pedagogy might be posed as a question (as opposed to the answer) of knowledge: What does being taught, what does knowledge do to students (Luhmann, 7)?

4. becoming implicated

Alice Pitt (1995) points out: “Learning about content is not the same thing as learning from it. In other words . . . learning is something more than a series of encounters with knowledge; learning entails, rather, the messier and less predictable process of becoming implicated in knowledge” [p. 298](Luhmann, 8).

5. binaries

Both queer theory and pedagogy argue that the process of making (sense) of selves relies on binaries such as homo-hetero, ignorance-knowledge, learner- teacher, reader-writer, and so on. Queer theory and pedagogy place at stake the desire to deconstruct binaries central to Western modes of meaning making, learning, teaching, and doing politics. Both desire to subvert the processes of normalization (Luhmann, 8).

6. knowledge as interminable question

at stake are the implications of queer theory and pedagogy for the messy processes of learning and teaching, reading and writing. Instead of posing (the right) knowledge as answer or solution, queer theory and the pedagogy I have outlined here pose knowledge as an interminable question (Luhmann, 9).

7. ethical, non-heroic practice

Such queer pedagogy does not hold the promise of a successful remedy against homophobia, nor is it a cure for the lack of self-esteem. This pedagogy is not (just) about a different curriculum or new methods of instruction. It is an inquiry into the conditions that make learning possible or prevent learning. It suggests a conversation about what I can bear to know and what I refuse when I refuse certain identifications. What is at stake in this pedagogy is the deeply social or dialogic situation of subject formation, the processes of how we make ourselves through and against others. As an inquiry into those processes, my queer pedagogy is not very heroic. It does not position itself as a bulwark against oppression, it does not claim the high grounds of subversion but hopefully it encourages an ethical practice by studying the risks of normalization, the limits of its own practices, and the im/possibilities of (subversive) teaching and learning.