Year

2004

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of English Literatures, Philosophy and Languages

Abstract

MobiMng a variety of theoretical approaches firom queer, feminist, postcolonial and critical race theory, tíiis dissertation examines the various ways in which contemporary queer cuIturalproductioninCanada intarogates and intervenes in discourses of nation, citizenship and the construction of ihe pubhc sphere. The central questions at the heart of this examination involve, on the one hand, interrogating the constmction of home, belonging, and thus nation, as heteronormative, and, on the other hand, adjudicating between the claim made by some queer Canadian scholars that Canada is a queer nation and the assertion, made by other lesbian and gay scholars, that Canada is too heteronormative to allow for the development of a queer public culture. At the same time, postcolonial and anti-racist approaches to issues of Canadian identity and belonging suggest that race and ethnicity remain crucial sites around which competing discourses of the public sphere are mobilized. Particularly when issues of racial, ethnic or indigenous identity are broached in conjunction with sexually dissident identities, questions of queer alterity serve both to problematize and to interrogate the ways in which it is possible to think about what it means to call Canada home.

This thesis approaches these issues in several ways. It attempts to locate the social and cultural faulthnes, both in populist texts and in queer cultural works, that reveal the contested and contestatory constitutionof queemess bothas belonging and as not belongjng witíiinthe Canadian body politic, in part by looking at two examples that serve as limit tests for both officiaJ and popular discourses of tolerance and multiculturalism — the legahzation of lesbian and gay marriage and the continued, and parhaps increasing, incidence of queer-bashing, particularly in relation to tiie 2001 hate-motivated murder of Aaron Webster. However, following Richard Rorty's assertion that it is predominanfly narrative cultural texts, such as novels and films, that function "as the principal vehicles of moral change and progress," I concentrate predominantiy on narrative examples which both describe and critique the conditions tiiat, often incoherentiy, work to effect the exclusion of lesbian and gay Canadians — especially whenthose Canadians are also, to use RoyMiki's tema, racialized—fromthe public constmction of the nation. Using theoretical approaches predominantiy from tiie work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Michel Foucault, Juditii Bufler, Lee Edelman, Elspeúi Probyn, Paul Morrison, and Ann Cveticovich, I investigate the ways in which contemporary queer cultural production attempts, in Sedgwick's words, to disarticulate and disengage impacted social spaces, suchas family and nation, and to create "a practice of valuing flie ways in which meanings and institutions can be at loose ends with each oflier," a practice in which it is possible to understand flie ways in which normative discourses produce ways of fliinking about home, fømily and naúonTn'wiúch.^everything means the same thing." Tbe critical, cuitural practices I examine include a variety of ways by which queer artists respond to the cultural faulflines tiiat regulate questions of visibility, representation, trauma and tiie creation of archives. I conclude by arguing that it is in tiie very disjuncture between competing discourses of Canada' s queemess and its heteronoraiativity fliat it is possible to assert queerly Canadian ontologies and epistemologies as public knowledges and ways of being that are always contingent and imcertain — and always urgenfly necessary.

Share

COinS