Introduction: Jacques Ranciere on the shores of queer theory

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Date: Oct. 2009
From: Borderlands(Vol. 8, Issue 2)
Publisher: Borderlands
Document Type: Work overview
Length: 7,797 words
Lexile Measure: 1520L

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This special issue of Borderlands proposes to consider an engagement that has never occurred, between two fields of thought that have never been (and have often resisted becoming) proper 'fields.' This issue itself must therefore stage that encounter, but to do so both the issue and the pieces that comprise it must flirt with a particular danger: namely, that the engagement staged here will be a 'staging' in the worst possible senses.[1] Staging could mean a false and forced construction, a merely academic exercise, or perhaps just a sham. While it goes without saying that we, as editors of the issue, hope to bring about a different sort of staging, it remains for us to say what sort, and why. In thinking through the encounter orchestrated and presented here, we consider the meaning of staging as a mise en scene. We might think such a staging in Ranciere's sense as a particular partition of the sensible. In a response to a recent issue of Parallax devoted to his work, Ranciere, speaking in the third person, discusses precisely the 'dramaturgical' aspects of his work and its refusal to solidify into a 'field' or a 'method': 'This is not a theory of politics, setting the principles for political practice. This is a dramaturgy of politics, a way to make sense of the aporias of political legitimacy by weaving threads between several configurations of sense' (Ranciere, 2009b: 120). We might also think such a staging in the terms of queer activism, as a political confrontation (for example, ACT-UP's 'staging' of kiss-ins or die-ins). Therefore, this special issue rests on the wager that the encounter between the thought of Jacques Ranciere and the work of queer theory will add up to much more than exercises in comparison/contrast or trumping efforts; an effective staging of this encounter must seek to transform both fields of thought. Ranciere conveys just this sense of transformation:

Performing or playing, in the theatrical sense of the word, the gap between a place where the demos exists and a place where it does not ... Politics consists in playing or acting out this relationship, which means first setting it up as a theatre, inventing the argument, in the double logical and dramatic sense of the term, connecting the unconnected. (Ranciere, 1999: 88, emphasis added)

Despite being well aware ourselves that queer theory, even broadly construed, has shown little interest in the writings of Ranciere, and despite understanding fully that Ranciere has at best entirely ignored, at worst actively disdained, the work of queer theory (see Ranciere, 2005), we chose to make this wager (as did, in their own unique ways, the authors who responded to our invitation to write and whose work constitutes this issue) for a number of significant reasons.[2] First, even a superficial reading of Ranciere's conception of politics and police orders, of his understanding of subjectivization (assujetissement), of his theory of the subject as 'in-between' reveals powerful affinities with queer theory's thinking of norms, subversion, and subjectivity as...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A221023065