"In times like the present, sexuality and gender become arenas where conflicts about how society could be reorganized take place." ©Leuphana/Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
"In times like the present, sexuality and gender become arenas where conflicts about how society could be reorganized take place."
Why the book on Queer Studies basic texts now?
There were several reasons for the book. One was simply that questions of gender and sexuality have become profoundly politicized in recent years and have become a crucial arena of social, political and cultural conflict. Queer studies can - and this also applies to the texts in this volume - provide a range of theoretical and analytical tools for understanding the current moment, how it came about and how it can be responded to.
Queer Studies has now arrived in the academic mainstream.
I'm not sure whether Anglophone queer studies are really part of the academic mainstream in Germany yet. For the simple reason - as one of the first reviews has already pointed out - that most of the seminal works in the field have never been translated. Even if many people read in English, language remains a barrier to reception. The fact that few texts and authors have been translated has led to a distorted perception of what constitutes Anglophone queer studies, the theoretical traditions in which it is situated and the issues and problems it addresses. We wanted to show something of this range and heterogeneity.
What defines Queer Studies?
I see queer studies less as an academic discipline, but rather as an approach that can be seen in and across many fields of research: literature, history, sociology, political science, philosophy and visual cultures. Queer approaches are concerned with the ways in which literature, history, society, politics, etc. have been and continue to be shaped by contested norms around gender and sexuality. But the theories and methods developed are also taken up by scholars from across the humanities and social sciences - including many whose work does not directly address issues of gender and sexuality. The texts in the book offer queer ways of thinking about political economy, subjectivity, migration, epistemology, racism, art, social movements, film and disability. They are not aimed exclusively at those who conduct research in gender studies or on questions of sexuality.
Is it even possible to derive universal insights when the object under investigation is a small, self-contained group?
In the 1980s, gay and lesbian studies were primarily focused on the lives of a relatively clearly defined group of sexual minorities. What queer studies added to this was a "universalizing" perspective. Such a perspective implies that a critical focus on sexuality is fundamental to understanding almost every aspect of culture and society.
Please give an example.
Gladly. The history of the market economy has been and continues to be characterized by long periods of growth and relative stability, interrupted by massive crises. Each of these phases of stability was shaped by a certain sexual culture, certain sexual identities and ideas of sexuality, which, among other things, produced a certain gendered division of labour and organization of family relationships. The family form and sexual cultures that prevailed in the boom years of industrial mass production from the 1950s to the early 1960s were not the same as those that developed in parallel with the growth of the post-industrial sector in the phase of rapid economic globalization in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In times of crisis, sexuality and gender often undergo a radical politicization during a highly conflictual phase of social, political and economic restructuring. This was the case in the late 1960s and 1970s. In such times, the lives of sexual and gender minorities become particularly difficult. However, in order to fully understand the situation, we need to look at how these difficult circumstances relate to the breakdown of the way sexuality and gender relations are structured and understood in mainstream society.
Does their normative orientation make queer studies less scientific?
Normative orientations exist throughout the humanities and social sciences. Social and political philosophy asks what it means to live a good life. In international relations, just war theories generate ideas about the morality and immorality of war. Behavioral economists strive to develop strategies to encourage people to act in ways that serve a perceived individual or collective good.
Queer theory is a critical theory. By this I mean that it does not see existing institutions, social relations or identities as something that marks the boundaries of the political space of possibility. Rather, it historicizes them by asking how they came about and how they can be turned in an emancipatory direction. In this sense, queer studies has a clear normative orientation.
So is it geared towards a clear goal?
 Not necessarily, because queer theorists disagree profoundly about what "emancipation" can mean - and of course also about what constitutes existing institutions, relationships or identities.
Doesn't it currently look like the situation is getting worse (instead of better, freer, more progressive)? Increasing attacks, including physical attacks, the rise of right-wing parties, the return of conservative roles in the media and everyday life?
Yes, the situation for queer and trans people is getting worse, as is so often the case - as I have already noted - in phases of economic instability or in times when established political systems begin to falter. This is not because prejudice is an inevitable response to adversity. Rather, it is because the way society, the economy and politics are organized no longer function as they once did - and such ways of functioning are always linked to a specific organization of gender and sexuality. In times like these, sexuality and gender become sites of conflict over how society might be reorganized. The attacks - whether physical, ideological or political - on queer and trans people must be understood in the context of a broader reactionary and anti-liberal attempt by some to steer society towards traditionalism and nationalism.
Thank you very much!