Some of the most recent, most significant, most discussed works in queer theory have interrogated how we conceive our relation to the future and the past. From Lee Edelman’s polemicized caution that certain forms of commitment to certain kinds of futurity serve to eradicate queerness, to José Esteban Muñoz’s insistence that queerness can be secured only by fixing our eyes on the glimmering horizon of the future, to Heather Love’s worries about our relation to the traumas and injuries of the past, to Carolyn Dinshaw’s insistence on the very queer ways the past and present long to connect, this body of work seeks to replace reliance on logics of repetition, linearity, periodicity, and teleology with images of temporal drags and co-presences, anachronisms and proximities, contaminations and touches across time. Just as the foundational works of queer theory revealed that conceptions of gender, sexuality and race are not natural or inevitable, but social and conventional—and, hence, ethical and political—this body of work underscores that even seemingly commonsensical categories like past, present and future are intimately bound up with desire and power.
But it is not just how we think about time, but also how we feel the pressure of the past and the lure of the future that matters–as the work of Lauren Berlant, Ann Cvetkovich, Carolyn Dinshaw, Judith Halberstam and Eve Sedgwick has taught us. Temporality is a political and ethical question because it has an affective resonance. Past, present and future are the sites where shame, loss, mourning, revulsion, haunting, despair, pride, satisfaction, victory, and hope are experienced, shaped and given life. The passage of time allows longing and love, identification and connection, pleasure and desire to circulate, collect and coalesce. And our affective orientation to the world, like our temporal one, far from being a foundational datum on which theoretical investigations are built, is the result of complex social and cultural processes that merit analytical attention.
Queer theorists of temporality and affect have sketched the ethical and political import of their work. Less often acknowledged or explored are the deep theological resonances of their questions. Discourses of hope and memory, transcendence and immanence, trauma and healing connect to persistent and fundamental theological tropes. Religious writers and practitioners across time and place have engaged questions about the nature of time, the character of suffering, the implacability of violence, the viability of hope and the possibility of restoration. Sacred texts from a variety of traditions provide images of creation and devastation, paradisiacal origin and utopic horizon, apocalyptic transformation and eschatological destination. Apocalyptic, eschatological and apophatic languages, frameworks and orientations pervade queer theorizing and theologizing about time, affect, history and desire. Mindful of these overlapping set of concerns and questions, this colloquium will bring together theologians, biblical scholars, historians of religion and other queer theorists to foster a more explicit theological engagement with queer theoretical investigations of affectivity and temporality.
Find out more about the Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium at Drew Theological School