Notes: David Harvey, “Calculating Risk: Barebacking, the Queer Male Subject, and the De/formation of Identity Politics”

Harvey, David O. (2011). Calculating risk: Barebacking, the queer male subject, and the de/formation of identity politics. Discourse, 33(2), 156-183.


Harvey discusses the rhetorical challenges of barebacking discourses and works to departicularize them from queer experience by articulating how these discourses operate.

Keywords: barebacking, biopolitics, queer, queer theory, queer rhetorics


“The definitional ambiguity about the practice will shed light on what I understand as a queer mode of world-making that blurs the connection between the behavior of barebacking and its connection to a specific and namable mode of being” (p. 158).

“Considering barebacking as an intricately vitiating force may be unsettling, but accepting the validity of such an insight need not an exclude an acknowledgment of the dangers associated with barebacking. Moreover, the manner of calculation in relation to barebacking is not limited to its practitioners; it includes the discourse by which these persons are narrated, accounted for, and figured. Risk again animates these discussions, as many fear the risk barebacking poses not only in the war against HIV/AIDS but also in the campaign for gay equality” (p. 159).

“A biopolitical import can be gleaned within this tacit disagreement between discourses of print and media and discourses of the queer everyday if we understand the mechanics of prescriptive culpability operating behind finger-pointing discursive models. These models ultimately serve to locate and isolate the particularized bodies that behave outside their laws of calculability, laws that are instantiated upon the discovery of a physiologically and sociopolitically hazardous mode of sexuality” (p. 175).

Amy Villarejo, “Tarrying with the Normative: Queer Theory and Black History”

Villarejo, Amy. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.


Villarejo develops a queer of color critique that tends to the symptom (the affective) and system (the normative).

Keywords: affect, bodies, critical race theory, embodiment, film studies, queer, queer theory


“[Q]ueer theory seems to me most equipped to ‘tarry with the normative’ when it forsakes its claims to the literal and makes for the more dangerous—but also more commodious—complications of relationality and variegation.1 Queer is but one name, hurled back with pride, for social abjection, exclusion, marginalization, and degradation; it provides, by this logic, but one opening toward freedom” (p. 70).

“Queer theory offers a view of relationality that is not strictly speaking symptomatic; it offers ways to fly with language and desire away from homology and continuity. Queer theory can offer, in other words, a way to grapple with feeling and with response (affect), a way to work in the interstices of contacts, affiliations, relations” (p. 75).

“The powers of the normative do not yield themselves at all times according to systematic rules of equivalence, where what is progressive lines up historically or theoretically with content alone…. The challenge is to parse the difference between prescription/symptom and living/agency, to resist the desire to tell the old story about how black nationalism is a ruthlessly masculinist enterprise, or to remark the heteronormative assumptions without moving on. The challenge is not, finally, to confuse similarity with equivalence” (p. 82).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Lesbian Feminism” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Lesbian feminism. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 213-234.


Ahmed moves in this chapter to recall lesbian feminism in order to show lesbian feminism as confronting structures that inflict violences. From lesbian feminisms withdrawing from and building from the ruins of oppressive systems, Ahmed calls for an intersectional feminist army.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, intersectionality, queer, queer theory, theory, transgender


“When a life is what we have to struggle for, we struggle against structures. It is not necessarily the case that these struggles always lead to transformation (though neither does one’s involvement in political movements). But to struggle against something is to chip away at something. Many of these structures are not visible or tangible unless you come up against them” (p. 214).

“The desire for recognition is not necessarily about having access to a good life or being included in the institutions that have left you shattered. It is not necessarily an aspiration for something: rather, it comes from the experience of what is unbearable, what cannot be endured” (p. 221).

“To build from the ruin; our building might seemed ruined; when we build, we ruin. It is lesbian feminist hope: to become a ruin, to ruin by becoming” (p. 232).


Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Feminist Snap”

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Feminist snap. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 187-212.


Ahmed puts forward the idea of the snap as a site of feminist work and the creating and maintaining of crises to make the violences of experience visible.

Keywords: embodiment, feminism, feminist theory, queer, queer theory, theory


“We can see how resilience is a technology of will, or even functions as a command: be willing to bear more; be stronger so you can bear more…. Resilience is is the requirement to take more pressure; such that pressure can be gradually increased” (p. 189).

“Feminism: a history of willful tongues. Feminism: that which infects a body with a desire to speak” (p. 191).

“A case for a feminist life can be made in a moment of suspension: we suspend our assumptions about what a life is or should be. Just opening up room for different ways of living a life can be experienced by others as snap” (p. 196).

“We thus learn the need for caution about harm: difference and deviation are often registered as damaging those who are different, those who deviate. So much conservation of power rests on the assumption that not to conserve the familiar forms of an existence would cause damage to what might be or who might be” (p. 197).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Fragile Connections” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Fragile connections. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 163-186.


Ahmed describes how the uneven distribution of diversity work wears and shatters nonnormative bodies and also how diversity work can be a work of breaking. Ahmed offers a different orientation toward breaking, one that holds the tension of nonnormative bodies within institutions as a site of resistance.

Keywords: bodies, critical race theory, disability studies, diversity, embodiment, feminism, feminist theory, queer, queer theory, theory


“It might be that in order to inhabit certain spaces we have to block recognition of just how wearing they are: when the feeling catches us, it might be at the point when it is just too much” (p. 164).

“Clumsiness might provide us with a queer ethics. Such an ethics attends to the bumpiness of living with difference, so often experienced as difference in time; being too slow or too fast, out of time” (p. 166).

“Bumping into each other is a sign that we have not resolved our differences. The resolution of difference is the scene of much injustice. Things might be smoother because some have had to adjust to keep up with others” (p. 166).

“Racism becomes the requirement to think of racism with sympathy, racism as just another view; the racist as the one with feelings, too” (p. 177).

“Perhaps we need to develop a different orientation to breaking. We can value what is deemed broken; we can appreciate those bodies, those things, that are deemed to have bits and pieces missing. Breaking need not be understood only as the loss of integrity of something, but as the acquisition of something else, whatever that else might be” (p. 180).

Notes: Jean Bessette, “Queer Rhetoric in Situ”

Bessette, Jean. (2016). Queer rhetoric in situ. Rhetoric Review, 35(2), 148-164.


Bessette argues for a deeply contextual, weaker theory for queer theory within rhetorical studies.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetoric, Rhetorical Theory, Rhetoric


VanHaitsma, Pamela. (2014). Queering the language of the heart: Romantic letters, genre instruction, and rhetorical practice. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 44.1, 6–24.

Villarejo, A. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.


“[S]ome approaches to importing queer theory into rhetoric may render it arhetorical and by consequence, less productively queer. Instead I argue for a queer rhetorical methodology with increased attention to (1) the historical specificity of a potentially queer rhetorical act, (2) the nuanced complexity of power relations within broad categories of queerness and normativity, and (3) the diversity and range of audiences for any given rhetorical act, which might render it both queer and normative at the same time” (p. 149).

“Sedgwick raises a question that should give rhetorical critics in particular pause. ‘Suppose we were ever so sure,’ she inquires, of the facts of circumstances where nonstraight, nonwhite, and/or nonmale lives are made exploited and expendable in the processes of normalization, “what would we know then that we don’t already know?” (p. 150).

“Perhaps, in reading paranoidly, we see less of the precise, historically and contextually specific manifestations of normativity, queerness, and their agonistic interface. Paranoid analysis is one way but not the only way; it productively reveals some things (large systems of oppression) but may blind us to others (the intricate, unexpected ways normativity actually hypostasizes in a given time and place, for a given set of bodies)” (p. 150).

“I want our understanding of normativity to be more nuanced, flexible, and contextual” (p. 151).

“[W]hile texts are situated in the context of their deployment and reception, the meaning of queerness doesn’t seem to shift with time, nor does the meaning of the normativity it opposes” (p. 152).

“[I]mporting early queer theorists’ affect and connotations of queerness and normativity into other rhetorical moments requires some more reflection” (p. 153).

“[A]nything taken as universal has been established through a rhetorical process of making claims and supporting them with the invention and delivery of implicit and explicit regulations…. This regulation, of course, is precisely what queer theory sets out to expose: that the norms governing accepted forms of gender and sexuality are constructions that privilege some and profoundly harm others” (p. 154).

“I am advocating a queer rhetorical methodology in situ, one that asks: Queer to whom? When? Where, and how? Normative to whom? When? Where, and how?” (p. 157).

Notes: Ragan Fox, “‘Homo’-work: Queering Academic Communication and Communicating Queer in Academia”

Fox, Ragan. (2013). “Homo”-work: Queering academic communication and communicating queer in academia. Text and Performance Quarterly, 33(1), 58-76.


Fox uses narrative inquiry into many of his experiences of communication in pedagogy and in other academic spaces to develop a queer pedagogy that examines the peri-performative aspects of queer communication.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Rhetorics, Queer Theory, Rhetoric, Communication


Yep, Gust A. (2002). From homophobia and heterosexism to heteronormativity: Toward the development of a model of queer interventions in the university classroom. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(3-4), 163-76.


“Some may not understand what it means to ‘‘queer’’ a statement of teaching philosophy because queer epistemologies continue to be marginalized in academia, and some queer instructors *myself included*sometimes feel personally attacked or insulted when colleagues and students do not understand queer theory’s relevance and intricacies” (p. 60).

“Like queer people, peri-performative discourse exists in the margins, speaks the master language (the explicit performative), and potentially disrupts performativity’s habituated reiteration” (p. 62).

“Queering pedagogy involves revealing the wizard behind academia’s curtain. Periperformative communication draws attention to implicative performance, noting who is implicated in performative speech and what discourse is cited in a particular speech act. By investigating speech about queer speech, we come to understand a primary way that epistemology and identity are co-constituted and maintained” (p. 71).