Queer STS Reading Group
About the Group
The Queer STS Reading Group meets on Thursdays at 5pm (every 2-3 weeks) at UCL. Please see the blog section (linked at the top of this page) for details of readings, dates and room location.
The purpose of this reading group is to start thinking, collectively, about the possibility of a queer science and technology studies (STS). The queer STS reading group will read a range of texts from across queer theory/studies and a nascent queer STS or queer feminist science studies and, hopefully, think about how to carry this work into STS writing and methods. Crucially, we will incorporate queer texts that sometimes ostensibly have ‘nothing to do with’ STS but whose themes might potentially be productive or are politically urgent.
Queer is often challenging to read — occasionally obscured past the point of all meaning and couched in lofty and elitist linguistic and theoretical traditions. Moreover, everyone’s experiences of ‘queer’ are different: lived, theoretical, political, none of the above, or none at all. With this in mind, the queer STS reading group ought to function as, if nothing else, a starting point — to think about what ‘queer’ means, what ‘STS’ does, and to work through, together, and find value in or disagree with texts that are sometimes hard to read alone (although, we will endeavour to select texts that are accessible on a number of levels and not totally mired by elitist academic tradition). Everyone — no matter their knowledge, experience etc. — is welcome!
The hope is that this group will also provide a space to speak on topics often rendered taboo by their absence from syllabi, textbooks and classroom discussions. Sometimes these topics might be sensitive or personal and, as such, we will always operate on the basis of mutual respect and care. Moreover, queer’s emancipatory politics are entirely subsumed under, overlapping with and committed to feminist, anti-transphobic, anti-racist, de-colonial, anti-ableist, anti-classist (etc.) strategies and, as such, our discussions will always take these commitments as a shared starting point - as well as an intersectional politics that recognises the unique challenges, experiences, oppressions and resistances of subjects at the intersections of systems of race, (cis)gender, sexuality, class, ability, nationality. To encompass a wide range of marginalities, contexts, subjectivities and perspectives as the weeks go on -recommendations for readings are always welcomed (especially to redress oversights in group discussions and materials). ‘Queer’ is anti-hierarchal and often collective: the group is a shared enterprise and should be constantly reshaped by the needs and interests of the group as it evolves.
If you are interested in attending the group and would like to be included in future correspondence about the group, or you have any other questions, please get in touch with Ben Weil (STS UCL PhD) below. (To learn a little more about what a 'queer STS' might mean, keep scrolling!)
What is Queer STS?
STS is not queer — or, rather, it is not yet queer. (Hence: Queer STS is here).
Since the late 1980s/1990s, the queer theory/studies corpus has taken to unpacking and denaturalising the constitution of sexual and gender identity. Standing in opposition to the “regimes of the normal” that manifest and legitimise only certain sex/genders/sexes/sexualities and their specific alignments (e.g. gender-conforming, heterosexual, male, white), ‘queer’* is thus a theoretical and political project, which seeks to expose, deconstruct and re-write a (heteronormative) social order that is always in the process of producing and acknowledging some subjects/bodies/citizens/practices/behaviours, whilst excluding, subjugating and de-legitimising others.
STS as a discipline can be said to be/have been engaged in similarly provocative work: dismantling accepted or naturalised norms and mythology that circulate around science, scientific knowledge, technologies and technological practices. Yet, as a discipline, STS on the whole has remained eerily silent on the matters of sex, sexuality and gender (beyond the binary). As such, there is an under-representation of work in STS that has thoroughly engaged with the ways in which science, technology and sexuality/sex/gender are co-constituted or co-produced.
Queer STS, then, as I see it, puts ‘queer’ and ‘STS’ in productive tension: to see what happens when we think queerly or more queerly about science, technology and society (and more STS-ly about queer?). What new sites of identity formation and stabilisation are exposed? What may we reveal about the qualities of science, technology or their contexts? Or: “How do we know what we know about bodies? What is science? What is nature? What is race? What is sex? What is sexuality? How do these categories intra-act? How do our knowledges of them (epistemology) shape their existence (ontology)?” (Cipolla et al, 2017, Queer Feminist Science Studies, 8)
*A note on terminology: It is through the collective inversion of a homophobic slur that queer first adjoinders its theoretical/political intentions. As Judith Butler (1993, Bodies that Matter, 226) puts it: "'Queer' derives its force precisely through the repeated invocation by which it has become linked to accusation, pathologization, insult. This is an invocation by which a social bond among homophobic communities is formed through time. The interpellation echoes past interpellations, and binds the speakers, as if they spoke in unison across time. In this sense, it is always an imaginary chorus that taunts 'queer’.” As ‘queer’ has bonded bullies, harassers, tormentors, and attackers for (what feels like) eternity — it now binds us against them. Equally, ‘queer’ speaks past the narrow (and regulatory) confines of e.g. LGBT+ identity categories and, often, operates as an umbrella concept: a recognition of the many forms of gender and sexual difference that are not captured by the terms of obligate cisgender heterosexuality.
If you would like to read some introductory material on queer theory/studies, I suggest the following (mindful that these are only a handful of ideas about what 'queer' is, what it can and can't and should do):
Warner, M., 1991. Introduction: Fear of a Queer Planet. Social Text 3–17.
Berlant, L., Warner, M., 1995. What Does Queer Theory Teach Us About X? PMLA 110, 343–349.
Halperin, D.M., 2003. The Normalization of Queer Theory. Journal of Homosexuality 45, 339–343.
Cohen, C.J., 1997. Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics? GLQ 3, 437–465.
Jagose, A., 1996. Queer Theory: An Introduction. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like some more advice about where to start/continue reading.