- Ryan M. LescureRyan M. LescureDepartment of Communication Studies, San Francisco State University
Although queer theory was profoundly influenced by the womanist feminism of the 1980s and its emphasis on the ways in which intersectionality affects lived experience, popular queer theorizing generally lost this as it became more popular in academic contexts during the 1990s. Generally, the popular queer scholarship that was being published in the 1990s did not pay much attention to the diversity of queer experiences and subjectivities. Because many popular queer theorists at the time were White, affluent, cisgender, and based in the United States, their scholarship, while anti-heteronormative, tended to reflect their privileged racial, socioeconomic, gendered, national, and cultural standpoints. Subsequently, this scholarship tended to construct a singular, definitive, and universal queer subject position as White, affluent, cisgender, and based in the United States.
Wenshu Lee’s kuaer theory is an example of one of the first significant theoretical challenges to queer theory’s problematic universalizing tendencies. Initially advanced in 2003, kuaer theory is influenced by postcolonialism, womanism, and E. Patrick Johnson’s quare studies, which Lee characterizes as having advanced queer theory in a similar way that womanism did for feminism. Finding inspiration in the writing of Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, and Gloria Anzaldúa, kuaer theory applies womanist concepts to expand on the foundation built by Johnson’s quare studies, which calls for queer theorists to focus on the particularity and diversity of sexualities as well as the ways in which sexualities relate to and are shaped by race, gender, socioeconomic class, and culture. Kuaer theory agrees with and advocates for all of these things, but it notably adds a transnational perspective and emphasizes that queer theorists must also highlight the relationships between sexualities and nation, nationality, power, and culture at the local, national, and transnational levels. Kuaer theory notes that queerness, queer activism, and queer knowledges are not exclusive to the United States or to the Western world. Because of this, kuaer theory encourages queer theorists to emphasize the local and intersectional particularities of people’s sexual experiences and subjectivities while simultaneously being critical of the ways in which queer theory itself often reproduces imperialism and cultural hierarchies at the global level.
Kuaer theory continues to be influential among queer theorists, especially for its critique of queer theory’s often implicit reproduction of hierarchies. Like quare studies, kuaer theory is often cited by queer theorists who challenge queer theory’s continued general inattention to intersectionality and to the multiplicity of queer subjectivities. Finally, kuaer theory’s emphasis on transnational and transcultural perspectives as well as its criticism of queer theory’s imperialistic consequences has proven to be a substantial influence on critical intercultural communication and the emerging field of queer intercultural communication.
- Gender (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies)