CIRQUE, and our work within it, arises from our faith in queer’s potential to inspire and ground a broad and wide-ranging research programme with remarkable potential for intellectual as well as social, ethical and political innovation. From its earliest theorizations, inspired by a daringly anti-essentialist feminism, the deconstruction of identities and the questioning of performances have been singled out as the defining objects of queer enquiries. Queer’s relationship with LGBT studies, productive though it may have proved over the last decades, is neither necessary nor a key defining factor, since the application of queer’s two strategies of critique proves enlightening and productive well beyond the categories of sex and gender. At the most abstract, and at the same time most concrete level, their joint engagement allows us to interrogate in the most radical way the categories through which every society determines the destiny of its members, and to dismantle the machinery of domination and exclusion which is implicit in them and which is deployed through them.
In contemporary Western society this machinery does not hinge solely on the categories of sex and gender. A veritable ecosystem of marginal individuals, losers, and misfits throngs the boundaries of our field of vision and demands to be seen, to be acknowledged as true, existing, real. In some cases, this proves relatively easy: we are accustomed to employing categories like “migrant”, “precarious worker” or “disabled person”, and to respecting the people they refer to. But a host of others escape our awareness, and consequently our perception: our gaze is unable to take in our colleague with Asperger’s, the cat lady with her bowls, the countless other atypical existential configurations which right next to us strive to survive in a world which not only was never built to fit them, but is organized on the assumption of their nonexistence.
In this regard it is vital to bear in mind that the Enlightenment project of universal rights was based from the outset on a machinery of standardization and homologation which produces subjects to whom rights can be ascribed, and therefore subordinates the enjoyment of any right to the willingness and ability to present oneself recognizably as the product of that machinery (as rational, as normal, as human…). This machinery is the most general and at the same time most tangible object of a truly radical queer critique.
In a true project of inclusion the intellectual and political components of queer cannot be separated: only by understanding someone on their own terms is it possible to include them in something which is not a prison. And, to us, this is what is most valuable in a rigorous and creative return to the roots of queer. We would like to begin with etymology: with queer as weird, crooked, inassimilable, incomprehensible, alien, in relation to a context of predictable uniformity and to any pressure to conform, no matter how covert or violent. But what matters most to us is a critique of categories and of their performances whose ultimate aim is to expose the identitarian blackmail in the most daring and most uncompromising terms, to free subjects from the performances which constitute them, and to replace sameness with differences as the criterion for inclusion.