Why GenreQueer?

The concept of blurring genres is not new. Japanese forms such as haiga, haibun, and zuihitsu can be dated back to the early 11th century. And modern literature has its lineage of prose poem, lyric essay, fictocriticism, and digital mash-ups to name a few. Yet the conversations regarding these forms have focused primarily on the concept of hybridity, a term which Christine Hume problematizes even as she uses it in her interactive essay, “Some Capacities and Fallacies of Literary Hybridity: A Card Game“:

…a literary hybrid is a troubling concept in that it often exemplifies the very categories it gestures toward dismantling or assimilating; it reifies genres, traditions, and disciplines, requiring strict expectations and assumptions about literariness. Hybridity fortifies dualistic thinking of all kinds: aesthetic (academic vs. outlaw, conceptualism vs. flarf, official vs. innovative, quietude vs. post avant-garde), disciplinary (writer vs. artist, documentary vs. creativity, technology vs. inspiration), cultural (ethnic vs. white, double-consciousness vs. dominant, polyglot vs. monolinguistic). It invites a binary, oppositional vision of literary history (the game of war). These easy categories, however, won’t be contained and often find ways of increasing infectiousness through cross-infection. (n.p)((Hume, Christine. “Some Capacities and Fallacies of Literary Hybridity: a Card Game.” Poets.Org The Academy of Poets. Web. 31 July 2012.))

It is partially in an effort to move outside of that “binary, oppositional vision” that the term genrequeer is used in this project. The phrase genrequeer is inspired and informed by the genderqueer((It is important to acknowledge that while the constrictions of genre stem from social constructs that are related to the ways in which gender is constructed, the impacts of those constructs are different in fundamentally critical ways. The individuals who push against these constructs do so at the risk of their own personal safety and well-being. They often do so in order to create a space in which they can feel authentic to themselves. And in creating that space so that they can live, their lives are often in danger. It is important to see the very real differences between lived realities and theory lest the latter become an irrelevant academic exercise.)) movement. To be genderqueer is to explode the binary of gender, to move beyond a linear spectrum with masculinity on one end and femininity on the other, to create something that is not necessarily hybrid or mash-up or trans or other (although it can be any or all of these) but that exists in a different way of considering gender entirely. To be genderqueer is to open the space, not close it; to create possibility rather than further constrictions. In exploring the call by some theorists to abolish gender, Judith Halberstam states:

…Socially sedimented categories are hard to erase, and efforts to do so often have more toxic effects than the decision to inhabit them. Other theorists, therefore, have responded by calling for more categories, a wider range of possible identifications, and a more eclectic and open-ended understanding of the meanings of those categories (Fausto-Sterling 2000). It seems, then, that we are probably not quite ready do away with gender, or with one gender in particular, but we can at least begin to imagine other genders. (119)((Halberstram, Judith. “Gender.” Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Ed. Bruce Burgett & Glenn Hendler. New York: NYU Press, 2007. 116–120. Print.))

Likewise, genrequeer is about opening up the space of dialog and possibility, about dismantling the binary and the prevalent matrix. It is, to borrow a concept from Rachel Blau DuPlessis, “Not ‘otherness’ in a binary system, but ‘otherhow’ as the multiple possibilities of a praxis” (154).((DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. “Otherhow.” The Pink Guitar. New York: Routledge, 1990. 140–156. Print.))

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