Tag Archives: queer uncanny

‘The Queer Uncanny: Sexuality and Otherness’

Join us tomorrow for our NGender talk : ‘The Queer Uncanny: Sexuality and Otherness’ by Olu Jenzen (University of Sussex) from 1pm to 2pm, in SB317.


By turning its attention to the particular aspects of the uncanny that we can link to the notion of queerness, such as the trope of the double, eerie repetition, a dissolution of the subject/object binary, and the strangeness of the over-familiar, the paper considers how the uncanny can be productively put to work in relation to feminist and queer critical thinking on identity, kinship and the category of the human.

My enquiry comes out of a longer work that considers when, why and how the fantastic impulse in literature and representations of sexual dissidence and/or gender otherness coincide. However, the central concern here will be to theorise on the possibility of the uncanny as an instrument of ‘defamiliarization’ which relates to the critical tools of the deconstructive thread of queer theory in that it destabilises the notion of the known and the knowable.

The paper focuses in particular on cultural anxieties about ontological boundaries in light of the theoretical writings of Judith Butler, Sue-Ellen Case and Lee Edelman, and proposes that by considering the queer as a challenge to the borders of natural and unnatural life, we may formulate a critique of the notion of naturalness which works to sustain the heteronormative paradigm.

My work has mainly focused on three possible applications: firstly a conception of the queer as the uncanny excess of the heterosexual paradigm. Secondly a suggestion of the uncanny as a site for further explorations of queer strategies. Such strategies may involve decisions about inhabiting an abject position, relinquishing certain (conditional and/ or temporary) privileges, and embracing anxieties/ desires such as the death drive. Thirdly, I have explored, through the trope of the doppelganger, the uncanny as a dimension where inside and outside, real and psychic, and actual and desired collapse thereby prompting a rethinking of the self and its demarcation. The emphasis of the paper will be on exploring this last application a bit further, through the image of the uncanny lesbian doppelgangers as it exists both in queer subculture and in mainstream culture.

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