We have discussed antiblackness studies and queer theory, but we have yet to analyze the intersection between the two. Like mentioned in the “Black Marxism” post, exploring the intersection between different marginalized groups can be invaluable in influencing our strategies. So in this post, we will talk about black queer pessimism and what black queerness is.
“Quare” was a term coined by Patrick E. Johnson to describe the position of the black queer. Johnson argued that black queer men specifically should not be grouped with white queer men because it doesn’t address any underlying reason for why violence occurs in the first place. Thus, quare is now used in black queer pessimism to describe the unique positionality of black queerness, which will be important for other theorists as well.
Eric Stanley argued that queerness is pushed through space and time through mutilation that is overdone, or what is known was “overkill”. Overkill is the intersection of what the mutilation means. What does the specificity mean to create such a violence? For Stanley, the mutilation of being blackness and the mutilation of queerness added on constructs a desire for mutilation. Thus, we need a particular analysis that accounts for the overkill of these black queers. Enter Calvin Warren.
Calvin Warren intersects original queer theory from Judith Butler (who we covered in a previous post) with overkill. Overkill happens because of the process of erasure and unmournability, both on a material and psychological level. However, Warren disagrees with queer theory. Warren thinks that queer bodies in the face of their overkill have access to empathetic identification. White queers still have a level of humanity while quareness do not. Therefore, queer theory is ground up within humanism, or images of the ideal human, that become detrimental for quareness.
Additionally, Warren critiques Afropessimism, a popular antiblackness study that deals with the irredeemability of civil society and the ontological, or “fixed”, nature of antiblack racism. For Warren, afropessimism is reliant on a homogenous blackness that silences questions of queerness. Its understanding of blackness destroys the ability to understand that commodities are cut on multiple levels, such as by heteronormativity.
With these two critiques of queer theory and afropessimism, Warren proposes “ontocide”. This is he descriptors that Warren is using to describe the positionality of the black queer but also the active negotiation between afropessimism and queer theory to help solve the violence of the black queer. It helps to create a new grammar for black queers in the face of violence that is analytically useful for navigating this world.