To say that queer theory is disenchanted--written by and for those who are disillusioned with the status quo of our neoliberal society--is an understatement. During the last decade, queer theory has staged fierce critiques of our culture's emphasis on good performance, achievement, self-improvement, and positive thinking, with the result that it often finds itself at odds with the more affirmative tone of mainstream LGBTQ activists agitating for social inclusion (e.g. gay marriage and cultural recognition). In The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory's Defiant Subjects (Columbia UP, 2017), Mari Ruti argues that discourses of queer negativity--including its endorsement of bad feelings such as depression, resignation, and apathy--rewrite ethical theory and practice in innovative ways at the same time as she resists the impulse to turn antinormativity into a new norm.
In this presentation, Ruti provides an overview of some of the main debates within queer theory, focusing on recent arguments, particularly ones by queer critics of color, that push queer negativity to its limits. Yet she also looks for the kernel of enchantment--of hope, utopianism, persistence, and even flourishing--that sometimes resides within (or beyond) queer celebrations of disenchantment.