The appearance of deviance as a fact of social life—a permanent and unavoidable feature of social life and an object of study for the social scientist—distinguishes postwar deviance studies from the antimethod, anti-institutional, and antinormative field of queer studies. While deviance studies focused on the description and analysis of social norms, queer scholars saw themselves as participating in their subversion. This collapse of the position of the scholar and the social deviant produced transformations in the ethos and style of scholarship, and yet it did not profoundly change the material conditions or the power relations between professional academics and the marginal subjects they study. The refusal of social scientific methods undermines queer scholars’ claims to interdisciplinarity. While queer studies has understood itself alternately as interdisciplinary and as antidisciplinary, it has failed to grapple with methods of description and objectification that would allow for a fuller apprehension of social worlds and of the position of the researchers who study them. Through a return to the history of postwar sociology, this essay shows that the account of deviance as part of the social world rather than a departure from it offers an important model for queer scholarship and for the apprehension of the queer ordinary.
Doing Being Deviant: Deviance Studies, Description, and the Queer Ordinary
heather love is the R. Jean Brownlee Term Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Harvard University Press, 2007) and the editor of a special issue of glq on Gayle Rubin titled Rethinking Sex (2011). She is working on projects on reading methods in literary studies, comparative social stigma, and pedagogy and mentorship in queer studies. In 2014–15, she is the Stanley Kelley, Jr., Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton.
Heather Love; Doing Being Deviant: Deviance Studies, Description, and the Queer Ordinary. differences 1 May 2015; 26 (1): 74–95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2880609
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