This essay suggests that thinking, and feeling, with toxicity invites a recounting of the affectivity and relationality—indeed the bonds—of queerness as it is presently theorized. Approaching toxicity in three different modes, I first consider how vulnerability, safety, immunity, threat, and toxicity itself are sexually and racially instantiated in the recent panic about lead content in Chinese-manufactured toys exported the United States. This analysis, while seeming at first to hover somewhat outside queerness, is completed in the next section, where I interweave biopolitical considerations of immunity into an account of the peculiar intimacies and alienations of heavy metal poisoning, rendered in the first person. The essay ends by suggesting that the queering and racializing of material other than human amounts to a kind of animacy. Animacy is built on the recognition that abstract concepts, inanimate objects, and things in between can be queered and racialized without human bodies present, quite beyond questions of personification. Theorizing this animacy offers an alternative, or a complement, to existing biopolitical and recent queer-theoretical debates about life and death, while the idea of toxicity proposes an extant queer bond, one more prevalent today than is perhaps given credit. Such a toxic queer bond might complicate utopian imagining, as well as address how and where subject-object dispositions might be attributed to the relational queer figure.
Mel Y. Chen; Toxic Animacies, Inanimate Affections. GLQ 1 June 2011; 17 (2-3): 265–286. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-1163400
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