This essay develops a new crip application of the camp aesthetic that explores how early framings of camp, as a coping mechanism and an affective relation to and between objects, can resonate powerfully with the recent turn in disability studies toward mad feminism, new materialism, and biopolitics. Identifying Diane DiMassa’s comic series Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist (1999) and Robert Eggers’s Puritan horror film, The Witch (2015), as emblematic of this approach, the essay argues that both texts champion a reparative approach to paranoid sensibilities that takes seriously camp’s status as a therapeutic gesture. While both texts may seem to glamorize madness-as-rebellion, staging a set of caricatured associations between feminism, hysteria, and witchcraft, I demonstrate the way each, more powerfully, requires their audience to adopt a stance of radical faith about women’s often-disqualified experiences of depression and anxiety. Taking paranoia and its causes seriously, both Hothead and The Witch allow us to shift our focus away from what camp looks like and toward the question of what camp feels like. Thus, against queer discourses of camp that emphasize irony, humor, and the agency of human performers, this essay interrogates camp’s powerful attachments to humorlessness, sincerity, and nonhuman or dehumanized objects.
Cynthia Barounis; Witches, Terrorists, and the Biopolitics of Camp. GLQ 1 June 2018; 24 (2-3): 213–238. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-4324789
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