This essay excavates from within the history of feminist and queer theory a series of implicit theories of the couple, ranging from French feminist critiques of asymmetrical heterosexual relationships to triadic accounts of the queer as couple’s sexual and racialized Other. We turn to four integers—one, two, three, and zero— to comprehend the shifting relationship between the Couple and the Queer, constructing a queer numerology that attends to the numerical patterns that can be said to characterize coupled relationality in different historical moments. Taking cues from Lee Edelman as well as recent Afro-pessimist scholarship, we approach the Couple not as a sociological category, but as a structure of being, and the Queer, not as an identitarian category but as an (non)ontological position. Drawing from a diverse archive of texts from 1970s Italian feminism to Daoist philosophy to early psychoanalytic theories of the anus, we take a step back from the post-structural logic that has animated queer studies since its inception, developing a structuralist methodology that insists on the ontological and ethical significance of the position we call the zero.

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