Spring 2010 Audrey Thompson
University of Utah
office: 308C MBH
mailbox in 307 MBH
fax. (801) 587-7801 voicemail: (801) 587-7803, recep. 587-7814
Class meets Th 2:00-4:20 p.m. email:
OSH 229 Office Hours:
http://www.pauahtun.org/audrey.html and by appointment

Queering Scholarly Authority

ECS 6960-002/7960-002

Course Description

This group independent study takes up questions regarding progressive and mainstream assumptions about embodied authority in academia. Although the dominant convention has been to assume a one-size-fits-all approach to knowledge and authority (that is, anyone can be an expert on anything, provided that they put in the work and engage in the appropriate credentialing process), standpoint theorists, queer theorists, CRT scholars, and other “outsider” scholars have challenged the assumption that members of dominant groups can write with unproblematic authority about historically marginalized and oppressed groups. The individual scholar’s investments in the status quo, her or his embodied desires, fears, experiences of surveillance, expectations of belonging, and practices of claiming ownership, as well as his or her practices of placating, passing, or performing identity/ies, all shape both how and what a person is likely to “know.” For the most part, the argument that the possibilities of cultural and political knowledge are embodied as well as studied has not been interpreted to mean that members of dominant groups should not write or teach at all about groups to which they do not belong. It has meant, however, that such writing and teaching may be considered limited or otherwise problematic.

Queer theory troubles a range of assumptions about the coherence and naturalness that may be claimed for both subaltern and dominant identities, yet because queer theory also has been somewhat resistant to theorization addressing whiteness or other privileged positionalities, it offers us a simultaneously provocative and problematic framework for exploring the ways in which sexuality, gender, race, language, culture — as well as (dis)ability, class, race, and nationhood — are taken up or ignored in academic performances of epistemic authority. This course will examine how experience and relationships, situatedness, and structural positionality all may serve to shape assumptions about authorship and authority in social justice scholarship. Although we will start from progressive critiques of the disembodied view from nowhere/everywhere, our primary focus will be on what it can and cannot mean to claim authority from embodied and/or relational positionalities. Using queer theory as a framework, we will examine both examples of explicit embodiment in scholarly writing and theoretical arguments regarding the role of embodied authority in scholarly writing and teaching.

Required Texts:

The readings will be available on electronic reserve at the Marriott University Library or will be provided in class.

Course Requirements

Requirements for the course also include regular attendance and participation; careful readings of the assignments; short in-class activities; an identity adventure; and a final paper.

The identity adventure (see handout) will involve choosing a theme connected to embodied and/or situated identity, and then exploring new framings, juxtapositions, and possibilities for how we play with that theme in our daily lives. The intent is to shift our embodied and/or situational perspective on the readings and class discussions through a dis-organizing of some of the performance habits that shape our current sense of identity.

Class Participation

Come to class having read the articles carefully. Listen at least as much as you talk. The goal in this class is not to be authoritative but to recognize and explore the value and limitations of different approaches to scholarly writing. This means taking some risks. It is vital that students listen to one another respectfully and give one another uptake.

• Prevent disruptions by turning off and refraining from use of cell phones and beepers, and by putting away extraneous reading materials. Please do not check text messages or email during class.

• Adhere to the University of Utah code for student conduct available at:



Thurs. 14 Jan.                                                 I. Introduction: Modern and Postmodern Politics

Activity: Drawing virtues and vices

Thurs. 21 Jan.                                                 II. My Home Is Your Home

Thurs. 28 Jan.                                                 III. The Concept of Wholeness

Activity homework: “I don’t see it that way.” Bring to class 3 photos you have taken (they could be photos you have taken in the past, though I am assuming you will try taking some new ones, too) that help viewers see something in a non-authoritative way. Each photo should have a different topic or theme. Be prepared to explain what would make an assumed other view “authoritative” (you don’t have to document this version) and how your framing in each photo subverts, reinterprets, or otherwise plays with that form of authority. (The photos do not have to address scholarly forms of authority.)

In-class activity: One-minute autobiographies

Thurs. 4 Feb.                                                 IV. Fluidity and In-betweenness

In-class whiteboard draw/diagram activity: What do masculinity and femininity look like?

Electronic handout: Some Questions We Will Be Asking about the Readings

Thurs. 11 Feb.                                                 V. “Giving” Voice

In-class activity: Two-minute colorings: Draw a wake-up moment you had in a school setting

Thurs. 18 Feb.                                                 VI. Nostalgia for Innocence

Thurs. 25 Feb.                                                 VII. Norm and Otherness

Thurs. 4 March                                                 VIII. Pedagogies of In/Coherence

Thurs. 11 March                                                 IX. Times in/and Spaces

Thurs. 18 March                                                 X. Queering Categories in Scholarly Writing

Thurs. 25 March                                               Spring Break: No class

Thurs. 1 April                                                    XI. Phenomenology and Performativity

Thurs. 8 April                                                    No class meeting

Thurs. 15 April                                                 XII. Cultural Speech

Thurs. 22 April                                                 XIII. Contradictions of Identity and Commitment

Guest Speaker: Kim Hackford-Peer

Thurs. 6 May                                                 Finals Week: No Class Meeting

5:00 p.m. Final paper due in lieu of exam

Count by Muhammad Muquit