Introduction to Queer Moments: The Performative Temporalities of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of Original Version



In 1995, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick-“primum mobile of queer theory," it has been said-remarked in an interview that “the historical links between the emergence of queer theory and the emergency of AIDS are very close." “For one thing," she continues, “theory is important with this disease, because the selfevident categories that we had before don’t work about this virus. AIDS, among all of the tragedy and devastation, also makes a huge problem for thinking, and in AIDS activism the interpenetration of theory and activism is extensive and very productive."But, she adds, “it looks … as though gay politics right now is interested in forgetting about AIDS." The banishment of AIDS from memory “that’s going on in a lot of mainstream gay culture, especially gay male culture and politics" is, Sedgwick notes, symptomatic of or concomitant with an “antiintellectualism and re-naturalizing of identity categories…. The marginalization of critical thought about concepts and categories and the marginalization of a sense of urgency about the AIDS emergency really go together" (Kerr and O’Rourke, 7, 8). Five years after that interview, fourteen years into the story of the institutionalization of gay and lesbian studies, and two decades into the AIDS emergency, Sedgwick offers the following observation in her interview for the present volume: “AIDS issues are nowhere in the political programs of mainstream gay organizations." Taken together, these statements can be understood as Sedgwick’s reply to her own conditional conjecture, posed in 1993 at a time when its audience could have read it as tentatively inauspicious: “In the short-shelf-life American marketplace of images, maybe the queer moment, if it’s here today, will for that very reason be gone tomorrow" (1993, xii). Although Sedgwick’s musing hints at a possible closure of the queer moment, the conditional embedded within it-“if it’s here today"—importantly leaves open to question not only what “the queer moment" is, but also whether and when it is. These conjectures echo other hesitations in Sedgwick’s writings regarding the presence of a queer moment. Thus, even the ingenuously jubilant claim from the same pages, “It was a QUEER time," comes to us by way of the past tense, and for all the mounted evidence for the queer moment offered in surrounding sentences, conclusive conviction is hedged by a prefatory supposition: “I suppose this must be called the moment of Queer" (xi-xii).

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory