Queer theory

Rumens, Nick and Tyler, Melissa (2016) Queer theory. In: The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies. Mir, Raza, Willmott, Hugh and Greenwood, Michelle, eds. Routledge, London, pp. 225-236. ISBN 9780415702867. [Book Section]


Queer theory demands that we question the dominant foundational assumptions about what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘abnormal’ through a process of incessant critique, typically to deposition claims about the essential nature of sexuality and gender. The focus of queer theory has largely been on the discursive provisionality of the sexual and gendered subject, critiquing the normalizing tendencies of a sexual order that privileges heterosexuality. Perhaps the greatest contribution of queer theory research has been the interrogation of heteronormativity which Berlant and Warner criticise for maintaining damaging binaries within ‘institutions, structures of understanding, and practical orientations that make heterosexuality not only coherent – that is, organised as a sexuality – but also privileged’ (1998: 548). Queer theory has sought to expose, celebrate and provide the conditions of possibility for non-heteronormative practices and subjects (typically lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans [LGBT]) as crucial sites of resistance (Butler 1990, 1993, 2004a; Edelman 2004; Halberstam 1998, 2005; Halperin 1995, 2011; Warner 1993, 1999). While it is almost commonplace to identify queer theory with a concern with heteronormativity and LGBT people, queer theory’s concern with critiquing processes of normalization has relevance for other disciplines outside the humanities from which it first emerged in the late 1980s.
Indeed, queer theory has been embraced by organizational scholars unhappy with how heteronormativity has shaped and continues to shape dominant academic understandings of sexuality, gender, management and organization (see Parker 2001, 2002 and Harding et al 2011 for notable examples). With this in mind, this chapter seeks to account for the philosophical underpinnings of queer theory in the first section before reviewing its impact on organization studies in the second. These sections introduce queer theory to scholars who have yet to consider its offerings, but also to consider, for readers already familiar with its characteristic ideas and more widely cited writings, what else queer theory might offer to organization studies. With regard to the latter, the third and fourth sections of this chapter draw on important aspects of queer theory that remain under-developed within organizational studies such as its ethic of openness to the Other and its orientation towards ‘undoing’ heteronormative binaries, in order to open up opportunities for ethical and political critique within and of organization studies. In the light of this discussion, the final section points to potential avenues of future queer theory research within organisation studies.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
Item ID: 19001
Depositing User: Nick Aston
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2016 12:14
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:38
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/19001

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