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Essay Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Near Life, Queer Death: Overkill and Ontological Capture

By Eric Stanley, 2011

“Dirty faggot!” Or simply, “Look, a Gay!” These words launch a bottle from a passing car window, the target my awaiting body. In other moments they articulate the sterilizing glares and violent fantasies that desire, and threaten to enact, my corporal undoing. Besieged, I feel in the fleshiness of the everyday like a kind of near life or a death- in- waiting. Catastrophically, this imminent threat constitutes for the queer that which is the sign of vitality itself. What then becomes of the possibility of queer life, if queerness is produced always and only through the negativity of forced death and at the threshold of obliteration? Or as Achille Mbembe has provocatively asked, in the making of a kind of corporality that is constituted in the social as empty of meaning beyond the anonymity of bone, “But what does it mean to do violence to what is nothing?” —Excerpt from beginning of article

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