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Critique Humanities Nonfiction Theory

Re-orientation: Marriage, Heteronormativity and Heterodox Paths

By Heather Brook, 2018

‘Hetero’ (from the Greek, ‘different’) is most familiar to us in its attachment as a prefix to ‘sexuality’. In gender studies, sexuality studies and feminist scholarship, heterosexu- ality is routinely contrasted with homosexuality, and this contrast is often mapped over the opposition of heteronormative versus queer (ideas, practices, effects). These word-pairs (heterosexual and homosexual; heteronormative and queer) tend to operate dichotomously – that is, in exclusive, exhaustive and hierarchically ordered ways. Taking up Sara Ahmed’s work on orientation, this article experiments with an alternative pairing, exploring the potential for admixture or subversion in those dichotomies. ‘Heterodoxy’ is introduced as a concept that might be usefully contrasted with ‘orthodoxy’ in sexuality/gender studies – particularly in relation to current debates on marriage. The larger aim of this endeavour is to theorise heterosexuality in more accurate ways, and to seek out understandings of heterosexuality (including its historical relationship with heteronormative marriage) which acknowledge its horrors without foreclosing hope for its future.

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