Robert Kulpa: Con-Temporal Peripheries

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Logo des Podcasts von Jenseits der GeschlechtergrenzenIm Mai diesen Jahres war Robert Kulpa bei uns zu Gast. Der aus Polen stammende Queer Theoretiker lebt seit einigen Jahren in London, wo er seine Doktorarbeit im Department of Psychosocial Studies am Birkbeck College schreibt. Darin, wie auch in seinem Vortrag, beschäftigt er sich mit Zeit, Raum, Wissen und Aktivismus zwischen den Sexualitäten Zentral-/Osteuropas und des Westens. Wenn aus westlicher Perspektive darüber gesprochen wird, die Gesellschaften und queer Bewegungen Zentral- und Osteuropas seien noch nicht „so weit“ wie wir, wird darin ein Narrativ linearer Entwicklung angelegt, bei der „der Westen“ voran schreitet und alle anderen diesen Pfad befolgen müssen. In „Con-Temporal Peripheries: Disjunctions in space and time, knowledge and activism, between Central-Eastern European and Western sexualities“ wird diese Konstruktion einer zeitlich-räumlichen Peripherie einer Dekonstruktion unterzogen. Künstlerisch haben sich die Pet Shop Boys übrigens schon 1993 im Video zu „Go West“ (Video bei youtube) mit diesem Narrativ auseinander gesetzt. Das Video wurde von Robert am Ende des Vortrages gezeigt.

Wer sich näher mit dem Thema dieses Vortrages beschäftigen möchte, der_dem sei der Band “De-centring Western sexualities: Central and Eastern European perspectives” empfohlen, den Robert zusammen mit Joanna Mizielinska herausgegeben hat.

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Recently, we could observe the proliferation of works about non-Western manifestations of sexuality. However, queer studies by embracing margins, outskirts, de-centring politics of geo-location, continue to be focused on post-colonial “far far away” regions, and almost no work is done about the “neighbouring” Central and Eastern Europe. In this presentation, I will try to problematize/pluralize the notion of Western sexuality and indicate “con-temporal periphery” – i.e. mechanisms of “othering” CEE (by, e.g. rendering it as “permanently transitional”/”post-communist”).

After the collapse of the “Iron Curtain”, Western-style politics was adopted throughout CEE, without much questioning of its historical particularisms and suitability for the new context. When lesbian and gay activism begin to emerge in the CEE countries, West was already at the ‘queer’ stage, with long history and plurality of models and forms of engagement. Conversely, the communist past of CEE built completely different social structures and modalities. This could be graphically represented as two separate geopolitical-temporal modalities running parallel, where in 1989 one of them finishes, and the other one becomes universal for both. Indeed, it should be even more complicated, and represented as “knotting” and “looping” of time(s).

However, often when we try to “undo”/explain those knotted realities, we try to “linearise” the “here and now” reality of CEE, by categorising various activities and approaches as belonging to a certain historical narrative. Thus organising the “knotted temporality of CEE” into “familiar” stages and inscribing it into particular history (here: into Western history of LGBTQ movements), we already simplify it in order to make sense of it. But do we actually succeed? Does such “unknotting” make sense? For whom? And what are the prerequisites to be able to understand it in either form? In other words, we feel it is important to ask, why certain models are familiar to “all”? And why “local” narrations of lesbian and gay emancipation will be seen as, precisely, “local” and not “universally” recognised?

With this presentation, I will undertake the task of questioning the power relations between “West” and “CEE”, between western queer academic scholarship and CEE theoretical insights, calling for not only for “de-centralisation of queer theory”, but also for greater attentiveness to spatial and temporal choices in doing so.