Review: Queer theory now

February is LGBTQ+History Month in the UK, and as part of our recognition of that we asked members of the Library Student Team at Manchester University to share their thoughts on some of the relevant books in our library. They chose a varied selection of works from different sections of our collection, and we will be sharing their reviews in this blog over the next few days.

Queer theory now : from foundations to futures  Hannah McCann (GE.1.02/MCC)

Reviewed by Hui Chia: ‘Hui is in her final year studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics, with an interest in feminist political economy. ‘ 

If you are looking for an introduction to learning about gender, sex, sexuality, and race, Queer Theory Now is an essential book to create foundations of understandings, especially of the intersections that are present within these identities.  

Queer Theory Now reflects the holistic nature of queer theory, in which the book examines issues relating to identity and oppression, while also looking at factors influencing the nature of this marginalisation, including globalism, capitalism, as well as gendered labour through the lens of feminist political economy. Looking at the selection of resources available at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre, although interesting and extensive, it was difficult even as a Politics student to fully understand the other texts without understanding the theoretical background that underpins these revolutionary ideas. This textbook is thereby suited for teenagers and adults alike, whether for those with the hope to learn more as an ally, or for those who hope to learn more about the dynamics of the oppression faced as part of this community.  

With chapters that build upon each other, the authors conceptualise queer theory as affecting every person in a patriarchal heteronormative society (in which all are automatically assumed to be straight and cisgender, while any deviation from this is punished socially). Within the first few pages, the authors include a glossary of helpful key terms, concepts, and debates. Each chapter ends with brief overviews of further reading and films, as well as questions to consider. Throughout the book, the authors point out the various conceptualisations and debates occurring within the field, as well as mainstream perspectives relayed in the media that have excluded and further marginalised members of the community. For example, in relation to the Stonewall riots of 1969, the authors mention that “Though contested, many mainstream representations of Stonewall have whitewashed the events that followed, despite these historical accounts of people of colour and gender diverse folks as central to the uprising.” McCann and Monaghan make clear that race and queer theory cannot be separated; they cite Cohen in her argument that even organisations that advocate for the queer community have “a narrow focus on a heterosexual/queer divide, rather than attending to additional concerns over race, gender and class oppression”. In addition to the stigma already experienced, this marginalisation against the members of the community was extended to the treatment of the AIDS crisis and is still happening today. 

In light of reported LGBTQ+ hate crimes in the UK increasing at twice the rate in comparison to other types as mentioned by Stonewall, we— with our identities at different intersections— need to come together as a community. Through gaining a greater level of understanding of these histories, we can all then contribute to enacting change.  

Recommended Books: 

The Pronoun Book by Cassandra by Jules Corrigan GE.3.01/COR 

As reviewed by another member of the University of Manchester Library Student Team, The Pronoun Book offers an accessible introduction to using pronouns for both children and adults alike. Moving from an academic-heavy nature, this book provides more details surrounding non-binary and trans communities that were comparatively missed within Queer Theory Now. 

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler 

Recommended by Queer Theory Now, Butler makes clear the distinction between sex and gender, arguing that gender is socially constructed and performed, in which we are shaped by these cultural norms. Although some may see Butler’s views as being controversial, they are celebrated as one of the key scholars within this field. 

Other Resources: 

Queer Lit bookstore  

15 minutes away from the Central Library, Queer Lit provides a selection of fiction books as well as other resources, if you would like to get your own copy. The store manager was helpful in recommending books, as well as answering any questions I had! 

Guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) resources by the Manchester City Council 

This resource provides archives of content relating to the history of Manchester’s LGBT+ community, including those that are held within the Central Library. 

(Un)Defining Queer Exhibition at the Whitworth 

Taking place from January 27th to December 3rd 2023 as part of the Queering the Whitworth project in collaboration with the LGBT Foundation, the (Un)Defining Queer Exhibition seeks to redefine narratives in the Whitworth’s collections and norms. 

Queering the Collections on the Rylands Blog

LGBTQ+ Collections

An introductory guide to LGBTQ+ resources held within The University of Manchester Library’s Special Collections.