Friday, April 24, 2009

A New Way of Viewing the World

In “Lit Critics Who Peer Under the Covers,” New York Times contributor Patricia Cohen discusses the impact of the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a co-founder of queer studies who, in the process of co-founding a field, challenged academics to look at the world in new ways.

Cohen writes:
For starters, the ideas that she and others developed helped to usher in the era of multiculturalism, which challenged traditional scholarship as well as the primacy of Western thought and peoples. The resulting battles over ideology and values that composed the culture wars made their way into the national conversation.
Cohen adds that Sedgwick felt that all “defined categories” fail to “capture reality.” More than focusing on GLBTQ issues, Sedgwick had an impact on all of the identity studies. Sedgwick noted a tension between the “universalizing view,” in which minorities should be treated like everyone else, and the “minoritizing view,” in which miniroties should be viewed as “oppressed.”

Cohen notes the impact of Sedgwick’s scholarship not only on academe, but in the broader community and suggests that it was one of the drivers of the conservative outrage at academic scholarship.

To be honest, I’ve noticed the tension between the universalizing and minoritizing not only in the queer world, in Quebec (which struggles with language issues), and in the Jewish community, which struggles with isolation and assimilation.

As much as I probably should not be admitting this (but to be honest, although I’m queer, but I’m not a queer scholar), I had not heard of Sedgwick but hope to learn more.

Read the full article at

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