Cruising Utopia

The Then and There of Queer Futurity

234 pages

29 illustrations

November, 2009

ISBN: 9780814757284

$23

Paper

Also available in

Subjects:

Cultural StudiesLGBT Studies

Part of the Sexual Cultures series

Author

José Esteban Muñoz was Professor and past Chair of Performance Studies at New York University. He is the author of Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics and co-editor of Pop Out: Culture and Dance in Latin/o America and Everynight Life: Queer Warhol.

All books by José Esteban Muñoz

The LGBT agenda for too long has been dominated by pragmatic issues like same-sex marriage and gays in the military. It has been stifled by this myopic focus on the present, which is short-sighted and assimilationist.

Cruising Utopia seeks to break the present stagnancy by cruising ahead. Drawing on the work of Ernst Bloch, José Esteban Muñoz recalls the queer past for guidance in presaging its future. He considers the work of seminal artists and writers such as Andy Warhol, LeRoi Jones, Frank O’Hara, Ray Johnson, Fred Herko, Samuel Delany, and Elizabeth Bishop, alongside contemporary performance and visual artists like Dynasty Handbag, My Barbarian, Luke Dowd, Tony Just, and Kevin McCarty in order to decipher the anticipatory illumination of art and its uncanny ability to open windows to the future.

In a startling repudiation of what the LGBT movement has held dear, Muñoz contends that queerness is instead a futurity bound phenomenon, a "not yet here" that critically engages pragmatic presentism. Part manifesto, part love-letter to the past and the future, Cruising Utopia argues that the here and now are not enough and issues an urgent call for the revivification of the queer political imagination.

Reviews

  • “In this interesting study of queerness and identity politics, Munoz (performance studies, New York Univ.) invites readers to look beyond the immediate present and toward a queer future.”

    Choice

  • "In the course of an introduction, a conclusion, and the ten lush chapters in between, Cruising Utopia elaborates an archive of queer aesthetic practices from the present and the recent past."

    —Kevin Floyd, Meditations: The Journal of the Marxist Literary Group

  • “Gay liberation’s activist past and pragmatic present are merely prologue to a queer cultural future, Muñoz suggests in this critical condemnation of the political status quo. Casting his vision of a radical gay aesthetic through the prisms of literature, photography and performance, the author dismisses commonplace concerns like same-sex marriage as desires for ‘mere inclusion’ in a ‘corrupt’ mainstream. More defiantly, he exalts the persistence of commercial sex spaces in the face of ‘antisex and homphobic policings,’ and celebrates the overlay of punk and queer in performance spaces.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Brilliant, extraordinary, and necessary, Muñoz’s critical refusal of queer pragmatism, his commitment to the utopian force of the radical attempt—the radical aesthetic, erotic, and philosophical experiment—is indispensable in an historical moment characterized by political surrender and intellectual timidity passing itself off as boldness.”

    —Fred Moten, author of In the Break

  • “Muñoz takes Ernst Bloch as his Virgil as he descends into the dark woods of futurity looking for signposts along the way that will guide him to a place of hope, belonging, queerness and quirkiness. Refusing to simply sign on to the ‘anti-relational,’ anti-future brand of queer theory espoused by Edelman, Bersani and others, Muñoz insists that for some queers, particularly for queers of color, hope is something one cannot afford to lose and for them giving up on futurity is not an option.”

    —Judith Halberstam, author of In a Queer Time and Place