According to Georgia Law Makers, Queer Theory is Not Legitimate

This was sent out on a listserv I’m on:

According to Republican lawmakers in Georgia and the Christian Coalition, queer theory is not a legitimate course of study.

On CNN’s American Morning today, Carol Costello reported on Georgia’s recent variation of the age-old debate over what should be taught in our schools. Georgia State University is under fire for employing professors who are listed in an annual faculty guide as experts in ‘Oral Sex’ and ‘Male Prostitution.’ State Representative Charlice Byrd announced on February 4 that she is starting a “grassroots” effort to oust these professors, AP reported.

[. . .]

Calvin Hill, another State Representative, took issue with the University of Georgia’s graduate program on queer theory. “Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.” (read the whole thing)

My favorite part is that the goal of universities is, according to Hill, to “educate our people in sciences, business, math.” There is no room for humanities research or teaching with a variety of methodologies and epistemologies.

But this brings up all sorts of questions — questions which keep coming up. What is the role of the humanities, and how do humanities scholars convey that role to the public (or to a variety of publics)? This is particularly true of fields like English, which is misread as being about studying “great books”; queer theory, which, as Lisa Duggan points out, is often not recognizable as legitimate in liberal discourses; composition, which is painted as being about “fixing” basic writers; and rhetoric, which has all too often been relegated to simply problem solving (as Vatz argues).

UPDATED: I ended this post quickly, as I had to finish reading something, so I wound up leaving this post with only a few questions of the “all sorts” that I mentioned. Someone else on the listserv I’m on suggested that this says nothing about Georgia or about higher education, but rather about the scapegoating and attacks against LGBTQ folks across this country. I somewhat agree. In fact, I completely agree that this says nothing about Georgia per se (my twitter update, in which I announced I don’t want to teach in Georgia, aside). And I agree that this is part of a general trend in this country by conservatives to use queers as scapegoats and targets of verbal (and physical!) assaults. That seems obvious. But I think it does say something about public views of higher ed, and also public views of queer epistemology. Jonathan Alexander (I think it was) has written (somewhere!) about how when he comes out to his students, his epistemology becomes suspect: students cannot trust his interpretation of things like they could before he comes out. Certain ways of knowing and interpretive acts are suspect in our society, and deemed not credible for academia. Of course, the assault on queers and on disciplinary/methodological plurality are intricately linked. (Note that it is much less likely that a “straight”-forward science experiment about oral sex would not be critiqued in the same way as a Mindy Stombler’s research on the connections between oral sex practices and public discourse is critiqued and dismissed.) Too, there is the connection made by conservative forces in this country between academia and a “liberal, leftist elite” that also makes this critique much more salient. Also, I need to go get lunch, so I’ll end here.

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2 Responses to According to Georgia Law Makers, Queer Theory is Not Legitimate

  1. Chuck says:

    I’m not sure if you heard but the lawmaker backed down to some extent. I do think that his actions were based in homophobia, but once the professors were allowed to testify, their expertise became all too clear (as it should have been all along).

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks, Chuck. I hadn’t seen that. Interesting from the article you link to: “He argued that in a time of budget cuts universities should not offer classes that do not help students get jobs.” Not only a problematic way to look at education, but also an idea that’s up for interpretation (what helps get jobs?).

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