3AM Eternal: the role of music in the queer futurity/anti-futurity debates

I’m currently working on some projects that focus on the role of music in the recent and ongoing futurity/anti-futurity or relationality/anti-relationality debates in queer theory. While these debates are wide-ranging, I’m focusing mainly on the work of Lee Edelman, Jose Esteban Munoz, and Judith Halberstam. To help me think through and get some feedback on this work, I’m going to be doing several series of posts that are “seeds” or “sketches” of ideas for these projects. I have only begun planning out the series, but, you can expect some posts on:

  • London’s Burning: on punk music in Edelman and Munoz
  • Cage and Edelman (and Munoz, maybe)
  • !!! and Munoz
  • If we’re interested in the aesthetic strategies of queers of color, why are we not talking about disco, house, and techno?
  • Afrofuturist music
  • No Wave and queer negativity
  • The “queerness” of Edelman and Munoz vs. Genesis P-Orridge’s “pandrogyny” or why we should be taking Acid House more seriously
  • And more, when I think of them…

My aim is not only to understand the role of music in these texts, but to use these discussions of music and music aesthetics to help advance our understanding of the broader theoretical issues themselves. For example, I think that attention to Munoz’s use and discussion of specific songs (e.g., The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and The Magnetic Fields’ “Take Ecstasy With Me”) highlight some theoretical commitments that are otherwise not so obvious or overt….commitments that I ultimately want to question.

As of this writing, I’m tending to see the futurity/anti-futurity debates as, well, a false dichotomy that existentialist ethics shows us how to resolve. Often portrayed as a contest between anti-futurist anti-relationality, on the one hand, and utopian relationality, on the other, the debate tends to overlook the possibility of an anti-futurist relationality. Existentialist ethics is an anti-futurist relationality. As Beauvoir argues, there is no meaning or justification (i.e., no future) other than the ones we make together, because I can make the world (i.e., engage in projects of transcendence) only with the help of others (or, my transcendence requires others’ transcendence). I’ll post more on my attempt to read the futurity/anti-futurity debates through existentialist ethics AFTER I’m done with the posts on music. Ultimately, I want to show that attention to the musical dimensions of these debates clarifies the underlying issues and stakes, and in so doing points us to existentialist ethics.