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Hearing queerly: Musings on the ethics of disco/sexuality

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Is the 'queerness' of disco 'mere nostalgia'? Does it make sense of to speak of a 'queer politics' of disco at a moment when disco's heterosexualization seems complete? What would be the valence of the 'political' in disco? This article takes on these questions by examining disco as an affective discursive construction across multiple sites - popular reception, cultural criticism, video, and film. If 'discophobia' connotes the unequivocally homophobic and racist response to disco's origins, I use the term 'disco/sexuality' more ambiguously to take into account both the liberating and repressive effects of the 70s disco industry on the lives of the sexually marginalized divided along the lines of race, class, and gender. The first part of the article explores some of disco's own contradictions by looking at the little known but provocative video (Tell Me Why) The Epistemology of Disco in relation to scholarship by disco scholars like Richard Dyer, Walter Hughes, and Jeremy Gilbert. The second part examines the possibility of a de-eroticized politics of the sensibility of disco through a schizoanalytic reading of Derek Jarman's film The Last of England. Disco's combination of romanticism and materialism effectively tells us - lets us experience - that we live in a world of materiality but that the experience of materiality is not necessarily what the everyday world assures us it is. Its eroticism allows us to rediscover our bodies as part of this experience of materiality and the possibility of change (Dyer 1979, 23).
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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