Queer Utopias

Discourses surrounding design often focus on the problem of multitasking thinking and doing. I experimented with queer theory as part of a critical design practice in the hopes of developing a method of doing that is also a form of thinking and knowing.

Queer Theory

When I first became interested in developing a queer design practice there was an infinite array of options of what to draw from. In the end I decided to focus on Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed and Cruising utopia by Jose Esteban Muñoz. These two texts became the motivations for my work, as well as the guiding maps both theoretically and practically. 

Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others

Sara Ahmed is an academic who works in queer theory, philosophy, critical race theory and feminism. Her book Queer Phenomenology (2006) critiques the idea of sexual orientation as an innate, biological quality and instead proposes a spatiotemporal understanding of sexuality as a way of doing and being over time. Ahmed’s theorisation of queer phenomenology is essential to the aims of Sappho’s Ghost, which are to present other possibilities of spatiotemporal sexual orientations, i.e to put queer futures within reach. It is also guided my methods of engagement with digital materialities, especially the focus on embodiment and spatiotemporal orientations in Virtual Reality.

Not all bodies are within reach. [...] Queer orientations are those that put within reach bodies that have been made unreachable by the lines of conventional genealogy."


(Ahmed 2006, pp. 107)

Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity

José Esteban Muñoz was a theorist who explored queer identities through the lense of performance studies, philosophy and queer theory. His book Cruising Utopia contains a critique of gay pragmatism and cynicism, instead proposing modes of queer utopianism that present hope and possibility for the future. Muñoz is concerned with queer aesthetics and the potential of everyday objects, texts and experiences to hold potential for queer futures, especially historical cultural artefacts.  This engagement with the aesthetics of the everyday is particularly relevant to a designerly approach to exploring queer methodologies, and his future focus has been really essential to to the idea of using reanimated queer historical content in Virtual Reality as a way to a sketch a utopian queer world. 

"Utopia is always about the not-quite-here or the notion that something is missing. Queer cultural production is both an acknowledgment of the lack that is endemic to any heteronormative rendering of the world and a building, a 'world making,' in the face of that lack. "

(Esteban Muñoz 2009, pp. 118)