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No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  594 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
In this searing polemic, Lee Edelman outlines a radically uncompromising new ethics of queer theory. His main target is the all-pervasive figure of the child, which he reads as the linchpin of our universal politics of “reproductive futurism.” Edelman argues that the child, understood as innocence in need of protection, represents the possibility of the future against whic ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published December 6th 2004 by Duke University Press Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Dec 26, 2013 Sarah rated it did not like it
This was one of the worst books of queer theory I have ever read. It manages to talk about queer theory without talking about ANY real queers! It analyzes Hitchcock films and talks (densely) about how gay people pose a symbolic threat to society because they don't breed.

Except that gay people do breed. Bisexual people have kids all the time with different gendered partners. Trans men get pregnant and trans women donate sperm. One in three lesbian couples have kids, and one in six gay couples do
Asam Ahmad
Jun 13, 2011 Asam Ahmad rated it it was ok
Sounds way too much like a bouggie gay white man who simply hates children. And the figure of the child edelman contends with is always always white: his 'theory' cannot account for the signs emitted by the child of difference - he has nothing to say, for instance, about what the black child may signify, let alone a queer/non-normative/differently abled/'foreign' child ... not all children signify the future in the same way ...
Feb 25, 2009 eliza rated it did not like it
Shelves: for-school
This pretensious constipation of lit theory was assigned to compliment our reading of Macbeth. For our weekly written reflection I once again stuck with one of my outlandish in-class conjectures -- the “Macbeth is impotent” hypothesis -- but only because I felt encouraged by Dr. Lee “Run-on-Sentences-Don’t-Apply-to-Me” Edelman and his preoccupations with reproductive imperatives and death drives:

If Edelman’s theory is to be believed, our political model is essentially conservative in that it aff
Apr 16, 2008 Evan rated it really liked it
Shelves: nerdy-academia
"Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we're collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from Les Mis; fuck the poor, innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital ls and with small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop."
Mar 03, 2012 Anna rated it liked it
This was kind of less out-there than I was expecting. A lot of reviewers seem to think that Edelman hates children or something, which I don't think is the case; I interpreted his thesis as saying that the figure of the Child for whom the future must be preserved has its problems. I also think he spends a bit too much time on Hitchcock, and I would have liked to see him address the fairly recent mainstreaming of the queer family, particularly within the context of the debate over gay marriage an ...more
Jul 28, 2011 Phillip rated it it was amazing
This is a really interesting book on queer theory, which establishes an adversarial relationship between the sinthomosexual (distinct for the homosexual as sexual category) and the mythos of reproductive futurism. Edelman posits The Child (distinct from a child or children) as the central figure of political authority for both the Left and the Right, each of which are concerned with the creation of a never-realizable future good. Edelman posits the sinthomosexual--a figure not defined by sexual ...more
Jul 30, 2015 yarrow rated it liked it
It is interesting to read the comments on this book. It seems that on the one hand there are people who have no idea what he is talking about and are critiquing the book on an entirely different plane than it operates. On the other hand there is a way to read the book un-critically that leads to pretty banal conclusions (being a gym-bunny or circuit queen or something). The book is enjoyable in a lot of senses, but kind of in spite of itself. For anyone interested in reading this, I'd recommend ...more
Mar 24, 2016 Miguel rated it it was amazing
"Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we're collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from Les Mis; fuck the poor, innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital ls and with small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop."

Lee Edelman's text has been described (on the back of the book, no less) as a "searing polemic," and it certainly is that. But, it is not as if Edelman offers here some sort of positivist argument for how o
May 18, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it
In No Future (2004), Lee Edelman argues that the dominant political discourse is one of "reproductive futurism," which takes the child and heteronormativity as its commonplaces. Queerness figures outside this political regime, "the place of . . . abjection expressed in the stigma" (3). The social is defined and limited by "the image of the Child" (not real, living children) by structuring our political discourse (11). Threats to the reproductive order are seen as threats to the social order (11) ...more
Ralowe Ampu
Oct 08, 2011 Ralowe Ampu rated it liked it
i'm not sure what dude's deal is. reading this makes you wonder what kind of a person he actually is. someone who sits around thinking about hitchcock movies and dickens novels mean. some much as he posits queer fucking as a prophylaxis to future, it is distinctly a western continental futurity he appears concerned with. i guess people have thought about the lively exchange between this and munoz's book, but there is still a lot left open around this notion of what a queer intervention of social ...more
Erdem Tasdelen
Jul 16, 2011 Erdem Tasdelen rated it really liked it
Thought provoking. I applaud him for his forthright critique, and agree with his argument about the futurity invested in the figure of the Child insofar as it engenders a normative field which we are expected to subscribe to. And yet, I find that his rejection of meaning or signification needs to be more refined. I think that what is fundamentally lacking in this book is a vision of ethics to accompany his line of thinking. I'd like to think that there is an ethical dimension to being intelligib ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Karli rated it really liked it
Brilliant and daring. Minus one star for being Lacanian.
Oct 08, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it
slightly dated but still seems necessary. raised by a conservative catholic family whose whole MO was reproductive futurism in the early aughts, I found this book a crucial toolbox for articulating the shape/extent of the delusion.
Sharad Pandian
Aug 03, 2016 Sharad Pandian rated it really liked it
Brief summary of the book: "Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we're collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from Les Mis; fuck the poor, innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital ls and with small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop."

Less brief summary (caveat: I am not super well versed in queer theory)

Going by the reviews already here, it might be useful to point out what the book isn't about. The book isn'
Alex Hubbard
May 09, 2015 Alex Hubbard rated it liked it
This book is as difficult to summarize as it is dense, but at its heart it is an argument against the too easily accepted faith society has in reproduction, the idea of the Child, and (what others might call) the heterosexual matrix. Like most psychoanalytic theorists, Edelman is verbose and at times hard to grasp. That being said, it is true that I don't have the level of familiarity with psychoanalytic theory Edelman's intended audience is supposed to have, so the fault might not so much be in ...more
Jan 04, 2016 Tara rated it it was amazing
Even as a child, I was never terribly fond of other children. I could come to tolerate, or even to like a select few upon getting to know them, but beyond their existence as individuals, children always, to me, symbolized the precise opposite of their usual role as figures of sublime innocence. Even now, well into adulthood, the idea of reproduction repulses me as much as ever. I have found no more sympathy for this within the queer community than I have within the straight community. Queers tod ...more
Jan 29, 2015 Rick rated it really liked it
Edelman's analysis and writing in NO FUTURE are both top rate. Balancing the theoretical, literary/cinematic and political, about evenly, Edelman manages to demonstrate how each relates to the others. The theoretical portions can get dense, and may assume prior knowledge of the theorists he discusses; however, the applied portions are clear and convincing. He might have given more explanation as to why the particular literary and cinematic works he chose should be considered definitive of how qu ...more
Emilia P
Oct 24, 2011 Emilia P rated it it was ok
Shelves: real-books
Buarffff. I think I decided to read this because some excerpt from it was the first reading for a Queer Theory Reading Group I was considering joining (but uh, didn't). Also the cover is AWESOME. However, it's basically just 4 jerkish (pseudo?)-academic articles full of made up words. Some of the points he's making about the facism of futurity I kind of get -- sure, progress for progress's sake can be pretty ridiculous -- but he trafficked so in angry extremes (and in unnecessarily hoity-toity l ...more
May 09, 2010 David rated it it was amazing
For someone not particularly versed in queer theory or Lacan, I had a bit of trouble navigating some of the finer points of this book, but I do enjoy aggressive polemicals and that's what this is.

And I can understand why some would not like this book -- the writing does spin in theoretical circles at times (at least for me) and Edelman sometimes likes language too much (esp. puns and post-structuralist lingo). But if you can get past that, he has some fine readings of literature and film that a
Apr 02, 2013 JT rated it it was ok
Shelves: winter-2013
Started out agreeing with Edelman's broadest point re the outsize influence of imaginary children in what he terms the 'reproductive futurity' of American political discourse. Then became more and more frustrated as Edelman's allusions to the Third Reich and appeals to psychoanalytical authority piled up. Rhetorically despicable, a little old-fashioned and entirely too pleased with its own high-brow tawdriness.

Also, many points lost for working in a theoretical idiom so indebted to structural a
Tom L
Feb 21, 2014 Tom L rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory, lit-crit
yet another 'poststucturalist' attack on historicity, this time in the name of an anarcho-queer non-futurism. this one, however, has more to offer than most: an excellent 'deconstruction' of cult-of-the-child ideology and heteronormativity (here called 'reproductive futurism'); searing indictment of institutionalized homophobia in american politics and culture; persuasive coinage of 'sinthomosexuality' to describe cultural figuration of the queer as death drive; lucid application of lacanian the ...more
Jan 02, 2008 k8inorbit added it
Shelves: academic
I'm not going to try and rate this one, I don't think I can. Despite being assured by many authority figures that this is important and seminal and Needs To Be Read, I just couldn't get myself interested in it and my skimming was less than enthused.

Having said that, if you need to read what's hot and respected in Queer Theory, you should probably read this. And I probably need to make myself read it again, because it totally didn't work the first time.

Then again, I've never been all that interes
A deeply flawed book. If queerness should become the social death drive, and should function to destroy the social order, then it must also somewhat become the bird that loves its cage, which is obviously problematic... None of this is to say, however, that Edelman doesn't make a great many valid points throughout this book. And of course, he's right: I don't think there is a queer politics that works on any kind of practical level.
May 16, 2011 Scottiev rated it really liked it
This was an amazing book, unpacking the cult of child, queer anti-utopia and a great segway into visual studies of masculine stereotypes. My favorite parallel was the concept of the death drive and the ploys used by anti-gay, anti-abortionist constructing a bleak look at the idiosyncatic voices out there.
Justin Abraham
Dec 05, 2014 Justin Abraham rated it really liked it
Shelves: unfinished, queer, ma
great introduction... Queerness is the bar to every institution of futurity. Queer theory should always insist on the destruction of the sign, the signifier’s collapse into the letter's cadaverous materiality. The child is the end goal of society for whom all order is maintained. There is not future which includes queers. Live for now.
Richard K. W. Hsu
Sep 01, 2007 Richard K. W. Hsu is currently reading it
A must read in queer theory. the language is sometimes obscure, but doesn't bother for readers to grasp the idea of Edelman's powerful and daring argument if you are familiar with Lacanian psychoanalysis (especially "The ethics of psychoanalysis")
Dec 09, 2013 Ben rated it really liked it
This is not for the faint of heart.

It's heavy, confusing and takes full liberty of the English language, but it's a good read and has one of the most explanations of Queer Theory and how it operates out there. It's honestly really good.
Mar 18, 2009 jtabz rated it really liked it
Challenging, subversive, engaging, and meticulously crafted. Edelman uses examples from current events, politics, literature, and film to illustrate an argument that is hard to swallow but undeniably well presented.
May 09, 2015 Carl rated it liked it
Read just the introduction, and while I found it less than inspiring, it has haunted me. I don't share the political vision in total, but I'm now seeing reproductive futurism everywhere, and I'm grateful for that.

Challenging ideas. I may go back for more in the future.
Mar 17, 2009 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: escuela
more like fascination went up and down throughout. The last chapter, also titled "No Future" is the best. I love the Hitchcock examples and avian puns, not to mention Edelman's effective use of profanity (of which I am always a fan).
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Lee Edelman is a professor and chair of the English Department at Tufts University. Lee Edelman began his academic career as a scholar of twentieth-century American poetry. He has since become a central figure in the development, dissemination, and rethinking of queer theory. His current work explores the intersections of sexuality, rhetorical theory, cultural politics, and film. He holds an appoi ...more
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“Pope John Paul II returned to this theme, condemning state-recognized same-sex unions as parodic versions of authentic families, “based on individual egoism” rather than genuine love. Justifying that condemnation, he observed, “Such a ‘caricature’ has no future and cannot give future to any society”. Queers must respond to the violent force of such constant provocations not only by insisting on our equal right to the social order’s prerogatives, not only by avowing our capacity to promote that order’s coherence and integrity, but also by saying explicitly what Law and the Pope and the whole of the Symbolic order for which they stand hear anyway in each and every expression or manifestation of queer sexuality: Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we’re collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from Les Mis; fuck the poor, innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital ls and small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop.” 7 likes
“If Marner, through the allegedly compassionate intervention of Eliot and Eppie combined, becomes, in his meek and modest way, a pillar of the social order instead of the implicit counterinstance adduced in the text as a pillar of salt, it is only because the threat of that salt, with which Eliot has no beef, cures him.” 0 likes
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