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Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  903 ratings  ·  51 reviews
The LGBT agenda for too long has been dominated by pragmatic issues like same-sex marriage and gays in the military. It has been stifled by this myopic focus on the present, which is short-sighted and assimilationist.

Cruising Utopia seeks to break the present stagnancy by cruising ahead. Drawing on the work of Ernst Bloch, José Esteban Muñoz recalls the queer past for guid
Paperback, 223 pages
Published November 30th 2009 by New York University Press
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Aug 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
Muñoz is a brilliant close reader and I wished the scope of this academic project allowed for more of that. I mean the chapter connecting vogueing to Elizabeth Bishop, or the discourse on how camo is queer, and countless others of the many critical reading sections -- all genius. I was less compelled by the actual overarching theme of seeking utopia and making the world a better place by dreaming of the future. To call it naive is wrong because nothing about this book's ideas is anything but utt ...more
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
I picked this up off the new-books shelf at the library because the title caught my eye, but was really disappointed in it. Since he is explicitly critiquing the current LGBT movement, I had hopes that his "queer" wasn't a synonym for gay men as it (and LGBT, really) so often is. Alas, while there are a handful of lesbians here and there and an aside about a trans friend, this book is totally about gay men, mainly pre-AIDS gay male culture and art.[return][return]I could have rolled with that if ...more
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh god, I wish I was back in school, and I could use the material in this book on a project of my own. This is an "academic text" so it isn't pleasure reading, per se. But Muñoz's theories really hit home. Some of my favourite words—"hope" and "imagine" and "possibility" and "becoming"—are strewn across these pages. It was a difficult but stirring read.

Muñoz attempts to define "queerness" as something we haven't quite achieved yet. It's a radical term that defies the conservative "normalizing" o
Muñoz is at his absolute best when he's weaving and recontextualizing philosophical strains around the concept of a forward-dawning queer futurity, using queer movements and gestures such as dance, cruising, drag, and protest as evidence of the utopian longing at the core of queer desire. He reframes and responds to Edelman's pessimistic notion of reproductive futurism with an alternative queer critique based on an analysis of queer and trans of color artistic production. However, the analysis u ...more
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A dazzling masterpiece of critical theory and cultural analysis, maintaining a firm focus on the key political issues while illustrating them through detailed and beautifully written analyses of queer performance and visual art.
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Exquisite. José Muñoz's academic partiality to performance studies greatly enhances his argument for queer futurity. That is to say, Muñoz exemplifies the necessity for change embodied in time and space, and the constant (re)consideration(s) of hope and potentiality inherent in queer Otherness. Where the text lacks rhetorical frankness, it excels in intellectual thought, adds to the critical advancement of queer thought that continues to challenge queer assimilation into popular, heteronormative ...more
Sean A.
I wasn't totally sold on a lot of the philosophical moves he pulled but overall i thought this book was pretty fucking entertaining. I mostly really liked his choice of case studies/subjects and how he picked art, stories, and cultural artifacts that he liked and believed in and built his book around them. ...more
Dwight Davis
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First of all, it's always a joy to find an academically dense, intellectually rigorous book that also happens to be beautifully composed and fun to read. Muñoz accomplishes that difficult task with seeming ease.

I really enjoyed this rebuttal to Edelman's No Future. Muñoz offers a view of queer utopia that recognizes queerness as the coming potentiality, something that has not yet arrived, a hopeful future beyond normativity and reproductive futurism. He engages with queer photography, art, lite
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a really academically fun and comprehensive book pulling from an enormous multitude of other texts/performances/bodies to argue the necessity of imaginative world-building. That said, it was a let down to have so many of those sources be almost exclusively men,mostly cis, mostly able-bodied, mostly thin.
Ai Miller
Just exquisite. Muñoz is doing amazing things here, carving out space for considering utopia in different ways. He speaks back to Edelman and Bersani in important and I think constructive ways, and his analysis of different artists and performers just sweeps me up and away into those utopic spaces. Incredible stuff.
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 12, 2018 added it
Shelves: lit-crit, queer
A lot of focus on cis gay men but still a wonderful methodology for hope and resistance.
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I don't know how I lived without this book. I kept renewing it from the library - I didn't want to let it go. I wanted to live inside this book. Muñoz's definitions of queer futurity, identity performance, anti-anti-utopian, aesthetics of amateurity, and the like, have deep resonance in my life. His critique of "mainstream" queer goals is dead on, and his exploration of art forms that expand his idea of queer futurity (and failure. and virtuosity) was fascinating. There is no doubt that I will r ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great response (and alternative) to Lee Edelman's antisocial/antirelational thesis in No Future . This book is more focused on the intersections of queer studies and performance studies than anything I've read in the past, and the chapter on dancer Fred Herko completely blew me away. This book has lingered in my brain longer than most academic books, and I think a large part of that is Munoz's ability to find theory, art, and performance in the every day, especially through his theories of ep ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-studies
A searingly relevant manifesto about queerness as a not-yet-here, the mode by which we strive for utopia. Muñoz argues that hope is essential to a queer existence, engendering possibility and creation in the face of political nihilism.
Sharad Pandian
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Trying to avoid standard pragmatic politics and Lee Edelman-style rejection of future-thinking, Muñoz seems to want to cleave space for something concrete and utopian:

I do not wish to render a picture of utopia that is prescriptive. I want in-stead to connote an ideality—a desire for a thing, or a way, that is not here but is nonetheless desirable, something worth striving for. This desire does not lead to practical politics or even a practical critical practice, because pragmatism has only ever
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it

This book is, undoubtedly, very moving, and a theory-heavy gaze inward as to how one might position oneself in a heteronormative realm that ticks and tocks to the rhythm of miserable, plodding "straight time." The passages that correct Edelman's argument to validate his diagnosis (the cult of the Child figure) while condemning his remedy (hedonism disguised as righteous crusading) are quite rewarding, as are the autobiographical interludes.

I do, however, wonder if Muñoz is still just de
Dec 21, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: progressive homophobes
Shelves: lgbt, theory, mlm, non-fiction
Perfect example of how academic pontification on social justice can actively work towards rescinding the hard-won victories of marginalized groups. The idea that gay men who want the ability to get married (or as Muñoz puts it, 'participate in the problematic institution of marriage') are somehow regressive for fighting for that right is absolutely ludicrous. I was under the impression that the 'problematic' part of marriage was that men used it to exploit doesn't work the same with t ...more
Dec 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I genuinely love this book. It drew me out of my ‘fuck straight people’ phase—I was so certain that nothing redemptive remained in the reproductive politics of heteronormativity.

I was resentful of the homonormative compulsion. I wanted to burn the whole enterprise and prance ecstatically in the flames, clutched in the sinewy brown arms of a beautiful man.

In short, I was a nascent reactionary, an impetuous fag infatuated with queer of color critique.

This book slapped my dusty ass with reason, ho
Ryan Cahill
This is my favorite sort of theory to read, because it uses close reading to both explicate the theory it proposes and to make it practical, in a sense, as far as theory can ever be practical. These close readings, which range from dissections of drag performances to punk music, also resurface works of queer art that have been forgotten, which plays into Muñoz’s idea of the interconnectedness of queer time, or the necessity of drawing a queer future from the past. This is also a political text, ...more
Muñoz makes a radical claim here: "Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality" (1). In his articulation of queer utopianism (against the gay/lesbian pragmatism of assimilation into projects of capitalism), Muñoz posits a politics that resists "straight time," allowing for a convergence of past and future to critique the present, to move ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is such an interesting, fun read. I found a lot to admire in his rich analysis of queer art and commitment to queer 'world-making'. The way in which his theoretical basis is found in unlikely sources not traditionally associated with studies in gender and sexuality adds something fresh and unique to his argument.

The only reason I gave four stars and not five is that the argument of utopia can be lost at times as he delves into analyses of other artists. While this is immensely enjoyable, I
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Ernst Bloch-inspired utopianism filtered through a queer perspective, imagining the fleeting flashes of transcendence resulting from societal transgression as the basis for a new lifestyle founded on opposition to the mainstream, rather than a desire to integrate within it. Interesting, especially in its considerations of the queer world as a brand new shadow society in which existing systems can be reconsidered and reconfigured, but none of these pieces move far enough beyond their initial prem ...more
Joe Shaw
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is my principal text for my undergraduate dissertation. It is the first academic book i've been able to read all the way through. The exploration of queer themes and artists is very engaging and interesting. It caused me to think about my own stance as a queer person, and where, as an artist i can take my queerness into the future ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is a great amount of this book that I loved– "Introduction: Feeling Utopia" and "Queerness as Horizon" in particular– but there are also large swaths that feel outdated or out of touch with different queer identities and a praxis that changes the current lived experience(s) of queers imagining and creating utopias.
This is a book best consumed in conversation, critically and actively.
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Although at first I wasn't a humongous fan of Muñoz's particular idea of queer utopia, I came around to it by the end of the book. He doesn't necessarily refute queerness as it is articulated now, but rather wants us to always look toward the future and what is not-yet-here. True utopia cannot be achieved, but we can always strive for it. ...more
Paula Mclaughlin
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In my opinion, this is a book every queer identifying person must read at least once in their lifetime. It was not an easy read for me, but it is so worth taking the time to really understand. Queer culture NEEDED (needs) this book.
I think I need to reread chapters from this book; often times I found myself wondering how the chapter got from point a to point b or how the case studies used in the text related directly to a futuristic world/utopia for the queer body
Apr 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2020
a poor close reader, especially of 20th century poetry, and full of sentences that say nothing in too many words, like this one, about freddie herko: "their comportment, though not 'overtly' sexual, is sexy and signals a queer kind of becoming." likeeeeeeeeee ...more
Alanna Why
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Took me three months to get through but VERY BEAUTIFUL AND WORTH IT!
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José Esteban Muñoz was a writer and scholar living in New York City. He taught at and served as chair of the department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
44 likes · 17 comments
“Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness's domain. (p. 1)” 10 likes
“The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalising rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there. Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.” 4 likes
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