Celebrating the life and work of queer scholar Jose Esteban Munoz

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Jose Esteban Munoz, Cuban-American scholar and author of “Cruising Utopia,” a work that critiques the LGBT movement’s focus on assimilationist issues such as marriage equality and participation in the military, in favor of the revitalization of the queer political imagination, passed away on December 3, 2013.

Munoz was born in Havana, Cuba in 1967, and shortly after relocated to Hialeah, Florida as a Cuban exile with his parents. After completing his undergraduate studies at Sarah Lawrence, he went on to pursue a doctorate degree in literature at Duke University, where he studied with famed queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.

His work is defined by his dedication to the queer imaginary and its inherent potential for re-imagining the present with the vibrancy of potentiality, reaching towards a future brimming with possibility.

“Queerness is not yet here,” wrote Munoz, in his introduction to his last published work, “Cruising Utopia.”

“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. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain.”

Munoz’s first work “Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics,” was a groundbreaking work that addressed the intersection of race, class, and sexuality, and is used as a model for work that continues in that area.

“The loss of his expertise and perspective to the fields of queer studies, performance studies, and critical race studies is profound,” wrote the University of Minnesota Press, in a statement released on Wednesday, December 4.

“His contributions will continue to influence these areas of inquiry for many years to come.”

In a time when the LGBT movement is defined by its determination to be included in the heteronormative institutions sanctioned by state governments—namely marriage and inclusion in the military—as the only form of legitimate civic participation in a state, Munoz’s critical voice opened up the possibility for imagining different forms of experiencing queer relations.

“Queerness is also a performative because it is not simply a being but a doing for and toward the future,” wrote Munoz.

“Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.”

429 Magazine

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