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Manifestos: aesthetics and politics in queer times

Guy, Laura Edith (2017) Manifestos: aesthetics and politics in queer times. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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How have manifestos circulating in queer social movements articulated desires for futures in the present? How might the temporalities of the manifesto form offer possibilities for writing alternative histories of queer struggle? This thesis turns to the manifestos produced in the context of queer social movements growing out of New York from the late 1960s onward. Considering the aesthetic dimensions of the form alongside the material characteristics of print ephemera, it needles at the way that accounts of queer politics appear through manifestos. In order to do so, the thesis is constructed from a series of discrete studies that are organised around the historic claims to self-determination made through manifestos associated with the Gay Liberation Front New York (1969-1972); the numerous instances that Valerie Solanas’s ‘SCUM Manifesto’ has been invoked to disturb mechanisms of social reproduction in art since she self-published the text in 1967; the meshing of art and politics, grief and urgency, in manifestos written by artists associated with ACT UP in the context of the AIDS crisis; and a series of collective reading of Zoe Leonard’s ‘I want a president’ manifesto that remakes a claim to political legitimacy from 1992 for contemporary political struggles. Occupied with the way that each of these examples invests in the manifesto form for its disruptive force, the study presents a shifting terrain of queer identity that comes into focus here alongside histories of feminist and, to a lesser degree, Marxist and anti-racist politics. Negotiating the wishes of manifestos to eschew the conditions of the present, this thesis considers the worlds produced through manifestos and the queer lives they sustain. Writing at a time when manifesto writing appears renewed within contemporary queer struggle, I consider what it is that we risk if we neglect the ephemeral, but no less material, claims of manifestos in accounts of queer history and what demands they might make of us in the present.

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