The Brown Commons: Queer Critique Before, Alongside, and After José Esteban Muñoz (1967-2013)
“The Brown commons is not about the production of the individual but instead about a movement, a flow, and an impulse, to move beyond the singular and individualized subjectivities. It is about the swerve, of matter, organic and otherwise, the moment of contact, the encounter and all that it can generate. Brownness is about contact and nothing like continuous. Brownness is a being with, being alongside. The story I am telling about a sense of brown is not about the formation of atomized brown subjects, but, instead, about the task, the endeavor, not of enacting a brown commons but, instead, about knowing a brownness that is our commonality.”
-José Esteban Muñoz, unpublished excerpt from The Sense of Brown (2013)
The internationally celebrated queer theorist, José Esteban Muñoz—author of Disidentifications, Cruising Utopia and countless articles, editor of a field-defining book series at NYU Press, Sexual Cultures, and mentor to multiple generations of scholars working at the intersections of gender, race and sexuality—died on December 4, 2013. When Muñoz passed away, he was at work on a project exploring collective queer/of color endeavors in the academy, politics and in the (counter)public sphere. His new work, on a “brown commons” draws upon his previous work inspired by an eclectic range of thinkers like Sedgwick, Weber, Nancy, Bloch and Heidegger, as well as contemporaries and colleagues like Moten, Doyle, Berlant and Halberstam, among others. Furthermore, he also drew inspiration from, and collaborated with, younger scholars such as Shane Vogel, Tavia Nyong’o, Alexandra Vazquez and Eng-Beng Lim (among whom, I’m also deeply honored to be included). This seminar will provide a survey of queer/of color, or “brown” gender and sexuality studies vectored through and alongside Muñoz’s work on queer utopias, horizons, and commons: from his influences, to the work he influenced; from the fields that shaped his own scholarship, to the field he helped bring to fruition in institutional, as well as intellectual contexts.