“How Does an Object Impinge on Me?”:
Queer Performativity, Ontic Un/certainty, and The Archive Catalogue as Representationalist Vehicle
This text sets out to explore the hypothesis that the archive cat-alogue acts as a reproductive vehicle for the representationlist conviction that the object captures what there is (to know, i.e., ontology) and that, if unaddressed, this reproduction will continue the reductive and essentializing effects that are sought undone by restorative efforts such as when a project to un/engender the archive invites us "to think histories of gender and sexuality through the local cultures and temporalities to which ethnographic objects rightfully belong”. Drawing on a framework of queer performativity this text unfolds a two-fold exercise that, firstly, identifies dynamics at work in the archive catalogue, what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick names, “ontogeny” along with the representationalist conviction it couches, namely, that the world amounts to a host of knowable and ordered objects that, in Denise Ferreira da Silva’s formulation, follow “calculable laws of separability and determinacy”. Thus embedded, the text opens on an analytic encounter with the archive catalogue that, in drawing from Sara Ahmed’s precision that diversifying measures distract from the systemic nature and root of a problem, suggests that a catalogue technology to elaborate detail and specificity safeguards the ontological model that sustains the archive’s functional and existential legitimacy, namely, the ‘idea of the object’ (i.e., the object as ontology). This analysis, in other words, suggests that the ontogeny that causes reductionism and essentializing is highly capable of reproducing itself despite and indeed through efforts to detail specificity where others leave its underlying object ontology unchallenged.
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We publish these articles as the museums consolidate into one nominal entity, het Wereldmuseum: since the articles were written between 2020 and 2023, they do not yet reflect the March 2023 name change.
All contributors called into the Un/Engendering research project were asked to think outside their respective specializations. Without their courage, openness, humility, and without the peer reviewers’ generous attention, such an interdisciplinary project could have never taken place.
Author | Ida Hillerup Hansen
Ida Hillerup Hansen is a Lecturer in Gender and Postcolonial studies at Utrecht University’s Graduate Gender Studies Programme. They hold a double PhD degree from the Department of Gender Studies at Central European University and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry at Utrecht University. Their domains of teaching and research interests include feminist and queer approaches to psychoanalytic theory, poststructuralism and onto-epistemology, theories of bio- and necropolitics and affect and embodiment. Ida is currently working on a chapter and article publications based on their PhD dissertation Being Through Loss: A Queer Performative Reckoning with Grief. They are a member of the Queer Death Studies Network and the co-founder of the Relation(al) Matters Archive with Associate Professor Kathrin Thiele.