queer ecologies:
an editorial introduction

 

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to you are here: the journal of creative geography’s 2022 issue: queer ecologies!

This collection of work explores and experiments with the meanings, methods, and potentials of queer ecologies. By focusing on queer ecologies, we aim to rethink and challenge dominant imaginaries of nature and environment and to imagine alternative ways of being in relation to our bodies, our environments, our more-than-human relations, and each other.

We approach ‘queer ecologies’ as a capacious starting point for this practice of reimagining. Here, the word ‘queer,’ begins from, but extends far beyond, matters of gender and sexuality. ‘Queer’ signals an act of unsettling, a disruption of norms and boundaries, a challenging of taken for granted categories and taxonomies. As an epistemological starting point, ‘queer’ denotes a viewpoint at the margins of or outside of dominant perspectives, subjectivities, and worlds. It also signals an attention to identity, to gender and sexuality, but also to race and other forms of social difference that shape our worlds and relations to each other.

The word ‘ecology’ can be read in the traditional sense, as the sets of relations connecting living beings with their environments. Yet we might also push it further to understand ecology as any web of relations, or as a mode of relationality. Understood as a more generic term, ecology thus tunes our attention to a far greater diversity of relations among bodies, spaces,
and environments.

In embarking upon this project of queering ecology, we asked: what work might these terms accomplish when taken together? What kinds of productive tensions, ambiguities, and synergies exist between them? What might it mean to queer ecology, to imagine and create queer ecologies?

The contributors to this issue offer a diversity of creative responses to these questions. Drawing from our backgrounds in fine arts, dance, geography, cultural studies, literary studies, and other intellectual locations, we explore the meanings and possibilities of queer ecologies through poetry, creative writing, performance, film, photography, visual art, and other genres. What emerges from this collective experimentation is a shared space of envisioning and enacting other visions for our selves, our individual and collective bodies, our environments, and our worlds.

This collection is thematically organized around four key sites for exploring and experimenting with the potential of queer ecologies: land, atmopheres, the more-than-human, and place.

Land

Our collective exploration of queer ecologies begins with land. We begin underground with Teed’s The burrows, with queer bodies burrowing in the earth and coming to know this subterrean, sheltered inhabitation. Moffett’s This land holds within it a fever brings what is buried to the surface; through an experimental exploration of Valley Fever – a fungal pathogen emerging from disturbed soil – Moffett contemplates what it means to inhabit land and have land in turn inhabit us. Using peat as an artistic medium, Brice similarly experiments with relations between land, people, and non-human communities. Santi and Laborde explore “queer lands” as a means of rethinking our relations to land through an explicitely gendered lens.

Morphic Rooms’ contribution leads us from this starting point in land toward a more expansive vision of landscape, reimagining landscapes and breaking them free of administrative enclosures. Lotfi and Beca situate their bodies in the landscape, posing queer relations between bodies, land, and various ecologies. Through poetic explorations, Bacht and Nichols critique the imaginaries and practices – maps, settlement – that produce alienated and violent relations to land and landscape. Taken together, these queered perspectives on land and landscape push back on enclosure, alienation, and exclusion, toward more relational, embodied, and attentive relations to land as a symbolic and material starting point for imagining and enacting queer ecologies.

Atmospheres

Having grounded ourselves in land, our collective direction shifts upward toward atmospheres: toward the gaseous, the elemental, the cosmic – mingling with air, skies, climates, inner and outerspace. Nichols’ poetry reminds us to “look up,” to find a queered sense of beauty and home amidst an unfolding climate dystopia. Beck’s Twitterbot, Google sky view, similarly redirects our attention away from the terrestrial toward the sky, questioning the politics of technological ways of seeing.

Escott’s Metabolic rifts and domestic interiors points to the disconnections between human spaces and practices and ecological rhythms and relations. Through performance art, Doyle situates themself purposefully in the middle of this disconnection, rubbing up against and breathing in the toxic externalities of everyday human practices like commuting to work. White’s reflections on climate as a racialized atmosphere make it clear that these exposures are not evenly shared, but are the product of deep histories and inequalities.

Moore’s astrophotographs of the moon pull our vision of queer ecologies out further still. Moore experiments with queerness as irreverance – as a replicating error that might give rise to new forms. In a similar vein, Alain Co’s experimental practice of casting metal seeks new forms at the nexus of artistic intention and more-than-human agency, queering the (re)production of form. As a whole, these queer ecologies prompt us to look at the atmospheric and the ephemeral as sites in the relational production of our worlds.

The more-than-human

Having journeyed about the land and air, we then turn to the more-than-human  entanglements that situate us in a community of relations. Teed and Adams turn to non-human animals and fungi, respectively, as models for queer embodiment, belonging, and becoming. In a similar vein, Losoya and Swartz visualize the entanglement of queer/trans embodiment and the more-than-human. Kinkaid’s portrait series natural history considers the possible relations between transgender embodiment and ‘nature’; Kinkaid shapeshifts into the boundary figure of the satyr to pose questions about the scientific gaze, the production of nature, and the taxonomic logics that produce transness as monstrosity. Lukas is similarly interested in disrupting the gaze – here capitalist imaginaries of nature and a pornographic
gaze – through collages that rework the relations between bodies, sex, and the more-than-human.

In their contributions, Teed, Knowles, Su, Oliver and Bates all reflect on the imbrication of human and non-human/more-than-human life, highlighting spaces of and for mutual engagement. Each contribution illuminates and dwells in the ambivalence, alterity, and curiosity that shape these relations. In their performance at the U.S.-Mexico border, Eisele et al. remind us that these more-than-human engagements are not always mutual or
ethical – they urge us to account for the imprint of human life on broader ecological relations and imagine a more-than-human sense of place.

Place

We conclude our collective exploration of queer ecologies in place – reflecting on and situating queerness in particular places and relations of non/belonging. Meadows and McDermott offer poetic reflections on place, belonging, and nature. Fountain carries us along the non-linear pathways of memory and blues migrations. Evangelista and Fatima move between diasporic locations in a search for place and belonging, whether it be in a garden or in the infinite expanse of the sky. Sunjay’s Bodies highlights the violent terms of queer belonging for racialized bodies whose ‘place’ in queer communities is one shaped by exoticization and disposability. Finally, Garnes and McDonald transport us back to where we began – to landscape – to experiment with queer ways of seeing and imagining landscapes and our place within them.

It is with a deep sense of gratitude and excitement that I offer this twenty-third issue of you are here: the journal of creative geography to the world. I hope that it can serve as a demonstration of the vitality, diversity, and brilliance of creative geographies. But more than that, I hope it will remind us all of the necessity and urgency of queer visions in pushing the boundaries of geography, and in doing so, imagining and manifesting other worlds.

With love,

Eden Kinkaid, editor