Queer Science Writing
17 September 2012
What is Normal Science? Queer Science?
When one hears the word science, often images of men in lab coats mixing liquids are conjured up. One thinks of equations, superscripts, and technical equipment. This is what is typically called normal science. Unbeknownst to many, other types of science exist—one being queer science. Queer science is like the Land of Misfit Toys for all of the sciences that do not quite fit under the umbrella of normal science. Queer science is the label for all sciences that do not wish to be defined or forced into a box. It is the alternative route in a rigid, traditional, academic world.
Although the word queer often connotes sexual practices and preferences, queer in this sense is simply just the “other” category. Therefore queer science can include studies of gender and sexuality, but all studies of gender and sexuality do not necessarily equal queer science. With that being said, it should not be assumed that the queer science community is solely or even mostly comprised of peoples belonging to the LGBT category.
The queer community, for one, does not define its constituency in a normal manner. In fact, the community does not directly define its constituency, simply because membership is more “a matter of aspiration” than a source of identity (Berlant & Warner 334). The queer community, not necessarily meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals, simply consists of those advocating for a common goal. Members of the community hold “different understandings of membership at different times” depending on their current goals and activities (334). More than anything, the queer science community remains undefined. The community refuses “to draw boundaries around its constituency” by choice—with the hope that the outside world will come to understand and accept its diversity and eccentricity. As of now, the queer science community is simply the producers, consumers, and supporters of queer science.
Discoveries in queer science do not come about in the same manner as those in normal science. Normal science usually begins after a discovery or paradigm, “from which spring[s] coherent traditions of scientific research” (Kuhn 11). In queer science, however, studies are typically the result of a social or cultural revolution, like the AIDS outbreak of the 1980’s. The queer scientific community began its work as “AIDS activists” after witnessing AIDS’ devastating emergence in America’s youth (Berlant & Warner 346). Normal science, on the other hand, conducts research “based on shared paradigms” (Kuhn 24). Queer science replies to social needs while normal science performs supplementary research following scientific discoveries. There is really no need for queer science unless the community demonstrates a need for further understanding. The queer science community, in contrast with the normal scientific community, exists to solve the problems plaguing its constituents and therefore addresses problems as they arise.
Because queer science exists primarily to create and serve publics, its objectives fluctuate with the demands of the public. At its core is the desire to catalyze a “rethinking of both the perverse and the normal” in terms of sexual norms (Berlant & Warner 346). Queer science works to change the minds of the outside world–not necessarily to abandon traditional doctrine but simply to accept the emergence of alternatives.
Basically, queer science is whatever one makes of it. It remains undefined for a reason, to exist primarily for those who never fit into a definitive box. As of now no one can truly say what queer science is. It is different things to different people and until this fairly new, fragile community has time to solidify and identify its primary focus, it is best that it refrain from isolating itself from potential members.
Berlant, Lauren, and Michael Warner. “What Does Queer Theory Teach Us about X?.” Publications of the Modern Language Association. (1995): n. page. Print.
Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. 1-34. Print.