Kultur, Zoologi og metafysisk spekulasjon

The Queer Science

In Arkeologi, Vitenskap on januar 21, 2011 at 12:13 am

It all started in the year 1870. By publishing his article on sexual senses, C. Westphal had introduced the world to the homosexual. Sex between individuals of the same gender was no longer a phenomenon belonging to sodomy. Rather, homosexuality was now part of the human species. But just like everything else, the study of homosexuality in the 20th century was mainly focused on men. But in 1991, the queer science was born.

Michel Foucault

For the Victorian era, having sex with the intention of not making babies was seen as perverse. Even though some would say that Freud opposed the Victorian morale with his psychology, he had a quite similar view. He defined perversity as the focusing of the libido on everything else but reproduction. Libido is the sexual meaning and energy that humans project into objects. Freud held that part of gaining a Super Ego – that is, internalizing a collective habitus – involved learning to focus the libido on reproduction. In light of this, it is quite easy for us today to recognize the relativity in our words. Terms designating gender does not have its origin in nature itself. Instead, they are actually made up. And this can be proven by historical studies, like Foucault did in the 1970’s, when he wrote about C. Westphal.

It is not completely correct to say that gender studies only focused on men. The feminine wave in the 70’s (and of course the 80’s and 90’s as well) within academics is proof of that. For instance, Sim0ne de Beauvoir is often referred to as the first feminist. But a generel focus on gender as deviation was first explicitly introduced by Terea de Laurentis in 1991. Like Foucault, she was interested in the research on gays and lesbians in USA. She wanted to change the focus from the already naturalized terms being deployed to a focus on diversity.

The term queer refers to anyone excluded from the normative heterosexuality (Solli 1998:8). A queer study, then, should focus on both the normative and the queer, because the genders are created in the cultural play that constitutes them both. From a queer point of view, no one is born heterosexual, but you can become on (Solli 2007:64). The theory is not about homosexuality, but about sexuality in general. Only by focusing on what makes them all, can we enable ourselves to write about the nature of human gender.

The use of queer theory within archaeology is scarce. But a formidable example from Norway is Brit Solli’s interpretation of the Norse gods (Solli 1999). She manages not only to show how different gender roles were constituted in Viking society in contrast with today, but she is also able to define more detailed how these roles are played out in the mythology. I think it is fare to say that this has deeply changed the way we perceive the Vikings, and made the difference between cultures inhabiting the same landscape over time more clear. For a long time, Viking culture and society has been a guarantee for a Norwegian identity. It becomes problematic – but not impossible, maybe – to maintain this ideological/mythical picture of the past when we learn about Odin the queer.


de Laurentis, T. 1991: Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities. An introduction. In: Differences. A journal of feminist cultural studies. Vol.3 no.2. III-XVIII

Solli, B. 1998: Odin the “queer”? Om det skeive i norrøn mytologi. Universitetets Oldsaksamlings årbok 1997/1998:7-42.

Solli, B.1999: Odin the queer? On ergi and shamanism in Norse Mythology. In: Gustafsson, A. og H. Karlsson (red). Glyfer och arkeologiska rum – En vänbok till Jarl Nordbladh. Gotarc Serie A. vol. 3. S. 341 – 349. Gøteborgs Universitet.

Solli, B. 2007: Queer theory – Hype, hip eller politisk fallitt. In: Nicolay. Nr.101,1.2007. S.60-66.


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