Arrested development or the queerness of savages

Resisting evolutionary narratives of difference

Authored by: Corinne L. Mason

Routledge Handbook of Queer Development Studies

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  January  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138693753
eBook ISBN: 9781315529530
Adobe ISBN:


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In this essay, I argue that it should not be possible to understand the initial theories of modern male homosexual identity in the west without looking at the imperial and neo-imperial contexts of such theoretical productions. I claim that the application of key tropes of Darwinian evolutionary theory permitted an imbrication of race, gender, nation and class categories in the constitution of knowledge of the body of the “invert” and subsequent “homosexual.” Moreover, these evolutionary tropes persist and can be located in a range of work on “homosexuality” over the last century. They can also be shown to inform work of decidedly diverging political interests. From Krafft-Ebing to Queer Theory, the language and assumptions of evolutionary theory, often displaced into contemporary discourses of development, reverberate to create a disturbing consonance between ideologies of liberation and ideologies of oppression.

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