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Indifference to Difference

On Queer Universalism

2015
Author:

Madhavi Menon

Indifference to Difference

A thought-provoking argument for abandoning identity politics

Indifference to Difference demonstrates that our desires are not ours to be owned; they are indifferent to our differences. This polemical book shows that if we turn to a kind of universalism that recognizes we are all similar in our powerlessness to contain desire, then difference no longer becomes the focus of our identity.

Madhavi Menon has written an exhilarating manifesto. The tough-minded courage of Menon's intervention is one of this book's great strengths; the fierce intelligence that shapes her arguments is another. Indifference to Difference pursues a supple, peripatetic, and deeply principled methodology, informed by a nuanced theoretical acumen that declares itself at every turn.

Kathryn Schwarz, Vanderbilt University

Indifference to Difference organizes around Alain Badiou’s suggestion that, in the face of increasing claims of identitarian specificity, one might consider the politics and practice of being indifferent to difference. Such a politics would be based on the superabundance of desire and its inability to settle into identity. Madhavi Menon shows that if we turn to another kind of universalism—not one that insists we are all different but one that recognizes we are all similar in our powerlessness to contain desire—then difference no longer becomes the focus of our identity.

Instead, we enter the worlds of desire. Following up on ideas of sameness and difference that have animated queer theory, Menon argues that what is most queer about indifference is not that it gives us queerness as an identity but that it is able to change queerness into a resistance of ontology. Firmly committed to the detours of desire, queer universalism evades identity.

This polemical book demonstrates that queerness is the condition within which we labor. Our desires are not ours to be owned; they are indifferent to our differences.

Indifference to Difference

Madhavi Menon is professor of English at Ashoka University. She is the author of Wanton Words: Rhetoric and Sexuality in English Renaissance Drama; Unhistorical Shakespeare: Queer Theory in Shakespearean Literature and Film; and editor of Shakesqueer: A Queer Companion to the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Indifference to Difference

Madhavi Menon has written an exhilarating manifesto. The tough-minded courage of Menon's intervention is one of this book's great strengths; the fierce intelligence that shapes her arguments is another. Indifference to Difference pursues a supple, peripatetic, and deeply principled methodology, informed by a nuanced theoretical acumen that declares itself at every turn.

Kathryn Schwarz, Vanderbilt University

Indifference to Difference

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Indifference
1. Out of Africa: Yinka Shonibare’s Museum of Desire
2. Disembodying the Cause: Shakespeare’s Dramatic Elisions
3. Lesbians without Borders: The Story of Dastangoi
Coda: Queer and Universal
Notes
Index