A Frightful Leap into Darkness: Auto-Destructive Art and Extinction


  • Jack Halberstam Columbia University




Kristeva race, sexuality, futurity, extinction, abjection


In a new book titled Wild Things: Queer Theory After Nature, I develop a new critical vocabulary to access different, transdisciplinary ways of thinking about race, sexuality, alternative political imaginaries and queer futurity and extinction. Wildness in no way signals the untamed frontier, or the absence of modernity, the barbarian, the animalistic or the opposite of civilization. Rather, in a post-colonial and even de-colonizing vein, it has emerged in the last few years as a marker of a desire to return queerness to the disorder of an unsorted field of desires and drives; to the disorienting and disquieting signifying functions it once named and held in place; and to a set of activist and even pedagogical strategies that depend upon chance, randomness, surprise, entropy and that seek to counter the organizing and bureaucratic logics of the state with potential sites of ungovernability and abjection. Wildness signifies in my project in a number of different ways, but here I use the framework of “abjection” to explain some of the appeal of wildness and a few of the ways in which it expresses relations between the unnamable, the excessive, horror and death. Later on, I will turn to a set of performances and art projects that are deliberately auto destructive and that collectively imagine the end of the human.