Elevate Difference

Anachronism and Its Others: Sexuality, Race, Temporality

Valerie Rohy’s exploration of the efforts to define both queer and Black identities and their subsequent intersections is as interesting as it is illuminating, as presented in Anachronism and Its Others, whether it is a discussion of the temporal implications of Frederick Douglass’ thought presented in his autobiography or demystifying the nebulous concepts of "queer time." Anachronism and Its Others also investigates how the modern field of sexology has recently made a connection between homosexuality and blackness, often for the negative purpose of justifying homophobic and/or racist socioeconomic worldviews.

One of Rohy’s strongest observations in Anachronism and Its Others is the split between "queer" and "straight time" as she notes within the initial chapters of the book. The idea of straight time as a historical metanarrative told through the evolution of American culture as defined by the goals of majoritarian interests is revelatory. As Rohy states, straight time is "promoted as the best form of progress and the only 'real temporality.'" The author illustrates an important connection to scientific racism as it forms the grounding of those seeking to connect homosexuality and Blackness with threats to the White family, to its perceived superior vitality, fecundity, and ability to function as the carriage of the national society. Rohy’s weaving of modern constructions of ethnic and sexual identity, the connection of contemporary sexology with scientific racism and the attempt to negate any alternatives to a Caucasian heteronormative national paradigm are brilliant.

Such connections and observations lead one to an important question: How does one combat attempts to frame progress and time itself as concepts in opposition to the existential utility of sexual and ethnic minorities within a particular society? As threats to the forward movement of that society? Rohy’s argument against the idea of "straight time" and other justifications of a narrowly defined national culture and destiny are made through the intellectual dismantling of its philosophical buttresses: contemporary sexology and its cousin scientific racism appear to be one large step toward answering such a daunting challenge.

Written by: Brandon Copeland, February 12th 2010