“The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory’s Defiant Subjects” by Mari Ruti— The Ideological Divisions of Queer Theory

Ruti, Mari. “The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory’s Defiant Subjects”, Columbia University Press, 2017.

The Ideological Divisions of Queer Theory

Amos Lassen

Mari Ruti in “The Ethics of Opting Out” gives us an accessible and theoretically account of the ideological divisions that have been part of queer theory during the ten years, focusing on the rejection of “the dominant neoliberal narratives of success, cheerfulness, and self-actualization”. She examines the queer negativity in the work of Lee Edelman, Jack Halberstam, and Lynne Huffer, and on what is found in the works of Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, David Eng, Heather Love, and José Muñoz. We see how queer theory wants “to opt out of normative society rewrites ethical theory and practice in genuinely innovative ways at the same time as she resists turning antinormativity into a new norm”. We become very aware of the parameters of contemporary queer theory so that we can reconsider and rethink the foundational assumptions of the field.

Debates about utopia and negativity that have become topics for queer critics for over ten years now. Ruti does not take sides but rather goes through the theoretical underpinnings of these positions by providing clear explanations and useful correctives along the way. She shows a new approach queer ethics that is “antinormative” while not being antisocial. She has based her thoughts in Lacanian and Foucaldian thought and criticizes

Judith Butler’s relational anti-Lacanian ethics and Edelman’s Lacanian anti-relationalism. Ruti maintains that we need “a new Lacanian relational ethics of, if not love for, then at least living with the inhuman awkwardness of your neighbor”. Below is the Table of Contents:

Author’s Note



  1. Queer Theory and the Ethics of Opting Out
  2. From Butlerian Reiteration to Lacanian Defiance
  3. Why There Is Always a Future in the Future
  4. Beyond the Antisocial–Social Divide
  5. The Uses and Misuses of Bad Feelings

Conclusion: A Dialogue on Silence with Jordan Mulder



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