The Butch Anthropologist Out in the Field
Judith Halberstam
In this century of speed and simultaneity, it is rare that sc
work can stand the test of time.Works written yesterday can look dated
time they appear in print, and many of the feminist and lesbian text
the s simply do not translate in the present. But, as Margaret Mead
Me Gay shows, Newton’s older work remains relevant for a new gene
of queer scholars and her newer work continues to build on her own
but also responds carefully and methodically to new concerns and re
agendas.
Newton has clearly been one of the most important figures in gay, le
and transgender studies over the past two decades, and her work on
camp, gender performances, and lesbian masculinities, which dates b
, has been foundational and fundamental to the development of an
disciplinary project of tracking and identifying lesbian genders. Some
years after the publication of her essay on Radclyffe Hall’s ‘‘mythic m
lesbian,’’ Newton’s formulations of inversion and the butch have still no
eclipsed. More than twenty-five years after the publication of her study
Camp:Female Impersonators in America (), Newton’s insights abou
and camp, role playing and gender impersonation still constitute some
most important considerations of gender variance available. Indeed, co
porary queer theory, especially queer theory under the influence of
Butler’s work, has come to circulate endlessly around problems of dr
performance, the very problems, in fact, raised initially by Mother Ca
Judith Butler carefully and significantly relates her debt to Mother C
an essay titled ‘‘Imitation and Gender Insubordination,’’ when she pr
her readers with an uncharacteristic moment of personal confession
young person,’’ she tells us, ‘‘I suffered for a long time from being to
what I ‘am’ is a copy, an imitation, a derivative example, a shadow of th
(:). Butler foregrounds her confession by saying that it ‘‘them
the impossibility of confession’’ and she follows up on the confession b
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