Who would have thought a defense concerning a thesis on homosexual (gay and lesbian) top athletes would be just the thing to put my own upcoming defense into perspective? Heidi Eng, my once-upon-a-time roommate, former top athlete and Norwegian champion in handball, now lesbian activist, researcher and self-defense instructor (Oh yes, she's buff, fearless and amazing) was defending her work on the role of gay, lesbians and bisexuals in Norwegian Sports: Sporting Sex/uality. The question she got during her defense that got me going was: why didn't she "queer" her theory?
"Queer" her theory? The concept was as alien to me as life on Mars (which, of course, means that I have been playing with the thought, but never really considered making it a topic of my research). How could it be more or less queer than what she did? She had been giving her informants a voice, brought out a deep taboo in Norwegian sports, discussed what this means for the people concerned and what it means for a society that imagines itself to be open and tolerant in sexual issues - what do you mean queering?
That's when I realised it. It wasn't about the topic, it was about the expectations of her opposition. Her comittee had their own agenda. They had issues that needed to be aired, and a public defense in Norway, with its strong performative aspect is exactly that: a place where issues can be brought up and taken into the open. It's not an arena for playing by the rules, it is a theatre, and the participants don't play, they act. All the preparation isn't about questions, it is about display.
I can deal with display. And if needed, I'll queer my theory, consult my inner evil male gay elf and talk about taboos and assumptions. But for my defense there will be other hobby-horses that need to be saddled and ridden. All I need is to stay in the saddle. If I get really cheeky I may try to tame them, too.