Dr. Mary Bunch

Alternate Emancipation Approaches in Sexual Diversity

On completion of her PhD at the Centre for Theory and Criticism, Mary Bunch recently received a SSHRC post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. Her current research involves an unusual look at human rights and suggests possible innovative frameworks that can challenge entrenched views. “Gayatri Spivak wrote that, ‘we cannot not want’ the gains of liberal humanism, such as human rights. The syntax of ‘cannot not’ suggests a hidden trap that limits the desire for justice to a model that focuses on individuals within capitalism,” says Dr. Bunch. “I explore the activism of queer, sex worker, and sex/ability communities, drawing upon critical theorists such as Wendy Brown, Chantal Mouffe, and Roberto Esposito to explore the question of emancipatory frameworks that might be an alternative to an overly tight framework of human rights.”

bunch.jpgDr. Bunch proposes that approaching sexual diversity justice solely from a standpoint of rights violations is too narrow. Rights can reinforce a stance of victimization, and reflect western hegemony.   She is looking at possible approaches through the lens of community rather than individual rights, and social transformation rather than social inclusion. “What kinds of emancipatory goals and strategies are coming out of sexual minority communities? For example, in San Francisco there is an organization called “HAVOC” (the Horizontal Alliance of Vaguely Organized Queers), that applies queer theory’s deconstruction of identity to national borders. They are concerned with sexuality in relation to labour and migration flows. We ‘cannot not want’ human rights, but we’ve construed human rights as a whole solution, instead of just being a part of something that’s a whole lot bigger.”

During 2013, Dr. Bunch has published two articles: “Posthuman Ethics and the Becoming-Animal of Emmanuel Levinas” in the journal Culture, Theory and Critique; and “The (Un)becoming Subject of Sex: Performativity, Interpellation, and the Politics of Queer Theory” in the journal Feminist Theory. She also has a new article in progress, “Communicating for the Purposes of Human Rights: Sex Work and Discursive Justice in Canada,” for the Canadian Journal of Human Rights.