In the throes of graduation and during this awkward, liminal period—in personal growth, in academic and vocational career, in my life in general—I was struck by, What’s That Smell, the article from Halberstam. His exploration of prolonged adolescence as a subversion of heteronormative culture and its time is so beautifully illustrated through music and queer subcultures. The pressure Halberstam puts on the binary of youth and adulthood not only calls into question the conventional narrative of human life and reproduction but also questions gender binaries and power structures. Halberstam creates space for a more expansive understanding of temporality; space to consider unlimitedness within conceptions of identity, time, and their interconnectedness.
During my sophomore year of college, I took a class called Women in Early Modern Drama. It focused heavily on Shakespeare and his contemporaries and viewing them with a feminist lens. I wrote my final paper around the idea of eternal girlhood, which I described as kind of extended youth for femmes. I thought of it as a rejection of the social prescriptions for women and womanhood and an indefinite period of living and lively girlhood— a queer state of existence with innocence, with riotousness, with restlessness and whimsy and anger and fiery love and community.
Halberstam’s article brought me back to this idea and this period and made past current, already doing what it discusses—queering time. I thought it acted as a really useful nightcap to the semester; it brought together so much of the theory we discussed and exemplified ways time shapes identity. One of the primary things I took from this semester, in fact, is that expanding our comprehension of time is a way of expanding our conception of identity. In this class, I was forced to reckon with all of the ways in which individual concept of time is acutely local. From our exploration of how incarcerated people experience time differently, of how timely expectations vary across the globe and between cultures, how interaction with time changes for those with PTSD, how the 24-hour day or 12-month year arent’ innate organizations of time which have always existed, and so on. I realized truly how much of human temporality is diced up and divided by human constructions.
I believe that the project of understanding time is becoming knowledgable about time—in its glittering kaleidoscope of complexities and loops—so that we may queer time, queer history, and disrupt oppressive, congested normativity. This confluence of deconstruction and expansiveness erodes white, Western, patriarchal, heteronormativity. It is a project that resists reductive understandings of temporality and identity and, to quote Halberstam, “disrupt[s] simple models of continuity and linear understandings of cultural influence.”
What I fall forward with, from the knowledgable nest of our class, is a broadened interpretation of human temporality and identity. This intellectual asset harkens back to my sophomore literature class, and to almost every class of my college career—which so imminently comes to a close—that at the core of many fields is an interrelating thread of the drive to make sense of human existence. That is, indeed, what time is: trying to organize and make sense of our being.