Men’s studies in geography have investigated the meaning of gendered space from a male perspective and have contributed to realizing gender equality since the 1990s. While scholars have been eager to conduct case studies, they have paid little attention to theoretical discussions, however. In this paper, I examine the validity of queer theory as a major theoretical framework in contemporary gender studies, and propose an alternative epistemology of men’s studies in geography.
Queer theory is a set of ideas based on the thought that the concept of identity or category is not essentially fixed but constructed by social-cultural performance. Influenced by queer theory, gender geography has also deliberately challenged all notions of fixed gendered space in various ways since the 1990s. Queer theory, however, has some limitations as a theoretical framework for deconstructing the concept of identity.
I examine the limitations of queer theory from the perspective of the actual meaning of identity for men. By clarifying how we recognize male identity in daily spaces, I argue that queer theory cannot explain the emotions of ordinary men who have no doubt about the existence of male identity. This is because queer theory places too much emphasis on destabilizing identity and it lacks the perspective that people do not always think that identity should be deconstructed.
Based on this examination, I propose an alternative epistemology of men’s studies in gender geography by introducing phenomenology. The epistemology of phenomenology has clarified how we recognize the meaning of everyday world, and helps us to understand the nature of human cognition to gendered space. Men’s studies in geography, therefore, should not anticipate destabilizing to male identity and the space, but should examine the actual meanings for men, which can lead to construct space and place for gender equality.
A British theologian Elizabeth Stuart (1963-) argues that theology is fundamentally “queer” enterprise since Christianity tells us the fact that all socially constructed “identities,” including sexual and gender identities, have no absolute importance. According to Stuart, whereas “gay and lesbian theology” attempts to interrogate theology based on one’s sexual or gender identity, “queer theology” attempts to interrogate the notion of sexuality and gender based on one’s Christian identity. In this paper, Stuart’s understanding of “queer theology” will be explored through an examination of her arguments about baptism, ecclesiology, and eschatology. I will also analyze her use of the term “queer” as well as the term “theology” and clarify some issues inherent in her understanding of “queer theology.”