Louis Van Gaal is the coach of Manchester United. This past summer, the club splurged tens of millions of pounds on new signings such as Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and also Radamel Falcao (on loan). Yet the team has had its worst start since the 1980′s. Even worse than, dare say it, David Moyes.
Is the team improving? Is it going backwards? Nobody knows. Well, except for noted Queer Studies scholar William B. Turner, author of A Geneaology of Queer Theory. Willy B took the time to sit down to talk heterosexism, Foucault, and Man U with us. Here are his answers.
Q: Willy B, when you set out to write A Geneaology of Queer Theory, you realized the enormous implications and potential criticism coming your way as you attempted to pen a history of LGBT intellectual thought in North America and Western Europe. Do you wish you’d done something simpler like coach Manchester United instead?
A: Well, based on the last two years, I can’t say it’d be simpler. Perhaps the biggest problem in any industry and profession, either coaching or academic writing, is managing expectations. We can debate whether Sir Alex left a good pool of players or a rotten roster, but he certainly left behind some very high expectations for the next coach. For me, writing about QT after such heavyweights as Butler and Foucault was tough, but I like to think I didn’t Moyes it up too much.
Q: Perhaps the most interesting thread in your Geneaology is how Queer Scholars attacked the dominant humanist narrative of the 21st century of scientific discourse developing “objectively” and apart from politics. When looking at United, can sport ever be separated from commercialism? Do the Asian or American tours help or hurt LVG and United?
A:Clearly, all fields of knowledge attempt to create their own sphere of knowledge with bright lines – they erect fences with certain things included and excluding others. Looking at those spheres from afar, they then attempt to define themselves as apart from the less savory spheres of knowledge. In that sense, science decided to separate itself from politics in the public’s conscience because the citizens in a democracy have always viewed representative with disdain and distrust. Similarly, fans of sport try to separate our teams and players from the commercial underbelly of the beast. However, we must challenge said dichotomy not as impossibly, but impossibly delusional. How could United afford Angel Di Maria if they didn’t have a Chevy logo on their shirt or a few July friendlies in Beijing each year? They couldn’t. You can’t separate them because one would not exist without the other.
Q: In A Geneaology you do your best to reservedly criticized Michel Foucault for positing that as a Western European gay man he could speak on behalf of alterity and otherness for all. However, this argument seems like a case of never-ending deconstruction – how do we define otherness to the point of being otherness? And where did LVG go wrong this offseason in the summer transfer market?
A: On the other hand, otherness also speaks to unique identities that cannot be conflated. For example, the experience of a black LGBT individual is not the same as a white or even Asian LGBT individual. Even within the LGBT rubric, the trans identity and difficulties encountered will be different for a Gay or Lesbian person. Thus, Foucault was wrong to speak for those other than himself, even if he shares some aspects with other otherness. In terms of the off-season, LVG was write to identify defense as a problematic area, but wrong to only sign one other major defender: Marcos Rojo. He also probably needed another midfielder. Still, nobody could have foreseen the stinker years Shaw and Herrera are having.
Q: Chapter 5, on LGBT and the law, in your Geneaology has been criticized for focusing too much on Anglo Saxon and First World jurisprudence. Did LVG make the opposite mistake by signing continentals and South Americans who may not acclimate to the EPL immediately?
A: Obviously, no book can ever encapsulate all realms of knowledge. I focused on Anglo Saxon jurisprudence because my book is based primarily on the North American LGBT intellectual movement and issues. As for LVG, many Spaniards and Argentines have been successful in the EPL so that explains the Herrera, Di Maria, and Rojo deals. As for Radamel Falcao, it’s anybody’s guess if the Colombian will come good or not. He certainly is going to miss the sun a lot during the winter months.
Q: So, if I get your point correct, just as feminists challenged the concept of a “white male citizen” as the starting point for identity discussions, you are saying that non-Anglo Saxons have finally proved their mettle in the EPL? Are there any particular players you’d like to see United sign this January?
A: Perhaps the most important concept we can accept is the relationships between identity, power, and experience. Only when you step outside of your identity can you see your own power or lack of it, and how that affects and will continue to affect your experience. In that sense, Brazilian players sometimes hate the food and weather in England, but Gilberto had some good seasons at Arsenal. Argentine center backs like Colocinni and Demichelis have also become the rage of late. Still, the fact United say they don’t plan on making moves this January reveals the privilege of their elite status: it’s a lie, a bargaining chip, a way to make a desperate signing that much cheaper. Conversely, when Aston Villa says they are not looking to make winter deals, you just kinda feel sorry for them.