The Old, the Ugly and the Queer: Thinking old age in relation to queer theory

Linn Sandberg


This article seeks to use queer theory as a social theory and a critical challenge to normalcy all together to theorise old age in gender studies. Additionally the article discusses some implications of bringing old age into queer theory, where the able body, older person’s sexualities in relation to heteronormativity, to mention a few things, are central for future queer theory. The red thread of the article is how the anti-social turn in queer theory and embracing shame may be used to critique the prevailing discourses of old age as either “successful” where the older person should be active and independent or old age as decline and decay. Queer theoretical notions such as failure and the abject are used to theorise old age and ageing bodies, but the article also discusses how some flexible bodies can overcome failures given class, sexuality, ablebodiedness and race etc. To perform in the Butlerian sense an intelligible and desired self is dependent both on gender, sexuality and age and this is in effect relying on certain modes of temporality. Queer temporality may thus challenge what is considered normal and good ageing but also reveal the taken for grantedness of normative time. The article concludes that by thinking queer theory and old age together a resurrection of knowledges is made possible, outside the good, successful and respectable old age.

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This article was published in the Graduate Journal of Social Science.
Volume 5 Issue 2 pp. 117–139

This text is licensed under a Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.