Time Binds

Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories

Time Binds

Perverse Modernities: A Series Edited by Jack Halberstam and Lisa Lowe

More about this series

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 21 illustrations Published: November 2010

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Queer Theory

Time Binds is a powerful argument that temporal and sexual dissonance are intertwined, and that the writing of history can be both embodied and erotic. Challenging queer theory’s recent emphasis on loss and trauma, Elizabeth Freeman foregrounds bodily pleasure in the experience and representation of time as she interprets an eclectic archive of queer literature, film, video, and art. She examines work by visual artists who emerged in a commodified, “postfeminist,” and “postgay” world. Yet they do not fully accept the dissipation of political and critical power implied by the idea that various political and social battles have been won and are now consigned to the past. By privileging temporal gaps and narrative detours in their work, these artists suggest ways of putting the past into meaningful, transformative relation with the present. Such “queer asynchronies” provide opportunities for rethinking historical consciousness in erotic terms, thereby countering the methods of traditional and Marxist historiography. Central to Freeman’s argument are the concepts of chrononormativity, the use of time to organize individual human bodies toward maximum productivity; temporal drag, the visceral pull of the past on the supposedly revolutionary present; and erotohistoriography, the conscious use of the body as a channel for and means of understanding the past. Time Binds emphasizes the critique of temporality and history as crucial to queer politics.


“Elizabeth Freeman… explores the relationship of queer bodies to temporal regulations and queer refusals as these bodies remake and use queer histories in the present…. Overall, Freeman’s provocative, queer-historiographic conceptual methods will no doubt be taken up in other histories.” — Shamira A. Meghani, Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

“Positive but not celebratory, exploratory but rigorous, grounded in the messy referentiality of bodies and texts but compellingly speculative, Time Binds is a pathbreaking book that will have multifarious impacts upon queer and feminist studies.”
— Guy Davidson, Australian Feminist Studies

“Through its insistence on the critical use of pleasure for thinking history otherwise, Time Binds offers a powerful imagination of how we might loosen certain binds so that we can knot some new ones.” — Tyler Bradway, Postmodern Culture

Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories offers a valuable resource for students and teachers of philosophy, queer theory, feminism, art history, and gender studies. Freeman's critiques are well founded in relation to contemporary literary theory, and she applies these convincingly to her chosen texts. Freeman's book is timely in the context of an information age which privileges the moving visual image as indisputable evidence. The creative works she examines (especially the films and videos) offer an alternative viewpoint which suggests we need to distrust our eyes, re-examine what we consider natural and normal, and continue to rewrite and recreate our history.” — Evelyn Hartogh, M/C Reviews

“[A] fascinating experiment in time travel through non-normative temporalities.” — Anneli Strutt, Limina

“Despite the queer academy’s distance from corporeality and the promotion of more transcendental approaches to historiography, Freeman boldly outlines history as an erotic, embodied experience. . . . Without cleansing their hands of the complicatedness of history’s racial legacies, these theorists explore the messiness of queerness. Freeman’s book is centered on queer time and queer history’s exciting and, at times, (corporeally) violent moments. . . . Fierce indeed.” — Lizzy Shramko, Lambda Book Report

“Freeman’s thinking gives further consistency to queer theory’s conceptual shift from the question of queerness as a psychological drive or an identity to the concept of queer as performance. The main question this book poses is how erotic relations and bodily acts are able to unbind time and history from capitalism’s regulated tempos in creative ways, unbinding thus our bodies from regulating structures like gender, race, class, and sexual identity themselves as inevitable markers of historical determination.” — Pablo Assumpçao, e-misférica

“In addition to elegant and radical close readings, Time Binds gives us a way to think about pleasure and temporality in combination. . . . Time Binds provides us with close readings of experimental works of film and literature while simultaneously exposing the political stakes of temporality by foregrounding pleasure and the body on both an individual and collective level.” — Amber Jamilla Musser, Reviews in Cultural Theory

“In the end, Freeman offers us a queer future in which close reading remains both a practice and a pleasure we might repurpose for our own sexual–textual encounters, as well as a method of doing queer history through which we are able to feel in touch with, and touch, the social. For making pining for pleasurable encounters with the past, lingering over texts and bodies, and ‘lesbian’ sex hot again in a ‘new now’ kind of way, Freeman’s book rightly demands we take pause via the sensory, and the sensual, to feel the queerness in this.” — Gino Conti, Textual Practice

"Time Binds is perhaps the most compelling argument for the ways non-normative relationships with time and history can be particularly generative for queer politics."  — Craig Jennex, TOPIA

“Blazing and brilliant. Elizabeth Freeman forges claims with texture, rigor, relevance, and grace, giving her masterful, original study a voice of unusual tenderness and depth. Clearly, Freeman stands at the forefront of where queer theory needs to go: into the strangeness, the utter queerness, lying inside the beats of time.” — Kathryn Bond Stockton, author of The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century

Time Binds is an elegant book bristling with intelligence and wit. A fascinating blend of the familiar and the new, it will have a major hand in opening up queer theory, to its own repressed, to its own dreams, to take its chances.” — Carolyn Dinshaw, author of Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Elizabeth Freeman is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Acknowledgments xxv

Introduction: Queer and Not Now 1

1. Junk Inheritances, Bad Timing: Familial Arrhythmia in Three Working-Class Dyke Narratives 21

2. Deep Lez: Temporal Drag and the Specters of Feminism 59

3. Time Binds, or, Erotohistoriography 95

4. Turn the Beat Around: Sadomasochism, Temporality, History 137

Coda 171

Appendix: Distributors for Films and Videos 175

Notes 177

Bibliography 193

Index 209
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4804-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4790-3
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