Particularities of Queer Utility: Gay Expertise and the Aesthetic Disposition

Russo, Joseph C.. 2015. Particularities of Queer Utility: Gay Expertise and the Aesthetic Disposition. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis attempts a reconceptualization of queerness as it is discussed within queer

studies and popular cultural forms. It avoids the tendency towards queerness as pure

abstraction, in which queerness constitutes an aleatoric force that defines some basic

quality of nature (flux, change, chaos, possibility); it also attempts to find creative

ways to circumvent a compartmentalization of queerness into identity formation. That

is, it avoids describing queerness as either a phenomenon or an identity choice.

Instead, this thesis conceives of queerness as a set of functions, or utilities, that enact

social processes. In this work, these processes are referred to as ‘masks’ in order to

exemplify their use value. By using Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of distinction and Guy

Hocquenghem’s theory of homosexual desire, as well as engaging with contemporary

works of queer theory, it presents an analysis of the figure of the ‘gay expert’ within

popular culture discourses as an arbiter of aesthetics whose queer functionality (not

ruling class status) provides him with cultural capital and the power to advise and

instruct consumers. This power amounts to the ability to encode and decode cultural

knowledge. Additionally, the concept of the ‘queer avatar’ is explored in analyses of

various popular cultural forms, including professional wrestling and popular

television series, in which a particular functionality of aberrance is deployed to

various ends, including horror, satire, and valor.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Queerness, Expertise, Aesthetics, Disposition, Utility

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


31 December 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Feb 2016 10:49

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:53


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