Queer textualities and temporalities: speculating-with Alpha Centauri

Year: 2019

Author: Truman, Sarah, E., Shannon, David, Ben

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper focuses on speculative texts and their potential to defamiliarise readers, disrupt habitual ways of knowing, and propose more just futures (Truman, 2019). We contextualise our research alongside scholars who consider speculative thought asa “site for imagining other, possibly queerer, worlds” (Luciano and Chen, 2015, p. 188): this world(ing) is material-discursive and, so, ‘real’. While mainstream speculative writing has historically centred white-cis-hetero-futurities, this paper posits Alpha Centauri (the green, one-eyed hexapod from the television show Doctor Who)and Alpha Centauri(a song we composed) as speculativepropositions for a queer futurity (Ahmed, 2004; Chen, 2012).

We contextualise our speculative songwriting as a practice of ‘research-creation.’ Research-creation is the intersection of art, theory and research (Truman & Springgay, 2015). As queer artists, researchers and educators, we here embed our research-creation practice in literature focused on queer temporalities and their ramifications for education (Lothian, 2018; Schlak, 2018).

Queer and crip theorists (Halberstam, 2005; Kafer, 2013) have critiqued universal (Chronos) measures of time for consistently atemporialisingracialised, disabled, and queer bodies. Thinking-with these scholars we investigate how the character Alpha Centauri from Doctor Whoembodies a queer temporal contour.

‘Her’/‘Their' most recent encounter with the Doctor took placeduring the Victorian-era (Doctor Who:Empress of Mars, 2017). However, ‘his’ first, 1970s appearances in the show were set in the far distant future (Doctor Who: Curse of Peladonand Doctor Who: Monster of Peladon). The 1970s’futureAlpha Centauri is gendered male, misogynistic, shrill, and a know-all, while 2017’s historicalAlpha Centauri seems hopefully nonbinary, welcoming the matriarchal Ice Warriors to the universe. This strange temporality is the starting point for speculating-with Alpha Centauri as a proposition for a queer futurity.

We draw on Whitehead’s (1978) articulation of ‘propositions’ to help contextualize the process of speculative world-making with Alpha Centauri. According to Whitehead (1978), a proposition is a “…new kind of entity. Such entities are the tales that perhaps might be told about particular actualities” (p. 256). For Whitehead, propositions act as hybrids between potentiality and actuality—they are “lures for feeling” (p. 25). As speculative propositions, the character of Alpha Centauri, the song Alpha Centauri,and this paper, experiment with queer temporality: we attempt to lure (and trap) a (material, real) speculative genderqueer-affirmative past (historical Alpha Centauri) to marshal against the inevitable re-inscription of white-cis-masculinity in a re-gendered future (future Alpha Centauri).