From Essence to Queery—Puzzling Over the Persistence of Identity


  • K. Merinda Simmons University of Alabama
  • Jeremy Posadas Austin College



identity, queer studies, religious studies, theory, method


The following conversation between K. Merinda Simmons (University of Alabama) and Jeremy Posadas (Austin College) is an outgrowth of a roundtable on class, identity, and religion presented as part of the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) meeting in November 2020. That discussion reflected participants’ respective approaches and research emphases, of course, but we all in one way or another focused our comments on the role of intersectionality (i.e., the approach to identity that sees social categories and systems of discrimination as structurally interconnected) within the academic study of religion. Using that theme as a starting point, the back-and-forth that follows brings our respective work in gender studies and queer theory into the mix. While exchanging the messages that became this text, we purposefully took an approach of “thinking out loud” and experimenting with ideas in formative stages. This embrace of what remains unsettled—in fact, the process of unsettling what scholars often take to be terra firma—is reflected in our tone and in our relative disinterest in structural linearity. We hope instead that this conversation might be read as exactly that: a conversation, necessarily partial and productively unfinished.


DiAngelo, Robin. 2018. White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Beacon Press.

Edelman, Lee. 2019. “Queerness, Afro-Pessimism, and the Return of the Aesthetic,” in The Return of the Aesthetic in American Studies. Special issue, REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 35.1: 11–26.

Edwards, Brent Hayes. 2012. “The Taste of the Archive.” Callaloo 35.4: 944–972. DOI:

Foucault, Michel. 1988. “The Masked Philosopher.” In Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. The New Press.

Fuss, Diana. 1989. Essentially Speaking: Feminism, Nature and Difference. Routledge.

Frymer, Paul and Jacob M. Grumbach. 2021. “Labor Unions and White Racial Politics.” American Journal of Political Science 65.1: 225–240. DOI:

Guendelsberger, Emily. 2019. On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How it Drives America Insane. Little, Brown and Company.

Martin, Craig. 2017. Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion. Routledge. DOI:

Muñoz, José Esteban. 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York University Press.

Merodeadora, Andrea. 2017. “Latino, Latinx, Latine: The Grammatical Gender Neutral in Spanish.” Medium. Available from:

Spivak, Gayatri. 2006. In Other Worlds. Routledge.

Recommended Readings

Abraham, Susan. 2009. “Strategic Essentialism in Nationalist Discourses: Sketching a Feminist Agenda in the Study of Religion.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 25.1: 156–161. DOI:

Brintnall, Kent, Joseph Marchal and Stephen Moore (eds). 2017. Sexual Disorientations: Queer Temporalities, Affects, Theologies. New York: Fordham University Press. DOI:

Crawley, Ashon. 2016. Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. New York: Fordham Uni­versity Press. DOI:

Fields, Karen E. and Barbara J. Fields. 2014. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. Verso.

Reed, Adolph. 2016. “How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence.” NonSite. Available from

Simmons, K. Merinda and James A. Crank. 2019. Race and New Modernisms. Bloomsbury Academic. DOI:

Thompson, Gabriel. 2011. Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do. Bold Type Books.

Warren, Kenneth. 2019. “‘Blackness’ and the Sclerosis of African American Cultural Criticism.” NonSite. Available from:

Wilcox, Melissa. 2020. “Theory in the Interstices: Queering and Transing Religious Studies, Religioning Trans and Queer Studies.” Temenos: Nordic Journal of Comparat­ive Religion 56.1: 119–146. DOI:

Winters, Joseph. 2017. “Blackness, Pessimism, and the Human.” Black Perspectives. Available from:



How to Cite

Simmons, K. M. ., & Posadas, J. . (2021). From Essence to Queery—Puzzling Over the Persistence of Identity. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 50(1), 16–23.



The Conversation