Around 1990 queer emerged into public consciousness. It was a term that challenged the normalizing mechanisms of state power to name its sexual subjects: male or female, married or single, heterosexual or homosexual, natural or perverse. Given its commitment to interrogating the social processes that not only produced and recognized but also normalized and sustained identity, the political promise of the term resided specifically in its broad critique of multiple social antagonisms, including race, gender, class, nationality, and religion, in addition to sexuality. Fourteen years after Social Text’s publication of “Fear of a Queer Planet,” and eight years after “Queer Transexions of Race, Nation, and Gender,” this special double issue reassesses the political utility of queer by asking “what’s queer about queer studies now?” The contemporary mainstreaming of gay and lesbian identity–as a mass-mediated consumer lifestyle and embattled legal category–demands a renewed queer studies ever vigilant to the fact that sexuality is intersectional, not extraneous to other modes of difference, and calibrated to a firm understanding of queer as a political metaphor without a fixed referent. A renewed queer studies, moreover, insists on a broadened consideration of the late-twentieth-century global crises that have configured historical relations among political economies, the geopolitics of war and terror, and national manifestations of sexual, racial, and gendered hierarchies.

david l. eng