Our group defines “systems of knowledge” as different forms of beliefs in conversation with one another, which impact the creation of individual identities, common understandings, morality, relationships, and community. Religion, science, and academic education are all systems of knowledge that impact daily lives as they define, construct, and reproduce our conceptions of what is normal and abnormal.
The goal of this section is to acknowledge and analyze the ways in which various forms of knowledge–religion, education, and science– shape the ways we view the world in general and the way we view ourselves within that world. We attempt to understand and respond to the origins and mechanisms of these systems and examine how these systems of knowledge connect us culturally.
Queer Ethnography is an anthropological discipline that takes a different form in various subjects, in part by addressing gaps in scholarship that refuse to encompass queer subjectivities in all their complexities. We examine how the queer community is included, excluded and operates within these larger institutions and argue that queer people are impacted in very different ways because queer identity is often in opposition to dominant cultures and institutions. We hope to provide resources that are missing in queer anthropology and the queer community in general. However, our discussion of these concepts is, by no means, all-encompassing.
Religion: “Religion” is defined as the worship of God(s) or the supernatural and a commitment, or devotion, to religious faith or observance. It is a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Often religious traditions are passed down through familial ties as a form of absolute truth, influencing ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, and what is morally acceptable. It can also influence experience and perspective through ritual, spirituality, and cultural traditions. Oftentimes, religious traditions, ideas, and rituals are specifically gendered, and formative to individual gender and sexual identity. Religion as a system of knowledge can be either very welcoming within a community or very volatile. It depends on which community you are a part of and the resources you have that allow you to navigate these belief systems.
Biology: Biology is a belief system that informs how we understand the world and our bodies in reference to science. Western medicine is a specific system of knowledge that constructs conceptions about individual identity in reference to “normal” or “abnormal.” Biology and medicine are integral to how we identify a person. To be told that you’re biologically “abnormal” is to have a queer experience. Genetics looks closely at the connection of biological sex and individual identity.
Education: Education is a two-part system of knowledge which includes both content that teachers provide students to equip them with academic knowledge, and the social knowledge students gain both explicitly and implicitly through classroom discussion and social interaction. Teachers and staff influence the way students conceptualize and form their individual identities. Unfortunately, the written scholarship that addresses queer subjectivities is often inaccessible and static, though specific schools, clubs, and courses are working to end the tyranny of silence surrounding queer identities.