Beyond punitive opposition: cancel culture in relation to queer storytelling
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Abstract Cancelling has become an increasingly resonant word in the past years, and it has adopted particular modes in the field of pop culture and media. This research aims to explore the ways in which cancel culture relates to and with contemporary Western works of visual fiction, by analyzing the cases of the independent feature film Adam (2018), by Rhys Ernst, and the third season of mainstream comedy series Master of None, titled Moments in Love (2021). Firstly, by the means of a genealogy, I situate cancel culture in a trajectory of kin practices of accountability and punishment. Accompanied by abolitionist thinkers, queer and feminist theory and criminology, I analyze which notions of accountability and justice are encompassed in these cancellation efforts, and how they are related with punitivism, activism and social justice movements. Guided by these main questions, I also inquire around further interrogations that preeminently emerge from this subject matter, such as where does cancel culture happen, who are the agents of cancellation, why do we regard it as a form of culture, what does it mean to cancel work of fictions, and how could we come to regard this phenomenon otherwise. Through a diffractive approach (Barad, 2007) that refuses oppositional readings and argumentations and seeks to staying with the problem/atic, I examine how cancel culture influences practices of queer storytelling as worlding, understood by Donna Haraway (2016) as a form of world-making with. Through this engagement, I argue that, as a punitive oppositional practice, cancel culture seeks to separate itself from conflict, accountability and relational world-making by trying to make the problem/atic disappear.