PUBLISHING, ARCHIVING, AND QUEER POLITICS
A text is a relation: read this & you come together, converse, commune, co-author and co-labor with many others, living and dead.
A text is a remnant: read this & you grapple with the remains of social and artistic process, magical & ritual engagement, economic exchange of one kind or another.
Printing is queer as in strange and potentially dangerous: the earliest depiction of of a printing shop shows skeletons guiding the hands of compositors and press workers—printing was debated as a divine, mystical art & as the work of the devil, a triumph and a terror.
Printing is queer as in sexually deviant: as a reproductive process printing completely upset the way books were made and information consumed in the millennia of human interaction that preceded it. Printed works were described as children to their creators, who were gendered differently.
Printing is queer as in subversive: it is political and each printed text has a context. Sometimes several. Printing is a tool in queer political struggle just as it has been a tool in other forms of political struggle.
Queer politics draws its strength from intersectional feminist, anti-racist, anti-colonial, and ecologically-responsible history and activism, and Camp Books views itself and its creations in relationship to these forms of engaging with the world. The histories of LGBTQ+ peoples it archives are collected and preserved toward theses ends. The texts it publishes further these ends through embodiment.
Camp Books is consecrated to the embodiment of this legacy of queer textual production and preservation, gathering old texts and documents related to Queer History, making and remaking works anew, broadening access to the past through teaching and publishing, and is open to collaborating with all allies to this cause. Camp Books holds itself accountable to the ideas of the texts it preserves, and aims to archive and thrive in spite of existing forms of oppression. The work Camp Books celebrates and the materials Camp Books assembles and preserves are channeled toward dismantling oppression.
A text can address each of these ideas in the ways it is made & preserved & new texts must be continuously made toward a more perfect form of engagement with these ideas. The only ethical form of engagement with the past is to remake it with every visit. Documents and artefacts from the past must be made accessible to wider and widening audiences to interpret and assemble them at their will. Make no mistake: the ordering and reordering of our past is among the few tangible raw materials to put to work imagining kinder, gentler, more sustainable futures.
Composed by the grave marker of William and Sophia Elizabeth Blake, Bunhill Fields, London.
At the New Moon Solar Eclipse in Cancer, 11 July 2018.
CAMP BOOKS has been preceded by the work of many hands: some known, some yet to be discovered—a beautiful experience of finding new kindred that Camp Books seeks to capture and provide for others—and some lost forever but still dreamt of in the spaces between words, lines, an/or the turning of one page to another.
Printing has been stripped of its queerness in many places & times—assimilated—this is because it has been linked to technological advancement & industry, & abused for the purpose of colonisation of peoples and places. It has been coopted by imperialist notions of patriotism—what Benedict Anderson described as “print nationalism” in Imagined Communities and Walter Mignolo showed as a force for brutal erasure in The Darker Side of the Renaissance. The history of the perception of printing as both good and bad is well told in Elisabeth Eisenstein's last work, Divine Art Infernal Machine, but Jussi Parikka's discussion of the harmful nature of the minerals mined to power digital platforms in The Geology of Media, both to the bodies who encounter them and the governments who wage war with one another on behalf of them, casts printed matter in a new light: the only sustainable alternative.
To return to the origins of printing with these sources in mind is to return to a perversion in reproductive possibilities—one in imitation of nature & of the natural world, and one also not reliant upon the compulsive heterosexuality that for a long time has determined the warp and woof of family trees.
Texts have long been conflated with bodies—and print in particular with a kind of birthing and parenting that is not straight but rebellious, subversive, viral, heretical, strange, uncontrollably queer—"queer" a word which entered usage in the same century around the same time as printing technology in the west..
So what we find when we look back into the history of printing then is queer history—where our ancestors have been kept out of our reach, obliterated, erased from the record, printed objects allow us to imagine them and call to them once again because they take on the queer qualities of those we have lost.
A FEW VOICES RING THROUGH & immediately inform this manifesto, dedicated to preserving, teaching, and circulating the words of LGBTQ+ people throughout history:
ACT UP: “Silence=Death”
ADRIENNE RICH: “Re-vision—the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction—is for us more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival,” “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision” (1972).
QUEER NATION: “Being queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about the freedom to be public, to just be who we are. It means every day fighting oppression; homophobia, racism, misogyny, the bigotry of religious hypocrites and our own self-hatred.” “QUEERS READ THIS” (1990)
HALBERSTAM: “If we try to think about queerness as an outcome of strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules, and eccentric economic practices, we detach queerness from sexual identity and come closer to understanding Foucault’s comment in “Friendship as a Way of Life” that “homosexuality threatens people as a ‘way of life’ rather than as a way of having sex”. In Foucault’s radical formulation, queer friendships, queer networks, and the existence of these relations in space and in relation to the use of time mark out the particularity and indeed the perceived menace of homosexual life.” In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (2005).