José Esteban Muñoz
Nació 1967 - Murió el 4 de diciembre 2013
by Jason Benjamín Treviño
When I was asked to prepare this song in memory of José Esteban Muñoz, I thought it would fly from my fingers and land perfectly onto a page like those so many obituaries I wrote in my former years working as a Funeral Director and Embalmer. But those skills don’t transfer here. My curser remained mute, blinking angrily at me to write about a man I never met but whose work was a bright star. It is a sad honor to participate in the celebration of José Esteban Muñoz’s life and works.
Since his death on December 4, 2013, the outpourings of lament from academia and especially from queer person of color communities point to the void his exit has left us. He is so much more to us in academia and beyond than his credentials as a respected professor and former chair of NYU’s Tisch School of the Performing Arts, author of Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity and so many articles. For me, at least, he is the cultural worker I strive to emulate. He wrote about everything, always keeping in mind the practice of lives in real spaces.
The work he leaves us transcends disciplinary boundaries urging us to expand our notions of performativity, to regard the visual arts, poetry, literature, and theoretical works as public performances of memory that often stretch into the realm of the political. Through his theories of disidentification, he pointed out modes of being, modes of existing, modes of performing and productively agitating through the carving of new spaces for identitarian politics, new and open spaces accessible to all. And in his thinking on queer ideality and utopia, he offered not only a caution, that we not consider our work done, our time arrived at, but also a hope that will continue to spur many persons to work onward, to glance at the horizon, to actualize the queer ideality and politically coalitional futurity that awaits us. We must be patient, open, and understanding as we continue our work alongside him. We must embody this hope.
We must remember that the bright star is not out. José’s short career has left us flashing beacons that, for now, inspire some tears, but will prompt our smiles as we continue to do the work that matters and extend our hands toward the warm embrace of an idealistic, universal love, poised and waiting for us on the horizon.