Introduction: Deviant Subjects

The United States's legal system currently categorizes the social behaviors it identifies as deviance by four means:

1. Statistical: solely on the basis of its frequency (if the majority of people engage in any behavior, then this behavior is considered normal.

2. Absolutist: on the basis of categories and rules constituting deviance (i.e., criminality is always deviant).

3. Reactivist: behavior acquires a deviant connotation when others observe and judge it to be deviant.

4. Normative: any violation of a norm (rather than a rule) relative to a specific social circumstance.

The "Deviant Subjects" issue of Cultronix presents for public distribution a collection of texts and artworks that reconstitute or deterritorialize the face of normalcy. The submissions for issue two explore inner and outer mechanisms by which the social channels unauthorized "becomings" into categories of deviance, and how these unauthorized becomings perpetually flee these social categories. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have written, on the topic of deviancy, that it is necessary "to produce successive divergence-types of deviance for everything that eludes biunivocal relationships, and to establish binary relations between what is accepted on first choice and what is only tolerated on second, third choice, etc... Aha! It's not a man and it's not a woman, so it must be a transvestite: the binary relation is between the 'no' of the first category and the 'yes' of the following category, which under certain conditions may just as easily mark a tolerance as indicate an enemy to be mowed down at all costs" (A Thousand Plateaus, 177).

Dominant understandings of the deviant are much simpler. We came across this statement, for instance, in a textbook for an Administration of Justice course titled Deviance and the Law:

If we were to compile a list of the most common types of deviant behavior in America, there is little doubt that such behavior as drug addiction, prostitution, homosexuality, mental disorder, and crime would be among the most frequently cited examples. Probably in the course of listing these types of deviance, specific mental images would be pictured for each type; and in all likelihood these images would depict depraved and disheveled types of deviants.
(Coontz and Vierthaler, Deviance and the Law, U of Pittsburgh Press 1995, 1.2).

Cultronix works in this issue to problematize such categories of normalcy and deviancy. We thus proudly present the face of homosexuals, 'good boys,' perverts, sodomites, prostitutes, as well as the face of the immigrant, the autistic, the homeless. These categories become suspect because they work as apparatuses of capture. Like the four legal categories of deviance and the textbook definition above, most of these categories do not correspond to the complexity of the definition of deviancy implied by this issue. None of the easy categories we could use in this introduction are adequate to the problems described by Issue.02's authors and artists. Though it would be possible simply to exclude or ignore subjects who threaten the status quo, or to assimilate them into intelligible, authorized social categories, this issue is devoted to mapping a more complex relation with 'deviant' experience.

The articles and artwork in Issue.02 ask us to reconsider our understanding of what passes for 'normal.' Sigel, Mehran, and Califia explore representations and regulations of the economized body. Kent draws the 'deviant' homosexual body through the legislative body. Strang and Szembek move the body into the space of technology to blur the boundaries between human and inanimate. Artists Tenhaaf and Wilding image deviations imposed on the social and organic body. Brennan, Tapia-Urzua, and Trivedi locate hybrid subjects and processes of transformation, flight and capture. Both Califia and Smith reflect on how categories of 'normalcy' adopted by subversive groups still can disallow hybrid subjects like pro-porn feminists and pro-feminist men.We hope this issue complicates common assumptions about what is normal, who decides normalcy, and where normalcy breaks down.

The issue concludes, as always, with a variety of letters we have received from readers and a few editorial responses.


The Cultronix editorial board would like to thank the English Server at Carnegie Mellon for its technical support and encouragement. If you would like to respond to this introduction or any of the articles in this issue, please feel free to send a letter to the editors.