Queering Time, Ageing and Relationships with Split Britches

by Jen Harvie

10 Aug 2023
Journal of the British Academy
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Abstract: This article begins by outlining some dominant narratives that produce ageism by socially constructing older age as a time of linear decline, social dependency, social isolation and intergenerational conflict. It then concentrates on recent work by elder lesbian feminist performance company Split Britches: Ruff (2012), Unexploded Ordnances (2018), What Tammy Needs to Know about Getting Old and Having Sex (2013) and Last Gasp (2020–1). It explores the alternative narratives of older age – or elder life – that Split Britches propose, as a time of futurity, desire, unexplored potential and intergenerational as well as intra-generational relationality. It also explores how Split Britches responds to chrononormative practices – which make socially produced understandings of time appear natural – by queering them. The article argues that Split Britches model socially progressive visions of elder life and relationships, both across generations and within their own, by queering dominant expectations and practices of relationships and time – including ageing.

Keywords: Split Britches; ageism; older age; futurity; desire; relationality; intergenerational; intragenerational; chrononormative; queer

Article posted to the Journal of the British Academy, volume 11, supplementary issue 2 (Narratives of Old Age and Gender: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives)

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