If molluscs present a challenge and inspiration for queer theory, then lichens do it alt.better. In ‘Queer Theory for Lichens’, David Andrew Griffiths elaborates a symbiotic view of life that tacks away from the idea of heterosexual reproduction and inheritance as the dominant mechanisms for reproducing life, and starkly questions the concept of the individual that we generally understand as unproblematic. Think ecosystems and colonies, down to microbiomes and viromes. But the individual has been in question from a host of other perspectives too – genes and memes, situated embodied cognition, the death of the author. Griffiths tunes the study of symbiotic lichens to resonate with contemporary issues in sexual politics:
If heteronormativity and sexual reproduction no longer define the frame through which nature is viewed, then this will have an effect on the definition of some social and cultural practices as ‘natural’. This is important politically, as normativity masquerading as nature necessarily supports the conservative status quo and is hostile to non-normativity.
Merlin Sheldrake expresses the non-individuation of lichens beautifully in Entangled Life: Lichens are places where an organism unravels into an ecosystem and where an ecosystem congeals into an organism. They flicker between ‘wholes’ and ‘collections of parts’
[T]hey are verbs as well as nouns.
Oblique strategy: Exchange parts of speech