Museum, furniture, men: the Queer ecology of I Am My Own Wife

Trish McTighe

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Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife attempts to stage the life of a unique trans woman, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who lived through Nazi occupation and communist era Berlin, during which time she built and maintained her beloved collection of antiques. Wright set out to create a queer icon, an emblem of trans survival and evidence of an as yet unwritten queer history; a role that Charlotte did not quite fit. Charlotte’s complicity with the Stasi (possibly under duress), revealed while Wright was composing the play, complicated his project significantly. This failure to idealize Charlotte ultimately became the true subject of the play. This article will suggest however that Charlotte’s queerness might be found not only in her trans status, but also in her remarkable relationship with the objects of her collection, which she recounts in her interviews with Wright and in her autobiography. The play succeeds at bringing us closer to the materiality of Charlotte’s life and hints at the power of performance to make us see the material world anew with implications for eco-critical and ecologically aware thinking.
Read in relation to object-oriented ontology, Charlotte’s privileging of the objects in her life seems to disrupt ontological hierarchies at the same time as she disrupts gender categories. Emerging out of the so-called speculative turn in contemporary thought, object-oriented ontology seeks to challenge the pre-eminence of the conscious mind and to think of ‘mind’ and ‘object’ as belonging to a single ontological category. This radically non-anthropocentric shift in neuroscience, philosophy and art is made visible via Charlotte’s performance, manifesting, as this article argues, a queer ecology of human and material objects, which has implications for how we are to understand the ecological place of the human in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-168
JournalModern Drama
Issue number2
Early online date23 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Gender
  • Ecology
  • Queer
  • Object-oriented ontology


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