Week Twelve: Queer Poco Theory

This week you are to read two of the four (at least) theoretical pieces for our way-too-short-but-we-only-have-4-weeks-to-cover-all-of-poco discussion of queer theory.

And that’s where queer theory comes in. It’s not really fair to write a short guide to queer theory. Queer theory is a diverse field of studies that involves a lot of disparate ideas. It’s a rapidly expanding body of literature that seeks to answer a series of questions about what is normal, how normal comes to exist, and who is excluded or oppressed by those notions of norms. In bed. So queer theory celebrates the figure of the queer, or more specifically, the act of queering. Drag queens, two-spirit peoples, as well as those who don’t quite live up to their gender expectations are disrupting the narratives that build the capitalist state. (from here)

A KU Master’s graduate Sean Weaver is now getting his PhD in postcolonial queer studies at Louisiana State University.  So like a good teacher, I asked him to consult with me on what are the most important voices in the field right now.

Here is what he said:

 

As a queer theorist, it’s difficult to reconcile the differences that come be with addressing postcolonial sexualities through critical queer readings. For one, Western understandings of sexuality and the body tend to be monolithic, placing colonized peoples into restrictive boxes. Side note: Take the Middle East and North African Regions, for example, which have seen a rise in homophobic backlash from neocolonial nationalists pushing back against American/European liberalism. Thus, Western nations in their desire to push an agenda of liberation of freeing the sexually oppressed “homosexuals” in colonized nations have actually created more problems. This is not to say that homosexuality doesn’t exist in the colonized world, it does, it’s just that labels of homosexuality tend to create problems and even greater homophobic backlash. The most important thing to consider when it comes to postcolonial states and queer critiques is understanding how citizenship is bound up with normative understandings of sexuality, religion, and nation.  See beginning of my current essay below:

 

On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. With an assault rifle, Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53. One of the deadliest shootings in recent history, the massacre at Pulse was reported as two distinctly different narratives involving the Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Initially, it was reported that Mateen, the son of Afghan immigrants, committed this terror attack in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). While the FBI continues to maintain this record of events, following the attack, a gay man came forward claiming that Mateen was his lover who took revenge on the LGBTQ+ community for treating him as an outcast after having repressed his sexuality due to religious homophobia.  Through the lens of a national allegory, each story paints a greater whole, a collective response that challenges the space Mateen holds as a citizen/subject of a nation—be it an pseudo state such as ISIL or the established nation of the United States. However, both narratives work in tandem, creating an “other” unified through the regulation of a national allegory. Therefore, Mateen’s representation as radical Muslim or self-loathing homosexual can be read as a narrative of regulation by opposing nation states that determine who is and who isn’t a citizen based on the premise of sexual and religious normativity. It also indicates that the Western national allegory deliberately includes homosexuality while at the same time excluding Muslims (FBI/U.S.), whereas, the non-Western (ISIL) national allegory uses heterosexuality as a means of regulating who is a citizen. Yet, ultimately, this narrative demonstrates the/limitations that arise when nation-based formulas are used to establish sexual-based citizenships in a globalized world where people are often found between nations, citizenships, sexualities, and religions, as is the case with Mateen (Bell & Binnie 109-110). Through this framework, one must be careful not to nationalize Islam as the only defining factor of Iraqi citizenship through making it a “nonstate actor…of justice” (Dhawan 217). This means postcolonial queer critics must not reduce Islamic violence against gays to an act of justice outside of nationhood.  Instead, it is tied to secular fundamentalisms mutually influenced by religious fundamentalisms that both define Iraqi nationality (Dhawan 208).

He also says we need to know Saleem Haddad’s work.  I have watched these videos.  If you have time, watch them both for this week.  If you do not, watch the shorter of the two.

 

This week is the beginning of an exploration into a new path poco theory is moving.  I am grateful to Sean for sharing his expertise.  I love when the student becomes the teacher.

You are to read two of the four articles I posted on our D2L site.  If you want to read all four, I am not going to stop you.  There’s some great work happening that we need to engage with.  If you want to contact Sean about PhD work, he has generously offered his time and can be reached at sweave9@lsu.edu.