Tag Archives: LGBT

11 Feb. 2014: Words for ’77 Countries Where Being Gay is a Crime’

Reading the news over lunch, I was drawn to a BBC news item entitled ‘Banned Love: 77 countries where being gay is a crime’. Clicking on the link led me to this short article and the following world map (click on the link for a better view):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25927595http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25927595

As it happens, I had been spending the morning thinking about Jasbir Puar’s work on homonationalism. Puar coined the term to develop a framework for exploring ‘how “acceptance” and “tolerance” for gay and lesbian subjects have become a barometer by which the right to and capacity for national sovereignity is evaluated’ in the contemporary world. Or, to phrase this differently, homonationalism describes a historical shift in the treatment of homosexual bodies, as the question of whether or not homosexuality is a crime has come – for certain nation-states and in certain contexts – to be seen as indicative of a nation’s degree of ‘modernity’ or ‘civilisation’.

The critical concept of homonationalism has been taken up in particularly contested ways in relation to debates about Israel-Palestine where some anti-occupation campaigners have accused Israel of ‘pinkwashing’ – using LGBT rights rhetoric to legitimise its occupation of Palestine – while in turn being taken to task for problematic conflations of Jewishness with Israel (see Judith Butler’s thoughts on the topic here).

As modern notions of sexual identity have been shaped by colonialism and the racialised ideas ideas and practices that have become ‘knowledge’ in Western (post) enlightenment thinking, and as words such as ‘homosexuality’ were coined specifically in relation to political debates about state-formations in Europe, I think it is right that we should be cautious about using the language of lesbian and gay identity in global terms. At the same time, however, I also think it is important to make speakable and to speak out against the prosecution and the denial of lives that are lived against the (sexual and gendered) norms of the societies in which they are located.

Looking back to Magnus Hirschfeld’s ‘gay rights activism’ a hundred or so years ago, I’m trying to trace some of the conscious and unconscious ties between sexual reform debates and racialist thinking at the time. I am helped along the way by the words of Stuart Hall, the influential cultural theorist who died yesterday. Hall once suggested that the metaphor of theoretical work is ‘the metaphor of struggle …. [for] the only theory worth having is that which you have to fight off, not that which you speak with profound fluency.’ As someone working with and across languages, times and contexts, the struggle for words lies at the heart of my own research. The stakes are high, for in debates about inequality, injustice and persecution, the process of struggling-for-words is intimately connected to individual and collective existence .

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3 Feb. 2014: LGBT History Month: NOW!

February is LGBT History Month. During this time, a diverse range of events take place throughout the UK – in schools, universities, grass root organisations and many other places – which have in common that they focus on the LGBT present and past.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.09.09http://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk

As part of my own project, I am organising a screening of Anders als die Anders/Different from the Others (dir. Richard Oswald, 1919) in the Birkbeck Cinema on Thursday, 13 February, 6pm. The film, a homosexual love story, deals with anti-gay legislation and its isolating effects.

I’m particularly looking forward to this event, for the film is a captivating, moving and sometimes surprising document of queer life in the early twentieth century. Moreover, I’m hoping that – as in previous LGBT History Month events I took part it – it will attract non-academic audiences as well as academics.

For, as Claire Hayward notes in a recent blog post, while LGBT History Month is an important initiative, it is absolutely vital that ‘LGBT histories [are] integrated into wider public and national historical discussions and narratives’ throughout the year. So let’s not confine lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer culture, lives and politics to one month in the year, but let’s take LGBT History Month as a prompt for on-going collective debate and engagement.

I’m hoping that the Different from the Others event will bring together many people with all kinds of interests in the histories of inequality and discrimination, and in forms of resistance. The event will start off with a drinks reception and conclude with a panel discussion featuring my brilliant colleagues Silke Arnold – de Simine, Justin Bengry, Daniel Monk and Chrystanthi Nigianni.

You can register here to secure a place. The event is free -come and join us.

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3 January 2014: CFP: Homophobia Rewritten

I’m looking forward to spending 2014 working on A Violent World of Difference: Magnus Hirschfeld and the Shaping of Queer Modernity.

The project is being launched with a Call-for-Papers for Homophobia Rewritten: New Literary Perspectives on Violence and Sexuality, a one-day symposium I’m organising at Birkbeck on Friday 13 June 2014. The brilliant Alison Donnell, Professor of Modern Literature at Reading University, will be presenting the keynote. Further details can be found on the CFP page on this blog.