October 29, 2016

An interview with Angela Mitropoulos discussing the nature and effects of border control processes on different bodies, racialised violence, repurposing struggle, and queer politics.

Many descriptions of borders rely on conceiving them as a line, dividing those within from without. What limitations does this introduce, and what conceptions of resistance can be formed from a grasping of borders as containing and disciplining those within a terrain – especially when residing on this terrain is so intensely conditional and violently policed?

If we think of the border as a fixed line of absolute and geographic division then we stop thinking about it as a system of variable processes, and processes which mean that those systems do not smoothly decide unequivocal outcomes. Among other things, we may become tin-eared to the nuances of conflict and power. Or we may carve up the tumultuous flow of things into idealised categories such that how we define the border has far less to do with how it functions than it has to do with someone’s desires to construct an object amenable to their own, imagined functioning—and I am thinking here, for instance, of the ways in which the techniques and practices of, say, media-makers or academics is spontaneously amplified into the most effective strategy for change in all instances, when not making things visible or not speaking (and certainty not speaking over others) may well be the most effective thing to do on occasion. Or we may lose a feel for the constitutive, transformative primacy of kinetics, or embrace a teleological fatalism instead of the stochastic creativity that makes ‘irregular’ or unauthorised migration so troublesome. In short, we may come to facilitate the border as our own method—which is what the effort to translate movement into academic capital has unfortunately too often entailed.

I don’t mean to suggest an ethnography of migrants’ struggles as the antidote to these problems—but I am increasingly doubtful that there are good reasons to make those struggles accessible or recognisable to those who are not part of them. Exoticism, the tourism of the margins, the voyeuristic pleasure taken in the suffering of black and brown bodies and their appropriation is one of the reasons why some very ineffective strategies are spontaneously foregrounded in, say, anti-detention activism. And the tendency of those whose citizenship is secure to ‘speak over’ and presume to ‘speak for’ is a materially-reproduced tendency that continues to be rewarded in the most furtive of ways.

So, my epistemological object is the border not migrants. But my premise has always been that what the border is and does will be dictated by often indiscernible movements, even as there is a powerful pressure to misrecognise this involving power, institutional supports and forms of media.

I do mean to insist on a methodological, corporeal affection for border crossing, against the adoration or naturalisation of the violence that both imposes the border and imagines it can be erased by calling upon an overly-familiar metaphysics of ‘unity-in-difference.’ What I also mean is that it’s important to bear in mind that the violence that the border brings to bear is indeed often brutal and grindingly so, but that does not always mean that it is effective or that it has foreseeable, controlled effects.

At the same time, it is important to not romanticise system failure or crisis even while we admit the importance of this indeterminacy, and perhaps also think carefully about whether systematic or repeated failures might be better understood as functional and/or restorative performances of failure within a broader dynamic that oscillates between the performance of failure and that of triumphalism—I can come back to this point later in more detail because it’s by no means a trivial one when the rallying cry of the far Right from Australia to the United States over the last decade or so has been ‘We’ve lost control of our borders!’

But the lessons of contemporary border control systems, no less than the rise of, say, Trumpism in the United States, is to remain alert to the swings between declarations of border failure and calls for their restoration. What are the desires called forth by this dynamic?

Likewise, if we have an idea of the border as an absolute and fixed line we stop posing questions about what the border does, assume we already know what it is and does, and are at best confused when it ‘fails’ to fulfil idealised expectations. We attribute functions and properties based on an idea that may or may not ‘manifest’ in practice and often does not, which is a metaphysical move par excellence. In doing so, we dispense with a knowledge of the border that draws upon the ongoing, experimental test of migration and opposition to border controls in favour of an idea of the border that will always be obliged to rely on outdated notions of space and citizenship in the service of performing an insincere, remote expertise—which is to say, one emptied of honest, rigorous and critical engagement. Put another way, we are liable to fix upon an idea of the border that is perpetually contested by migrants themselves, including by migrant scholars.

Another way of putting this is that if we think of the border in Newtonian terms—as a site of invariant bodies moving across a divided but otherwise continuous space—then we begin by assuming, incorrectly, that the properties of bodies (or even ‘the subject’) and the properties of space can be distinguished. We will assume a uniform time by marking the average rate of bodies in motion through a dis/continuous space while ignoring the importance of, for example, what it means for some to be detained in both time and space while others to move at speed in what therefore amounts to a different kind of space, or the active construction of a non-uniform spacetime as one of the integral functions of the border as it converts the uncertainty of migrating bodies into an estimable value .

Those assumptions have ramifications for our practice and theory. Perhaps it does not go without saying that I disagree with those who suggest that the present is marked by the loss of a common spacetime—I am less interested in lamenting this purported loss than understanding what has changed and its implications for a radical theory of time. And, will likely go on to make additional assumptions, also incorrectly I think, that the embodied condition of being a low-paid migrant worker is prior to migration across that border, or we will misunderstand the spatial-temporal dimensions that link the migration detention industry to financial instruments such as derivatives and financial offshoring, or we will downplay the importance of mobile techniques of control, such as the visa, ‘community detention,’ or surveillance, and so on. And we will not ask ourselves where we, each of us, is within these complex processes—Where do we speak about the border from? Who is ‘we’? How is this ‘we’ that each of us calls forth shaped by that border?

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Borders are sometimes described as semi-permeable – allowing unimpeded circulation of capital and easier transit for those racialised as white, whilst forming an unassailable hurdle for many black people and PoC. What can we learn from how different borders operate? Are all borders equal, or is there use in making the comparison between, for example, the border of a white supremacist settler colony like Australia, and that of a colonial heartland such as the UK?

Perhaps it would be useful to outline a history of this redescription of the border as semi-permeable because while it has recently become a widespread view, it is important not to erase or rewrite that history—after all, it too is instructive about how borders operate differently for different people. There have been two clear moments or stakes in the reformulation. The first occurred within and against the prevailing view of the so-called anti-globalisation movements and theories of globalisation at the turn of the century, and it involved a convergence between scholars of colour and those parts of the ‘anti-summit’ campaigns that did not align with the then-prominent nationalist framing of those protests.

The second took place a little later, within government and policy circles, and arguably amounts to an acknowledgement of that reformulation, albeit from the perspective of attempting to better calibrate controls and the management of movements. Between these two there is a more ambivalent or ambiguous concept, since it emerged from the adaptation of the first to the task of refurbishing otherwise conventional concepts of the political.

Robert Chang and Steve Aoki were among the first scholars to put forward a theory of the border as simultaneously porous and mobile and, at the same time, to go against the prevailing view concerning the disappearance of borders during the period of so-called ‘globalisation,’ or as they put it in the context of the United States, “the contradictory impulse that has led to borders becoming increasingly porous to the flows of information, goods and capital while simultaneously constricting when it comes to the movement of certain persons, particularly those of Asian and Latina/o ancestry”.

A similar argument emerged around the same time from groups such as the No Borders Network, De Fabel van de Illegaal from the Netherlands, Sarai in India, and xborder in Melbourne, Australia. The argument there was that while ‘globalisation’ implies a borderless world and focuses on the increasing free flow of goods and money, the reality is that borders are both permeable and exclusionary, and that ‘globalisation’ has been marked by increasingly stringent controls on the movements of people. The second stage of this reformulation is evident in changes to the thinking of border control officials, who increasingly understand the border as a flow-control system preoccupied with managing risk.

The point of such an understanding is that it emphasised an analysis of what borders do. And so it becomes clear that if the border is in many respects not so much a thing—though it involves things such as walls, passports and so on—as a process that converts indeterminate movements into manageable classes of potentially profitable things and flows. Benedict Anderson called passports—and their function as a means of allocating people to different queues at airports and ports—a differential tariff on human labour. So, for instance, passports are a global or single-licensing system that makes it possible to regulate the rate of movement and intervals between and within different nation-states or ‘home markets,’ ordering the ranks within a given labour market and so forth. This is I think one of the ways in which the categorical terms of race become materialised, in which, say, measures and definitions of risk are encoded as if they are the conditions rather than results of processes of classification—much as formal slavery was once encoded as if it were a property of blackness in the United States.

Because these are processes, it also means that it is important to not reify the workings of the categories and assume they all mean the same thing everywhere and have never changed. The box that I tick on the form in Australia and the UK is not the same one, indeed it perceptibly changes from city to city and town to town even where there is no form to fill out. The terms of ‘passing’ are not everywhere always the same. Moreover, ‘blackness’ means something very different in Australia than it does in the United States, since in the former it has come to signify a link to the politics of Indigeneity that it does not in the US—and there will continue to be debates in both of these countries about this. ‘Whiteness’ too has changed, and with a few nuances pertaining to the course of social democracy and labourism, in both the United States and Australia, Irish immigrants were long ago converted into white citizens because they were seen as part of the British empire in ways that others were not, and often took the role of—as Noel Ignatiev has argued—being the footsoldiers of white supremacy in frontier spaces and vis-a-vis Indigenous people, black people and people of colour.

It might also be worth noting that colonies such as Australia contained a promise to be ‘more British than British,’ so it was always more viciously racist toward people of colour and Indigenous people while, at the same time, being considered remarkably affable and egalitarian when it came to those seen as canonically British. I have never been referred to as ‘Australian’ except by some people from Europe and the US—though that is on my passport but, to be honest, I find it jarring when I am and have no interest in being identified as such. The point here is that classification systems are not always the same and do not always stay the same—but that the border is above all a means of classification and a process which gives rise to properties as if they were inherent to this or that person rather than an outcome.

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There is a lot of focus on challenging deportations and immigration raids in the UK – especially in London. Whilst there are possibilities for the capacities of these activities to grow, and in doing so making the reproduction of borders more difficult, what do you see as the hard limits to this kind of organising? Could you suggest other methods to complement this activity?

I admire those who engage in anti-deportation and anti-raids actions. The stakes are very real and immediate, and beyond those who understand how migration systems work the distinction between legal and illegal migrants is often viewed as if it were a virtuous one. The same goes for those who establish alternate routes and safe stops for undocumented migrants. Those networks are vital but they also have to be scaled up to cover instances where information about impending deportations are limited but where it might be possible to interrupt deportations nevertheless—through boycotts, PR campaigns, engaging the ground and flight crew of the airline carrier that holds contracts to remove people.

There’s also a case, I think, to make such a campaign pre-emptive, for instance by calling upon airlines and flight crews to state that they do not or will not deport people. Without those accompanying actions, we are often chasing last minute and tenuous information, too many fall through the cracks if they are not already hooked into supportive networks, and always scaling down means increasing exhaustion without necessarily increasing effectiveness. There are additional limits to effectiveness when dealing with offshored or remote detention—which is one of the reasons why offshoring came about. It’s simply not possible to halt a deportation when that takes place from, say, Nauru; and in that case, closing down the detention centre becomes the only way of doing so.

This is also to say that deportations and raids increasingly occur in tandem with detention systems, and ignoring the latter makes little sense. Which is why anti-detention campaigns are so important, and why xborder have focused on divestment and boycott campaigns for the last few years since, as in the UK, these are also run through private outsourcing companies which have a complex of contracts and locales, and therefore can be impacted through the financial methods of divestment and the boycott.

If we understand the border as a process of classification but also as a financial system (in that, among other things, it makes racism profitable and furnishes a circuit of speculation), then we should be able to rethink the points of pressure or intensification, particularly in circumstances where the point of changes to migration policy is to place an insurmountable physical and therefore affective distance between people on either side of the border, as it were.

Your work in the past has traced capitalist history through the prism of ‘contract’ and ‘contagion’ and the centrality of ‘oikonomia’. Can you introduce us to how you use these terms, particularly with regard to significant shifts in capitalist social relations in recent decades? Is it possible to speculate how something like Brexit might reconfigure things in this regard?

Oikonomia’ is the etymological root of ‘economy,’ but also ‘ecology’ (oikologia). It is a conjunction of household (oikos) and law (nomos), or ‘the law of the household.’ As I tracked back and through this concept, the two concepts which recur and around which ideas of regulation, agency and, by contrast, disorder and risk are hung were those of, respectively, contract and contagion. This does not mean they were always figured as binaries, since it is possible to place a value on risk (as in the case of insurance). But I did not find any instance in which these concepts were not invoked as a dialectic that is immanent to the centuries’ long history of capitalism, or indeed contemporary understandings of the border as if it bounded a domestic, familial space and its porosity.

And the reason why these three concepts are important to me is that, first, they allow me to think through the links between economics and law (or politics) rather than assume a distinction, but also to be somewhat more rigorous in understanding the meaning of race, gender and class, as well as the confluences of family, race and nation that underpin nationalism. Rather than assume they are separate identities, they too are interlinked processes. The importance of gender and sexuality, and why there is a fetish for its regulation, is that in the oikonomic schema it is sexuality and gender difference that reproduces the purportedly unique properties of the oikos, and race is the exemplary motif of a unique and heritable property. Concepts of race always hinge on concepts of a heteronormative sexuality and genealogy, since it is ostensibly through sex that race is reproduced.

Contracts are important in that, coming from a sociological background and in political theory, it’s impossible not to notice how pivotal this is to the dichotomies of public and private/familial space, or contract and coercion. Capitalism is a dynamic that distributes both the egalitarianism of a fraternal politics and the coercive, naturalised hierarchies we associate with slavery and the slave-holding estate. But also, the shift toward systems of outsourcing and subcontracting, zero-hour and other precarious contracts, and privatisation more generally requires greater attention to what a contract is and how this has changed, both as a legal-economic mechanism and in terms of how it assembles organisational forms.

It will take some time for the implications of Brexit to become apparent. But I would say that Brexit was not only or not mostly about halting the movements of ‘foreigners’ into the UK but also a means of containing the movements of people from the UK to elsewhere. Both of those are likely to put a downward pressure on the cost of labour, a more docile and precarious pool of workers in either case. And if we were interested in understanding where the entitled call upon a contained, cheapened domestic labour force or the inclination to recapture a fugitive labour comes from, and to understand both of these in terms of a preoccupation with lowering transactional costs, then we are talking about the history of oikonomia.

To what extent could you link both the atmosphere of the Brexit campaign, the result of the vote and the following spike in racialised violence to a long term framing of immigration as an existential threat extending in scale from household to nation (and conflating the two)? Is this an example of what you’ve called a ‘recursion to oikonomia’ and a ‘restoration along genealogical lines’?

It is what I would call a recursion to oikonomia, in that the lines of affection, intimacy and movement it seeks to redraw are around those of a familial-racial-national entity and its apparently unique properties. So we might also take an additional step and redescribe domestic violence as a method of control that includes both gendered violence as well as the kind of racist violence that escalated around Brexit, including the horrific murder of Jo Cox. It is not clear to me why we do not draw the connections between these two kinds of violence, which after all turn on ideas of domestic property (its rightful ownership, lines of inheritance and transmission), including for instance the kind of violence that Trump incites at his rallies in the US while conducting the entire campaign as one for a family-name brand.

Once again, I would say it is impossible to separate gendered and racial violence—in the case of Jo Cox’s murder, I think that women are more often cast as ‘race traitors’ because men being entitled to regard women (they read as white like them) as their property has been an important compensatory element in the history and politics of class and race. I think it is difficult to separate concepts of feminine availability (and anxiety about paternity or ownership, women’s promiscuity) from anxieties about proper, racial reproduction.

I am also still reeling a little at the realisation that Jo Cox’s murder did not lead to the widespread and outright rejection of Brexit but, instead, incited a rush to embrace some version of it in arguments for stricter migration controls, as if the mere presence of migrants rather than a racism is the problem. Which is perhaps an index of how deep, still, the emotional conflation between family, race and nation is, and why it returns as the normative idea of what a crisis is and how to solve it.

Your theoretical and practical work seems to very much foreground both the oppression and the work of liberation of queer and feminist movement as well as anti-racist and border struggles. At the same time you’ve been critical of ‘intersectionality’ as a framework for thinking about and acting on these oppressions. Could you expand on your critique for us here?

My criticisms come from an interest in theorising processes and dynamics rather than allocating people into classes, however multidimensional those classes are understood as being, and not least because I am also interested in rethinking what class means. The simplest way I can put this is that the idea of intersectionality was a good way of rethinking the categories of research, in that it offered up a multidimensional framework which made it possible to see a variety of axes along which we are all arrayed. It is far better than the alternative, which is to only see binaries or one dimension. That said, there are two problems I have with it. The first is that it may well be a better sociological method, but that does not mean it has avoided a problem of categorical essences which eliminates what ‘does not fit.’ From the perspective of a sociologist looking to map a group of people, a Venn diagram with overlapping circles might make a lot of sense. But that is not how any given person experiences the world, which is why many people are still obliged to come up with more complex names for experiences that speak to an inseparability, such as misogynoir for instance. The second problem I have with it is more a note about the history of mathematics and statistics, in that I’m curious about how it parallels the increasing use of Cartesian coordinates in such things as ‘risk profiles.’

The vernacular way of talking about intersectionality, however, is still important. Because it made it possible to go beyond the unreflective primacy accorded to class on the Left and, in my case, to think about what class means and how people are classed. It’s fascinating to me that many still think of class as an identity, against which the concepts of gender or race are somehow equivalent and rivalrous political identities to that of class, and do not see all of these as referring to processes of classification whose outcomes was called ‘a class’ because, unlike a caste, who ended up there was seen as far more social rather than natural. At some point, I hope we will snap out of the affection we have for treating techniques of mapping as if they were the territory. But it is unsurprising to me that while we might easily call Marx one of the most prolific writers on class, nowhere does he define it because it has no clear definition in the classical, transitive or substantive sense of an identity. It is a process, part of a dynamic, and more importantly a term borrowed from the history of mathematics and the invention of statistics. I have similar concerns about intersectionality since it follows on that categorical logic and epistemic Aristotelianism, albeit as a complex version.

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In ‘Contract & Contagion’ you say: ‘The materialities of infrastructure render it the most pertinent political question there is. Everything else is distraction.’ Given the level of importance you give to infrastructure and its embeddedness in processes of global capital accumulation and circulation, what do you see as the potentials for a) disruption and b) the takeover or repurposing/bricolage of technological infrastructures built solely for the world of value?

I’ve been particularly interested in the shift from the gatherings in public squares to the blocking of intersections and bridges that occurred between the time of the Occupy protests to the more recent protests of Black Lives Matter and SOSBlakAustralia that happened since I wrote that. And the disruption of roads, bridges and infrastructure tells us a great deal about how politics and dissent have changed in the previous decade, and the change in setting is I think linked to the shift in focus. I’d suggest that the occupation of Gezi Park in Istanbul marks that shift, in that the issues of infrastructure were foregrounded in ways that they had not been in the United States. I would also include the protests over oil pipelines in North America in this shift. The change in setting suggests a renewed emphasis on impacting the circuits of value, less of a preoccupation with assembling an alternative version of the political, which despite any tangible iteration will remain a metaphysical idea since there is never just one.

As to how one repurposes infrastructure, that is a more difficult question. For instance, the pipe is often indistinguishable from the stuff that runs through it, such that it’s difficult to see how it might be refunctioned in practice even though to do so would raise the additional question about energy sources and uses and not only their conveyance. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is perhaps a grim and horrifying example of the technical limits of refunctioning. It is also an index of how much the Platonist distinction between form and matter falls apart when we look more closely at how infrastructure works, or does not.

At the same time, the weight of logistics hovers over infrastructure so much that it is difficult to conceive of how it might escape the managerial assumptions of logistics, or the doctrines of optimisation and efficiency. Military history also runs as deep in concepts of infrastructure as does logistics, which was a military concept before it was associated with business management, and it is important to pause before the leap to aestheticise infrastructure, given this is has so often been the normcore fantasy of dominating an unruly nature (and all the gendered, colonial implications therein that too often verge on a fascist exuberance for mastery through engineering).

The point here is that it is impossible to talk in a general sense about the refunctioning of infrastructure other than to say that every infra raises its own questions and limits, even if we might not embrace a technological determinism, technologies both tangible and otherwise involve, at best, an encoding of parameters. Still, it possible to rethink elements of infrastructure by understanding that a god-like intentionality is not always guaranteed by design, or that rules do not always rule—as with Gibson’s reimagining of the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge as a liminal city in his aptly-named Bridge Trilogy, or Delany’s pornotopia of homelessness and waste in The Mad Man.

You’ve spoken before about how nationalism and militarism are de facto part of the bargain of a kind of negotiated integration for mainstream gay rights movements, organisations and events like Pride. And as marital and adoptive rights are celebrated as legislative victories for LGBTQ people, how is an anticapitalist queer politics meant to assert itself against/relate to organisations of mainstream gay integration and a narrative of integration as opposed to a rejection of sexual and gender norms?

When Toronto Black Lives Matter accepted the invitation to lead the Toronto Pride march, and then refused to move forward until a series of demands were met by organisers, this was an important moment in the history of Pride. Far from introducing claims external to Pride, as many have accused them of doing, they reminded us that Pride celebrates the time when, predominantly, queers of colour and trans women fought back against repression. The history of Pride since then has worked to erase this history and rebrand it as an LGBT parade, whose prevailing representation by mostly white gay men and, less so, white lesbian women has been far too uncontroversial. I hope that Toronto Pride does not eventually go back on its promise to remove the police float from the parade, and that other Pride rallies follow suit.

We should not accept the assumption that all queers are white any more than the parallel one of all people of colour or black people are straight—because this is a fiction whose only real function is to erase queer women of colour and black queer women, including transwomen, and it correlates with the fact that these are the people most likely to be subjected to violence and derogation both in and outside queer and LGBT circles. So I think we can make different choices about whose comfort, safety and feelings should be prioritized when we are thinking about creating a different world or simply an event, and that opting for assuaging the feelings of people with institutional power is a choice that makes fewer people safer over time. Those are the kinds of choices that define whether a space is indeed queered or just another commercial venue or event operating in a niche market.

At the same time, there is also something of a push on by mainstream charities and lobbying groups to perpetuate the idea that ‘queer is a slur,’ and we should instead only use LGBT or LGBT+, as if this is somehow a neutral descriptor and umbrella involving terms that have never been used a slur. Those debates will continue, of course. But debates over the word ‘queer’ are not only or not really about whether it is a slur or can be or has been reclaimed. Obviously, all terms associated with non-normative sexualities have and can be used as a slur. So this is a debate over the degree of one’s personal investments in normalisation, and to a large extent the categorical certainties upon which a conventional form of representation depends and a pressure to use a language that straight people and organisations will feel comfortable using. The issue is not about how individuals wish to be identified—that is of course up to them—but about whether we adopt a path of inclusion in a movement for change that demands neat categorical identification and, at the same time, the difference between queering as a transformative project and LGBT as a representational device which uses the queer movement and history as leverage while it engages in its derogation.

We can already see the clear limits of assimilation in the trajectory of mainstream television drama over the last few years. Yes, same-sex marriage was legalized after a period when, in the 1990s, it was made illegal through constitutional and legislative means in many countries—and the links between access to services and marriage introduced additional stakes in the campaign for same-sex marriage. And as that campaign gathered pace, television networks introduced more queer characters into television shows but, as it happens, they were also the characters who ‘for some reason’ happened to die, at far higher rates than characters coded as or explicitly heterosexual. When the entertainment industry, which so often congratulates itself for being tolerant and diverse, is so systematically dreaming of dead queers, we might pause and wonder why this is seen as normal and entertaining, for whom, why this is happening now, and why is this not shocking for those who are not queer. Which brings us to the massacre at Pulse in Orlando, where the dream of killing queers became a bloody reality.

The massacre in an Orlando LGBT club during a Latinx night was experienced as a visceral attack on a space regularly regarded as providing refuge for the LGBTQIA community. The immediate aftermath saw various powerful interests attempting to co-opt the grief as their own, often violently erasing the context for the violence. What did you make of attempts to try to reframe the story as being about Jihadis “hating America for its freedom” – in the form of an LGBT nightclub? How can the community affected assert their right to grieve and respond on their own terms?

Erasure is always a kind of violence. When it follows on from murder, which is an irreversible and extreme kind of erasure, that simply heaps abuse, pain and disrespect upon what is already beyond horrifying. And in the wake of the shootings, we could see a series of erasures taking place, including the downplaying or neglect of its being a Latinx club, a queer club, a genderqueer space that had billed Latinx and black trans women as performers. Grief is an index of love and affection. So watching commentators and others engage in this kind of erasure was a clear signal of what and who they cared about, and did not. In many ways it clarified who could be trusted and who could not.

We could also see an effort to place the blame outside the United States and therefore as ‘nothing to do with us,’ as if mainstream groups in the US have not been pivotal to a global effort to criminalize and marginalize homosexuality, as with Bill Clinton’s signing of the Marriage Protection Act in the 1990s, the lobbying of governments across Africa by US evangelical organisations to adopt anti-gay laws (including the death penalty), and the rise of a ferocious homophobia in the Republican party, as with the recent alliance between Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Phyllis Schlafly which secured Trump’s nomination and delivered the most overtly homophobic Republican platform in that parties’ history.

At the same time, I have no interest in ignoring the role played by the legitimation of homophobia in Muslim organisations by figures whose views are rarely challenged, too often excused, and far too often assumed to be representative of every Muslim. My concern is for queer Muslims who felt a double pressure in this moment, not those who would close ranks around a false understanding of community and in doing so erase the reality for many of being both Muslim and queer and—so I support the efforts of those Muslim scholars and activists who, in the wake of the Pulse shootings, once again raised the importance of challenging homophobia and did not accept a tendency (on both the predominantly straight white Left and Right) to equate this with Islamophobia or see it as an essential component of Islam.

The point here is that the narratives which sought to turn the Pulse shootings into an episode of a contest between grand geopolitical-theological brand names are a way of rationalising violence and doubling-down on that violence by erasing its queerphobic aspects, apportioning blame in such a way that it drives people into trenches that they were never in and into a war between two camps they do not wish to be conscripted into fighting for because, let’s be blunt, both dream of killing queers. And as I said, moments such as these serve to clarify who can be trusted in dangerous circumstances, which is what solidarity means beyond the empty gesture.

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  1. A hostile environment – Society & Space - […] (2012) designates this race-family-nation nexus “oikonomia,” from “law of the household,” the etymological root of both economics and ecology.…

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