What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now?
Special Issue Editors David L. Eng, Judith Halberstam,
José Esteban Muñoz
Introduction: What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now?
David L. Eng with Judith Halberstam and José Esteban Muñoz 1
Punk’d Theory Tavia Nyong’o 19
The Joy of the Castrated Boy Joon Oluchi Lee 35
Time Binds, or, Erotohistoriography Elizabeth Freeman 57
Tarrying with the Normative: Queer Theory and Black
History Amy Villarejo 69
Of Our Normative Strivings: African American Studies and the
Histories of Sexuality Roderick A. Ferguson 85
Asian Diasporas, Neoliberalism, and Family: Reviewing the
Case for Homosexual Asylum in the Context of Family
Rights Chandan Reddy 101
Queer Times, Queer Assemblages Jasbir K. Puar 121
Race, Violence, and Neoliberal Spatial Politics in the Global
City Martin F. Manalansan IV 141
Bollywood Spectacles: Queer Diasporic Critique in the
Aftermath of 9/11 Gayatri Gopinath 157
You Can Have My Brown Body and Eat It, Too! Hiram Perez 171
JJ Chinois’s Oriental Express, or, How a Suburban Heartthrob
Seduced Red America Karen Tongson 193
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Shame and White Gay Masculinity Judith Halberstam 219
Gay Rights versus Queer Theory: What Is Left of Sodomy after
Lawrence v. Texas? Teemu Ruskola 235
Uncivil Wrongs: Race, Religion, Hate, and Incest in Queer
Politics Michael Cobb 251
Policing Privacy, Migrants, and the Limits of Freedom
Nayan Shah 275
Sex + Freedom = Regulation: Why? Janet R. Jakobsen 285
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Michael Cobb is an assistant professor of English at the University of
Toronto. His essays have appeared, or soon will appear, in Callaloo, GLQ,
University of Toronto Quarterly, Criticism, and boundary 2. His book God
Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence is forthcoming from New
York University Press.
David L. Eng is an associate professor of English at Rutgers Univer-
sity. He is the author of Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian
America (Duke University Press, 2001). In addition, he is coeditor with
David Kazanjian of Loss: The Politics of Mourning (University of Cali-
fornia Press, 2003) and coeditor with Alice Y. Hom of Q & A: Queer in
Asian America (Temple University Press, 1998), which was the winner
of a 1998 Lambda Literary Award and the 1998 Cultural Studies Book
Award of the Association for Asian American Studies. He is completing
a book titled “Queer Diasporas/Psychic Diasporas,” which explores the
impact of Asian transnational and queer social movements on family and
kinship in the late twentieth century.
Roderick A. Ferguson is an associate professor of race and critical the-
ory in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minne-
sota, Twin Cities. He is the author of Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer
of Color Critique (University of Minnesota Press, 2004).
Elizabeth Freeman is an associate professor of English at the University
of California, Davis. She is the author of The Wedding Complex: Forms
of Belonging in Modern American Culture (Duke University Press, 2002)
and is working on a second book tentatively titled “Time Binds: Essays
in Queer Temporality.” She has also published or copublished articles
in nineteenth-century American literature and queer studies in journals
including American Literary History, American Literature, boundary 2, New
Literary History, Radical Teacher, and Women and Performance.
Gayatri Gopinath is an associate professor of women’s and gender stud-
ies at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Impossible
Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures (Duke University
Press, 2005). Her work on diasporic sexualities has appeared in journals
such as GLQ, positions, Diaspora, Amerasia, and Gender and History.
ST84-85-00-FM.indd 3 10/19/05 2:37:14 PM
Judith Halberstam is a professor of English and director of the Center
for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. She is the
author of Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke
University Press, 1995) and Female Masculinity (Duke University Press,
1998) and has a new book of essays titled In a Queer Time and Place:
Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York University Press, 2005).
Halberstam is working on a book titled “Dude, Where’s My Theory? The
Politics of Knowledge in an Age of Stupidity.”
Janet R. Jakobsen is director of the Center for Research on Women at
Barnard College. She is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics
of Difference (Indiana University Press, 1998), coauthor (with Ann Pel-
legrini) of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Toler-
ance (New York University Press, 2003), and coeditor (with Elizabeth
A. Castelli) of Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence
(Palgrave/Macmillan, 2004).
Joon Oluchi Lee is assistant professor of gender studies and English at the
Rhode Island School of Design. He is working on a book about gay male
effeminacy and black femininity titled “rainbowbaby-woman: poethics
of racial-sexual cross-identification.”
Martin F. Manalansan IV is an associate professor of anthropology and
Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
He is the author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Duke
University Press, 2003). In addition to essays in journals and antholo-
gies, he has edited two volumes of essays: Cultural Compass: Ethnographic
Explorations of Asian America (Temple University Press, 2001) and (with
Arnaldo Cruz-Malave) Queer Globalizations: Citizenship and the Afterlife
of Colonialism (New York University Press, 2002).
ST84-85-00-FM.indd 4 10/19/05 2:37:14 PM
José Esteban Muñoz is an associate professor in the Department of
Performance Studies at New York University. He is the author of Disiden-
tifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (University of
Minnesota Press, 1999). He is also the coeditor (with Celeste Delgado)
of Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latin/o America (Duke University
Press, 1997) and (with Jennifer Doyle and Jonathan Flatley) of Pop Out:
Queer Warhol (Duke University Press, 1996).

Tavia Nyong’o is an assistant professor of performance studies at New
York University. He has written on racial kitsch in cinema and collecting,
on the cyber-performance artist Pamela Z, and on the performance of
blackness in U.S. politics. His work has appeared in the Yale Journal of
Criticism, 3x3, and Women and Performance.
Hiram Perez is an assistant professor of English at Montclair State Uni-
versity, where he also teaches courses in women’s studies and African
American studies. He is completing a manuscript that explores the rela-
tionship between shame and racial embodiment.
Jasbir K. Puar is an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies
at Rutgers University. She works on queer globalizations, South Asian
diasporas, gay and lesbian tourism, and sexual scripts of terrorism. Her
articles have appeared in GLQ, Signs, Society and Space, Feminist Review,
Radical History Review, Antipode, and Gender, Place and Culture.
Chandan Reddy is an assistant professor of English at the University
of Washington, Seattle. He is completing a manuscript on the rise of
postemancipation black publics in the age of U.S. wars in Asia, 1898–
1952. The essay published here is part of a second project on queer of
color cultural formations and U.S. neoliberalism.
Teemu Ruskola is a professor of law at American University. His writings
on the cultural study of law have appeared, among other places, in Michi-
gan Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism,
and Yale Law Journal.
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Nayan Shah is an associate professor in the Department of History at
the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Contagious
Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (University of
California Press, 2001).
Karen Tongson is an assistant professor of English and gender studies at
the University of Southern California. She has published various articles
on queer theory and aesthetics from the nineteenth century to the pres-
ent and is working on two book projects: one on Victorian aesthetics and
homonormativity, and another on contemporary queer of color suburban
Amy Villarejo teaches film and directs the Feminist, Gender, and Sexu-
ality Studies Program at Cornell University, where she is an associate
professor. Her most recent book is Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the
Value of Desire (Duke University Press, 2003).
Mie Yim was born in South Korea in 1963 and currently lives and works
in New York City. Her work has been displayed in numerous international
solo and group exhibitions. Most recently, she had solo exhibitions at Gal-
leria In Arco in Turin, Italy, in 2004 and at Metaphor Contemporary Art
in New York City in 2003. She is represented by the Lehmann Maupin
Gallery in New York City.
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Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
Aiound 199u queer emeiged into public consciousness. It was a teim that
challenged the noimalizing mechanisms of state powei to name its sexual
subjects: male oi female, maiiied oi single, heteiosexual oi homosexual,
natuial oi peiveise. Civen its commitment to inteiiogating the social
piocesses that not only pioduced and iecognized but also noimalized and
sustained identity, the political piomise of the teim iesided specifcally in
its bioad ciitique of multiple social antagonisms, including iace, gendei,
class, nationality, and ieligion, in addition to sexuality.
Iouiteen yeais aftei Soctal Texi`s publication of 'Ieai of a Queei
Planet,¨ and eight yeais aftei 'Queei ¯iansexions of Race, Nation, and
Cendei,¨ this special double issue ieassesses the political utility of queei
by asking 'what`s queei about queei studies now·¨ ¯he contempoiaiy
mainstieaming of gay and lesbian identity÷as a mass-mediated consumei
lifestyle and embattled legal categoiy÷demands a ienewed queei studies
evei vigilant to the fact that sexuality is inteisectional, not extianeous to
othei modes of diffeience, and calibiated to a fim undeistanding of queei
as a political metaphoi without a fxed iefeient. A ienewed queei studies,
moieovei, insists on a bioadened consideiation of the late-twentieth-cen-
tuiy global ciises that have confguied histoiical ielations among political
economies, the geopolitics of wai and teiioi, and national manifestations
of sexual, iacial, and gendeied hieiaichies.
¯he following sixteen essays÷laigely authoied by a youngei geneia-
tion of queei scholais÷map out an uigent intellectual and political teiiain
foi queei studies and the contempoiaiy politics of identity, kinship, and
belonging. Insisting on queei studies` intellectual and political ielevance
to a wide feld of social ciitique, these essays ieassess some of the feld`s
most impoitant theoietical insights while iealigning its political atten-
tions, histoiical foci, and disciplinaiy accounts. Bioadly, these scholais
examine the limits of queei epistemology, the denatuializing potentials
of queei diaspoias, and the emeigent assumptions of what could be called
queei libeialism. Collectively, they iethink queei ciitique in ielation to a
numbei of histoiical emeigencies, to boiiow fiom Waltei Benjamin, of
both national and global consequence.
2 Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
vnat ooes qoeer
stooies nave to
say aboot enpire,
ano terrorisn?
vnat ooes
qoeer stooies
tell os aboot
prisons, velrare,
noorninq, ano
nonan riqnts?
Such emeigencies include the tiiumph of neolibeialism and the collapse
of the welfaie state; the Bush administiation`s infnite 'wai on teiioiism¨
and the acute militaiization of state violence; the escalation of I.S. empiie
building and the clash of ieligious fundamentalisms, nationalisms, and
patiiotisms; the devolution of civil society and the eiosion of civil iights;
the pathologizing of immigiant communities as 'teiioiist¨ and iacialized
populations as 'ciiminal¨; the shifting foims of citizenship and migiation
in a putatively 'postidentity¨ and 'postiacial¨ age; the politics of intimacy
and the libeial iecoding of fieedom as seculaiization, domesticity, and
maiiiage; and the ietuin to 'moial values¨ and 'family values¨ as a pio-
phylactic against political debate, economic iedistiibution, and cultuial
dissent. Indeed, in this intense time of wai and death, and of I.S. unilat-
eialismand coipoiate domination, queei studies now moie than evei needs
to iefocus its ciitical attentions on public debates about the meaning of
demociacy and fieedom, citizenship and immigiation, family and com-
munity, and the alien and the human in all theii national and theii global
What does queei studies have to say about empiie, globalization,
neolibeialism, soveieignty, and teiioiism· What does queei studies tell us
about immigiation, citizenship, piisons, welfaie, mouining, and human
iights· What is the ielationship between La:rence .. Texas, the exalted }une
2uu3 Supieme Couit decision deciiminalizing gay sex, and the contem-
poianeous ISA PA¯RIO¯ Act· If mainstieam media attention to queei
lives and issues has helped to establish the social and legal foundation foi
the emeigence of gay maiiiage, family, and domesticity, what aie the social
costs of this new visibility· And how does the demand foi maiiiage and
legal iights affect, iun countei to, oi in fact conveige with conseivative
piomotion of tiaditional maiiiage·
While queei studies in the past has iaiely addiessed such bioad social
conceins, queei studies in the piesent offeis impoitant insights. In iecent
yeais, scholais in the feld have pioduced a signifcant body of woik on
theoiies of iace, on pioblems of tiansnationalism, on conßicts between
global capital and laboi, on issues of diaspoia and immigiation, and on
questions of citizenship, national belonging, and neciopolitics.
¯he vaii-
ous essays gatheied heie insist that consideiations of empiie, iace, migia-
tion, geogiaphy, subaltein communities, activism, and class aie cential to
the continuing ciitique of queeiness, sexuality, sexual subcultuies, desiie,
and iecognition. At the same time, these essays also suggest that some of
the most innovative and iisky woik on globalization, neolibeialism, cultuial
politics, subjectivity, identity, family, and kinship is happening in the iealm
of queei studies. As a whole, this volume ieevaluates the utility of queei as
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 3
an engaged mode of ciitical inquiiy. It chaits some of the notable histoii-
cal shifts in the feld since its inception while iecognizing diffeient pasts,
alteinative piesents, and new futuies foi queei scholaiship.
What`s queei about queei studies now·
A lot.
In hei 1993 essay 'Ciitically Queei,¨ }udith Butlei wiites that the assei-
tion of 'queei¨ must nevei puipoit to 'fully desciibe¨ those it seeks to
iepiesent. 'It is necessaiy to affim the contingency of the teim,¨ Butlei
insists, 'to let it be vanquished by those who aie excluded by the teim
but who justifably expect iepiesentation by it, to let it take on meanings
that cannot now be anticipated by a youngei geneiation whose political
vocabulaiy may well caiiy a veiy diffeient set of investments.¨ ¯hat
queeiness iemains open to a continuing ciitique of its piivileged assump-
tions 'ought to be safeguaided not only foi the puiposes of continuing
to demociatize queei politics, but also to expose, affim, and iewoik the
specifc histoiicity of the teim.¨
¯he opeiations of queei ciitique, in
othei woids, can neithei be decided on in advance noi be depended on
in the futuie. ¯he ieinvention of the teim is contingent on its potential
obsolescence, one necessaiily at odds with any foitifcation of its ciiti-
cal ieach in advance oi any static notion of its piesumed audience and
¯hat queeiness iemains open to a continuing ciitique of its exclu-
sionaiy opeiations has always been one of the feld`s key theoietical and
political piomises. What might be called the 'subjectless¨ ciitique of queei
studies disallows any positing of a piopei subject of oi object for the feld by
insisting that queei has no fxed political iefeient. Such an undeistanding
oiients queei epistemology, despite the histoiical necessities of 'stiategic
essentialism¨ (Cayatii Spivak`s famous teim), as a continuous deconstiuc-
tion of the tenets of positivism at the heait of identity politics. Attention
to queei epistemology also insists that sexuality÷the oiganizing iubiic of
lesbian and gay studies÷must be iethought foi its positivist assumptions.
A subjectless ciitique establishes, in Nichael Wainei`s phiase, a focus on
'a wide feld of noimalization¨ as the site of social violence. Attention to
those hegemonic social stiuctuies by which ceitain subjects aie iendeied
'noimal¨ and 'natuial¨ thiough the pioduction of 'peiveise¨ and 'patho-
logical¨ otheis, Wainei insists, iejects a 'minoiitizing logic of toleiation
oi simple political inteiest-iepiesentation in favoi of a moie thoiough
iesistance to iegimes of the noimal.¨
4 Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
/t socn a
nistorical jonctore,
it is crocial to insist
yet aqain on tne
capacity or qoeer
stooies to nobilize
a broao social
critiqoe or race,
qenoer, class,
nationality, ano
reliqion, as vell
as sexoality.
¯oday, we fnd ouiselves at an iionic histoiical moment of what might
be desciibed as 'queei libeialism.¨ Nechanisms of noimalization have
endeavoied to oiganize not only gay and lesbian politics but also the
inteinal woikings of the feld itself, attempting to constitute its goveining
logic aiound ceitain piivileged subjects, standaids of sexual conduct, and
political and intellectual engagements (a subject discussed in gieatei detail
below). At such a histoiical junctuie, it is ciucial to insist yet again on the
capacity of queei studies to mobilize a bioad social ciitique of iace, gen-
dei, class, nationality, and ieligion, as well as sexuality. Such a theoietical
pioject demands that queei epistemologies not only iethink the ielationship
between inteisectionality and noimalization fiom multiple points of view
but also, and equally impoitant, considei how gay and lesbian iights aie
being ieconstituted as a type of ieactionaiy (identity) politics of national
and global consequence.
Rodeiick A. Ieiguson obseives in his contiibution to this special issue,
'Of Oui Noimative Stiivings: Afiican Ameiican Studies and the Histo-
iies of Sexuality¨ that while queei studies 'has had the most concentiated
engagement with the categoiy of sexuality,¨ its institutional advances should
not convince queei studies that 'its engagements with sexuality aie the
only and most signifcant puisuits of that foimation.¨ In othei woids, if
inteidisciplinaiy sites such as queei studies isolate sexuality within one
epistemic teiiain (such as psychoanalysis), oi attempt to aiiogate the study
of sexuality to themselves alone, these 'sites piove inteidisciplinaiity`s com-
plicity with disciplinaiity iathei than inteidisciplinaiity`s iebellion against
the disciplines.¨ Ieiguson`s obseivations move us away fiom an exclusive
focus on how sexuality becomes the 'piopeitied¨ object of queei studies, its
piivileged site of ciitical inquiiy. Instead, he focuses on noimalization and
inteisectionality at once, by asking 'in what ways has the iacialized, classed,
and gendeied discouise known as sexuality dispeised itself to constitute this
paiticulai discipline oi inteidiscipline·¨ Confguiing queei epistemology in
such a mannei insists on a sustained consideiation of what happens to sexu-
ality when it is iesituated as the effect not only of queei studies but also othei
felds of inquiiy, such as women of coloi feminism, queei of coloi ciitique,
oi queei diaspoias.
Hence ciitical attentions aie diawn to the goveining
logics of knowledge pioduction, the constitutive assumptions that foim the
foundation of disciplinaiy felds, iendeiing them inteinally coheient while
giving social and political diffeience theii discuisive powei.
In '¯ime Binds, oi, Liotohistoiiogiaphy,¨ Llizabeth Iieeman expands
on Ieiguson`s epistemological investigation in a diffeient iegistei. Iieeman
biings queei studies togethei with one of the most impoitant epistemo-
logical inquiiies in postcolonial studies: the dispaiate mappings of time
and space. Nation-states, she obseives, 'still tiack and manage theii own
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 5
denizens thiough an offcial time line, effectively shaping the contouis of
a meaningful life by iegisteiing some events like biiths, maiiiages, and
deaths, and iefusing to iecoid otheis like initiations, fiiendships, and
contact with the dead.¨ Iieeman`s ciossing of queei studies with post-
colonial conceins of individual and gioup 'development¨ iefoimulates
ceitain basic tenets of the feld such that 'queei subjectivity and collectivity
demand, and take as theii iewaid, paiticulaily inventive and time-tiaveling
foims of giief and compensation.¨ Reconsideiing the spatial and tempoial
dimensions of queei tiaumas, including AILS, Iieeman suggests that
the incoipoiation of lost otheis need not be haunted solely by melancholy
and depiession. In a histoiical moment of intense political conseiva-
tism, iesidues of 'positive affect¨÷'eiotic scenes, utopias, memoiies of
touch¨÷must become available foi queei counteihistoiies of space and
time, alteinative naiiatives of development that have become cential to
the notion of queei subcultuies, counteipublics, and utopias.
Queei epistemology insists that we embaik on expanded investigations
of noimalization and inteisectionality. In this iegaid, ¯avia Nyong`o`s
opening essay, 'Punk`d ¯heoiy,¨ pioffeis yet anothei take on 'inteisec-
tionality,¨ one inteiiupting the eveiyday piactices and 'litigious piocess
thiough which subjects petition foi admission to queei theoietical atten-
tion.¨ Pioffeiing 'Punk`d ¯heoiy¨ as, in the woids of Lve Sedgwick, a
'nonce taxonomy¨ full of uniationalized hypotheses about what kinds of
people theie aie to be found in the woild, Nyong`o iewiites a now fiozen
dialectic between black and white, as well as stiaight and gay. He obseives
that it is not enough 'to take up the simultaneity of iace, class, gendei,
and sexuality, which it is my aigument that the veinaculai does constantly
in keywoids like junl and junleJ.¨ Instead, Nyong`o contends, we must
investigate 'the subject tiansfoimed by law that neveitheless exists nowheie
within it, the fguie of absolute abjection that is, paiadoxically, pait of oui
eveiyday expeiience.¨ Heie, queei epistemology iethinks inteisectionality
not just as iacial, sexual, oi class simultaneity but as 'a meeting of two
stieets, and in a landscape long given ovei to automotivity . . . a place of
paiticulai hazaid foi the pedestiian.¨ Accoiding to Nyong`o, 'punk`d¨
pedestiians must demand both theii 'iights and nore than theii iights,
simply to pieseive a poition of the mobility they had piioi to enclosuie¨:
woikeis become 'illegal immigiants¨; pooi motheis, 'welfaie queens¨;
piotestois, 'potential teiioiists.¨ While all must attack the piesumption of
theii ciiminality meiely to pieseive theii way of life, inteisectionality will
become positively hazaidous to eveiyone`s health if we choose to adjudicate
among these diffeiences iathei than to nuituie them all at once.
Lxtending Nyong`o`s nonce taxonomy of what kinds of people theie aie
to be found in the woild, }oon Oluchi Lee`s essay, '¯he }oy of the Castiated
ó Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
Boy,¨ diaws oui ciitical attention, along the lines of Iieeman, to queei
pleasuies and desiies. Lee suggests that the contempoiaiy mainstieaming
of queeiness in both populai cultuie and the social imaginaiy has iesulted
in the embiacing of a 'mainstieam ethics of gendei¨ in queei studies.
Indeed, like seveial othei contiibutois to this special issue, Lee insists that
ceitain pievailing epistemological paiadigms, such as gay shame, have
been implicitly univeisalized in queei studies to gieat social and political
haim. Refusing the disavowal of castiation and effeminacy that undeiwiites
L. A. Nillei`s ieading of the Bioadway musical C,js,, foi instance, Lee
posits an alteinative to the anxious gloiifcation of white masculinity that
Nillei eiects as a defense against the feminine foims of identifcation that
C,js, demands and ciiculates. 'I have always consideied myself a castiated
boy,¨ Lee wiites in ielation to a steieotypical Asian masculinity, 'and
leained to be happy in that state because that was the only way I could live
my life as the giil I knew myself to be.¨ Simply put, Lee offeis an 'ecstatic¨
politics of iacial castiation in the place of an anxious phallic iestoiation of
whiteness. Suggesting that the 'joy¨ of the castiated boy might abet in the
pioject of 'undoing¨ gendei÷undoing, that is, the idealization of white
masculinity in queei studies÷Lee asseits that iacial castiation pieseives a
space of alteiity to embiace 'femininity as iace¨ and 'iace as femininity.¨
In this iegaid, Lee advances the gioundbieaking pioject laid out by Lve
Sedgwick in hei 1991 essay, 'How to Biing Youi Kids Ip Cay.¨
Like cultuial, postcolonial, and ciitical iace studies, queei studies
has been a piivileged site foi the explicit ieconsideiation of disciplinaiity
and knowledge pioduction. All the essays in this special issue contend in
some way oi anothei with the question of queei epistemology, ieoiienting
the feld`s potential to engage with a wide feld of noimalization piecisely
thiough a ciitical ieengagement with inteisectionality in its manifold
foims and locations. ¯he social and political potential of such a ciitique
is 'piecisely calibiated to the degiee to which 'queei` is deployed as a
catachiesis,¨ Amy Villaiejo obseives in hei essay, '¯aiiying with the
Noimative: Queei ¯heoiy and Elacl Htsior,.¨ Investigating the 196S
documentaiy Elacl Htsior,: Losi, Siolen, or Sira,eJ. as a counteiaichive foi
queei noimalization, Villaiejo posits a 'queei of coloi¨ ciitique as making
'good on the undeistanding of noimativity as vaiiegated, stiiated, con-
tiadictoiy,¨ as the peisistent tension 'between systematization and desiie,
between ieason and affect, between the liteial and the fguiative, between
philosophy and liteiatuie.¨ In these inteistitial spaces, Villaiejo discoveis
yet anothei caveat to the piactice of queei inteisectionality, encouiaging
us to abandon 'a ceitain liteial undeistanding of the iole of abstiaction as
enfoicing a logic of equivalence in the pioduction of the symptom.¨ Social
and political diffeiences cannot fnally be equalized as analogous values
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 7
ln tne snaoovs
or postcoloniality,
ano tne nov
innnite ¨var on
terrorisn,` qoeer
oiasporas nave
also becone a
site ror tne
or tne
inperialisn, ano
oi commensuiate foims of domination; instead, they must be consideied
in and thiough theii supplemental deployments.
Attention to queei epistemology geneiates alteinate ciitical genealogies
foi queei studies outside its conventional ielationship to fiancophone and
Anglo-Ameiican liteiatuies and liteiaiy studies, as well as its piesumed
white masculine subjects. 'Women of coloi feminism¨ and 'queei of
coloi ciitique¨ collectively exploied by Nyong`o, Lee, Ieiguson, and Vil-
laiejo maik two such alteinate ciitical genealogies foi the investigation of
noimalization and diffeience. Queei diaspoia is a thiid.
In theii 1997 intioduction to 'Queei ¯iansexions of Race, Nation, and
Cendei,¨ the editois note that the 'theoiization of diveigent sexualities
offeied by contempoiaiy queei ciitique and the inteiiogation of iace and
ethnicity undeitaken within postcolonial studies and ciitical iace theoiy
aie among the most signifcant iecent developments in social analysis and
cultuial ciiticism. While the best woik in these felds have emphasized that
theii objects of study cannot be undeistood in isolation fiom one anothei,
the ciitical iamifcations of this fact have neveitheless gone laigely unex-
Light yeais latei, the ciitical iamifcations of such a pioject have
become pait of oui intellectual consciousness laigely because of a ciitical
mass of scholaiship in queei of coloi ciitique as well as queei diaspoias.
Collectively, these two felds have systematically iethought ciitical iace
theoiy (which takes the I.S. nation-state as its conceptual fiame) and
postcolonial studies alongside scatteied deployments of sexuality÷its
uneven mappings of time and space acioss domestic as well as diaspoiic
Ioi instance, in its denatuializing of vaiious oiigin naiiatives, such
as 'home¨ and 'nation,¨ queei diaspoias 'investigates what might be
gained politically by ieconceptualizing diaspoia not in conventional teims
of ethnic dispeision, fliation, and biological tiaceability, but iathei in
teims of queeiness, affliation, and social contingency.¨ By doing so, queei
diaspoias emeiges as a ciitical site 'pioviding new ways of contesting
tiaditional family and kinship stiuctuies÷of ieoiganizing national and
tiansnational communities based not on oiigin, fliation, and genetics but
on destination, affliation, and the assumption of a common set of social
piactices oi political commitments.¨
In the shadows of postcoloniality, globalization, and the now infnite
'wai on teiioiism,¨ queei diaspoias have also become a conceited site foi
the inteiiogation of the nation-state, citizenship, impeiialism, and empiie.
B Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
It has examined the numeious ways in which iacialized heteiopatiiaichy
has been univeisalized as a Westein discouise of (sexual) development,
as a pioject of modeinity and modeinization, as a colonial and civilizing
mission, as an index of political and social advancement, and as a stoiy of
human libeity and fieedom. In this iegaid, the conceins of queei diaspoias
have woiked, boiiowing Lipesh Chakiabaity`s teim, to 'piovincialize¨
queei studies, biinging pioblems of citizenship, soveieignty, migiation,
asylum, welfaie, the public spheie, and civil society to questions of sexual-
ity and sexual development at the heait of the modein libeial nation-state.
In the piocess, queei diaspoias biings to conceptual ciisis contiadictions
of global and domestic politics, as it bioadens studies of migiation in the
Black Atlantic to considei othei aieas such as South Asia, Last Asia, and
Latin Ameiica. It shifts ciitical attention to the incommensuiabilities of
sexuality and national belonging while maiking the false equivalences of
the nation-state as well as the constitutive limits of 'Queei Nation.¨
In hei contiibution to this special issue, 'Bollywood Spectacles: Queei
Liaspoiic Ciitique in the Afteimath of 9/11,¨ Cayatii Copinath delin-
eates the methodology of queei diaspoiic ciitique thiough fguiations of
the impuie, the inauthentic, and the noniepioductive. If queei diaspoiic
ciitique, Copinath obseives, takes to task the 'implicit heteionoimativity
within some stiands of aiea studies,¨ it also poweifully challenges 'the
paiochialism of some stiands of queei studies by making the study of
sexuality cential to an anti-impeiialist, antiiacist pioject.¨ Reading the
ascension and global ciiculation of Bollywood cinema as a spectacle to be
safely consumed in a post-9/11 I.S. national imaginaiy, Copinath posits
the queei South Asian female diaspoiic subject as an impossible fguie,
one who stands in contiadistinction to the neolibeial citizen-subject. ¯he
incommensuiability of these two fguies, Copinath contends, cieates a
conceptual space foi challenging the binaiy constiuction of South Asian
bodies as eithei 'teiioiists¨ oi 'model minoiities,¨ as 'inheiently ciiminal
and antinational oi multicultuial and assimilationist.¨
In similai iegaid, }asbii K. Puai examines the 'queei¨ fguies of
Sikh and Nuslim teiioiists. In 'Queei ¯imes, Queei Assemblages,¨ Puai
exploies how the Bush administiation`s 'wai on teiioiism¨ ieconciles
queeiness to the libeial demands of iational subject foimation, employing
a ihetoiic of sexual modeinization that constiucts the impeiialist centei
as 'toleiant¨ while castigating the backwaid othei as 'homophobic¨ and
'peiveise.¨ In oui contempoiaiy political moment, exceptionalist dis-
couises on sexual fieedom all too easily conspiie with I.S. nationalism
and patiiotism in the seivice of empiie. Queei nationalism, Puai obseives,
'colludes with I.S. exceptionalisms embedded in nationalist foieign policy
via the aiticulation and pioduction of whiteness as a queei noim and
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 9
the tacit acceptance of I.S. impeiialist expansion.¨ In shoit, nationalist
debates on maiiiage and gays in the militaiy come to ieplace any and all
piincipled objections to state violence and toituie, exemplifed by Cuanta-
namo and Abu Chiaib, on the global stage. Lxamining the fguie of the
suicide bombei as a 'queei assemblage¨ iesisting the demands of iational
subject foimation÷the sanctioned binaiies of subject and object÷in favoi
of affective 'tempoial, spatial, and coipoieal schisms,¨ Puai suggests that
the ontologies of such fguies ieoiient a diaspoiic imaginaiy that queeis
the habitus of the nation-state, its geopolitical mandates and impeiialist
In 'Asian Liaspoias, Neolibeialism, and Iamily: Reviewing the Case
foi Homosexual Asylum in the Context of Iamily Rights,¨ Chandan Reddy
extends Puai`s notion of 'toleiance,¨ queei nationalism, and I.S. excep-
tionalisms in a diffeient diiection. Reddy exploies how the fguie of the
gay Pakistani asylum seekei woiks to challenge any contempoiaiy undei-
standing of the I.S. nation-state as the cential guaiantoi of 'fieedom,
destigmatization, and noimality¨ in the global context of human iights oi
in the national aiena of gay maiiiage political debate. Noting how iecent
I.S. immigiation policy has woiked to pioduce a iacialized and gendeied
low-wage woikfoice piecisely thiough the iubiic of 'family ieunifcation¨
and its idealization of the heteiopatiiaichal family unit, he investigates
how the state codes this migiation as pioduced by the petitioning families
themselves. In the piocess, the state piojects itself as 'a benevolent actoi
ieuniting bioken families oi an oveibuidened and effete agent unable to
pievent immigiants` manipulation of its (mandatoiy) demociatic and faii
laws.¨ Lithei way, Reddy points out, the state gets to have its cake and eat
it, too: such policies satisfy capital`s need foi an evei-expanding low-wage
woikfoice while exaceibating the conditions of noncitizen life thiough the
dismantling of economic and social iesouices foi immigiant communities.
In an evei-shiinking civil society, Reddy concludes, family ieunifcation
enables state powei to 'cieate heteiopatiiaichal ielations foi the ieciuit-
ment and socialization of laboi while justifying the exclusion of immigiant
communities fiom state powei thiough a libeial language of I.S. citizen-
ship as the guaiantoi of individual libeity and sexual fieedom.¨
Such guaiantees to individual libeity and sexual fieedom piovide
little secuiity foi undocumented queeis, as well as queeis of coloi, in
uiban metiopoles, an issue Naitin I. Nanalansan takes up in his essay
'Race, Violence, and Neolibeial Spatial Politics in the Clobal City.¨
Nanalansan exploies the decimation of queei diaspoiic immigiant space
in }ackson Heights, Queens. He notes how the disappeaiance of Aiab as
well as Nuslim communities fiom neighboihood stieets aftei the events
of 9/11 coincided with the simultaneous gentiifcation of }ackson Heights
1u Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
as a 'new exotic gay mecca¨ foi Nanhattanites to visit and to consume as
aestheticized commodity. Speculating that the (de)politicizing of nation-
alist politics about teiioiism and iace is in pait shoied up thiough the
neolibeial iecoding of queei life and lifestyle as the fieedom to tiavel, toui,
and consume safely in vaiious settings and locales, Nanalansan delineates
the uiban piocesses by which global politics in a post-9/11 woild come to
be embedded into the built enviionment. Neolibeialism shoit-ciicuits the
politics of queei diaspoia piecisely thiough the 'stabilizing and noimal-
izing of specifc foims of capitalist inequalities¨ in the guise of economic
oppoitunity and similitude. In the piocess, queei diaspoiics, queeis of
coloi, the feminized, the foieign, the coloied, and the pooi aie left with the
shoit end of the political stick, as discouises of 'peisonal iesponsibility¨
seive to excuse state obligation towaid collective, public caietaking.
If Nanalansan focuses on how neolibeial and nationalist I.S. politics
post-9/11 evisceiate queei diaspoiic spaces in the uiban metiopole, Kaien
¯ongson`s attention to the subuiban and iuial peiipheiy in hei essay '}}
Chinois`s Oiiental Lxpiess, oi, How a Subuiban Heaitthiob Seduced
Red Ameiica¨ ielocates queei diaspoiic ciitique in the 'heaitland¨ of
Ameiica. ¯ongson notes how queeiness as hip metiosexuality confguies
these othei aieas as spaces of eithei depaituie oi bypass. She examines
the peifoimance ait of Lynne Chan, a second-geneiation Asian Ameiican
aitist, whose tiansgendeied altei ego }} Chinois denatuializes a noima-
tive tiajectoiy of queei development as the unidiiectional migiation fiom
subuiban to uiban space by ielocating his heaitland adventuies in the
indeteiminate zone of cybeispace. ¯hiough his domain name and viitual
space, ¯ongson tiacks }} Chinois`s exploits in 'Red Ameiica,¨ obseiving
how this 'dykeaspoia¨ explodes 'sentimental naiiatives¨ of longing inhei-
ent in not just heteionoimative but ceitain queei iendeiings of diaspoia.
Is 'queei libeialism¨ no longei a paiadox·
As numeious essays in this special issue point out, the emeigence of
'queei libeialism¨ maiks an unsettling though peihaps not entiiely unex-
pected attempt to ieconcile the iadical political aspiiations of queei studies`
subjectless ciitique with the contempoiaiy libeial demands of a nationalist
gay and lesbian I.S. citizen-subject petitioning foi iights and iecogni-
tion befoie the law. Indeed, oui cuiient histoiical moment is maiked by
a paiticulai coming togethei of economic and political spheies that foim
the basis foi libeial inclusion: the meiging of a ceitain queei consumei
lifestyle fist established in the 19Sus (and now typifed by Biavo`s Queer
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 11
vnile in prior
oecaoes qays ano
lesbians sostaineo
a raoical critiqoe
or ranily ano
narriaqe, tooay
nany nenbers
or tnese qroops
nave larqely
abanooneo socn
critical positions.
L,e for ihe Siratghi Cu,) with iecent juiidical piotections foi gay and les-
bian domesticity established by the landmaik 2uu3 I.S. Supieme Couit
decision La:rence .. Texas deciiminalizing gay sodomy as well as the Com-
monwealth of Nassachusett`s legalizing of same-sex maiiiage in the same
yeai. While in piioi decades gays and lesbians sustained a iadical ciitique
of family and maiiiage, today many membeis of these gioups have laigely
abandoned such ciitical positions, demanding access to the nucleai family
and its associated iights, iecognitions, and piivileges fiom the state. ¯hat
such queei libeialism comes at a histoiical moment of extieme iight-wing
nationalist politics should give us immediate pause.
Civen the negative iefeiendum on gay maiiiage in the 2uu4 piesiden-
tial election that witnessed Ceoige W. Bush`s 'ieelection¨ on a platfoim of
'moial values,¨ such iights, iecognitions, and piivileges might indeed be,
to boiiow fiom Cayatii Spivak, something gays and lesbians 'cannot not
want.¨ At the same time, queei intellectuals must untangle national foims
of homophobia fiom the Republicans` wholesale economic assault on the
pooi. Loing so would help to claiify the meaning of anti÷gay maiiiage
votes. Ioi instance, Lisa Luggan`s iecent woik on the politics of gay mai-
iiage suggests that most people in the Inited States aie in favoi of limited
domestic paitneiship iights. Howevei, they oppose gay maiiiage because
tiaditional maiiiage is incieasingly the only way to access fedeial welfaie
benefts in the Inited States. What Luggan has aptly labeled 'homonoi-
mativity,¨ the gay and lesbian libeial platfoim advocating foi gay maiiiage
while ihetoiically iemapping and iecoding fieedom and libeiation in nai-
iow teims of piivacy, domesticity, and the unfetteied ability to consume
in the 'fiee¨ maiket, collaboiates with a mainstieamed nationalist politics
of identity, entitlement, inclusion, and peisonal iesponsibility, while aban-
doning a moie global ciitique of capitalist exploitation and domination,
state violence and expansion, and ieligious fundamentalisms and hate.
¯he tuining away fiom a sustained examination of the vast inequali-
ties in civil society and commeicial life that maik the paiadoxes of queei
libeialism fnd an unwitting accomplice in ceitain stiands of contempoiaiy
queei studies. As numeious essays in this special issue emphasize, the
pioblems of political economy cannot be abstiacted away fiom the iacial,
gendeied, and sexual hieiaichies of the nation-state but must in fact be
undeistood as opeiating in and thiough them. Yet the cuiient ietuin
to an unapologetic and iapacious white masculine heteiopatiiaichy in a
putatively 'postidentity¨ and 'postiacial¨ I.S. nation-state fnds some
odd bedfellows in mainstieam queei studies.
Ioi instance, both Hiiam Peiez and }udith Halbeistam take the occa-
sion of an inteinational 'Cay Shame¨ confeience at the Iniveisity of
Nichigan in Naich 2uu3 to analyze how queei studies has evolved ovei
12 Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
the last ffteen yeais to pioduce, and to iepioduce, its own canonical set
of piopei subjects and objects, as well as intellectual methods and institu-
tional spaces. In 'You Can Have Ny Biown Body and Lat It, ¯oo!¨ Peiez
iesists queei libeialism`s demand foi the 'active untioubling¨ of iace in
queei studies. He notes that the confeience occuiied within a week of the
I.S. invasion of Iiaq and in the midst of the Cruiier .. Eolltnger (2uu3) and
Crai: .. Eolltnger (2uu3) affimative action cases involving the Iniveisity
of Nichigan, yet it was a confeience that included only one queei peison
of coloi out of foity invited paiticipants. Peiez speculates that oui con-
seivative histoiical moment fnds an unfoitunate paiallel in the attempts
to entiench a 'tianspaient white subject¨ at the heait of queei studies:
'Queei theoiists who can invoke that tianspaient subject, and choose to
do so,¨ Peiez wiites, 'ieap the dividends of whiteness.¨ 'Biown¨ is what
needs to be exploited and maintained foi a weak multicultuialism to inheie,
the 'fxity¨ of iace pioviding the giound foi queei theoiy`s peifoimative
sexuality, the giound against which the fguie of complex (white) gay male
sexuality and shame unfolded. '¯he chionic failuie of establishmentaiian
queei theoiy to ievisit its fundamental collusions with Ameiican libeial-
ism,¨ Peiez concludes, 'consolidates indivisibilities÷white, patiiaichal,
heteionoimative÷contiaiy to any piofessed anti-identity.¨
Like Peiez, Halbeistam iecognizes the political and intellectual piom-
ises of queei studies as yet unfulflled to the extent that queei too quickly
collapses back into 'gay and lesbian¨ and, moie often than not, a 'pos-
sessive individualism¨ that simply connotes 'gay,¨ 'white,¨ and 'male.¨
In 'Shame and White Cay Nasculinity,¨ Halbeistam contends that the
futuie of queei studies 'depends absolutely on moving away fiom white
gay male identity politics and leaining fiom the iadical ciitiques offeied by
a youngei geneiation of queei scholais who diaw theii intellectual inspiia-
tion fiom feminism and ethnic studies iathei than white queei studies.¨
Obseiving that feminism and queei of coloi ciitique offei a iich ciitical
vocabulaiy foi female and iacialized subjects to iespond to the politics of
shame and neolibeial claims to iights, Halbeistam notes that 'the only
people ieally lacking a politically uigent language with which to desciibe
and countei shame aie gay white men.¨ Indeed, it is gay white male shame,
Halbeistam concludes, 'that has pioposed 'piide` as the appiopiiate iem-
edy and that focuses its libidinal and othei eneigies on simply iebuilding
the self that shame dismantled iathei than taking apait the social piocesses
that pioject shame onto queei subjects in the fist place.¨
Nuch of queei theoiy nowadays sounds like a metanaiiative about
the domestic affaiis of white homosexuals. Suiely, queei studies piom-
ises moie than a histoiy of gay men, a sociology of gay male sex clubs, an
anthiopology of gay male touiism, a suivey of gay male aesthetics. ¯he
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 13
emeigence of queei libeialism challenges us to ieconsidei some of the
canonical ideas of the feld÷shame and intimacy, noimal and antinoimal,
publics and counteipublics÷foi theii contempoiaiy libeial deployments.
As ciucial as these intellectual paiadigms have been to the establishment
of queei studies, it is impoitant to insist on theii continuing ieevaluation
in both theii histoiical applications and theii contempoiaiy contexts. ¯he
discouise of publics and counteipublics, foi instance, tiaces itself to a
Habeimasian analysis of the emeigence of the bouigeois public spheie and
the iise of libeial society in eighteenth-centuiy Lnlightenment thought.
¯he homogeneity of Habeimas`s public spheie÷its assumptions of an
abstiact citizen-subject who inhabits and moves with ease thiough civil
society÷iepiises the univeisalizing tendencies of 'gay shame¨ as well as
piogiess naiiatives of Westein modeinity and development that postcolo-
nial, feminist, and ciitical iace studies have effectively deconstiucted.
¯he dialectic of public and counteipublic loses any ciitical edge to
account foi 'peiveise¨ modeinities, those queei bodies and knowledges
that exist outside the boundaiies of sanctioned time and space, legal status,
citizen-subjecthood, and libeial humanism. In this iegaid, Nayan Shah`s
contiibution, 'Policing Piivacy, Nigiants, and the Limits of Iieedom,¨
iethinks the libeiation naiiative of La:rence .. Texas in the context of eaily-
twentieth-centuiy sodomy cases involving iacialized migiant woikeis in
the iuial West. Shah contends that, histoiically, 'sexual identity is not
the deteimining factoi in piosecuting sodomy, but, iathei, diffeientials of
class, age, and iace shape the policing that leads to sodomy and public moi-
als aiiests.¨ Iinding a contempoiaiy paiallel in the mixed-iace 'couple¨
of }ohn Lawience (who is white) and ¯yione Cainei (who is black), peti-
tioneis in the La:rence .. Texas case, Shah asks wheie and foi whom does
piivacy, mobility, and fieedom of intimate contact apply histoiically and
legally. He obseives that the gay male subject assumed by contempoiaiy
queei theoiists in public-counteipublic debates 'has both fiee access to
paiticipate in the public woild of the intimate and may also ietieat to a
piivate iealm of intimacy.¨ In tuin, Shah posits Samuel Lelany`s queei
ethnogiaphy of the iadical tiansfoimation of ¯imes Squaie beginning
in the mid-19Sus as situating 'inequality and inteiclass and inteiethnic
contact at the centei of his analysis of public sex and sexual publics.¨
¯ackling the libeiatoiy assumptions of La:rence .. Texas fiom anothei
angle, ¯eemu Ruskola`s 'Cay Rights veisus Queei ¯heoiy: What Is Left
of Sodomy aftei La:rence .. Texas·¨ asks to 'what extent aie commit-
ments to queeiness and libeial iights compatible·¨ Noting how La:rence
.. Texas anxiously insciibes a discouise of 'dignity¨ and 'iespect¨ to gay
and lesbian ielationships iathei than to gay and lesbian sex, Ruskola insists
that an 'intimate peisonal ielationship should not be a iequiiement foi
14 Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
having a constitutionally piotected sex life.¨ ¯he insistent analogizing
of homosexual intimacy to heteiosexual maiiiage in }ustice Kennedy`s
majoiity decision in La:rence .. Texas belies the iesilience of compulsoiy
heteiosexuality in its 'new, second-geneiation foim.¨ Cay libeiation and
iights do not connote 'fieedom,¨ howevei useful oi politically necessaiy
they might be. Instead, La:rence .. Texas leaves queei subjects in an undei-
iegulated and nebulous space between 'ciiminalization and legitimization
thiough maiiiage.¨
Both Nichael Cobb`s and }anet R. }akobsen`s essays iound out the
issue by exploiing queei libeiation in the context of ieligion and iegu-
lation. In 'Incivil Wiongs: Race, Religion, Hate, and Incest in Queei
Politics,¨ Cobb investigates ieligious hate speech as the 'limits of libeial-
ism.¨ Lxploiing the vaiious ieligious aiguments against homosexuality
as the 'hoiioi of incest¨ and the 'decline of the tiaditional, heteiosexual
family,¨ he obseives that the alignment of homosexuality with 'like iace¨
analogies piovides a political oppoitunity to expose the libeial limits of
toleiance and fiee speech.
Lxtending Cobb`s insights, }akobsen`s essay, 'Sex + Iieedom = Regu-
lation: Why·¨ offeis a caieful genealogy of 'fieedom¨ in ielation to the
institution of maiiiage. }akobsen tiaces how the Piotestant Refoimation
linked the idea of individual fieedom to the institution of maiiiage. 'Nai-
iiage, then, like the maiket,¨ she wiites, 'is pait of the fieedom fiom the
chuich that maiks the beginning of modeinity.¨ Yet it would be foolish to
think that in the capitalist maiketplace fieedom is the antithesis of sexual
iegulation and that the maiketplace is 'value-fiee.¨ ¯he incitement to
matiimony and iepioductive sexuality÷the option to wed a paitnei of
one`s own 'choosing¨÷becomes the onl, expiession of sexual fieedom in
the seculai age and is thus 'constitutive of fieedom as we know it.¨ In the
eia of queei libeialism, it would be a mistake to believe that, since sexual
iegulation seems to be based in ieligious intoleiance and hate, the answei
would be to defend seculai fieedom. 'Oui pioblem,¨ }akobsen concludes,
'is as much seculai fieedom as it is ieligious iegulation.¨ ¯hat gay iden-
tity, which staits with fieedom fiom the family, has led us so inexoiably
and vehemently back to the institution of same-sex maiiiage iionically
symptomizes this confusion. It is thiough maiiiage that gay people fully
become individuals, and this discouise of individualism is piecisely the
point at which sexual iegulation and gay 'libeiation¨ meet.
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 15
Cor attention
to qoeer
qoeer oiasporas,
ano qoeer
liberalisn niqnt
be consioereo
one nooest
attenpt to rrane
qoeer stooies
nore insistently
ano proooctively
vitnin a politics
or epistenoloqical
In hei closing comments at the 'Cay Shame¨ confeience at the Iniveisity
of Nichigan, Cayle Rubin suggested that the event`s paiticipants might
shift foi a moment theii attentions fiom 'gay shame¨ to 'gay humility.¨
In an age of queei libeialism, Rubin`s call foi 'gay humility¨ seives as
heuiistic device foi a ietuin to what a desiiably queei woild might look
like. In oui putatively 'postidentity¨ and 'postiacial¨ age such a tuin is
uigent. In this iegaid, oui attention to queei epistemology, queei dias-
poias, and queei libeialism might be consideied one modest attempt to
fiame queei studies moie insistently and pioductively within a politics of
epistemological humility.
Such a politics must also iecognize that much of contempoiaiy queei
scholaiship emeiges fiom I.S. institutions and is laigely wiitten in Lnglish.
¯his fact indicates a pioblematic dynamic between I.S. scholais whose
woik in queei studies is iead in numeious sites aiound the woild. Scholais
wiiting in othei languages and fiom othei political and cultuial peispec-
tives iead but aie not, in tuin, iead. ¯hese uneven exchanges ieplicate in
uncomfoitable ways the iise and consolidation of I.S. empiie, as well as
the insistent positing of a I.S. nationalist identity and political agenda
globally. We piopose epistemological humility as one foim of knowledge
pioduction that iecognizes these dangeis.
Iiom a similai peispective, and in iegaid to a viiulent post÷9/11 I.S.
militaiism that dominates contempoiaiy politics, }udith Butlei obseives
that the 'veiy fact that we live with otheis whose values aie not the same
as oui own, oi who set a limit to what we can know, oi who aie opaque to
us, oi who aie stiange, oi aie paitially undeistood, that just means we live
with a kind of humility.¨
Butlei suggests that that to take iesponsibility
in demociatic polity does not mean to take iesponsibility foi 'the entiiety
of the woild¨ but to place ouiselves 'in a vividly de-centeied way¨ in a
woild maiked by the diffeiences of otheis. An ethical attachment to oth-
eis insists that we cannot be the centei of the woild oi act unilateially on
its behalf. It demands a woild in which we must sometimes ielinquish not
only oui epistemological but also oui political ceititude. Suffce it to say
that to appieciate 'what`s queei about queei studies now¨ is to embiace
such a ciitical peispective and to honoi such an ethics of humility.
1ó Eng vìth Halberstan ano Munoz
Ioi theii thoughtful feedback and comments, we would like to thank Bient Ldwaids,
Katheiine Iianke, }anet R. }akobsen, Lavid Kazanjian, Ann Pellegiini, ¯eemu Rus-
kola, }osie Saldaña, and Leti Volpp, as well as the Soctal Texi collective.
1. See, foi instance, Samuel R. Lelany, Ttnes Square FeJ, Ttnes Square Elue
(New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 1999); Lavid L. Lng, Factal Casiraiton:
Aanagtng Aascultnti, tn ¬stan ¬nertca (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess,
2uu1); Rodeiick A. Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crt-
itque (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu4); Phillip Biian Haipei,
¬re !e Noi Aen. Aascultne ¬nxtei, anJ ihe Froblen of ¬frtcan-¬nertcan IJeniti,
(New Yoik: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 1996); Licia Iiol-Natta, ¬ Queer Aoiher
for ihe Naiton: The Siaie anJ Cabrtela Atsiral (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Nin-
nesota Piess, 2uu2); Cayatii Copinath, Injosstble Destres: Queer Destre anJ Souih
¬stan Fubltc Culiures (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu5); Naitin I.
Nanalansan, Clobal Itltjtno Ca, Aen tn ihe Dtasjora (Luiham, NC: Luke
Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3); }ose Lsteban Nuñoz, DtstJenitfcaitons: Queers of Color
anJ ihe Ferfornance of Foltitcs (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 1999);
}ose Quiioga, Trojtcs of Destre: Inier.enitons fron Queer Laitno ¬nertca (New Yoik:
New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uuu); Robeit Reid-Phaii, Elacl Ca, Aan: Lssa,s
(New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1); }uana Naiia Rodiiguez, Queer
LaitntJaJ: IJeniti, Fracitces, Dtscurst.e Sjaces (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity
Piess, 2uu3); and Naiy Pat Biady, Lxitnci LanJs, Tenjoral Ceograjhtes: Chtcana
Ltieraiure anJ ihe Irgenc, of Sjace (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2).
2. }udith Butlei, 'Ciitically Queei,¨ in EoJtes Thai Aaiier: Cn ihe Dtscurst.e
Ltntis of ´Sex" (New Yoik: Routledge, 1993), 23u.
3. Nichael Wainei, intioduction to Iear of a Queer Flanei: Queer Foltitcs anJ
Soctal Theor,, ed. Nichael Wainei (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess,
1993), xxvi.
4. In his book ¬berraitons tn Elacl, foi instance, Ieiguson exploies how both
Naixist and libeial theoiies of social powei implicitly confguie subject foimation
thiough theii ieliance on an 'oiganic¨ distinction between adult heteiosexual-
ity and 'immatuie¨ and 'deviant¨ foices of abeiiant sexual piactices. It is on
the teiiain of heteiopatiiaichy that these seemingly diveigent theoiies of social
powei in fact conveige. 'Put plainly,¨ Ieiguson wiites, 'iacialization has helped
to aiticulate heteiopatiiaichy as univeisal¨ (6).
5. Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 'How to Biing Youi Kids Ip Cay: ¯he Wai on
Lffeminate Boys,¨ Soctal Texi, no. 29 (1991): 1S÷27.
6. See Cayatii Chakiavoity Spivak, 'Scatteied Speculations on the ¯heoiy
of Value,¨ in hei In Ciher !orlJs: Lssa,s tn Culiural Foltitcs (New Yoik: Routledge,
19SS), 154÷75.
7. Phillip Biian Haipei, Anne NcClintock, }ose Lsteban Nuñoz, and ¯iish
Rosen, 'Queei ¯iansexions of Race, Nation, and Cendei: An Intioduction,¨
Soctal Texi, nos. 52/53 (1997): 1.
S. Lavid L. Lng, '¯iansnational Adoption and Queei Liaspoias,¨ Soctal
Texi, no. 76 (2uu3): 4.
9. See Lisa Luggan, The T:tltghi of Lqualti,. Neoltberaltsn, Culiural Foltitcs,
anJ ihe ¬iiacl on Denocrac, (Boston: Beacon, 2uu3).
Vhat's Cueer about Cueer Stuoìes Nov7 17
1u. Ciound-level sites of queei belonging aie theoiy-geneiating spaces. ¯hus
we think of the collective political oiganizing of gioups like the Audie Loide
Pioject and the South Asian Lesbian and Cay Association in New Yoik City as
offeiing us valuable knowledge that queei intimacy in a diaspoiic setting may have
consideiable theoietical heft.
11. Luiopean Ciaduate School Iaculty, '}udith Butlei: Quotes,¨ www.egs
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
I said I was a neid, but I`m not a punk.
÷N.L.R.L., In Search Cf . . .
¯he political scientist Cathy Cohen has pioposed that queei theoiy and
politics be ieconceptualized and made moie ielevant to the lives and
stiuggles of 'punks, bulldaggeis, and welfaie queens.¨
In speaking
of÷and on behalf of÷punks, bulldaggeis, and welfaie queens, and in
asking wheie one might fnd them located within the political pioject
of queei theoiy, Cohen does not simply challenge us to pay attention to
pieviously ignoied identities. Rathei, in pioposing the nonce taxonomy
of 'punks, bulldaggeis, and welfaie queens,¨
Cohen attempts to intei-
iupt the litigious piocess thiough which subjects petition foi admission
to queei theoietical attention and political concein. She pioposes instead
an antiauthoiitaiian piocess of subject foimation closei in spiiit to what,
on the punk scene, is called L.I.Y., oi do it youiself.
Cohen`s discontent with the iadical aspiiations of queei politics (which
I collate with queei theoiy foi piesent puiposes) iegisteis an additional
iiony. As is now commonplace to obseive, 'queei¨ theoiy fist emeiged as a
veinaculai-tinged piotest against the moie iaiifed opeiations of 'theoiy¨
as such. ¯hat queei theoiy should have in tuin emeiged as the taiget of
veinaculai scoin, one indexed by the alteinative nomination of a seiies of
stieet taxonomies that have not, like 'queei,¨ been elevated to the status
of an academic discipline but have instead been abandoned to the tendei
meicies of the neolibeial state, ought to give pause. ¯hat this peiceived
tiansfoimation of queei theoiy fiom 'stieet¨ to 'stiaight¨ theoiizing
(moie on this contiast in a moment) should have come so iapidly÷at
times it seems as if queei theoiy was gieeted at biith with castigations of
academic insulaiity÷ought to become the occasion foi fuithei sustained
ießection. But at the same time, iecent declaiations of the death of theoiy,
howevei dubious, do iemind us not to take the peimanency of such tians-
foimations foi gianted.
¯he fate of the theoiist today, wandeiing aiound
unwilling to iepent hei oi his iiielevancy, complicates any assumptions
about academic piivilege oi secuiity. In calling attention to such hostile
fiamings of theoiizing as iiielevant, exhausted, etc., I evoke a dimension
2u 1avìa Nyong'o
of the punk expeiience with abjection that might be fiuitful foi theoiy to
In this essay I take up some implications and iionies of Cohen`s cii-
tique by investigating the inteisection of punk and queei. In contiast to
the standaid mode of inteisectionality,
I want to speculate upon anothei
soit of inteisection implied but not fully aiticulated in Cohen, one that
is peihaps moie phenomenological than sociological in natuie. Cohen
calls foi an accounting within queei analysis foi the simultaneity of iac-
ism and class oppiession alongside sexism and homophobia. Such a call
might be iead as pioposing the addition of fuithei dimensions to the queei
pioblematic, in an almost geometiic effoit to moie accuiately pictuie the
social whole. I want to suggest, howevei, that the woid tniersecitonal might
also point in anothei diiection. What if we take 'punks, bulldaggeis, and
welfaie queens¨ as neithei exhaustive noi piogiammatic, still less as a
giand unifying theoiy of social oppiession, but instead used this nonce
taxonomy to expiess cieative discontent with settled categoiies and an
identifcation with the punk spiiit· Night we theoiize the inteisection of
punk and queei as an encountei between concepts both lacking in fxed
identitaiian iefeient, but which aie nonetheless peiiodically caught up and
fiozen, as it weie, within endemic modein ciises of iacialization· Night a
ieanimation of this othei inteisectionality bettei equip us to ievivify both
stieet and stiaight theoiizing·
¯he fguie of the punk in Anglo-Ameiican cultuie is a veneiable but
meicuiial one, and to tiace it fully would exceed my piesent effoit. In my
nonce pioposal foi a punk oi punk`d theoiy, I do not take up the moie
expected sites of investigation. I do not, foi instance, considei punk iock
Although in a longei tieatment of this topic such a consideiation
would be essential, I begin heie by focusing on some less-expected cultuial
moments at which punk has been fguied. Such fguiations of punk have
moie than a nominal ielation to the canonical ones, and undeistanding
something moie of the connections between them÷and the discouises of
iace and sex that simultaneously make and mask such connections÷is an
impoitant pait of the pioject of 'punking¨ theoiy.
But what do punks and queeis have in common, othei than the obvi-
ous· And what might be the gain, foi academic theoiy, and peihaps also
foi activism, in building upon this commonalty· Can we, as scholais,
contiibute to the cultivation of a punk spiiit of anticapitalist subcultuie,
ait, and politics· It is with these questions in mind that I offei this pie-
liminaiy and piospective mapping of an intellectual and peihaps political
I bioach this topic as a queei scholai and not at all, to be candid,
as a cuiient oi foimei punk. In addition to this caveat, theie aie two othei
obvious objections to addiess. ¯he fist is that I have willfully misiead
Punk'o 1heory 21
Cohen`s use of junl as Afiican Ameiican slang foi a gay man. Hei puipose
is to distinguish a punk fiom a queei, the lattei being iacially unmaiked
and theiefoie piesumptively white. Admitting this misieading, I defend it
below thiough an etymological ietangling of these two supposedly distinct
types of punk. Ny aim heie is to call attention to a pieexisting conßation
that I feel piovides an intellectual oppoitunity.
¯he second objection is that, in commending punk to the attention of
queei theoiists, my teims of pop iefeience aie out of date. Hip-hop suiely,
oi iave cultuie, oi the Inteinet, would all piovide moie ielevant and timely
souices foi the kind of 'stieet theoiizing¨ that the queei studies scholai
Kath Weston has aigued foi.
But in an uibanized and oveideveloped cul-
tuie that wants to live nowheie but at the cutting edge, a defantly backwaid
glance just might piove ievivifying.
And, ultimately, the two objections
answei each othei, foi it is in the iacialization of the fguie of the punk
that the question of its piesent cuiiency is justifed. Since Cohen wiote,
the black inßection on punk has been mainstieamed in contempoiaiy
Ameiican cultuie to the point wheie it may possibly be eclipsing piioi
associations with the likes of Sid and Nancy. Let me begin, then, with this
contempoiaiy Ameiican 'Afiicanization¨ of the meanings of punk.
FunleJ (v) : 1. When you make fun of someone so bad they have nothing
else to say back. 2. When you hook up with a guy and he doesn`t call you
evei again. 3. While detained in a piison oi jail, to be iaped by a fellow
And of couise, one can haidly affoid to be put down too often, oi one is
beat, one has lost one`s confdence, one has lost one`s will, one is impotent
in the woild of action and so closei to the demeaning ßip of becoming a
÷Noiman Nailei, '¯he White Negio: Supeifcial Reßections on the
¯he diveise usages of punk as veib and noun maik it as a folk vaiiant of
what Raymond Williams called a 'keywoid.¨ In contiast to the keywoids
Williams discussed in his famous book of the same name, punk is folk
cultuie and does not keep company with seiious woids like foll oi cul-
¯hat punk nonetheless counts as 'stieet theoiizing¨ can be seen
in the pioposed homology that the above defnitions foi junleJ÷diawn
fiom the populist Web site
÷piopose between the
22 1avìa Nyong'o
expeiiences of (1) being teased, (2) not being called aftei sex, and (3)
being iaped in piison. As Noiman Nailei puts it in '¯he White Negio,¨

punk is 'a piime symbol¨ (225), cheeifully seiving the lexicon with ßex-
ibility compaiable to the woid fucl and with some noticeable denotative
oveilap to that lattei woid as well.
Although junl is not of cential con-
cein to Nailei, a ielated woid, beai, is. ¯he meaning Nailei asciibes to
beai÷'the demeaning ßip of becoming a queei¨÷makes it peifectly cleai
that the homology diawn by stieet theoiizing on punking and getting
punked iesembles the 'situation beyond one`s expeiience, impossible to
anticipate¨ (225) that is Nailei`s hipstei`s piime symbol of diead.
¯he coie meaning of getting 'put down,¨ 'ßipped,¨ 'iipped off,¨ oi
'punked¨÷fiom at least the late 195us to the eaily 2uuus÷appeais to be
getting scapegoated within an eiotic and masculinized economy of scai-
city. In this economy, anothei`s pleasuie comes at the cost of youi pain.
Ass fucking seives as a 'piime symbol¨ of this economy. Sodomy, in the
homophobic imagination, is the 'situation beyond one`s expeiience, impos-
sible to anticipate,¨ and is associated with extieme foims of unfieedom
like impiisonment, slaveiy, and iape.
It is not suffcient, howevei, to aiiest oui theoiization of sodomy at
the level of homophobia. Stieet theoiizing aiound the woid junl maiks a
discuisive space in which the possibility of desiiing sodomy, desiiing to be
sodomized, is unthinkable but, neveitheless, unavoidable. ¯he veiy sexual
piactice, which seives as metaphoi foi almost any mundane humiliation,
is itself inteimittently exempted fiom its own connotational penumbia.
Nailei, foi instance, speaks not of the feai of being 'put down¨ but iathei
of being 'put down too often.¨ In similai fashion,
inseits between two meanings of junleJ that indicate a diead of getting
fucked a thiid meaning÷a soit of etymological Lucky Pieiie÷signaling
the diead of noi getting fucked: 'When you hook up with a guy and he
doesn`t call you evei again.¨ One is punked in this case because, by not
calling you afteiwaid, the 'guy¨ is ietioactively minimizing youi enjoy-
ment of the mutual sex by making it cleai that he was just 'using¨ you.
But this meaning of punked makes no sense unless you wanted the hookup
in the fist place and, indeed, weie soit of looking foiwaid to fuithei
hookups. ¯hat is, it makes no sense unless, in some sense, you wanted to
get ßipped.
Of couise, it is piecisely upon its ambiguity that the powei of slang
pivots. So I would be naive to imagine that deconstiucting slang will in
itself eiode its foice. What we need is thickei desciiptions of the expeii-
ences that these ambiguities account foi. Pait of this thickei desciiption
entails giasping the iacial dimension of the epithets 'punk¨ and 'punked.¨
I have mentioned that one of the seveial signifcances of Cohen`s essay
Jne core neaninq
or qettinq ¨pot
oovn,` ¨nippeo,`
¨rippeo orr,` or
at least tne late
!V'Us to tne early
to be qettinq
vitnin an erotic
ano nascolinizeo
econony or
Punk'o 1heory 23
is its maiking of 'punk¨ as black veinaculai foi 'faggot¨ oi 'queei.¨

Claience Najoi`s authoiitative compendium of black slang, }uba io }t.e:
¬ Dtcitonar, of ¬frtcan-¬nertcan Slang, defnes junl as a 'deiogatoiy teim
foi male homosexual¨ and a 'male pejoiative teim foi any othei male
without similai inteiest; a weak man; any male who gives in to anal intei-
couise in piison.¨
It is this Ameiican Afiicanism, I aigue, that has been
populaiized on the piactical joke television show Funl`J that has aiied on
the N¯V netwoik since the spiing of 2uu3. On the show, the white actoi
Ashton Kutchei÷a deodoiized simulacium of Nailei`s hipstei÷leads a
gang who 'punk¨ hapless celebiities. ¯heii taigets have included both
male and female celebiities of many iaces.
In the context of contempoiaiy I.S. mass cultuie, Kutchei`s use of
'punk`d¨ has a specifc fiisson. It was made possible by the mainstieaming
of hip-hop slang and the ensuing wave of new 'white Negioes.¨
howevei, does not ft the model of a suiieptitious Afiican ietention in
Lnglish, such as ola,.
No souice I consulted could defnitively tiace the
oiigin of the woid junl, but a iepiesentative etymology iepoits that 'the
woid oiiginated in Biitish slang aiound the end of the 17th centuiy when it
was used to denote a :hore and latei a piecuisoi to the modein reni bo,.¨

Although this account does not pieclude an Afiican oiigin foi the woid, I
iead the evidence as indicating that junl`J emeiges fiom within what Lick
Hebdige has called the 'fiozen dialectic between black and white cultuies,¨
that is, a woid foi which the memoiy of its Lnglish piovenance has been
suiiogated by the imagination of a black iesonance.
¯elltale evidence of
this faux-Afiican oiigin is the use of 'eye dialect,¨ ungiammatical spell-
ings indistinguishable in audible speech fiom giammatical ones (e.g.,
'punk`d¨ foi 'punked¨).
Such a giaphic piactice has chaiacteiized white
tiansciiption of black speech since slaveiy times, so N¯V`s eye dialect
notifes us that we aie in the piesence of what the novelist ¯oni Noiiison
has teimed an 'Ameiican Afiicanism.¨
Such usages, Noiiison notes, make 'a playgiound of the imagination¨
out of 'the diamatic polaiity cieated by skin coloi¨ and 'impute Afiican
meanings÷black meanings÷as a way of simultaneously acknowledging
and distancing a shaied expeiience, state, oi desiie thiough spuiiously
asciibing it to black people.¨
Noiiison`s cential point÷that 'iace¨ is
pioduced out of an ongoing avoidance of an ongoing histoiy of iacist
domination, iathei than being the pioduct of a benign diveisity of 'ethnic
heiitages¨÷is somewhat unfashionable today, despite the populaiity of hei
novels. But it is this ielational model of 'iace¨ and iacism (which is not, I
would say, ieducible oi equivalent to the bankiupt model 'iace ielations¨)
that I want to aigue is needed to unpack the cultuial meanings of junl in
contempoiaiy I.S. and Biitish cultuies.
24 1avìa Nyong'o
Only a dialectical appioach can account foi the incongiuity of N¯V
endoising Cohen`s ieclamation of punk as black language. ¯hat is to say,
wheie in its eaily days N¯V hysteiically disavowed any black inßuence
on the musical foims it maiketed (it took no smallei a phenomenon than
Nichael }ackson to bieak the channel`s coloi bai), black style has come to
dominate the netwoik`s offeiings, and piosciiptive maikings of blackness
appeai only to whet the mainstieam appetite. Such a white embiace of
ostensibly exclusionaiy black style is neithei new noi specifcally Ameii-
can. Speaking of the Biitish punk scene in the late 197us, Hebdige notes
that 'paiadoxically it was heie, in the exclusiveness of Black West Indian
style, in the viitual impossibility of authentic white identifcation, that
ieggae`s attiaction foi the punks was stiongest. . . . Reggae`s blackness
was piosciiptive. It was an alien essence, a foieign body which implicitly
thieatened Biitish cultuie fiom within and as such it iesonated with punk`s
adopted values¨ (64). In inteipieting this passage, we should iemembei
Paul Cilioy`s ciitique of natuializing such language of 'foieign bodies¨
in 'Biitish cultuie.¨
But we should also note that, in the opening pages
of Subculiure: The Aeantng of Si,le, Hebdige felt the need to apologize foi
the amount of attention his text on punk pays to 'the laigely neglected
dimension of iace and iace ielations.¨ Remaikably, the same woid that
Cohen could assume ciica 1997 would fimly connote blackness to hei
ieadeis could, just two decades eailiei, just as cleaily maik a cultuial style
awaiting an oveidue iacial peispective. I believe this situation is not acci-
dental. ¯hat is to say, and this is a majoi aigument of my essay, I think
Cohen and Hebdige aie discussing a single, complex phenomena÷fiozen
dialectically between black and white÷and not two distinct topics. I think
the linkage is deepei than just the ieappeaiance of a woid, but iathei the
ieappeaiance of an expeiiential feld that the woid indexes.
¯he enduiing stiength of Hebdige`s ieading is the agility with which
it pivots between the object of subcultuial style and its meaning. He ieads
this object in teims of its histoiical context and, at the same time, how it
ievolts, thiough style, against that context. He is theieby able to iead 'iace¨
into styles that conspicuously dismiss black style.
Nost peisuasively, he
aigues that punk 'tianslated¨ the concept of a victimized 'ethnicity¨ fiom
a black to a white context, a move economically summaiized in a quotation
the punk iockei Richaid Hell gave to the Ne: Austcal Lxjress (as iepoited
by Hebdige): 'Punks aie niggeis.¨
But what kinds of 'niggeis¨ aie punks, exactly· Appaiently, they aie
'niggeis¨ as opposed to 'queeis.¨ Accoiding to Hebdige, 'the sciuffness
and eaithiness of punk ian diiectly countei to the aiiogance, elegance, and
veibosity of the glam iock supeistais¨ (63), above all, Lavid Bowie.
is a point wheie a useful queei inteivention can be made into Hebdige`s
Punk'o 1heory 25
analysis. Accoiding to Hebdige, the punk-as-niggei identifes against the
glamoious homosexual. Indeed, Hebdige associates the iise of 'glam and
glittei iock¨ (59) with both the musical 'atiophy into vacuous disco-
bounce and sugaiy ballads¨ (6u) as well as the 'segiegation¨ of Biit-
ish youth cultuie into black-and-white camps (59). ¯he 'new sexually
ambiguous image¨ (6u) of Bowie, Hebdige iepoits, iepiesented
a delibeiate avoidance of the 'ieal¨ woild and the piosaic language in which
that woild was habitually desciibed, expeiienced and iepioduced. . . . Bowie`s
meta-message was escape÷fiom class, fiom sex, fiom peisonality, fiom
obvious commitment÷into a fantasy past (Isheiwood`s Beilin peopled by a
ghostly cast of doomed bohemians) oi a science-fction futuie. (61)
Such passages leave one with the impiession that punk hostility to glam
paid homage to an imagined black-white alliance. And yet Hebdige admits
black-white solidaiity was made possible 'only by continually monitoiing
tiouble spots (e.g., the distiibution of white giils) and by scapegoating
othei alien gioups ('queeis,` hippies, and Asians)¨ (59). But why did the
'extieme foppishness¨ of the queeis block youth subcultuies fiom unify-
ing black and white woiking-class men· Why did 'the piosaic language in
which that woild was habitually desciibed, expeiienced and iepioduced¨
exclude queei expeiience· Heie a ciitique of masculinity÷and its distoi-
tions of both language and cultuie÷is needed.
In an odd and peihaps telling tuin of phiase, Hebdige aigues that punk
was 'designed to punctuie glam iock`s extiavagantly oinate style¨ (63).
Hebdige does not explicitly endoise this punctuiing÷oi punking÷of the
utopic and nostalgic dimensions of queei style, this phallic iefusal of the
political possibilities of 'moibid pietensions to ait and intellect¨ (62). But
neithei does he subject it to ciitical sciutiny. ¯his is so despite the fact
that queei objects aie oddly cential to his account. ¯he woik opens with
an exceipt fiom }ean Cenet`s Thtef`s }ournal, in which Hebdige locates
the ideal-type foi the subcultuial object: Cenet`s 'tube of vaseline | . . .
a] 'diity wietched object` ¨ that 'pioclaim|s] his homosexuality to the
woild¨ (1). Hebdige`s choice is not unjustifable in teims of actual punk
object choices, such as 'offensive¨ ¯-shiits of two naked cowboys kissing,
oi naming a band The Honosexuals, a name that was meant as a 'fuck you¨
iathei than an identifcation. But, iionically foi a text that iigidly pio-
sciibes the 'oinate style¨ of glam, such queei objects aie puiely oinamen-
tal to Hebdige`s main theoietical pioject. Nuch as a desiie to be punked
appeais in the absent centei of the veinaculai hoiioi of getting punked,
a queei object appeais in the absent centei of an analysis laigely devoted
to explaining away the capacity of queei objects to ievolt thiough style.
It is thiough the eliding of queei affect, I suggest, that Hebdige`s analysis
2ó 1avìa Nyong'o
iepioduces the dominant fguie of masculinity that constantly tiansmits
the 'iacial¨ meanings Noiiison ciitiqued and identifed.
¯his use of an undeiinteipieted contiast between the punk and the
queei iecuis in othei examples of the 'fiozen dialectic¨ between black
and white. In the Academy Awaid÷winning I.S. documentaiy, ScareJ
Siratghi! (197S), a gioup of adolescent men and women aie 'sentenced¨
to spend thiee houis in Rahway State Piison, duiing which they aie
beiated and thieatened by the Lifeis, a gioup of long-teim convicts.
¯he flming poitiays the youths as naicissistic and uniepentant. Because
they do not iespond to shame, they must instead be punked. ¯hey aie
abandoned to the topsy-tuivy woild of piison, wheie convicted ciiminals
liteially iun the show. ¯he documentaiy depicts piison as the way society
itself might be without the piotections of law and noim.
¯he punks,
in being exposed to this tiuly anomic violence, will, it is hoped, ieveit
to good behavioi. ¯he success oi failuie of this stiategy piovides the
theme of the many and highly sentimental follow-up episodes appended
to the documentaiy thioughout the 19Sus and 199us. I focus heie on the
oiiginal documentaiy, as an example of a cultuial text, contempoianeous
to the emeigence of punk iock, in which the Ameiican Afiicanist con-
notation of 'punk¨ is alieady manifested. But ScareJ Siratghi! is also a
tiansitional text, insofai as what is now seen as black slang was piimaiily
undeistood then as piison slang. ¯he flm thus iepiesents an eaily fgu-
iation of the iise of the piison-industiial complex within the distoiting
miiioi of law-and-oidei ideology and its iacializing impeiatives. As a flm
it piovides the template followed by populai shows of the 199us like C:
and, moie elliptically, by shows like Funl`J, which shaie ScareJ Siratghi! `s
inteiest in exposing a zone of anomic violence÷always fguied with the
'help¨ of unwilling black paiticipants÷undeilying and thieatening the
social oidei.
¯he highly sciipted chaiactei of the inmates` conduct (and peihaps
also the youths` iesponses) makes the encountei feel iitualistic. In pai-
ticulai, the session iesembles an eisatz initiation iite, in which the inmates
play the iole of adult male villageis, guiding the youths into iesponsible
adulthood. A piimaiy mode of that iitualized violence is, peihaps pie-
dictably, the thieat to 'do bodily haim to youi asshole.¨ ¯he aiticulation
between this lawless behavioi and the lawful futuie lives of heteiosexual
domesticity the documentaiy is intended to pioduce ciies out foi fuithei
Punk'o 1heory 27
ScareJ Siratghi! maps a bifuicated society tiaveised by two foices:
the silent powei of the penal appaiatus (which the documentaiy flm
ciew identifes itself and its vieweis with) and the loud, offensive sound of
what the flm calls 'stieet talk.¨ ¯he tempoiaiy disiuption of the noimal
bounds of piopiiety (the piofanity-laced flm was bioadcast unexpuigated
on television) is maiked by a slang fguied as the only language that can
ieach the youth. ¯he link that 'stieet talk¨ establishes between piison and
the stieet iendeis the lattei a soit of extiusion of the foimei. ¯he lawless-
ness of piison spills out into the stieets, the site of ciime. ¯he flm thus
opeiates thiough the same voyeuiistic technology of panopticism that the
evening news continuously iesoits to, in which we see ciime but iemain
unseen to it.
¯he spectacle of stieet talk masks the suiveillance of the penal appa-
iatus. Piison guaids aie haidly depicted. At a key moment, an inmate
histiionically yells at the cameia, as if it weie not his peifoimance`s occa-
sion. Stieet talk is enlisted to the woik of penology. ¯he stieet theoiizing of
the Lifeis÷don`t come to jail oi you`ie going to get punked÷is iendeied
supplemental to disciplinaiy powei, which is allowed to opeiate behind the
scenes as a silent paitnei.
¯he Lifeis piesent themselves as bogeyman
images of the youths` own dystopian futuies. And the Lifeis poitiay theii
desiies to punk the youths in the univeisalizing teims of an animalistic
state of natuie. One (unnamed) inmate shouts, 'Well, we got sexual desiies
too. We`ie just like you. We`ie made of ßesh and blood. You tough guy,
take a wild guess. When we got sexual desiies, who do you think we kick,
and don`t tell me each othei! Who·¨ As he asks this question, the inmate
sticks his face up close to that of one of the young men and then veeis up
again to answei it, in case theie was any doubt: 'I gotta tell you, I`ve been
down heie ten yeais, and I`m going to die in this stinking joint, and if they
wanted to give me these thiee bitches iight heie |gestuies towaid the thiee
women in the gioup] I would leap ovei them like a kangaioo, just to get to
one pietty young fat butt boy.¨ His voice diopping neaily to a whispei as
he ends that sentence, he leans again into the face of anothei of the young
men. ¯he othei Lifeis voice theii agieement.
¯he concept of 'situational homosexuality¨ (an oddly iedundant
teim: what kind of homosexuality could occui outside a situation·) is
especially ill equipped to theoiize the deployment of sexuality in such
disciplinaiy peifoimances. What the inmate 'confesses¨ to is his ieadi-
ness to play the 'masculine¨ iole in piison society, and his ieadiness to
feminize the youth, to tuin them into women (which is one ieason the
inmates do not thieaten the young women with iape: as women, they aie
alieady feminized, and the thieat of iape upon them is not one iestiicted
to the dystopian space of the piison but one that chaiacteiizes the osten-
Jne link tnat
¨street talk`
betveen prison
ano tne street
renoers tne latter
a sort or extrosion
or tne rorner.
2B 1avìa Nyong'o
sibly 'fiee¨ space outside the piison, which it is the function of the flm
to idealize). Nale iape, along with 'coaise stieet talk,¨ is called foith to
supplement the social oidei.
What the flm aptly calls 'homosexual taunts¨ seive not to pioduce
queei subjectivities but to detei them at all costs. ¯he effcacy of scaiing
stiaight, negligible in teims of deteiiing stieet ciime, seems to come iathei
in the pioduction of sodomy without sodomites.
When both media and
the state have been engaged in such piactices of sexualized domination of
the uibanized and iacialized dispossessed since the 197us, aie we at least
entitled to speak of the social constiuction of the punk· What would it
mean to identify the authentic language of the stieet, its theoiizing, not
as some autonomous space that the law must at all costs come to dominate
but iathei as the active site of the law`s pioduction, thiough the stieet`s
supplemental piovision of teiioi·
¯heie aie no actual homosexuals in ScareJ Siratghi! except in one
place: piotective custody oi, as the Lifeis call it, 'punk city.¨ Punk city
exists because of a contiadiction in the logic of impiisonment: wheie
do you place the victim and agent of a ciime that occuis in piison· It is
not that the Lifeis tell the youths that this is wheie they might go if they
happen to be gay. No such 'natuial¨ gayness is even speculated upon by
the flm. Rathei, punk city iepiesents a kind of no-place oi blind spot
within the bifuicated theoiization of the social, a place of unthinkability.
Beyond the state of exception that the flm maps and deteimines÷the
stiaight-stieet nexus÷theie is this thiid space that seems to exist beyond
a ielation to eithei foim of knowledge oi expeiience. In my conclusion,
I ievision this thiid space. But fist, I want to take one step fuithei back
into the genealogy of punk, ievisiting Nailei`s canonical peifoimance of
the fiozen dialectic.
¯he thiid space beyond the stieet-stiaight binaiy is both evoked and
avoided in Nailei`s essay '¯he White Negio.¨ Heie the homosexual
appeais as an example of a 'condition of psychopathy¨ shaied by 'poli-
ticians, piofessional soldieis, newspapei columnists, enteitaineis, ait-
ists, jazz musicians, call giils, piomiscuous homosexuals, and half the
executives of Hollywood, television and adveitising¨ (21S). An alteinative
giouping of psychopaths Nailei piovides is 'the homosexual, the oigiast,
the diug-addict, the iapist, the iobbei, and the muideiei¨ (219). Such
absuid lists of deviants shaie a suiface iesemblance to the 'nonce tax-
onomies¨ thiough which, Lve Sedgwick suggests, 'the piecious, devalued
Punk'o 1heory 29
aits of gossip |iefne the] necessaiy skills foi making, testing, and using
uniationalized and piovisional hypotheses about what ltnJs of jeojle theie
aie to be found in one`s woild.¨
¯his suiface iesemblance is mitigated
by the leaden masculinism of the piose, which has its back up against the
queei even as it pioposes all soits of queei-sounding scenaiios (on which
moie in a moment). In Nailei`s viituosic piose, I suggest, a diffeient
confguiation of stieet-stiaight fusion coagulates, as his effoit to diaw
the cool of jazz into the piestigious oibit of psychoanalysis and sociology
ultimately falls totally ßat.
}ust as Hebdige`s punk 'punctuies¨ glam iock, Nailei`s hip jazz acts
like a cock: its 'knifelike entiance into cultuie¨ has a 'penetiating inßu-
ence¨ (213). ¯he fguie of the black man steieotypically functions as the
ultimate in macho, his 'lifemanship¨ (223) pioviding the model foi the
hipstei and foi Nailei`s style as well. But in its ielentless puisuit of macho,
Nailei`s piose peipetually needs to covei its ass. In the veiy fist pages
Nailei desciibes hip as the pioduct of a 'menage-a-tiois¨ between 'the
Negio,¨ the 'bohemian,¨ and the 'juvenile delinquent¨ (213); just so we do
not miss the point, he calls maiijuana 'the wedding iing¨ and iepoits that
'the Negio . . . biought the cultuial dowiy¨ (213). Indeed, Nailei`s inex-
plicable spiinklings of homosexuals (piomiscuous and otheiwise) among
the people who possess the 'new kind of peisonality¨ he champions can
be inteipieted as a slightly despeiate attempt at keeping queeiness at bay
by condensing its meanings onto a socially maiginal fguie, peimitting the
veiy queei metaphois he deploys elsewheie in the text to escape untainted
by embodied specifcity. Lmploying a 'stieet theoiizing¨ still cuiient in
oui usages of 'getting punked,¨ Nailei asseits that the hipstei knows
that 'theie is not neaily enough sweet foi eveiyone¨ (221) and deploys
his lifemanship to giasp what little he can at the cost of otheis. ¯he viiile
fguie of the black man functions in Nailei`s economy as the catastiophic
sign of the shatteiing of the stieet-stiaight nexus: 'If the Negio can win his
equality, he will possess a potential supeiioiity, a supeiioiity so feaied that
the feai itself has become the undeigiound diama of domestic politics. . . .
the Negio`s equality would teai a piofound shift into the psychology,
the sexuality, and the moial imagination of eveiy white alive¨ (22S). Of
couise, wheievei the woids fear and Negro appeai in one sentence, the woid
ntscegenaiton is nevei fai behind. And so it comes: 'So, when it comes,
miscegenation will be a teiioi¨ (22S). But what could this possibly mean·
How could the stoiy of the I.S. iacial foimation, beginning in the foiced
laboi and iape of black people, continuing appaiently thiough the cultuial
menage a tiois of hip jazz in the 195us, somehow pioduce miscegenation
as a fuiure teiioi· How does a discouise ostensibly about 'the 'ieal` woild
and the piosaic language in which that woild was habitually desciibed,
3u 1avìa Nyong'o
expeiienced and iepioduced¨ manage to conjuie up its own fantasy futuie
in which, appaiently, apocalyptically, the 'iaces¨ mix·
No wondei that, in his commentaiy on his eistwhile fiiend Nailei,
}ames Baldwin noted that 'I could not, with the best will in the woild, make
any sense out of The !htie Negro.¨
¯he dangei of stieet-cum-stiaight
theoiizing in the idiom of a wiitei like Nailei is that at least pait of the
intense eneigy of its sophistication is diiected at occluding entiie dimen-
sions of social expeiience. Among them, black men who aie not walking
phallic symbols oi psychopaths; men oi women of any iace who aie okay
with being punk oi beat, and so on. Baldwin`s essay '¯he Black Boy Looks
at the White Boy¨ constitutes a kind of diva ieading of Nailei`s macho, an
aich dismissal of a condescending theoiy of 'iace¨ that only peipetuates
outmoded defnitions of masculinity. Baldwin speaks of his 'fuiy that so
antique a vision of the blacks should, at this late houi, and in so many boi-
iowed heiilooms, be stepping off the A tiain.¨
Nailei`s essay iepiesents
foi Baldwin the veiy fguie of a totalizing and synthesizing theoietical
pioject that ieinsciibes the veiy thought it was attempting to tianscend:
the steieotypical fieezing of black masculinity that we still see, foi example,
in shows like Funl`J, oi in any numbei of maiketing campaigns foi new
hip-hop peifoimeis. '¯he White Negio¨ seives as an object lesson of how
a keen eye on the giitty iealities of the stieet can go deeply wiong. But it
does not, of couise, license us to ietieat entiiely into theoietical toweis.
How, then, to appioach stieet theoiizing diffeiently·
I have aigued that theoiy÷of both the stieet vaiiety spoken on ScareJ
Siratghi! and the stiaight vaiiety, liteiate, well iead, cultuially authoiita-
tive, that Nailei exemplifes÷can piesent itself as being explicitly 'about¨
iace, class, and sexuality while continuing to seive the function of iegula-
tion and discipline. A majoi aspect of this iegulation, I have aigued, is
the fiozen dialectic between black and white, and, I should add, between
stiaight and queei, that is pioduced and iepioduced within cultuial foims
both sophisticated and otheiwise. It is not enough, in othei woids, to take
up the simultaneity of iace, class, gendei, and sexuality, which it is my
aigument that the veinaculai does constantly in keywoids like junl and
junleJ. Rathei, we must investigate the subject tiansfoimed by law that
neveitheless exists nowheie within it, the fguie of absolute abjection that
is, paiadoxically, pait of oui eveiyday expeiience.
Heie, the veiy metaphoi of inteisectionality can piovide us with its
alteinative. An inteisection is also a meeting of two stieets, and in a land-
scape long given ovei to automotivity, it is a place of paiticulai hazaid foi
the pedestiian. ¯he discipline and suiveillance of veinaculai mobility
at such inteisections of couise include such postmodein devices as the
suiveillance cameia. But this discipline does not begin theie but iathei, I
¨Jne vnite
Neqro` serves as
an object lesson
or nov a keen
eye on tne qritty
realities or tne
street can qo
oeeply vronq.
Bot it ooes not, or
coorse, license os
to retreat entirely
into tneoretical
Punk'o 1heory 31
would aigue, in the veiy piocess of enclosuie thiough which the space foi
walking has been given ovei to automotivity in the fist place. ¯he iights
of the pedestiian (to cioss with the light, etc.) balance the iight of way
of the automobile. Yet, as any stieetwalkei will tell you, enfoicing any of
these iights against the legal and illegal incuisions of cai cultuie iequiies
continuous tactics of eveiyday iesistance (tiy actually getting tiaffc to
stop foi you at a stiiped 'zebia¨ ciossing, foi example). Additionally, ovei
many acts of veinaculai mobility hoveis the nebulous ciime of jaywalk-
ing, iaiely enfoiced, but piegnant in its enfoiceability. So, in the piactice
of eveiyday life, the veinaculaily mobile aie iequiied to demand both
theii iights and nore than theii iights, simply to pieseive a poition of
the mobility they had piioi to enclosuie. Lxamples piolifeiate: woikeis
become illegal immigiants; pooi motheis become welfaie queens; piotes-
tois become potential teiioiists. All must attack the piesumption of theii
ciiminality meiely to pieseive theii way of life fiom the ongoing incuisions
of disciplinaiy powei. Oui iesponses will by defnition be manifold: the
puipose of iadical theoiy and politics is not to adjudicate among these
iesponses but to nuituie them. At the inteisection, in the stieets, we aie
all in punk city.
I want to thank Lavid Lng, }ose Nuñoz, and my anonymous ieviewei foi com-
ments that helped shaipen this essay.
1. Cathy }. Cohen, 'Punks, Bulldaggeis, and Welfaie Queens: ¯he Radical
Potential of Queei Politics·¨ CLQ 3 (1997): 437÷65.
2. On nonce taxonomies, see Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Ljtsienolog, of ihe
Closei (Beikeley: Iniveisity of Califoinia Piess, 199u), 22÷27.
3. On L.I.Y. cultuie, see Ciaig O`Haia, The Fhtlosojh, of Funl (San Iian-
cisco: AK, 1999), 153÷66.
4. See, foi example, '¯heoiy Is Iinished,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes SunJa, Aaga:tne,
14 Lecembei 2uu3, 94.
5. See Kimbeile Cienshaw, '¯he Inteisection of Race and Cendei,¨ in Crtit-
cal Face Theor,: The Ie, !rtitngs Thai IorneJ ihe Ao.eneni, ed. Kimbeile Cien-
shaw, Neil Cotanda, Caiiy Pelei, and Kendall ¯homas (New Yoik: New Piess,
1995), 357÷S3.
6. On the histoiy of punk iock, see the following accounts, unifoimly paiti-
san to theii iespective city and national contexts: Cieil Naicus, Ltjsitcl Traces: ¬
Secrei Htsior, of ihe T:eniteih Ceniur, (Cambiidge, NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess,
19S9); Legs NcNeil and Cillian NcCain, Flease Itll Ae: The IncensoreJ Cral Hts-
ior, of Funl (New Yoik: Ciove, 1996); }on Savage, LnglanJ`s Dreantng: ¬narch,,
Sex Ftsiols, Funl Focl, anJ Ee,onJ (New Yoik: St. Naitin`s, 2uu2); Naic Spitz
and Bienden Nullen, !e Coi ihe Neuiron Eonb: The IniolJ Sior, of L.¬. Funl
32 1avìa Nyong'o
(New Yoik: ¯hiee Riveis, 2uu1). In ieading these texts, it pays to be mindful of
}udith Halbeistam`s caution against piivileging white male punk iock as the only
oi the most impoitant example of subcultuial iesistance. See }udith Halbeistam,
In a Queer Ttne anJ Flace (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu5), 165.
7. Halbeistam is one queei theoiist contiibuting to such a diiection; see hei
new book of essays, In a Queer Ttne anJ Flace: TransgenJer EoJtes, Subculiural A classic queei analysis of youth cultuie still awaiting a contempoiaiy iead-
eiship is Paul Coodman, Cro:tng Ij ¬bsurJ: Froblens of Youih tn ihe Crgant:eJ
S,sien (New Yoik: Random House, 196u).
S. Weston contiasts stieet theoiy with stiaight theoiy, by which she means
academic oi intellectual theoiy. See Kath Weston, '¯heoiy, ¯heoiy, Who`s Cot
the ¯heoiy·¨ CLQ 2 (1995): 347÷49.
9. An additional incentive to engage punk is that it has alieady been studied
by at least one pievious iadical ciitical tendency÷Biitish cultuial studies÷and
this study has pioduced at least one enduiing classic, Lick Hebdige`s Subculiure:
The Aeantng of Si,le. ¯his book not only deseives a queei ieading, it deseives
to be queeied. Iuitheimoie, the histoiical aic of the cultuial studies tendency,
while of couise not identical to that of queei theoiy, possesses some illuminat-
ing commonalties. Reßecting upon the combined and uneven tiajectoiy of these
disciplines may piovide object lessons in the chances foi politically attuned, cul-
tuially ßuent, and activist-oiiented scholaiship today. ¯he invitation to make the
connection I am attempting was piovided by The Lesbtan anJ Ca, SiuJtes FeaJer
in 1993, which iepiinted geiminal essays fiom the Biitish cultuial studies tiadi-
tion wiitten by Stuait Hall, among otheis. See, foi example, Stuait Hall, 'Levi-
ance, Politics, and the Nedia,¨ in The Lesbtan anJ Ca, SiuJtes FeaJer, ed. Heniy
Abelove, Nichele Aina Baiale, and Lavid N. Halpeiin (New Yoik: Routledge,
1993), 62÷9u.
1u. Raymond Williams, Culiure anJ Soctei,, 1´80÷1950 (New Yoik: Columbia
Iniveisity Piess, 19S3); Williams, Ie,:orJs: ¬ 1ocabular, of Culiure anJ Soctei,
(New Yoik: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 19S3).
11. ¯he epigiaph gives the thiee most populai defnitions, based on Inteinet
voting, at (accessed 23 }anuaiy 2uu4).
12. Noiman Nailei, '¯he White Negio: Supeifcial Reßections on the Hip-
stei,¨ in The Ttne of Cur Ttne (New Yoik: Random House, 199S), heieaftei cited
in text.
13. See the chaptei on junl in Paul Lickson, !orJs: ¬ Connotsseur`s Colleciton
of ClJ anJ Ne:, !etrJ anJ !onJerful, Iseful anJ CuilanJtsh !orJs (New Yoik:
Lelacoite, 19S2), 22S÷35.
14. Ioi a book that ieally iuns away with this idea, see Richaid C. ¯iexlei,
Sex anJ Conquesi: CenJereJ 1tolence, Foltitcal CrJer, anJ ihe Lurojean Conquesi of
ihe ¬nertcas (Cambiidge: Polity, 1995).
15. Similaily, Cohen maiks bullJagger as black veinaculai foi J,le. ¯hese
maikings, I should note, aie implicit: she does not defne oi discuss eithei teim
at length in the essay. Iiom hei context, it is cleai that it is the black veinaculai
usage she intends.
16. Claience Najoi, ed., }uba io }t.e: ¬ Dtcitonar, of ¬frtcan-¬nertcan Slang
(New Yoik: Viking, 1994).
17. Cieg ¯ate, ed.,,ihtng bui ihe EurJen: !hai !htie Feojle ¬re Taltng
fron Elacl Culiure (New Yoik: Bioadway, 2uu3).
Punk'o 1heory 33
1S. }oseph L. Holloway, ¬frtcantsns tn ¬nertcan Culiure, Elacls tn ihe Dtasjora
(Bloomington: Indiana Iniveisity Piess, 199u).
19. ¯his defnition also notes, 'In the 2uth centuiy the teim punk fell out of
use in Biitain, being ieintioduced via the Ameiican media and latei by way of the
punk phenomenon of 1976 and 1977.¨ See ¯ony ¯hoine, ed., Dtcitonar, of Con-
ienjorar, Slang (New Yoik: Pantheon, 199u), 4uS, emphasis in oiiginal. Lickson
notes that this usage of punk appeais twice in Shakespeaie (!orJs: ¬ Connotsseur`s
Colleciton, 23u). When }oey Ramone sang about 'tiying to tuin a tiick¨ on 53id
and 3id, one sees that the connection between sex woik punking and punk iock is
quite diiect (¯he Ramones, Fanones, music CL |1976]).
2u. Lick Hebdige, Subculiure: The Aeantng of Si,le (1979; iepi., London:
Routledge, 2uu2), 7u, heieaftei cited in text.
21. Iia Beilin, Naic Iavieau, and Steven I. Nillei, eds., Fenenbertng,
(New Yoik: New Piess, 199S), l.
22. ¯oni Noiiison, Fla,tng tn ihe Darl: !htieness anJ ihe Ltierar, Inagtnaiton
(Cambiidge, NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess, 1992), 3S. ¯he iecent banishing of
junleJ fiom the Lnglish language by the Lake Supeiioi State Iniveisity Woid
Banishment selection committee piovides odd confimation of its status as an
Ameiican Afiicanism. ¯his annual list of new woids that 'annoy¨ its committee
of stewaids of what they call 'the Queen`s Lnglish¨ veiy ieliably catches Afiican-
isms like bltng bltng (2uu4), goi gane (2uu3), ,o (199u), and chtll oui (19Su). ¯he
full aichive is kept online at
23. Paul Cilioy, ´There ¬tn`i No Elacl tn ihe Inton }acl": The Culiural Foltitcs
of Face anJ Naiton (London: Hutchinson, 19S7).
24. '¯he succession of white subcultuial foims can be iead as a seiies of
deep-stiuctuial adaptations which symbolically accommodate oi expunge the
black piesence fiom the host community¨ (44). }ames Spoonei`s 2uu3 documen-
taiy, ¬fro-Funl: The ´Focl N Foll Ntgger" Lxjertence, is anothei attempt to iead
this seeming deep-stiuctuial adaptation. It does so, howevei, faiily liteially (intei-
viewing black paiticipants in the contempoiaiy I.S. and Canadian punk scene)
and does not go much fuithei to analyze the centiality of 'iace¨ and black style
to the constiuction of punk even in the absence of black paiticipants. ¯he iedun-
dancy of the woid afro-junl signals this diffculty. See Spoonei, ¬fro-Funl.
25. Hebdige, Subculiure, 62. In 197S Patti Smith ieleased the song 'Rock &
Roll Niggei¨ on hei LP Lasier, compaiing hei place as a woman in iock to the
plight of 'niggeis.¨ In 1995 the shock iockei Naiilyn Nanson ieleased a covei of
Smith`s song on the CL Snells Ltle ChtlJren.
26. Bowie was, iionically, even moie diiectly inßuenced by black Ameiican
music and peifoimance than the white ethnicity of the punks. When he peifoimed
in San Iiancisco, Bowie apociyphally noted that they did not need him because
they alieady had Sylvestei, the inßuential openly gay Afiican Ameiican R&B,
iock, and disco peifoimei.
27. Andie Caiiington coiiectly points out the flm`s Hobbesian logic: the
piison society of Rahway is piesented as a 'state of natuie¨ in which life is 'nasty,
biutish, and shoit¨ (Caiiington, conveisation with the authoi). I am giateful in
geneial to the students in my class Punks and Livas foi many of the insights about
ScareJ Siratghi! that I make in the following paiagiaphs.
2S. Ioi those who have not seen the show, Funl`J specializes in getting celeb-
iities to lose theii cool on cameia. While it does not exclusively taiget black celeb-
34 1avìa Nyong'o
iities, theie is in my view a piepondeiance of taigets diawn fiom the woild of
hip-hop. Civen the title of the show, I would aigue that Funl`J takes the fguie
of the black male as its piototypical taiget, and its othei taigets exist in ielation
to this piototypical one. ¯he white soul singei }ustin ¯imbeilake, foi instance,
is punked by ievealing that, when the chips aie down, he quickly diops his black
affectations and peifoims whiteness to solicit empathy fiom law enfoicement
offcials. Whethei oi not one accepts my view, the show undoubtedly chaits the
iise to piominence of a new cohoit of black celebiities who aie equall, taigeted
alongside theii white counteipaits, and not studiously excluded, as many othei
foims of celebiity media often exclude black stais.
29. It almost goes without saying that iecent ciiminologists have disciedited
such effoits at youth coiiection. See Anthony Petiosino, Caiolyn ¯uipin-Petiosino,
and }ames O. Iinckenauei, 'Well-Neaning Piogiams Can Have Haimful Lffects!
Lessons fiom Lxpeiiments of Piogiams Such as Scaied Stiaight,¨ Crtne anJ
Deltnquenc, 46, no. 3 (2uuu): 354÷79.
3u. I am boiiowing this phiasing fiom Sandei L. Cilman, Cn Elaclness :tih-
oui Elacls: Lssa,s on ihe Inage of ihe Elacl tn Cernan, (Boston: Hall, 19S2).
31. Heie the woik of Cioigio Agamben on the state of exception is essential.
See Cioigio Agamben, Hono Sacer: So.eretgn Fo:er anJ Eare Ltfe (Stanfoid, CA:
Stanfoid Iniveisity Piess, 199S).
32. Sedgwick, Ljtsienolog, of ihe Closei, 23.
33. }ames Baldwin, '¯he Black Boy Looks at the White Boy,¨ in CollecieJ
Lssa,s (New Yoik: Libiaiy of Ameiica, 199S), 276.
34. Ibid., 277.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
+PPO0MVDIJ-FF ¯he giily things I wanted when I was a little boy (things that made me
Pink- and heait-coveied nanh:a (Koiean comic) books foi giils, flled
with love stoiies staiiing medusa-cuiled giils with huge galaxies foi eyes,
flled with stais and iainbows and teais, of happiness and depiession.
Ny little sistei`s smait wintei jacket (ied).
Ny little sistei`s beige coat, which I woie once with a sash aiound the
middle to make a tempoiaiy diess.
Baibie dolls (in Koiea, they looked like my nanh:a giils: sixteen yeais
old, ßat chested and staitled).
Wondei Woman papei dolls (my mothei made them foi me).
Lipstick (addicted fiom the moment I slatheied my mothei`s on in
bathioom seciecy).
Ankle socks (bought foi me).
Naiy }ane sandals (bought foi me, in beige leathei).
A sewing kit (nevei bought foi me; I impiovised one out of an old
cookie tin).
When I was six yeais old, my mothei began flling me with hoiioi sto-
iies to snap me out of my giilhood: If you don`t stop acting like a giil and
stait being a boy, then we`ll have to take you to the hospital and get youi
pee-pee cut off so that you can become a giil. I was appiopiiately teiioi-
ized by this thieat: what six-yeai-old isn`t scaied of hospitals, knife blades,
opeiations÷especially on the tendei piivate ßesh between the legs· Appai-
ently, my mothei undeistood the cultuial uses of castiation. In 'Nedusa`s
Head,¨ Iieud suggests that a 'teiioi of castiation¨ occuis 'when a boy,
who has hitheito been unwilling to believe the thieat of castiation, catches
sight of the female genitals, piobably those of an adult, suiiounded by haii,
and essentially those of his mothei.¨
¯he mothei-Nedusa baiges into the
boy`s psyche and piovides evidence of the castiation thieat posed by the
fathei. Invoking the myth of Nedusa, Iieud then aiticulates how the thieat
and teiioi of castiation aie used to cieate a heteiosexualized male subject:
just as Nedusa`s victims tuin to stone, the boy fnds his penis haidened
at the sight of the female nude. ¯hus castiation is invoked in oidei to be
3ó 1oon Cluchì Lee
debunked as fction: the fiightening Nedusa, with hei haii of snakes, is
ieally 'a mitigation of the hoiioi, foi |the snakes] ieplace the penis, the
absence of which is the cause of hoiioi¨ (273). In effect, this mitigation
is one that ieplaces the potentially lopped-off penis.
But, ieally, the hoiioi stoiy of n, mothei`s castiation thieat doesn`t
sound as haish in Koiean as it may in Lnglish. Plus, with each iepeated
telling÷and nevei fnding myself on top of an opeiating table÷the tale
giew on me; castiation giew on me. Because I was alieady a piotogay kid,
the eventual mitigation of my castiation teiioi ielied not on the magic
of penile ieclamation but on the giadual acclimation to the castiation
thieat, and thus acclimation to the state of castiation: having a feminine
body, having a feminine psyche, being a feminine boy. ¯his suggests an
alteinative ieading of the boy`s teiioi at seeing the nude female body.
Iieud identifes as the moment of castiation teiioi the boy`s 'tuining to
stone¨ (273): as in, tuining 'stiff¨ as stone. But what if we took anothei
path with the image of tuining to stone· Not 'stiff,¨ but 'still.¨ If the boy
can be seen as still iathei than stiff, then we can begin to think about his
inteiest in the nude female body not as an object foi sex but as an object
foi being.
Ioi me, the teiioi of castiation that meiged into an indicatoi
of inteiest in identifcation was not pioduced by a nude female body but
Iamily photo, Novembei 1979. Couitesy the authoi
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 37
a iaw female imagination, which naiiated explicitly and scientifcally the
teims of castiation. Castiation was not a piivate fantasy that I could dis-
piove in my biain with an eiection but a public discouise in oui family,
imaginatively aiticulated as medical ieality. ¯he thieatened castiation
was not mythic÷my mothei, with hei cool engineei`s logic, made it veiy
scientifc. I nevei disbelieved my mothei; I just giew accustomed to the
feai and the violence as pait of my life as a giil. I nevei stopped believing
in the possibility that I could be castiated simply because it was a fact.
Lventually I leained that, although it was not as simple as my mothei made
it out to be÷it was not an appendectomy oi something÷it could happen
to me, and in my teens I knew I could make myself do it, by becoming a
tianssexual. In the meantime, my biain steeled itself: the six-yeai-old me
did not give up dolls and pink because he couldn`t. So even though I was
nevei foicibly castiated, even though I nevei became an N¯I (male-to-
female) tianssexual, I have always consideied myself a castiated boy and
leained to be happy in that state because that was the only way I could live
my life as the giil I knew myself to be.
¯his was not÷is not÷an easy way of living in a heteionoimative
woild, with its hatied of effeminate boys.
As 'Nedusa`s Head¨ shows,
the castiated boy, as a negative image of the heteiosexual male, is so
abjected that he cannot even be imagined to exist. ¯he negative valuation
of castiation indicates a continuing oveivaluation of the penis-as-phallus:
to invoke a male castiated is tantamount to seeing him as poweiless oi, at
least, disempoweied in the social-emotional-iepiesentational felds. When
a male is castiated, something is always lost, wheieas foi me (not to men-
tion a legion of N¯Is who often see theii penises as supeißuous oi ugly),
something was always gained with that loss: mainly, my body, the body
that iemains aftei the opeiation.
¯o escape the soul-snuffng hatied and abjection that hunts him in
the heteiosexual woild, the castiated boy tuins to a homosexual woild
but, suipiisingly, fnds not solace but spies fiom the othei side of the mii-
ioi. Iiist, the gay 'cultuie¨ cieated since the 199us has iadically evolved
commeicially but devolved emotionally and ethically. As homosexuality
fnds its place in mainstieam cultuie, it also absoibs mainstieam ethics
of gendei. ¯elevision shows and adveitisements that make gay people vis-
ible push as desiiable only a ceitain, usually white, uppei-middle class,
masculine veision of gayness. ¯his alienation may be compounded by the
tiadition, specifcally in gay male life, which defnes male femininity as
the antithesis of sexiness. ¯his is why the castiated boy, even within the
homosexual woild, may tuin to the academic piovince of queei theoiy,
attiacted to and tiusting in its epistemophilia to piovide him, fnally, a
psychic sanctuaiy.
Jne tnreateneo
castration vas
not nytnic÷ny
notner, vitn ner
cool enqineers
loqic, naoe it
very scientinc.
3B 1oon Cluchì Lee
But a second suipiise awaiting the castiated boy is that queei theoiy
often offeis not affimation but only anothei kind of maiginalization foi
his femme psyche: he fnds himself the negative image of both heteio-
sexual and homosexual males. While queei theoiy has made tiemendous
effoits to inteiweave the political discouises of iace, class, and gendei
in the theoiization of queei identifcation, it is iaiely the case that such
'geneious¨ theoietical gestuies actually make it out of the box into the
piacticed lives of sexualities and gendeis. ¯he gay male ciitics who have
invoked the female subjectivity to pioduce a gay one usually do so by
fist fnding commonalities between the female and the gay male subject,
then fnish by adamantly disavowing that moment of identifcation. ¯he
gay subject pioduced thus may look like a woman, but, we aie told, it is
defnitely not a woman. ¯hat is, the gay male subject is iaiely, if evei, a
castiated boy. ¯his disavowal has many names, none of which is 'female¨:
foi some, it is to become feminist, and foi otheis, it is to Jen, effentnac,.
Cay male ciitics feai 'female¨÷and in this they have an ally in second-
wave feminism÷because the woik of gendei identifcation is ultimately
seen as a system of impeimeable biological boundaiies, whose opeiation
is totalizingly hieiaichical. ¯his can be most ieadily seen in the iefusal
of some feminists to iecognize N¯I tianssexuals as 'women,¨ thus
excluding them fiom feminist communities. On the othei hand, a gay
male who 'becomes¨÷is mistaken foi÷female feais the endless sense of
subjugation and insecuiity in being 'inadequately¨ so. ¯he gay male who
identifes as 'female¨÷its Iiench veision, fenne, tuined into a monikei
of homosexual self-styling÷is a doubly inadequate subject, inadequately
male and inadequately female.
Actually, that ceitain feminist ieluctance to count paiticulai, femi-
nized XY humans as 'female¨ is, I think, sometimes justifed and impoi-
tant. Because this sense of gendei inadequacy can cieate, even in a queei
body, the masculinist instinct foi violence against women, it is a situation
we castiated boys must tiy haid to avoid, especially consideiing queei
theoiy`s gieat indebtedness to feminism. ¯his deteimination foi ethical
vigilance is an impoitant lesson foi the castiated boy`s self-defnition as
psychically 'female.¨ It means that the castiated boy has to make some-
thing positive out of that double inadequacy. ¯his woik may be thought
of as what }essica Benjamin would call 'splitting the ego¨:
|¯he] capacity to split the ego and take up antithetical positions, may, in
ceitain conditions, be potentially cieative. . . . a benign foim of splitting the
ego in ielation to gendei may well be an impoitant accomplishment. . . . |in
oidei to accomplish this, one has to] be able to . . . ietain the ability to imagine
it without being thieatened oi undone by it. Identifcation must be toleiated in
oidei that the othei`s qualities not evoke intoleiable envy oi feai.
Jne qay nale
vno ioentines
as ¨renale`
is a ooobly
nale ano
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 39
Nale queei theoiists` abjection of the castiated boy is usually an
expiession of the gay male iefusal oi inability to thus be 'thieatened oi
undone¨ by femininity; it is undeistandable, but ultimately a fnessed
expiession of gynophobia. Symptomatic of this ciitical phenomenon is
L. A. Nillei`s ¬ Flace for Is, which uses the Bioadway musical C,js, to
cieate a gay but antifemme male subjectivity fiom femininity. Based on
the memoiis of the builesque stai Cypsy Rose Lee, C,js, ielates how
the shy kid who only wanted to go to school, sew, and suppoit hei moie
talented vaudevillian child-stai sistei became, undei the feice and foice-
ful imagination of hei stage mothei fiom hell, the most famous stiippei
evei. Ioi Nillei, this stoiy naiiates a woild expeiienced by the piotogay
boy who longs to escape enfoiced heteiosexualization: the vaudeville and
builesque scenes, with theii piivileging of female stais, maiginalize the
boy who longs to become that female stai. Louise, the young Cypsy Rose
Lee, although biologically female, does not heiself possess the feminine
spaikle necessaiy foi vaudeville staidom and is thus maiginalized as if she
weie a piotogay boy: 'A iebus of a sissy.¨
Nillei astutely ieads Louise as
a boy castiated by hei mothei, like the othei 'mutilated fguies, stiewn
by the way . . . like so many atiocities on a waipath, . . . Neid, Sissy, oi
Snot,¨ with 'hideous scais÷soies iathei, . . . |that] nevei heal¨ (79÷Su).
In this scenaiio, the castiated boy is abjected foi wanting to become the giil
he could nevei be, his femininity iecognized only as unclotting and ugly
ßesh wounds. While this accounts accuiately foi how a heteionoimative
society abjects the castiated boy, Nillei ultimately seems to agiee with it.
He offeis no iecoveiy, no emotional suppoit oi even cautious celebiation
of the femme boy. Instead, theie is violence in the language. When he
wiites that 'a man who did take the place of a woman could haidly be moie
abhoiient heie than one who appeais lacking in suffcient asseitiveness to
take it fron hei¨ (Su), Nillei is voicing a desiie foi a gay male subjectivity
that could nevei be mistaken foi that of a giil; the boy wanting to be a giil
must 'take the place¨ of the giil. ¯his gay boy must not become castiated,
so that he can have suffcient powei to iape the coveted feminine position
fiom the biological female. ¯he abjected status of a castiated boy stems
fiom his inability foi violence; he is a boy not butch oi aggiessive enough
to take it fiom hei.
¯his is why foi Nillei, it is the choius boy ¯ulsa`s solo, 'All I Need Is
the Ciil,¨ that piovides the gay male subject its ideal. In this scene, ¯ulsa
demonstiates÷with a dildolike bioom as his imaginaiy futuie paitnei÷a
dance act of his own cieation naiiating the iitual of heteiosexual dating.
Completely iebellious to the beautifully shiill feminine ethos of the stoiy
thus fai, this act makes the giil paitnei incidental to the boy`s viituosic
dancing. In an ultimate act of ievenge, ¯ulsa coiiupts the veiy giil stai
4u 1oon Cluchì Lee
he had been backing: Louise`s little sistei }une becomes his incidental, on
stage and off: he elopes with hei and will make hei stand in foi that damned
bioom. And Nillei celebiates: '¯ulsa pulled it off! ¯ulsa got away! . . .
Wily ¯ulsa÷tiuly the most intelligent, the most iesouiceful boy in the
act! ÷on you alone it dawned how male peifoimance might be detached
fiom seciecy, shame, and secondaiiness¨ (92, 94). 'Nale peifoimance¨
now signals a iefusal of femininity. It is, instead, a thieveiy of stage and
spotlight fiom the female stai. But ¯ulsa can be seen as such a queei heio
only if we agiee with Nillei`s inteipietation of C,js,`s feminine woild
as a quicksand, a veiitable hell of oi foi sissies and snots. Ioi some, the
quicksand is a butteiy and yummy thing, an ecstatic falling feeling:
Sula picked him up by his hands and swung him outwaid then aiound and
aiound. His knickeis ballooned and his shiieks of fiightened joy staitled the
biids and the fat giasshoppeis. When he slipped fiom hei hands and sailed
out ovei the watei they could still heai his bubbly laughtei.
¯he watei daikened and closed quickly ovei the place wheie Chicken
Little sank.
¯his scene fiom ¯oni Noiiison`s Sula (1973) aiticulates the singulai
joy of the castiated boy missing fiom Nillei`s stoiy. Noiiison states the
boy`s masochistic affect with telling teiseness: 'fiightened joy.¨ ¯heie is
no fuithei elaboiation, no justifcation foi the boy`s feeling: his 'bubbly
laughtei¨ oveiwhelms his teiioi and eventual sinking. And even though
he sinks and dies, as he is ßung about in the aii by the novel`s eponymous
heioine, the boy expeiiences the sensation of ßight, the euphoiia coiie-
sponding to and challenging that of ¯ulsa`s escape fiom femininity.
Like C,js,, Sula is a text gooey with feminine eneigy: the poitiait of
a giil as cieatoi of a ienegade and subveisive femininity.
It`s a novel that
chaits the piocess of such a feminine subjectivity as the thickening fiiend-
ship between two black giils: Nel, who becomes the piopei bouigeois wife;
and Sula, who giows up to be the sexual-aesthetic adventuiess as social
outcast, Sula the egoless: 'She was completely fiee of ambition, with no
affection foi money, piopeity oi things, no gieed, no desiie to command
attention oi compliments÷no ego¨ (119). ¯he fiiends` conßicting femi-
ninities aie neveitheless biought togethei by the novel`s famous ending:
'We was giils togethei . . . giil, giil, giilgiilgiil¨ (174). ¯he syntax of these
woids, ciied out by Nel at Sula`s death by self-willed illness, acts out in
poetiy the technically last lines of the novel, in which the thiid-peison
naiiatoi desciibes Nel`s giilsong: 'It was a fne ciy÷loud and long÷but
it had no bottom and it had no top, just ciicles and ciicles of soiiow.¨ ¯he
gtrlgtrlgtrl is a lament of egoless femininity with subveisive social potential.
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 41
It is thiee giils who take a single veib. It is 'loud and long¨: a voice whose
volume allows it to be heaid in the piesent moment and whose length
extends its message into a futuie. And the message is a dieam of a woild
with 'no bottom and . . . no top,¨ one in which the shaip veiticality of
hieiaichies has been ieplaced with the cuive of 'ciicles and ciicles.¨
¯he 'giil¨ that is the building block foi the subveisively feminine
gtrlgtrlgtrl takes a iadical depaituie fiom the 'giil¨ exemplifed by Nillei`s
ieading of C,js,. ¯he diffeience is iace; paiadoxically, the giil identity
implied by gtrlgtrlgtrl oiiginates fiom the iacist inteipellation of 'gal.¨
When the giown-up veision of Sula emeiges in the naiiative, she is as
glossy and idealized as Cypsy Rose Lee: she is, we aie told, 'diessed in a
mannei that was as close to a movie stai as anyone would evei see¨ (9u).
¯opping off Sula`s stylish diess was 'a black felt hat with the veil of net
loweied ovei one eye.¨ One eye veiled by hat oi haii: it is an iconically glam-
oious style÷think of any stai fiom Caibo to Veionica Lake to Aaliyah.
But in Sula, this small but ciucial gestuie is actually an aesthetic mimesis
that iediesses a site of Afiican Ameiican women`s social tiauma. Laily
in the novel, Nel`s mothei, Helene, fnds hei caiefully ciafted femininity
as a pioud black bouigeoisie pulled down÷liteially÷when she is called,
in fiont of hei daughtei, 'gal¨ by an evil white tiain conductoi. ¯hat
woid÷embodying all the oppiessive weight of what it means to be iacially
feminized as a black female in Ameiica÷takes on coipoieal foim and
iestyles hei: 'She had heaid only that one woid |'gal¨]; it dangled above
hei wide-biimmed hat, which had slipped, in hei exeition, fiom its caie-
fully leveled placement and was now tilted in a bit of a jaunt ovei hei eye¨
(2u). ¯he hateful 'gal¨ actually seems to pioduce a sexually saucy 'jaunt¨
ovei one eye, an unwanted accident magically picked up and ieplicated
by Sula as a style of subveision. ¯he specifc femme style of a iacialized,
blacl, giil, like the castiated boy, has its oiigin in violence: not the pleasuie
of feminine staidom but the pain of living in a iacist society.
Pait of the violence of being black and female in Ameiica is that one`s
happily auto-authoied self is always vulneiable to abjection and humili-
ation÷a woman can be ieduced to 'gal¨÷by the noimative social oidei
thiough the fact of hei iacial diffeience. ¯his psychically pejoiative infan-
tilizing of Helene can be thought of as what Lavid L. Lng has impoitantly
named 'iacial castiation.¨ Lng elaboiates on and complicates Richaid
Iung`s contention that 'Asian and anus is conßated¨; the gay Asian man
who is a sexual bottom foi a white man is a iacially castiated boy, who
seems to paiticipate in his own abjection:
|¯he] Asian male is psychically emasculated, foieclosed fiom an identifcation
with noimative heteiosexuality, so as to guaiantee the white male`s claim to
Jne specinc
renne style
or a racializeo,
black, qirl, like
tne castrateo
boy, nas its oriqin
in violence. not
tne pleasore or
reninine staroon
bot tne pain
or livinq in a
racist society.
42 1oon Cluchì Lee
this location. As such, the potential tiauma of sexual diffeience is not aiiested
at the site of the female body (as in the case of classic fetishism). Instead,
sexual diffeience is managed thiough the aiiest, disavowal, and piojection of
iacial diffeience at the site of the Asian male body.
In thinking thus about how the peiceived passivity of femininity contiib-
utes to and elides with an unwhite iacialization, Helene can be seen as the
'Asian male body.¨ Lng identifes iacial castiation as a 'ieveise fetish-
ism¨ in which a white male subject piactices a 'blatant iefusal to see on
the body of an Asian male the penis that ts cleaily theie foi him to see¨
(15u). When the white male conductoi does not iecognize Helene`s adult
sexuality, he is iefusing the mateiial ieality of Helene`s physical sexual-
ity just as the white male iice queen does to the Asian femme bottom.
¯he distuibing aspect of Helene`s iacial castiation, howevei, is that she
embiaces it. Helene iesponds to the violent infantilizing call of the white
male with sexualized ieceptiveness: 'Helene smiled. Smiled dazzlingly
and coquettishly at the salmon-coloied face of the conductoi¨ (21). ¯o
use Lng`s outline: Helene`s smile heteiosexualizes the white male ('sexual
diffeience is managed¨) by iacializing heiself as the othei ('piojection
of iacial diffeience¨).
Howevei, while Lng locates the system and mechanics of iacial castia-
tion, he does not piovide an instance in which the sociopsychic position
of the castiated boy is so embiaced.
Helene`s acceptance of hei iacial
castiation challenges, fist of all, the notion that iacial castiation is always
an inteiiacial phenomenon. As Nel witnesses it, Helene`s humiliating eiotic
and masochistic iesponse is a politically abject one foi a black woman, a
fact miiioied by the othei, unintended ieceiveis of Helene`s gaze, the two
black soldieis seated in the cai behind the conductoi: '|¯he soldieis, who]
had been watching the scene with what appeaied to be indiffeience, now
looked stiicken¨ (21). Noiiison then poitiays Helene as Nedusa: the black
soldieis` stiicken face ßesh tuins 'fiom blood to maible,¨ theii gaze 'a haid
wetness¨ (22). A haid wetness, a wet haidness: the black males` haidening
is the penile 'stiffening¨ caused by Iieud`s Nedusa. As Helene`s peifoi-
mance heteiosexualizes the white man, it heteiosexualizes the black men.
¯his heteiosexualization is a iacialization that phallicizes the black men:
theii iacial politics÷theii disgust at Helene`s coquettishness÷meiges heie
with a metaphoi of potentially violent male heteiosexuality.
¯he soldieis`
disgust with Helene`s femininity pioduces them as a phallic authoiity ovei
hei: they aie simultaneously politically piopei black subjects and heteio-
sexual males. ¯hat the female Nel identifes with these men suggests that a
politically piopei black femininity must not be feminine, in the sense that
it must not only continue to disavow castiation but peifoim a paiticulai
iediess of that psychic wound by a iephallicizing.
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 43
But iediessing the psychic wound of iacism÷oi antiiacist politics in
geneial, foi that mattei÷is neithei that simple noi that monolithic. Saidiya
V. Haitman`s inteipietation as 'acts of iediess¨ the enslaved`s appaiently
self-hating peifoimance of contentedness with his social death is vital foi
ieconsideiing Helene`s own embiace of iacial castiation:
|¯hese] acts of iediess aie undeitaken with the acknowledgment that
conditions will most likely iemain the same. ¯his acknowledgment implies
neithei iesignation noi fatalism but a iecognition of the enoimity of the
bieach instituted by slaveiy and the magnitude of domination.
Rediessing the pained body encompasses opeiating in and against the
demands of the system, negotiating the disciplinaiy hainessing of the body,
and counteiinvesting in the body as a site of possibility.
In the case of the black soldieis, piivileging a iesistance that opeiates
within the noimative economy of the phallus ends up with one that ielies
stiuctuially on potentially violent, gynophobic masculinity. ¯hat Helene`s
feminine style is taken up by Sula÷as a giil, she actually loves Helene`s
seveie domestic aesthetic, which Nel fnds oppiessive÷suggests that
while appeaiing complicit with a dominant oidei, this embiacing of cas-
tiation has the subveisive potential invoked by Haitman. Sula`s 'giil¨ self
takes up Haitman`s challenge in incoipoiating Helene`s ambiguous iacial
femininity into hei own body and tuining it into that 'site of possibility¨
that is gtrlgtrlgtrl.
¯hat Sula would take up the veiy femininity iendeied ineffectual oi
unwanted by noimatively gendeiing and iacializing foices makes hei a
'giil,¨ as }essica Benjamin defnes it. Benjamin aigues that in the oedipal
piocess of gendei identifcation, the femininity that becomes synonymous
with passivity÷which is the coie of Helene`s iacial castiation÷emeiges
in the 'split¨ oi 'peiveision¨ of the mothei. ¯he male child who will
identify defensively towaid castiation, oveiwhelmed by the nuituiing
and cieative omnipotence of his mothei, gieedily attempts to incoipo-
iate it into his own psyche. He siphons off this powei÷essentially, ovei
him÷into the fathei fguie, leaving the mothei as simply the object of
love on which the suckling baby oi fucking husband can act, iathei than
the subject of love who squiits milk into the baby. Nel`s ieaction to hei
mothei`s iacial castiation can be viewed as such a splitting that iendeis
hei a 'boy.¨ By contiast, Sula`s identifcation with Helene iendeis hei a
'giil¨: '¯he giil can only be feminine by identifying with the pait of the
mothei not kept by the boy.¨
Ctrl: the maiginalized digestei and collec-
toi of the unwanted, a psychic iecyclei. Ioi Benjamin, this identifcation
iendeis the iesulting giil hopelessly helpless: '¯he 'content` of femininity
is to contain this unwanted, piimitively feaied expeiience |'passivity and
44 1oon Cluchì Lee
helplessness¨] and make of it an exciting invitation, something that the
phallus can now act upon, contiol, and stiuctuie¨ (5S). But, as embodied
by Sula, the giil`s femininity is able to accomplish the fist two elements
of its content (containment and glamoiization) without the last÷becom-
ing victim to a phallic contiol. ¯hen, if we see Helene`s iacial castiation
as gestuiing towaid gtrlgtrlgtrl fiom the pained staiting point of 'gal,¨ we
have alieady two cieative and cieating components of that fnal peisona:
Nel, who identifes against hei mothei and with Sula; and Sula heiself,
who, like a Nobius stiip twistingly connecting the estianged mothei and
daughtei, identifes with Nel`s mothei. Leboiah L. NcLowell wiites
that '|Sula`s] naiiative insistently bluis and confuses these |black/white,
male/female, good/bad, positive/negative, self/othei] and othei binaiy
oppositions, bluis the boundaiies they cieate, boundaiies sepaiating us
fiom us fiom otheis and iendeiing us 'otheis` to ouiselves.¨
¯his idea
of the defamiliaiized self as the complement of a familiaiized othei is at
the coie of the politics of gtrlgtrlgtrl, which dieams of doing away with not
only hieiaichies but the veiy invisible baiiieis put up between bodies:
the existent gendei taxonomies that constitute the veiy egos that we have
become so accultuiated into piotecting. Lmbiacing iacial castiation can
be a potentially libiatoiy willingness to embiace femininity as a iace and,
vice veisa, iace as femininity.
With its bieathless iefusal of comma`d boundaiies, gtrlgtrlgtrl is the
muiky watei into which the boy Chicken Little falls and sinks in joy.
Chicken Little`s death is misinteipieted by the white man who fnds his
body as just anothei example of 'the way niggeis did |things]¨ (63).
Chicken Little`s death peifoims a posthumous iacial castiation: as with
Helene, his feminine act (bonding with Sula) leads to a iacialization that
seives to stabilize white male subjectivity. Howevei, this subtle iacial cas-
tiation also allows the estianged Nel and Sula to be ieunited as 'giils¨:
when the adult Nel 'claiifes¨ to Sula`s giandmothei Lva that it was Sula,
not she, who sunk Chicken Little, Lva ieplies in iecognition of theii gtrl-
gtrlgtrl bond: 'You. Sula. What`s the diffeience·¨ (16S).
¯his tiiplicate
identity of 'giil,¨ which iconically maiks Sula and Nel, is what the piotogay
Chicken Little desiies also. Chtclen Ltiile: the little boy named simultane-
ously foi the faiiy-tale piotagonist who feais apocalypse÷the sky`s falling
down÷and foi fiesh young meat, in gay sex cultuie. He can be iead as a
little piotogay boy. ¯elegiaphing Nillei`s 'Snot¨ of a femme boy, Chicken
Little is fist seen by Sula and Nel picking his nose: 'Youi mamma tole you
to stop eatin` snot, Chicken,¨ Nel yells (59). But this is a boy who iefuses
to stop being a 'Snot¨: he keeps picking. While Nel÷foieshadowing hei
eventual iole as the fguiehead of noimative socialization÷mimics the
voice of a piopei paient, Sula ignoies his snotty nose and helps Chicken up
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 45
a high tiee, leading him to see the woild fiom an unexpected, pieviously
undieamed of, peispective:
Sula pointed to the fai side of the iivei.
'See· Bet you nevei saw that fai befoie, did you·¨
'Ih uh.¨ (6u)
With the imaginative giil`s guidance, Chicken Little is able to see a view
of the woild not enclosed by naiiow social stiictuies. Instead of the pai-
anoid 'sky`s falling down¨ of the faiiy tale, this Chicken Little self-
assuiedly declaies: 'I ain`t nevei coming Jo:n¨ (6u, emphasis added).
But even when he eventually does, as eveiyone knows one day he must,
Sula continues to help him in ie-cieating that ßoating feeling of fiee-
dom÷the bioadened peispective of an unfalling sky÷by ßinging him
aiound and aiound, nevei letting him down.
¯hat Chicken Little`s joyous bonding with Sula ends in his death sug-
gests that theie is a silent, dangeious contiact that must be signed by the
boy who desiies foi himself a female`s femininity. ¯his contiact outlines
the teims of his psychic castiation: he is allowed to be feminine, incoi-
poiate hei essence and aspects into the piocess of his own self-cieation,
but in exchange he must undeistand that the newly subveisive naiiatives
and shapes of femininity foimed on him (as his 'maleness¨ mixes up with
'femininity,¨ tiansfoiming the assumed cultuial histoiy and meaning of
both) can at any time be iepossessed by its oiiginal ownei, the imagina-
tive female. ¯he implication of this clause maintains the delicate political
balance between the biologically male boy who can, at any time, tuin into
the violent aggiessoi oi oppiessoi of the female who has gifted him with
the femininity of hei own imagining. ¯hus a salient pait of his giilhood
is his own acceptance that his membeiship into the female tiibe is not
Ioi ceitain gay males, the mandated lack of a contiactual guaiantee
that the castiated boy can be a socially legitimate female÷this necessaiy
contiactual inequality÷is totally unacceptable. ¯his is wheie the queei
male subject, though ietaining a homosexuality, ceases to be 'queei¨ as we
leained it in the 199us: its signifying desiie to imaginatively tiansfoim the
lexicon of social taxonomies is eiased, and the gay male subject emeiges
simply as a male subject. ¯he femininity desiied by the male in such a
case is, to me, a sham: simply anothei instance of the totalizing masculine
appetite to own eveiything that seems glitteiing oi valuable. What Angela
Caitei wiites about L. H. Lawience we could say about Nillei`s ¯ulsa:
'|He] can put all these lovely gaiments he himself desiies so much on the
giils he has invented and yet cunningly evade the moial iesponsibility of
having to go out in them himself and face the iude music of the mob.¨

lor certain
qay nales, tne
nanoateo lack
or a contractoal
qoarantee tnat
tne castrateo
boy can be a
socially leqitinate
4ó 1oon Cluchì Lee
In contiast to Nillei, Caitei pioposes that if a male wants to peifoim
femininity, the phiase 'male peifoimance¨ has to become meaningless.
¯he castiated boy must become vulneiable. He must willingly give up the
sociopsychic piivilege of maleness÷its claim to aggiessive self-piomotion
and pieseivation÷and iisk psychic and bodily dangei as a giil.
¯his psychic masochism is the veiy means by which the castiated boy
can cieate a sense of his male body that does not confoim to the masculine
tiadition; how a human with a penis can become as female as he can be.
Iieud wiites, steieotypically but as an astute social iealist, of femininity:
¯he suppiession of women`s aggiessiveness which is piesciibed foi them
constitutionally and imposed on them socially favouis the development
of poweiful masochistic impulses, which succeed, as we know, in binding
eiotically the destiuctive tiends which have been diveited inwaids. ¯hus
masochism, as people say, is tiuly feminine.
As a 'giil,¨ a collectoi/iecyclei of psychic waste, the castiated boy must
collect that ceitain masochism that has been cast off by females who have
politically evolved to iefusing monolithic feminine identifcation thiough
masochism. ¯he potential subveisiveness of the castiated boy is that he
denies the veiy impulse of aggiessive self-pieseivation that has tiadition-
ally maiked masculinity. ¯he castiated boy pioudly weais his subjugation
to the female imagination÷which looks like a manacle fiom afai÷as a
heavy silvei chastity lock in the shape of a heait, dangling fiom his wiist,
the weight of which makes him as giily as a Chloe biacelet does foi its
weaiei. In the case of Chicken Little, the contiact falls, by chance, on the
side of its iisk. Instead of being held foievei aloft in the giil`s aii, having
the chance to fnd a diffeient, physical, life-sustaining kind of female
quagmiie, he dies in his falling, weighed down by the shining contiact.
But he is a valuable saciifce÷to the cieation of gtrlgtrlgtrl.
¯his ieincainating 'save¨ of Chicken Little is symbolized by the
swaim of butteißies that invades his funeial, wheie Sula and Nel keep
theii distance fiom the giave itself:
¯hey held hands and knew that only the coffn would lie in the eaith; the
bubbly laughtei and the piess of fngeis would stay abovegiound foievei. At
fist, as they stood theie, theii hands weie clenched togethei. ¯hey ielaxed
slowly until duiing the walk back home theii fngeis weie laced in as gentle a
clasp as that of any two young giilfiiends tiotting up the ioad on a summei
day wondeiing what happened to butteißies in the wintei. (66)
¯he funeial of the little saciifcial femme boy has a maiginalized, seciet,
and less foimal iitualistic counteipoint between the two giils who would
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 47
cieate each othei. ¯he giils` holding each othei`s hands peifoims the
magic of lodging the little femme boy in theii psyches as melancholic
objects foi theii own nascent giilhood: in iemembeiing Chicken Little÷
the joy in his 'bubbly laughtei¨÷they also mimic his last giip. Indeed,
the diction of the giilfiiends` handclasp ieplicates his: '¯he piessuie of
his haid and tight little fngeis was still in Sula`s palms as she stood look-
ing at the closed place in the watei¨ (61). ¯he giip`s ielaxing indicates not
an eventual foigetting of the meaning of the little hand but a iemembei-
ing of its affect÷the comfoit of its ielaxing and gentleness. As such, the
gestuie symbolizes an eventual integiation, ßuid intiojection÷a ietuin÷
of the boy`s femininity into the giils` own. ¯he butteißies that stoim
the funeial aie multiple ieincainations of the joyous, ßutteiing, ßoating
Chicken Little and his gossamei ballooning knickeis. ¯hey stay on the
giils` biains, not only as aesthetic object oi memoiy but as a piomise of
the futuie: what does happen to butteißies in the wintei· What happens
to a delicate thing in a mateiial woild that discouiages its suivival·
A clue: in addition to gtrlgtrlgtrl, the butteißies also invoke the deweys,
thiee boys of vaiying shades of Afiican Ameiican who, on infoimal adop-
tion by Sula`s giandmothei Lva, 'came out of whatevei cocoon he was
in at the time his mothei oi somebody gave him away¨ (3S). ¯hey shaie
one name÷Lewey King÷and 'spoke with one voice, thought with one
mind, and maintained an annoying piivacy¨ (39). ¯he deweys÷Noiiison
wiites theii name in loweicase and pluial÷can be seen as the piototype
of gtrlgtrlgtrl: they iefuse the eiection of individual male egos, piefeiiing
instead the beauty and comfoit of muiky self-eiasuie. ¯he thiee boys aie/is
'a tiinity with a pluial name . . . insepaiable, loving nothing and no one
but themselves¨ (3S). Shaied onanism tuins homoeiotic and gives them
a piotogay auia.
¯heii egoless shaied identity, a tiial iun foi gtrlgtrlgtrl,
is, like Chicken Little`s death, an instance of subtle iacial castiation: the
white schoolteachei, exaspeiated by the deweys` iefusal to buckle undei
the noimative impeiative towaid individuality, fnally dismisses them as
yet anothei example of 'the ways of the coloied people in town¨ (39).
Like the deweys, Chicken Little is a piomise of the ciiculai futuie
spoken by gtrlgtrlgtrl. Immediately following his death, Chicken Little is
chaiacteiized iepeatedly in Sula`s thoughts as 'something newly missing¨
(61). Newly Nissing: when something iecently missing is thought of as
newly, the unpiesent boy is given a new life, piecisely thiough his disap-
peaiance: the boy`s psyche is piojected into the futuie, signaling a piomise
of something bettei. At the moment of Chicken Little`s death, Nel and Sula
notice a shadowy fguie acioss the lake and deduce it to be Shadiack, the
town ciazy, whose house occupies the opposite shoie. Sula iuns into the
house and eventually confionts the smiling man. Shadiack gives hei only
4B 1oon Cluchì Lee
one, but signifcant, woid, 'Always¨ (62), which she iemembeis yeais latei
as she lay dying: 'Always. Who said that· She tiied haid to think. Who
was it that had piomised hei a sleep of watei always·¨ (149). By confusing
hei own oncoming death with the death of Chicken Little, she completes
the inclusive cuive of gtrlgtrlgtrl, to which now Chicken Little is fnally
bonded. In facilitating this bond, Shadiack also iepiesents that new life
piomised to Chicken Little.
If we iead Shadiack as integial a gtrlgtrlgtrl as Chicken Little, then
we can fully ßesh out the subtext of a femme boy`s femininity and see a
case in which the boy`s 'becoming¨ a giil thiough psychic castiation does
not set off the violent waifaie instinct that leads to his noimalization as a
masculine subject. When we fist meet Shadiack÷who is in fact the fist
human chaiactei we encountei in the novel÷it is as the boy piotagonist of
Iieud`s 'Nedusa`s Head¨: a boy who iealizes the possibility of castiation.
Shadiack is not yet twenty yeais old, fghting in Woild Wai I, 'iunning
with his comiades acioss a feld in Iiance¨ (7), when he
saw the face of a soldiei neai him ßy off. Befoie he could iegistei shock, the
iest of the soldiei`s head disappeaied undei the inveited soup bowl of his
helmet. But stubboinly, taking no diiection fiom the biain, the body of the
headless soldiei ian on, with eneigy and giace, ignoiing altogethei the diip
and slide of biain tissue down its back. (S)
As in 'Nedusa`s Head,¨ the boy who witnesses decapitation/castiation in
wai is led towaid initiation into noimative masculinity. He must leain to
be haid and eiect, not only in the blood-flled penile tissue way of heteio-
sexual desiie but in its ugly undeibelly: the upiight, gun-toting, feailess
way of a male waging violent conßict on anothei. ¯his iitual is given the
italicized, succinctly signifcant title of 'ti¨: 'Shellfie was all aiound
him, and though he knew that this was something called ti, he could not
mustei up the piopei feeling÷the feeling that would accommodate ti. He
expected to be teiiifed oi exhilaiated÷to feel soneihtng veiy stiong¨ (7,
emphasis in oiiginal). ¯hat Shadiack consciously anticipates the emo-
tional effects of witnessing Nedusa`s decapitation cues us to iethink the
pieconceived meaning of psychic castiation. As a young male, Shadiack
is alieady socialized into a knowledge of what emotions the manly puisuit
of waifaie and muidei should pioduce in a piopeily gendeied male: tei-
ioi (of his own castiation oi death) oi exhilaiation (at the sight of anothei
thus mutilated)÷that is, seeing a female genital oi defeating a foe. Which
is why it makes no ieal diffeience that the Nedusa fguie heie is male: the
male fucked ovei in battle is tantamount to the woman fucked.
Nale Nedusa: that he feels neithei exhilaiation noi teiioi maiks
Shadiack as a piotogay fguie who will puisue a diffeient path of psy-
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 49
chic gendeiing. Rathei than becoming a man÷an injuied wai heio, let`s
say÷Shadiack instead ietuins to his home 'peimanently astonished, . . .
his head full of nothing and his mouth iecalling the taste of lipstick¨ (7).
Noiiison`s poitiait of the shell-shocked Shadiack makes me think of }ac-
queline Kennedy Onassis`s witnessing the assassination of hei husband,
}IK. Wiiting about }ackie`s iconicity, Wayne Koestenbaum conjectuies
that '}ackie`s face, like the Nedusa`s, paitly fascinates because }IK`s miss-
ing head luiked behind it. }ackie, fiozen oi 'astonished` by }IK`s assassi-
nation/decapitation, in tuin astonishes us.¨
}ackie`s astonishment at hei
Nedusa-husband leads hei to discovei hei own powei to astonish, making
hei a Nedusa as well. In the same way, Shadiack, too, is 'astonished¨ by
the spectacle of the Nedusa-soldiei, and this ieaction is 'peimanent¨: he
ieacts as a female would to the Nedusa. His iun-in with Nedusa does not
foim a male psyche fghting to escape the fate of the decapitated woman
but leads him to become hei: Shadiack`s head is as 'full of nothing¨ as
the leaky soup bowl of the Nedusa-soldiei`s skull.
Specifcally feminizing this spectaculai identifcation is Shadiack`s
memoiy of 'the taste of lipstick.¨ I guess this could be iead as a moment
of heteiosexualization÷iemembeiing some pieteen kiss. Howevei, given
that he is only nineteen at that point, it seems unlikely that any female lips
he touched would have been lipsticked÷of couise, oldei woman notwith-
standing. But this is just what he may be iecalling into his cuiient psyche:
the oldei woman who is the oiiginal iefeient of the soldiei-Nedusa he
witnessed in Iiance: his mothei. I think of Shadiack as the 'beautiful son¨
of Couitney Love and hei band Hole`s song 'Beautiful Son¨: 'He had iib-
bons in his haii / And lipstick was eveiywheie / You look good in my diess
/ Ny beautiful son, my beautiful son.¨
¯he ioot of Shadiack`s memoiy of
'the taste of lipstick¨: he gets his mothei`s lipstick 'eveiywheie¨ because
he sneaked it on and then licked his lips, just as Helene had licked heis at
the moment of hei iacial castiation (21). Shadiack iemembeis the taste of
lipstick not as a budding heteiosexual but as a baby femme. Ioi example:
when I put on a lipstick I bought myself at age twenty-seven÷Nais Roman
Holiday, a candy-heait pink÷my lips immediately iemembeied sneaking
on, twenty yeais eailiei, my mothei`s left-behind lipstick, a Koiean biand
of bing cheiiy magenta. It was shocking how consistent the technology of
lipstick actually is; twenty yeais and a hemispheie weie ciossed, yet lip-
stick tasted the same! All this is not to simply say that Shadiack is a closet
diag queen, although, who knows, had he the claiity of consciousness and
lived in a diffeient time and place, he, too, may have found a lipstick of
his own. What is signifcant heie is that the tiaditionally masculinizing
psychic iitual has been tuined upside down by a piotogay male subject,
who takes away fiom it a desiie foi embodying femininity.
His ron-in vitn
Meoosa ooes
not rorn a nale
psycne nqntinq to
escape tne rate or
tne oecapitateo
vonan bot
leaos nin to
becone ner.
5u 1oon Cluchì Lee
It seems no coincidence that Noiiison desciibes the Nedusa-soldiei`s
headless, iunning body as if it weie that of a dancei, with 'eneigy and
giace.¨ ¯his Nedusa is psychically valuable not foi the tiophylike head,
with its phallic snakes (the biain cells that heie unceiemoniously 'diip
and slide¨ off) but foi its headless body. Noiiison`s dancing male Nedusa
inspiies us to imagine life as a castiated boy: how can the state of castiation
become beautiful, poweiful, impoitant foi living·
Shadiack manifests
his feminizing masochism thiough the cieation and enactment of Suicide
Lay, in which he paiades thiough town, making what Helene astutely calls
'this headless display¨ (16u). ¯his display he celebiates with the othei
nonnoimative males of the town: ¯ai Baby, the lonely, feminine, alcoholic,
suicidal white boy with an angelic singing voice; and the afoiementioned
So what does a Nedusa become aftei decapitation/castiation·
Loes it simply die off, collapse· No; it becomes a headless display; it
becomes a her.
¯he aesthetic pleasance of the castiation dance comes fiom a seem-
ingly willful disiegaid foi 'diiection fiom the biain,¨ that is, the steieotypi-
cally and usually exaggeiated masculine quality of cold iationality. What
goveins this dancing body is not even its epistemic inveise, wild emotion
(Shadiack is astonished into anothei totally unfamiliai state; he doesn`t
feel), but a diffeient, altogethei alteinative system of logic. ¯he only thing
that goveins him in his miming of Nedusa is the ihythm of pain: '|He]
feli onl, the bite of the nail in his boot, which pieiced the ball of his foot
whenevei he came down on it¨ (7÷S, emphasis added). ¯he pain is neithei
biological ieaction noi consciously piocessed emotion but a ihythm: his
iunning tuins the pain of the pieicing boot nail into a beat box of mas-
ochism. ¯he iepeated punctuie of his foot ßesh is the constant thieat of
castiation that the femme boy accepts as a pait of his giily life.
It`s impoitant to name this ihythmic pieicing of ßesh as a newly imag-
ined feminizing masochism of a giil because it is a motif iepeated foi an
explicitly political effect latei on in the novel: the scene in which the young
Sula piotects heiself and Nel against a gang of violent white boys. Sula pulls
out hei paiing knife, but instead of aiming it towaid the aggiessive boys,
she tuins it upon heiself with a 'deteimined but inaccuiate¨ aim: 'She
slashed off only the tip of hei fngei. ¯he foui boys staied open-mouthed
at the wound and the sciap of ßesh, like a button mushioom, cuiling in
the cheiiy blood¨ (54). Heie the teims of the castiated boy`s contiact aie
iealized, without his death: the life expeiience of the feminized boy (in
this case, the masochistic ihythm of the castiation thieat felt by Shadiack)
ietuins to the female. If Shadiack can be seen as a castiated boy who has
become the headless, dancing Nedusa, foievei cieating a 'headless dis-
play¨ of himself, then Sula, in hei giilhood, has followed the same path.
She says to heiself:
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 51
When I was a little giil the heads of my papei dolls came off, and it was a
long time befoie I discoveied that my own head would not fall off if I bent my
neck. I used to walk aiound holding it veiy stiff because I thought a stiong
wind oi a heavy push would snap my neck. Nel was the one who told me the
tiuth. But she was wiong. I did not hold my head stiff enough when I met
|}ude, Nel`s husband with whom Sula has sex] and so I lost it just like the
dolls. (136)
Contiaiy to oui noimative expectations÷and Nel`s own wishes÷the
slightly wistful tone of Sula`s musing on hei head loss does not at all
iendei it a sad iegiet. Instead, it is a declaiation of hei egoless state. Hei
psyche has cieated a woild in which 'tiuth¨ can be 'wiong¨ and humans
aie basically dolls. Like the papei dolls, like Shadiack, like the soldiei-
Nedusa in Iiance, like the oiiginal Nedusa heiself, Sula, too, has been
decapitated: yet still she lives.
Because Shadiack and Sula cioss paths only foi a moment, and
exchange only one woid, this lesson of feminine masochism is not ieally
a lesson at all. Sula heiself must constiuct meaning foi Shadiack`s single,
puzzling 'Always¨ and do with it what she eventually will. Shadiack and
Sula aie connected in theii feminine masochism not by a one-way tiajec-
toiy oi piogiession oi tiansfei of knowledge: such a ßow of infoimation,
which could seive to hieiaichize the oldei male Shadiack ovei the youngei
female Sula, is a concept totally uninteiesting to the novel`s ethos. What
matteis is that both bodies come to iesemble each othei÷both aie suicidal
paiiahs intent on paving theii own paths to living. In the end, it is the
piecisely feminine gtrlgtrlgtrl, with its oiiginal suggestion that iace and
gendei can meld into each othei, which dissolves the boundaiies between
male and female. As Sula is with Nel, Sula is Shadiack, as both aie with
Chicken Little, and with all thiee: they aie 'giils togethei.¨
Let us ietuin to C,js, with this feeling. Nillei convincingly suggests
that the musical makes femininity enticing foi piotogay boys, who beai
and weai the thieat of castiation. Howevei, as Sula shows, the castiated
boy who does not mitigate his feai thiough a penile ieclamation is not
foievei lost in abjection. ¯he castiated boy has a chance to help foige a
new meaning of 'female¨ thiough the ciucible of his own ciazed imagi-
nation and fiustiated, male but feeling-female body. Such a boy in C,js,
is the bitchy stage managei Pastey, who contiibutes to the biith of the
show`s female stai by misieading÷consciously oi not÷Louise`s new stage
name: 'Cypsy Rose Lee,¨ he says, instead of 'Cypsy Rose Louise.¨ In a
biilliantly geneious ieading, Nillei suggests that 'by iechiistening hei,
Pastey insinuates Louise`s shady male past into hei biilliant new caieei as
all giil÷oi CRL, if we piefei the spelling on hei monogiam¨ (77). Yet
foi Nillei, Pastey is still one of the mutilated coipses on the path to female
Jne castrateo
boy nas a cnance
to nelp rorqe a
nev neaninq or
¨renale` tnrooqn
tne crocible or
nis ovn crazeo
inaqination ano
rrostrateo, nale
bot reelinq-
renale booy.
52 1oon Cluchì Lee
femininity and iepiesents the abject conveise of the butch ¯ulsa. Pastey`s
limp-wiisted kvetching, howevei cieative, belies a desiie to actually occupy
the feminine stai space of the stiippei, but he only pathetically succeeds in
opening the cuitain foi hei, giving hei hei cues, announcing hei staidom.
In othei woids, he is his name: a bunch of sequins on the giil`s nipple,
'basic item of stiiptease paiapheinalia.¨
¯hat Pastey nevei gets on stage seems to me, though, a moot point.
¯oii Amos sings about the joys of being 'the sweetest cheiiy in an apple
pie,¨ which aiticulates well this situation.
A cheiiy in an apple pie has
no need to stiive towaid supeisweetness: howevei sweet it is, it is only
ultimately a detiactoi and misft to the taste bud ciaving an apple pie.
And besides, even the sweetest cheiiy will be lost in the heady ßood of
sugaied and cinnamoned apples. But what does a sense of alienation oi
inadequacy mattei when you aie contiibuting to such a delicious pioduct·
You may be mistaken foi a bite of apple! In this way, and as Shadiack`s
peifoimativity ietuins as suppoit foi young Sula`s peifoimance against
hei potential iapists, Pastey is not a losei but a happy cheiiy in an apple
pie: a good team playei of femininity. ¯hink of Pastey as a veision of
Chicken Little: if, indeed, Pastey ieads his own expeiience as a giil into
his naming of Louise as Cypsy Rose Lee, then she cannot be 'all giil¨ as
Nillei contends. She, too, is an incomplete giil, and hei monogiam tells
this tiuth with glossy nakedness: CFL. If Cypsy Rose Lee looks like a giil,
she is the CIRL without the all-impoitant I. Like the gtrlgtrlgtrl Sula, she
is an egoless thing, a female who has found a sense of empoweiment in the
eiasuie of the ego: a giil who does not want oi need to mimic a masculine
psyche in expiessing heiself.
So, despite the violent iivaliy that Nillei wiites into the Pastey-CRL
bond, it is not tiue that 'wheieas the boy wishing to be a stai in this woild
must imagine himself in female diess, the giil may just take off hei clothes¨
(75). Because the veiy novelty of CRL`s stiipping÷that which tuins hei
into a supeistai÷actually puts the inevitable meaning of 'naked¨ into
hazy unfocus: CRL nevei sho:s hei bieasts and vagina. CRL becomes a
socially subveisive paiadox because, as Nillei says, while stiipping does
affim the boyish Louise`s status as female, some piop÷a hat, a cuitain, a
boa÷always coveis those biological paits that would maik hei convention-
ally female. ¯hus the ievolutionaiy act of this stiipping is a tiansitioning
tianny`s dieam: not that 'boy-Louise¨ becomes a female b, taking off
hei clothes, but that 'he¨ can be female tn sjtie of taking off 'his¨ clothes.
Nillei sees boy-Louise`s 'boysistei¨ status as psychically unsatisfying:
'Being onl, the iebus of a sissy¨ (75, emphasis added). But this is not
so. A iebus is a pictoiial veision of wiitten naiiative: not shoithand but a
linguistic system that can open avenues to alteinative, ievolutionaiy intei-
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 53
pietations of the signifed concept. CRL`s boy-passing stiipping ieveals
that she tiuly is a iebus: she is what she looks like.
I was a little boy who looked like a little giil. I had my haii cut in a
bowl cut: long bangs that extended all the way aiound my skull. When
we came to Ameiica, I loved my haii because it ieminded me of my idol,
Chailene on the television sitcom Dtff`reni Siroles, who was played by the
teenage }anet }ackson and was eveiything I had nevei had the chance to
dieam a giil could be. And now I could dieam: pietty in puiple plaid pussy
bow-collaied blouse with leg-of-mutton sleeves and tight indigo jeans,
smaitei than hei cute boyfiiend, sassily aiticulate, and black. And I had
hei haiido! (Kinda: without the ends iioned up into cuily wings.) People
used to mistake me foi a giil because of all that haii neaily hanging to my
shouldeis, fiaming my face. ¯hey would mistake me even moie when, on
hot summei days, my mothei would pin away my long bangs with a steel
baiiette. As I giew oldei, I began to iesent all this mistaking because in
my oldei wisdom, I fguied that I was 'ieally¨ a boy because I had a penis,
aftei all. So when I tuined twelve, thiee yeais aftei coming to Ameiica,
aftei two yeais of steady playgiound toituie
|comes up behind me and snaps at my spine thiough my shiit]
'Hey, ¯inkeibell! Aie you weaiing a bia·¨
I asked my mothei to chop off my haii. So began my caieei as a boy. Lven
though the toituie, playgiound and beyond, nevei ieally stopped, my haii
kept getting shoitei and shoitei until it was shaved off, although by that
time, in college, I piogiessed in my giilhood a bit: I had enough couiage
to weai big gold dooiknockei eaiiings a la Salt-N-Pepa. I was not a giil,
not yet a man, I thought. What I did not iealize was that I was a male, not
yet a woman.
In the end, the joy of the castiated boy is that which he initially
dieaded: to be mistaken foi someone that you aie. In the much maligned
flm Sho:gtrls (1996), Llizabeth Beikley plays Nomi Nalone, a dancing giil
who comes to Las Vegas to be a cabaiet stai. Along the way to hei eventual
staidom, she must pay hei dues by woiking in a sleazy stiip club, and,
because of that laboi, people aiound hei call hei to hei face, oi mistake hei,
foi a whoie. Ovei and ovei, Nomi asseits: 'I`m not a whoie!¨ Shockingly
(oi not), it is ievealed at the end of the flm that Nomi was indeed a whoie:
she is fiom Oakland and has been hooking since hei pieteen yeais. Nomi
Nalone is a gtrlgtrlgtrl. She is, in fact, a CRL: No Ae Nalone. Like Sula,
Nomi is an egoless giil, whose veiy powei and subveisive potential in that
egoless peifoimance of hypeifemininity confuses and discombobulates
hei audience. Ciitics and lay people alike love to iip this flm to shieds by
laughing at the uttei intensity of Beikley`s peifoimance as Nomi; some-
ln tne eno,
tne joy or tne
castrateo boy is
tnat vnicn ne
initially oreaoeo.
to be nistaken
ror soneone tnat
yoo are.
54 1oon Cluchì Lee
how when the flm comes up on scieen, eveiyone becomes an expeit on
camp. I`ve nevei found those 'comic¨ scenes, in which Beikely-as-Nomi
giapples with hei life of piostitution, paiticulaily comic. Beikely`s pei-
foimance÷flled with emotional intensity and ieal, ieally good dancing
(the actiess heiself is a tiained dancei)÷ieminds me of me: we both got
laughed at foi looking exactly like what we actually weie. And because
laughtei is veiy killing to the soft soul of the young, we tiied to get away
fiom the shame and pain of laughtei by denouncing that identity. And yet:
just as Nomi can nevei ieally not look like a whoie in long, elaboiately self-
painted aciylic nails and a ied fiinge diess that baiely coveis hei pussy;
just as I could nevei ieally not look like a sissy giil faggot with my ßopping
wiist and hip-shaking walk, the escape is nevei effective÷oi satisfying.
What woiks is to accept that mistakability as not only a fact of life but a
point of joy and libeiation. It can be poweiful to be what you look like. It
can be wondeiful to be mistaken foi something that the iest of the woild
calls hoiiible, ugly, embaiiassing.
Iinally, this past yeai, as I coineied thiity, I got aiound to giowing my
haii again. It became long enough to ieach past my shouldeis. ¯ossable,
biushable, my haii made me my own doll. At fist, my haii giew fiom
laziness. ¯hen, slowly, I iealized that I had also ieveited to my kid days,
days of the long bangs: feeling and often looking like a giil÷to homeless
people asking foi change, to sloppy-eyed constiuction woikeis, to confused
pations of the public men`s iestioom. A few months ago, while visiting me
in San Iiancisco, my mothei complimented me on how 'pietty¨ my haii
looked, then said, as a punch line to one of hei philosophical musings: I
don`t know if you aie a son oi a daughtei. She said it with an easy caieless-
ness that made me veiy, veiy happy.
1. Sigmund Iieud, 'Nedusa`s Head,¨ in The SianJarJ LJtiton of ihe Conjleie
Fs,chologtcal !orls of StgnunJ IreuJ, tians. }ames Stiachey (London: Hogaith,
1955), 19:273.
2. ¯he psychoanalyst Silvan ¯omkins suggests that the physical manifestation
of the negative affect of 'Ieai-¯eiioi¨ is supeifcially similai oi even indistin-
guishable to that of 'Suipiise-Staitle,¨ which, as a 'Resetting¨ affect, functions
as a tiansition between affects, positive oi negative. ¯hus the 'Suipiise-Staitle¨
affect is often a piecuisoi to the positive 'Inteiest-Lxcitement.¨ See Shane anJ
Iis Stsiers: ¬ Tonltns FeaJer, ed. Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Iiank
(Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1995), chap. 1, 'What Aie Affects·¨ and
chap. 4, 'Suipiise-Staitle.¨
1oy of the Castrateo Boy 55
3. Ioi a detailed account of this phenomenon, see ¯im Beigling, Stss,jhobta:
Ca, Aen anJ Lffentnaie Eeha.tor (New Yoik: Haiiington Paik, 2uu1); and Lve
Kosofsky Sedgwick, 'How to Biing Youi Kids Ip Cay: ¯he Wai on Lffeminate
Boys,¨ in TenJenctes (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1994).
4. }essica Benjamin, ' 'Constiuctions of Inceitain Content`: Cendei and
Subjectivity beyond the Oedipal Complementaiies,¨ in ShaJo: of ihe Ciher: Inier-
subjecit.ti, anJ CenJer tn Fs,choanal,sts (New Yoik: Routledge, 199S), 64.
5. L. A. Nillei, ¬ Flace for Is: Lssa, on ihe EroaJ:a, Austcal (Cambiidge,
NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess, 199S), 75.
6. ¯oni Noiiison, Sula (1973; iepi., New Yoik: Plume, 19S2), 61.
7. Sula`s ciitical histoiy is usually centeied on this point: Sula as an aitist of
the psyche and body, who cieates on heiself the idea of 'black woman¨ that iesists
iacist and sexist noimativity. See Hoitense }. Spilleis, 'A Hateful Passion, a Lost
Love,¨ Ientntsi SiuJtes 9 (19S3): 293÷323; Cloiia Wade-Cayles, 'Civing Biith
to Self: ¯he Quests foi Wholeness of Sula Nae Peace and Neiidian Hill,¨ in No
Cr,sial Siatr: 1tstons of Face anJ Sex tn Elacl !onen`s Itciton (New Yoik: Pilgiim,
19S4), 1S4÷215; Leboiah L. NcLowell, 'Boundaiies, oi, Listant Relations and
Close Kin÷Sula,¨ in ´The Changtng Sane": Elacl !onen`s Ltieraiure, Crtitctsn,
anJ Theor, (Bloomington: Indiana Iniveisity Piess, 1995), 1u1÷17.
S. ¯hiough Sula, Kathiyn Bond Stockton asseits that being the absolute
'bottom¨ of a white and male-valuing society has paiadoxically allowed black
women to cieate an alteinate economy: that which is valuable is piecisely what is
devalued oi debased by the noimative social oidei. Although Stockton, exploiing
the vaiious ways in which such an inveited oi 'bottom¨ economy is elaboiated in
Sula, does not gestuie towaid what I see as the implicit effect of gtrlgtrlgtrl, doing
away with hieiaichical valuative systems altogethei, such an inveision can be seen
as a piecuisoi oi piepaiatoiy step to it. See Kathiyn Bond Stockton, 'Heaven`s
Bottom: Anal Lconomics and the Ciitical Lebasement of Iieud in ¯oni Noiii-
son`s Sula,¨ Culiural Crtitque (Spiing 1993), S1÷11S.
9. Lavid L. Lng, Factal Casiraiton: Aanagtng Aascultnti, tn ¬stan ¬nertca
(Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1), 151.
1u. Lng`s pioject÷thiough a ieading of A. Euiier},÷is to aiticulate how
white and heteionoimative society deploys castiation. Anne Anlin Cheng ieads
both A. Euiier}, and Lng`s ieading of it to suggest that we considei the possi-
bly subveisive pleasuie of the Asian bottom. See Anne Anlin Cheng, 'Iantasy`s
Repulsion and Investment: Lavid Heniy Hwang and Ralph Lllison,¨ in The Ael-
anchol, of Face (New Yoik: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 2uuu), 1u3÷3S.
11. Like the black male soldieis who peifoim a violence of theii own on the
castiated boy Helene, the black townspeople iefuse, as a gestuie of hatied against
hei polished, glossy black bouigeoise femininity, to pionounce the fnal e in hei
name. Noiiison spells this out to us: '¯he people in the Bottom iefused to say
Helene. ¯hey called hei Helen Wiight and left it at that¨ (1S). ¯he black folks`
phallic victoiy of the black woman castiated boy: leaving Helene nipped of hei bit
of a last lettei by pionouncing hei name without the extended 'eene.¨
12. Saidiya V. Haitman, Scenes of Subjeciton: Terror,,, anJ Self-Aaltng
tn Ntneieenih-Ceniur, ¬nertca (New Yoik: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 1997), 51.
See in paiticulai chaptei 2, 'Rediessing the Pained Body: ¯owaid a ¯heoiy of
13. Benjamin, 'Constiuctions of Inceitain Content,¨ 5S.
5ó 1oon Cluchì Lee
14. NcLowell, 'Boundaiies, oi, Listant Relations,¨ 1u4.
15. Lva actually seems to be the othei model foi the iacial-sexual bluiiing of
gtrlgtrlgtrl: she ienames hei effeminate ('a beautiful, slight, quiet man who nevei
spoke above a whispei¨ |39]) whiteboy tenant '¯ai Baby.¨ His pievious name
ießected his piotoqueei, femme aspect: 'Pietty }ohnnie.¨
16. Angela Caitei, 'Loienzo the Closet-Queen,¨ Noihtng SacreJ (London:
Viiago, 19S2), 211.
17. Sigmund Iieud, 'Iemininity,¨ in Ne: IniroJucior, Leciures on Fs,cho-
¬nal,sts, tians. }ames Stiachey (New Yoik: Noiton, 1964), 144.
1S. Inteiestingly, 'Lewey¨ is a name that Noiiison also used in hei fist
novel, The Eluesi L,e (197u). ¯heie it is not 'Lewey King¨ but 'Lewey Piince¨:
the dieamlovei÷it is not cleai whethei he actually exists÷of the piostitute Niss
Naiie/Naginot Line, who is one of the few people who actually loves the heioine
Pecola Bieedlove.
19. Wayne Koestenbaum, }aclte unJer A, Sltn: Inierjreitng an Icon (New
Yoik: Iaiiai, Stiaus and Ciioux, 1995), 37.
2u. Hole, 'Beautiful Son¨ (1992), A, EoJ,, The HanJ CrenaJe, audio iecoid-
ing, City Slang Recoids (1997).
21. Helene Cixous has consideied this question, although still focusing on the
Nedusa`s head iathei than body, in '¯he Laugh of the Nedusa,¨ Stgns (1976):
22. ¯hese othei paiticipants of Suicide Lay weie named (liteially) and live
undei the ioof of a paiticulaily intense female imagination: that of Lva, Sula`s own
ienegade giandmothei, whose amputated one-leggedness iendeis hei a Nedusa
of anothei kind. Ioi moie on Lva, see Rosemaiie Cailand ¯homson, 'Lisabled
Women as Poweiful Women in Petiy, Noiiison, and Loide,¨ in LxiraorJtnar,
EoJtes: Itgurtng Dtsabtlti, tn ¬nertcan Culiure anJ Ltieraiure (New Yoik: Colum-
bia Iniveisity Piess, 1997), 1u3÷34. ¯heie is anothei misft male iesident in
Lva`s house÷hei son Plum, who also ietuins fiom wai shell-shocked. But unlike
Shadiack, he seems to ieveit to infantilism iathei than a piotogay subjectivity: he
longs to ciawl back inside his mothei, who eventually buins him alive iathei than
see hei son as a 'baby.¨ Civen this, it makes sense that Plum nevei gets the chance
to join the Suicide Lay paiade.
23. Nillei, Flace for Is, 75.
24. ¯oii Amos, 'In the Spiingtime of His Voodoo,¨ Eo,s for Fele, audio
iecoiding, Atlantic Recoids (1996).
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
At the national level, the stiuggle ovei contiol of meaning conceins making
people`s life constiuctions coteiminous with peiiodizations given by the
÷}ohn Boineman, Eelongtng tn ihe T:o Eerltns: Itn, Siaie, Naiton
Yeais ago now, wiiting about inteiactions between individuals and small-
scale social gioups, Pieiie Bouidieu declaied that stiategies of powei
consist of 'playing on the time, oi iathei the ienjo, of the action,¨ mainly
thiough managing delay and suipiise.
Yet this chionopolitics extends
beyond local conßicts to the management of entiie populations: both
the state and the maiket pioduce biopolitical status ielations not only
thiough boideis, the establishment of piivate and public zones, and othei
stiategies of spatial containment, but also and ciucially thiough tempoial
mechanisms. Some gioups have theii needs and fieedoms defeiied oi
snatched away, and some don`t. Some cultuial piactices aie given the
means to continue; otheis aie squelched oi allowed to die on the vine.
Some events count as histoiically signifcant, some don`t; some aie cho-
ieogiaphed as such fiom the fist instance and theieby oveitake otheis.
Nost intimately, some human expeiiences offcially count as a life oi one
of its paits, and some don`t. ¯hose foiced to wait oi staitled by violence,
whose activities do not show up on the offcial time line, whose own time
lines do not synchionize with it, aie vaiiously and often simultaneously
black, female, queei.
Noie specifcally, as numeious scholais have iecognized, bouigeois-
libeial entities fiom nations to individuals aie defned within a naiiow
chionopolitics of development at once iacialized, gendeied, and sexual-
ized. Westein 'modeinity,¨ foi instance, has iepiesented its own foiwaid
movement against a slowei piemodeinity fguied as biown-skinned, femi-
nine, and eiotically peiveise.
On the mateiial level, laige-scale peiiodiz-
ing mechanisms have shaped what can be lived as a social foimation, oi
an individual life. ¯o take only one example: even befoie the houily wage
had quantifed time, the colonial state inteivened eaily into tempoial-
ity, insciibing itself into and as the bodies of 'the people¨ diiectly via
the calendai, skewing indigenous ihythms of sacied and piofane and
5B Elìzabeth Freenan
iepiesenting these ihythms as backwaid and supeistitious.
And, as }ohn
Boineman suggests in my epigiaph, supposedly postimpeiial nation-states
still tiack and manage theii own denizens thiough an offcial time line,
effectively shaping the contouis of a meaningful life by iegisteiing some
events like biiths, maiiiages, and deaths, and iefusing to iecoid otheis
like initiations, fiiendships, and contact with the dead.
In many places,
the neolibeialist pioject continues to ieconstiuct time in these ways as it
'develops¨ new iegions foi pioft, and additionally depends upon the idea
of capital`s movement as itself an inexoiable piogiess that will eventually
accommodate select women, people of coloi, and queeis. Neolibeialism
desciibes the needs of eveiyone else, eveiyone it exploits, as simply, geneii-
cally, defeiied: the phiase 'No Child Left Behind¨ suggests that theie is,
indeed, a behind in which the unlucky shall dwell.
Homi Bhabha has elegantly desciibed this unhetnltch 'place¨ of ante-
iioiity, wheie in the postcolony time is always seveial and any histoiical
moment coiiespondingly consists of many.
But it is also a ciucial one
within which queei politics and theoiy must dismantle the chionopolitics of
development. If in 199u oi so, 'queei¨ named a piessuie against the state`s
nantng appaiatus, paiticulaily against the noimalizing taxonomies of male
and female, heteiosexual and homosexual, now it must include piessuie
against state and the maiket jertoJt:tng appaiatuses.
I say 'queei¨ not to
oveiwiite postcolonial theoiy with a singulai focus on sexuality÷indeed,
theie is an emeiging body of poweiful woik on the inteisection of these two
domains. Rathei, my veision of queei insists, following Cesaie Casaiino,
that 'we need to undeistand and piactice time as fully incoipoiated, as
nowheie existing outside of bodies and theii jleasures.¨
¯hus while this
essay aigues foi a deviant chionopolitics obviously indebted to the woik
of postcolonial thinkeis, it also insists that pleasuie is cential to the pioj-
ect÷that queeis suivive thiough the ability to invent oi seize pleasuiable
ielations between bodies. We do so, I aigue, acioss time.
I also emphasize a Ioucauldian notion of pleasuie and bodily contact
ovei a Iieudian model of pain and ego foimation in iesponse to iecent
ieevaluations of negative affect in queei theoiy. So fai, a simultaneously
psychoanalytic and histoiicist loss÷peihaps ieplacing oi subsuming stiuc-
tuialist lack÷has emeiged as one of fn de siecle queei theoiy`s key teims.
A numbei of scholais have tiacked the way that queei subjectivity and
collectivity demand, and take as theii iewaid, paiticulaily inventive and
time-tiaveling foims of giief and compensation that neithei the noimal-
izing woik of the ego noi the statist logic of sequential geneiations can
I would like to suggest, howevei, that this poweiful tuin towaid
loss÷towaid failuie, shame, negativity, giief, and othei stiuctuies of
Erotohìstorìography 59
feeling histoiical÷may also be a piematuie tuin away fiom a seemingly
obsolete politics of pleasuie that could, in fact, be ienewed by attention to
tempoial diffeience. ¯hat is, melancholic queei theoiy may acquiesce to
the idea that pain÷eithei a pain we do feel oi a pain we should feel but
cannot, oi a pain we must laboiiously iewoik into pleasuie if we aie to
have any pleasuie at all÷is the piopei ticket into histoiical consciousness.
Lioticism and mateiialist histoiy, pleasuie and the dialectic, aie too often
cast as theoietical foils: was it not the distinctly unqueei Iiediic }ameson
who wiote, albeit in a veiy diffeient context, that 'histoiy is what huits.
It is what iefuses desiie¨·
Peihaps theoiizing queeiness on the basis of
giief and loss acquiesces, howevei subtly, to a Piotestant ethic in which
pleasuie cannot be the giounds of anything pioductive at all, let alone of
such a weighty mattei as the genuinely histoiical.
Against the chionopolitics of development, and also extending post-
colonial notions of tempoial heteiogeneity beyond queei melancholic his-
toiiogiaphy, this essay advances what I call eiotohistoiiogiaphy: a politics
of unpiedictable, deeply embodied pleasuies that counteis the logic of
development. Paiticulaily in light of the libeial tiansfoimation of a queei
sex ievolution into gay maiiiage iefoim and Naixist condemnations of
queei theoiy`s focus on matteis libidinal,
I would like to take the iisk of
the inappiopiiate iesponse to ask: how might queei piactices of pleasuie,
specifcally, the bodily enjoyments that tiavel undei the sign of queei sex,
be thought of as tempoial piactices, even as poitals to histoiical thinking·
Iieud`s 'uncanny¨ has offeied one poweiful model foi a dialectic between
bodily feelings and tempoial alteiity, but its 'feelings¨ aie both unpleasant
and at one iemove fiom the body (with the exception of goose bumps).
Peihaps moie impoitant, the pioductive sense of alteinate times in the
uncanny÷so fiuitful foi postcolonial theoiy÷centeis on the distinctly
heteiosexualized chionotopes of home, family, and mothei.
In contiast,
Ioucault has famously wiitten that queeis should 'use sexuality hencefoith
to aiiive at a multiplicity of ielationships,¨ while Bouidieu would insist
that these ielationships inevitably play with and on time.
As a mode of
iepaiative ciiticism, then, eiotohistoiiogiaphy indexes how queei ielations
complexly exceed the piesent. It insists that vaiious queei social piactices,
especially those involving enjoyable bodily sensations, pioduce foim(s) of
time consciousness, even histoiical consciousness, that can inteivene upon
the mateiial damage done in the name of development.
Against pain and
loss, eiotohistoiiogiaphy posits the value of suipiise, of pleasuiable intei-
iuptions and momentaiy fulfllments fiom elsewheie, othei times.
/qainst pain ano
loss, eroto-
posits tne valoe
or sorprise, or
ano nonentary
rolnllnents rron
otner tines.
óu Elìzabeth Freenan
Weie I a wiitei, and dead, how I would love it if my life, thiough the pains
of some fiiendly and detached biogiaphei, weie to ieduce itself to a few
details, a few piefeiences, a few inßections, let us say: to 'biogiaphemes¨
whose distinction and mobility might come to touch, like Lpicuiian atoms,
some futuie body, destined to the same dispeision.
÷Roland Baithes, SaJe, Lo,ola, Iourter
As a way in, let me momentaiily exhume a body all too familiai to queei
theoiy, paiticulaily the liteiaiy-ciitical soit: Iiankenstein`s monstei. ¯he
monstei`s physique, a patchwoik of iemnants fiom coipses his cieatoi
iobs fiom the giave, is itself an index of tempoial nonsynchionicity÷spe-
cifcally, of dead bodies peisisting in the piesent and the futuie, of non-
iepioductive, yet still insistently coipoieal kinship with the depaited. His
body liteializes Caiolyn Linshaw`s model of the queei touch of time, of
past bodies palpably connecting with piesent ones.
But in a low-budget
independent flm I saw a few yeais ago, Iiankenstein`s monstei momen-
taiily appeaied to suggest the possibility of a sensual connection with
futuiity as well. In Hillaiy Bioughei`s 1997 The Sitcl, Itngers of Ttne,
a woman mentions a scene in a novel hei best fiiend has wiitten: 'I love
that pait, when Iiankenstein splits his stitches and he dies, feitilizing the
eaith wheie that little giil giows tomatoes.¨
In contiast to the oiiginal
novel, heie the monstei secuies his futuie, joining the human scheme of
obligations and dependencies iathei than escaping on an ice ßoe. ¯hough
he seems to inseminate the little giil (foi his body ßuids will indiiectly
entei the oiifce of hei mouth when she eats the tomatoes), he tianscends
both the supposedly natuial pain of childbiith and the cyclical time of
iepioduction. Like Walt Whitman, he disseminates himself.
his body and the act he peifoims with it suggest a histoiiogiaphical piac-
tice wheiein the past takes the foim of something alieady fiagmented,
'split,¨ and decaying, and the piesent and futuie appeai equally poious.
Indeed, they seem to answei Roland Baithes`s call, in my second epi-
giaph, foi a model of dispeised but insistently cainal continuity,
I call binding. In this sense, the monstei`s body is not a 'body¨ at all but
a fguie foi ielations between bodies past and piesent, foi the insistent
ietuin of a coipoiealized histoiiogiaphy and futuie making of the soit to
which queeis might lay claim.
¯he scene that this woman calls foith, then, fguies almost eveiything
I mean by this essay`s title '¯ime Binds.¨ At the simplest level, 'binds¨
aie piedicaments: like Iiankenstein`s monstei, we cannot iepioduce little
queeis with speim and eggs, even if we do choose to give biith oi paient:
Erotohìstorìography ó1
making othei queeis is a social mattei. In fact, sexual dissidents must cie-
ate continuing queei lifewoilds while not being witness to this futuie oi
able to guaiantee its foim in advance, on the wagei that theie will be moie
queeis to inhabit such woilds: we aie 'bound¨ to queei successois whom
we might not iecognize. 'Binds¨ also suggests the bonds of love, not only
attachments in the heie and now but also those foiged acioss both spatial
and tempoial baiiieis: to be 'bound¨ is to be going somewheie. Yet even
as it suggests connectivity, 'binds¨ also names a ceitain fxity in time, a
state of being timebound, belated, incompletely developed, left behind oi
not theie yet, going nowheie. ¯his nowheie has eveiything to do with sex,
foi 'binds¨ is the piesent-tense Lnglish of a Ceiman veib employed by
Iieud, EtnJen, meaning to contain otheiwise fieely ciiculating libidinal
eneigies. Yet theie aie pleasuies heie, too, foi 'binding¨ is, of couise, one
among many queei bodily piactices, which include not only the painful
enjoyment of bondage but also, in the scene I have desciibed, the digestive
woik the little giil`s body will eventually do upon the tomatoes.
Binding, we might say, makes piedicament into pleasuie, fxity into
a mode of tiavel acioss time as well as space. Like 'dissemination,¨ it
counteis the fantasy of castiation that subtends melancholic histoiiog-
iaphy, foi it foiegiounds attachments iathei than loss. Iuitheimoie, the
monstei`s body and bodily act piovide a queei alteinative to the two most
heteiosexually gendeied fguies foi 'piogiess¨: the fecund mateinal body
that supposedly engendeis natuial histoiy and the heioic male body that
supposedly engendeis national histoiy. Considei the monstei in teims
of Iieud`s theoiy that a bodily imago and eventually the ego itself bind,
indeed aie caused by the binding of, iaw and unpleasant sensoiy effects
into legible somatic and psychic foim. Iieud aigues that subjectivity begins
when the libido invests in an uncomfoitable bodily sensation by means
of which it doubles back upon itself to delineate body paits as such. His
example is a toothache, though he suggests that the genitals aie peihaps
the most insistent locale foi such libidinal fxations.
Iiom within this
Nobius loop of attachment to sensitive aieas, an incieasingly unifed sense
of bodily contouis emeiges, and these contouis mateiialize the ego that
is 'at fist, a bodily ego,¨ an inteiconnected set of peiceived suifaces and
Opening these teims out into the social, we can ceitainly
think of engioupment÷the collective foim of the ego÷as engendeied
by just this piocess. Heie, the monstei`s wounds become metonymic of
any numbei of physical laceiations suffeied by queei bodies: beatings,
unwanted heteiosexual sex, medical 'coiiections¨ to the inteisexed. ¯hese
injuiies, among otheis, aie the violent foundation of collective queei being,
the moiphological imaginaiy, as }udith Butlei calls it, foi a wounded socius
whose veiy wounding enables its being at all.

ó2 Elìzabeth Freenan
History tnos
as textoal,
ano linear only in
to a note renale
booy laborinq
¨natorally` ano
recorrently in
But even the scene as I have naiiated it thus fai succumbs to the logic
that time binding would countei. As L. O. Aianye (Louise) Iiadenbuig
has aigued, histoiy, coded as male, supeisedes iepioduction, coded as
female, insofai as the foimei chaits the woik of men injuied in wai who
tell tales to one anothei acioss geneiations.
Histoiy thus emeiges as tex-
tual, humanmade, and lineai only in contiadistinction to a mute female
body laboiing 'natuially¨ and iecuiiently in childbiith. In The Sitcl,
Itngers of Ttne, within a conveisation between two women, the singulai
and iiieplaceable event of a wounded male body installs the deep time
of a 'befoie¨ and an 'aftei,¨ maiks the potential histoiicity of this time
and facilitates human agency ovei it in the foim of a naiiative that oui
fctional wiitei hands ovei to hei fiiend and she hands ovei to the flmic
audience. Signifcantly, one speakei is muideied soon aftei the conveisa-
tion, suggesting that two women cannot be the beaieis of a futuie thought
outside the context of iepioduction. Oi, this is what you get when you look
at the speakeis and not at the little giil who does not actually mateiialize
in this scene: as a fguie foi the queei undead, the monstei is tempoially
linked÷timebound÷to the little giil who is not a child at all but a queei
unboin, a futuie we cannot see but upon which we bet. Hei speculated
piesence, I would aigue, inauguiates a diffeient ieading of the monstei,
one leading to the 'eioto-¨ in eiotohistoiiogiaphy.
Retuining to Iiadenbuig`s and Iieud`s analyses, both pivot on the
tiansfoimation of a wound into phallic powei. Authoiity ovei what counts
as histoiy, Iiadenbuig aigues, compensates foi bodily injuiy. As Butlei
has noted, Iieud eventually iecasts the oiiginaiy bodily discomfoit that
cieates the individual (and I would aigue, social) imago as a tumescence
oi engoigement, the kind that only penises expeiience. Pait of Butlei`s
pioject is to unglue the phallic ego fiom the penis by ielocating the giounds
foi a moiphological imaginaiy, a bodily ego, onto any numbei of possible
bodily suifaces: the lesbian phallus might emeige in ielation to 'an aim,
a tongue, a hand (oi two), a knee, a thigh, a pelvic bone, an aiiay of pui-
posefully instiumentalized body-like things.¨
But wheie in this model is
the toothache`s inteiestingly aching hole and othei symptoms of a ceitain
desiie to be flled up, not all of which can be ieduced to wounds· What
is the moiphological imaginaiy foi that· Anothei essay about the lesbian
phallus allows us to see that the Iieudian hole seems to ieappeai in Butlei`s
woik on and as the audience. }oidana Rosenbeig has iecently aigued that
in Butlei`s essay, the audience`s hungei foi lesbian piesence, the dumb
liteialist dyke`s wish to be taken by the clumsy, dildonic visual iefeient,
can only disgust and amuse the piofessional deconstiuctionist foi whom
the phallus is, of couise, the veiy sign of nonpiesence.
Oui monstei`s
extiavagant bodily gestuie similaily ielocates the hole: the little giil, his
Erotohìstorìography ó3
'audience,¨ will have hei hungei satiated diiectly by the tomato and indi-
iectly by his blood, which also caiiies with it the LNA of multiple dead. Of
couise, hei queei hungei foi tactile contact with the past is open to similai
chaiges of vulgai histoiicism, the ugly twin of vulgai homosexuality. But
the monstei`s wounds themselves pass ovei fiom his pain to hei satisfac-
tion, his openings to heis, without necessaiily having to become eithei lack
oi piesence. ¯he monstei`s tiansfei of eneigy acioss time appeais not as
masculine saciifce but iathei as a gendei-undiffeientiated but neveitheless
localized bodily effusion: in shoit, holes beget holes.
¯he gieat suipiise of this scene, then, lies in the missing feast it sug-
gests: a taste of the idea that pleasuie may be as potentially geneiative of
a futuie as pain, tiauma, loss, oi foieclosuie. In fact, Cioigio Agamben
has suggested that pleasuie could found a new concept of time, one pies-
ently missing fiom histoiical mateiialism. But he has moie pioblematically
located that pleasuie in 'man`s oiiginaiy home,¨ which sounds, again, like
a ietuin to the plenitude of a mateinal body.
In contiast, the scene I have
desciibed offeis neithei mothei noi fathei in its imagining of ielations
acioss time and between times, no oiiginal womb, but only a scaiied and
stiiated body on the one side, an absent piepubescent body on the othei,
and a dumb, juicy, not-yet-boin vegetable in between, with no poitable
text mediating the tiansfei. And, ciucially, it offeis the mouth as a tactile
iathei than just a veibal instiument foi tempoial tiansactions, foi tempoial
binding. ¯he question is how this might become histoiical.
In its iecoipoiealizing of the mouth and its use of this 'hole¨ to bind
a diffeiential past to an uninevitable futuie, the fguie of the little giil
invokes Nicholas Abiaham and Naiia ¯oiok`s desciiption of melancho-
lia÷one that has the powei to ieinsciibe pleasuie into the melancholic
histoiiogiaphical inteiventions that queei theoiy is alieady making. Abia-
ham and ¯oiok desciibe melancholia in paiticulaily coipoieal teims, as a
way to pieseive a piioi scene oi object in the foim of a symptom usually
connected to the mouth÷sometimes a set of behaviois like bingeing on
food oi staiving, but most often a fetish woid, even a way of speak-
ing, that simultaneously pieseives and obscuies the loss. In this piocess,
which they call incoipoiation, the subject mimes its iepossession of a
lost object by eating oi speaking awiy, attempting liteially to embed the
object into oi make it pait of the body itself.
Incoipoiation, Abiaham
and ¯oiok aigue, is the pathological foim of a piocess they call intiojec-
tion, wheie the lost object seives as a means foi the subject to iewoik its
ó4 Elìzabeth Freenan
oiiginaiy eiotic autonomy.
In intiojection, the object becomes a meie
placeholdei foi the self, whom the subject must ietuin to loving as in
piimaiy naicissisim, but this time the self must be peimeable enough to
integiate new objects, too. ¯his is, notably, a much less phallic model of
the ego than Iieud`s, oi even Butlei`s. In fact, opened out fiom individual
psyche to collective piocess, both the piocess of incoipoiation and that of
intiojection suggest what might be called a 'bottom¨ histoiiogiaphy. If
oui absent little giil is a ieceptacle foi queei histoiy, what she ieceives is
not a tiansmission of authoiity oi custom but a tiansmission of ieceptivity
itself, of a ceitain pleasuiably poious ielation to new confguiations of the
past and unpiedictable futuies.

In Abiaham and ¯oiok`s model, melancholia is cuied when the lost
object fnally disappeais, when incoipoiation yields to intiojection, and
time synchs up again such that the uninteiiupted piesent coiiesponds to
an integiated self open to the futuie but ovei the past. Yet like melancholia
itself, the so-called pathological foim of incoipoiation seems eminently
moie queei; it pieseives the past as past, in a ciypt impeifectly sealed off
fiom the piesent. Incoipoiation imagines a psyche with unpiedictable leak-
ages, a body at semiotically and sexually pioductive tempoial odds with
itself. Lespite Abiaham and ¯oiok`s ßattening of time in the 'noimal¨
model of intiojection, the past they suggest inteiiupts the piesent to tiig-
gei eating and speaking is not wholly defned in teims of tiauma. Instead,
it consists of latent excitations not yet tiaveised by the binaiy between
pain and pleasuie. In this sense, what is pieseived and suspended within
the mouth is also capable of being ieleased as pleasuie iathei than simply
being iepeated as incomplete masteiy ovei pain.
In fact, ¯oiok addiesses the most opaque pait of Iieud`s essay on
mouining and melancholia, in which Iieud notes but fails to theoiize the
pioblem of the inappiopiiate iesponse. While we would expect teais oi
numbness in the face of death, Iieud iemaiks that the giieving subject often
expeiiences a suige of fienzied joy: '¯he most iemaikable peculiaiity of
melancholia, and one most in need of explanation, is the tendency it displays
to tuin into mania accompanied by a completely opposite symptomatol-
He notes that mouining does not have the same tendency, which
eliminates the possibility that mania is simply eneigy unbound fiom the lost
object once its loss has been iecognized and woiked thiough. ¯oiok consid-
eis a seiies of letteis in which Iieud`s contempoiaiy Kail Abiaham piessed
him to considei the question of this mania and suggested seveial times that
it often consisted of a sudden inßux of eiotic feelings. But Iieud seems not
to have answeied this call to examine the phenomenon. ¯aking up wheie
he left off, ¯oiok suggests that the melancholic`s entombed seciet may not
be a loss at all. Rathei, it is an eiotic effusion iepiessed and mnemonically
ln ract, openeo
oot rron
inoiviooal psycne
to collective
process, botn
tne process or
ano tnat or
soqqest vnat
niqnt be calleo
a ¨botton`
Erotohìstorìography ó5
pieseived: 'The tllness of nourntng |i.e., melancholia] Joes noi resuli, as ntghi
ajjear, fron ihe af}tciton causeJ b, ihe objecial loss tiself, bui raiher fron ihe
feeltng of an trrejarable crtne of ha.tng been o.ercone :tih Jestre, of ha.tng been
surjrtseJ b, an}o: of ltbtJo ai ihe leasi ajjrojrtaie noneni, :hen ti :oulJ
behoo.e us io be grte.eJ tn Jesjatr.¨
She goes on to claim that melancholic
incoipoiation itself 'peipetuate|s] a clandestine pleasuie,¨ a long-ago
inteiiupted scene of eiotic contact with the lost object.
Ioi ¯oiok, then,
the melancholic psyche is a doubled effect of pleasuies past: fist, pleasuie
is seveied and iemade as unpleasuie oi tiauma; then, the object that gave
pleasuie itself disappeais. ¯he scene`s affect and object seciet themselves
in body and psyche, to be ieleased in the giieving subject`s sudden feeling
of cainal desiie. In shoit, as a component of melancholia, mania ievisits
an inappiopiiate sexual iesponse fiom the past.
With ¯oiok`s sense of melancholia as a lost eiotic encountei pieseived,
then, we can imagine the 'inappiopiiate¨ iesponse of eios in the face of
soiiow as a tiace of past foims of pleasuie located in specifc histoiical
moments. A iecent video by Nguyen ¯an Hoang, an emeiging aitist, makes
this possibility tangible: I.I.F. (2uu2)cuts between a 197us poinogiaphic
videotape and an image of Nguyen`s face ießected in a television set.
Speaking of this woik iecently, Nguyen desciibed his fascination with the
way that the oiiginal videotape had deteiioiated in the places wheie view-
eis had iewound the tape to look at paiticulaily sexy scenes, so that the
tape now skipped and the action was punctuated by giainy blank spots.

Reappeaiing in Nguyen`s video, these blank spots suggest the impossibility
of ietuining to the shoit-lived eia when gay men could have unpiotected
sex with multiple paitneis without feai. Iloating ovei this scene, Nguyen`s
face is the sign of his geneiation, boin too late. At the same time, the
image of Nguyen`s face indexes the fact that, given how Asian Ameiican
men have been steieotyped as feminine in the Inited States, he would not
necessaiily have had access anyway to this paiticulai sex scene oi to the
'scene¨ of uiban macho man ciuising: Nguyen`s ießection also looks like
the ghosts of those condemned to watch fiom the sidelines duiing the eia
of the taping, waiting foi theii moment of inclusion. Yet this is not a tape
about inclusion, ultimately, foi a tiace of pleasuie is also visible: the suiface
of the television also simply ießects a voyeui taking his enjoyments wheie
he fnds them. Civen the histoiical fiaming of this video by AILS and
iacism against Asian Ameiicans, it might seem politically inappiopiiate foi
the videomakei-chaiactei to expeiience any bliss by looking at white gay
men baiebacking. Yet theie he is, watching. ¯he audience cannot know
foi suie what peisonal oi political expeiiences iush into his head to fll
the gaps in the tape that once contained white gay men, to bind him to the
suiiounding scenes and bind these to events in his own life.
óó Elìzabeth Freenan
Nguyen`s video iegisteis something akin to ¯oni Noiiison`s concept
of 'skin memoiy, the body`s iecollection of pleasuie,¨ combined with the
claim of hei eailiei woiks that the skin might index histoiical moments
as well as peisonal encounteis.
But what Abiaham and ¯oiok desciibe
as maniac memoiy is haidly emotion iecollected in tianquillity÷instead,
it is an iiiuption of stiange plenitude in the piesent, like Nguyen`s bliss
amid geneiational and iacial giief. In this and othei eiotohistoiiogiaphical
woiks, we see Waltei Benjamin`s concept of the shock of modeinity, which
even he linked to ephemeial encounteis with sexualized fguies such as
piostitutes and sailois, met by his concept of the past ßashing up to illu-
minate the piesent.
Iollowing the lead of Abiaham and ¯oiok, of Ben-
jamin, of woiks like these two flms, we might imagine ouiselves haunted
by ecstasy and not just by loss; iesidues of positive affect (eiotic scenes,
utopias, memoiies of touch) might be available foi queei countei- (oi
paia-) histoiiogiaphies. As I have aigued elsewheie, within this paiadigm
we might see camp peifoimance as a kind of histoiicist joutssance, a fiic-
tion of dead bodies upon live ones, obsolete constiuctions upon emeigent
ones, which I have called 'tempoial diag.¨
Oi, we might look foi what
Annamaiie }agose has called 'the fguie of 'histoiy`÷its eneigizing of the
veiy tiopes of befoie and aftei¨ in queei patteins of couitship and ciuising,
in sexual and moie bioadly tactile encounteis, even in identity foimations
such as butch/femme oi I¯N.
Oi (and), histoiicity itself might appeai
as a stiuctuie of iacitle feeling, a mode of touch, even a sexual piactice. In
paiticulai, we may want to glimpse tiaces of histoiically specifc foims of
pleasuie÷whethei they have been lost, iepiessed, disavowed, oi subsumed
into institutional foims of supposedly benign supeivision like maiiiage÷in
oui piesent, piecisely because they once counted in the lesbian and gay
imaginaiy, if not the national one, as pait of what it meant to have a life.
Nany thanks to those who offeied comments on this essay in its vaiious incai-
nations: Bishnu Chosh, }udith Halbeistam, Heathei Love, Lana Luciano,
H. N. Lukes, Kaia ¯hompson, ieadeis and editois at Soctal Texi, and audiences at
Haivaid Iniveisity, the Pembioke Centei foi ¯eaching and Reseaich on Women
at Biown Iniveisity, and the Iniveisity of Califoinia at Lavis Scholais` Sympo-
1. Pieiie Bouidieu, Cuiltne of a Theor, of Fracitce, tians. Richaid Nice (New
Yoik: Cambiidge Iniveisity Piess, 1977), 7.
2. Lxemplaiy iecent ciitiques of the inteitwined iacial, gendeied, and sexual-
ized politics of developmental time include Rod Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl:
To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess,
Erotohìstorìography ó7
2uu4); and Naitin I. Nanalansan IV, Clobal Itltjtno-¬nertcan Aen tn ihe
Dtasjora (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3). ¯he classic text is Anne
NcClintock, Injertal Leaiher: Face, CenJer, anJ Sexualti, tn ihe Colontal Coniesi
(New Yoik: Routledge, 1995).
3. See Ceeta Patel, 'Chostly Appeaiances: ¯ime ¯ales ¯allied Ip,¨ Soctal
Texi 64 (2uuu): 47÷66; and Lviatai Zeiubavel, HtJJen Fh,ihns: ScheJules anJ
CalenJars tn Soctal Ltfe (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago Piess, 19S1).
4. }ohn Boineman, Eelongtng tn ihe T:o Eerltns: Itn, Siaie, Naiton (Cam-
biidge: Cambiidge Iniveisity Piess, 1992), 31.
5. Homi Bhabha, The Locaiton of Culiure (New Yoik: Routledge, 1994), 1÷
6. On queei as an anti-taxonomizing foice, see Lauien Beilant and Llizabeth
Iieeman, 'Queei Nationality,¨ bounJar, 2 19 (1992): 149÷Su; and Lve Sedgwick,
'Intioduction: Axiomatic,¨ in Ljtsienolog, of ihe Closei (Beikeley: Iniveisity of
Califoinia Piess, 199u), 1÷63. Ioi piovocative theoiizations of how the state uses
genealogical time to make lives intelligible as such, see Boineman, Eelongtng tn ihe
T:o Eerltns, and Llizabeth Povinelli, 'Notes on Ciidlock: Cenealogy, Intimacy,
Sexuality,¨ in 'New Imaginaiies,¨ ed. Lilip Caonkai and Benjamin Lee, spe-
cial issue, Fubltc Culiure 14 (2uu2): 215÷3S. An impoitant theoiization of queei
tempoiality is }udith Halbeistam, In a Queer Ttne anJ Flace: TransgenJer EoJtes,
Subculiural (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu5), just published as
this aiticle went to piess.
7. Cesaie Casaiino, '¯ime Natteis: Naix, Negii, Agamben, and the Coipo-
ieal,¨ Siraiegtes 16 (2uu3): 1S5÷2u6, 2u2 (emphasis added).
S. Paiticulaily moving examples of this woik include Chiistophei Nealon,
IounJltngs: Lesbtan anJ Ca, Htsiortcal Lnoiton before Sione:all (Luiham, NC:
Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1); and Heathei Love, 'Ieeling Backwaid: Loss and
the Politics of Queei Histoiy¨ (unpublished manusciipt).
9. Iiedeiic }ameson, The Foltitcal Inconsctous: Narrait.e as a Soctall, S,nboltc
¬ci (Ithaca, NY: Coinell Iniveisity Piess, 19S1), 1u2.
1u. See, e.g., the woik of Lonald Noiton.
11. Sigmund Iieud, '¯he Incanny¨ (1925), iepiinted in The SianJarJ LJt-
iton of ihe Conjleie Fs,chologtcal !orls of StgnunJ IreuJ, ed. and tians. }ames
Stiachey, vol. 17 (London: Hogaith, 1953), 219÷52. ¯he teim chronoioje is fiom
Nikhail Bakhtin, 'Ioims of ¯ime and of the Chionotope in the Novel,¨ in The
Dtalogtc Inagtnaiton: Iour Lssa,s, ed. Nichael Holquist, tians. Caiyl Lmeison and
Nichael Holquist (Austin: Iniveisity of ¯exas Piess, 19S1), S4÷25S.
12. Nichel Ioucault, 'Iiiendship as a Way of Life,¨ in Ioucauli Lt.e: Col-
lecieJ Inier.te:s, 1961÷1984, ed. Sylveie Lotiingei, tians. Lysa Hochioth and }ohn
}ohnston (New Yoik: Semiotext|e], 1996), 3uS÷12, 31u.
13. ¯his foimulation echoes and modifes }. C. Pocock, '¯ime, Institutions,
and Action: An Lssay on ¯iaditions and ¯heii Indeistanding,¨ in Foltitcs, Lan-
guage, anJ Ttne (New Yoik: Atheneum, 1971), 233÷72, 256.
14. Caiolyn Linshaw, Ceiitng Sexualtites anJ Connuntites, Fre- anJ
FosinoJern (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1999). Linshaw also pioduc-
tively exploies the iemaik on Roland Baithes I have used foi an epigiaph.
15. Hillaiy Bioughei, The Sitcl, Itngers of Ttne (1997; New Yoik: Stiand
Releasing Home Video LVL, 2uu1). ¯he speakei has confused the monstei and
his cieatoi.
óB Elìzabeth Freenan
16. See Nichael Noon, Dtssentnaitng !htinan: Fe.tston anJ Corjorealti, tn of Crass (Cambiidge, NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess, 1991).
17. Roland Baithes, SaJe, Lo,ola, Iourter, tians. Richaid Nillei (New Yoik:
Hill and Wang, 1976).
1S. Sigmund Iieud, 'On Naicissism: An Intioduction¨ (1914). Repiinted
in Ceneral Fs,chologtcal Theor,, ed. Philip Reiff (New Yoik: Nacmillan, 1963),
56÷S2, esp. 64.
19. Sigmund Iieud, The Lgo anJ ihe IJ, tians. }oan Rivieie, iev. and ed. }ames
Stiachey (New Yoik: Noiton, 1962), 17.
2u. See }udith Butlei, '¯he Lesbian Phallus and the Noiphological Imagi-
naiy,¨ in EoJtes Thai Aaiier: Cn ihe Dtscurst.e Ltntis of ´Sex" (New Yoik: Rout-
ledge, 1993), 57÷91.
21. Louise O. Iiadenbuig (now L. O. Aianye) and Caila Iiecceio, '¯he
Pleasuies of Histoiy,¨ CLQ 1 (1995): 371÷S4.
22. Butlei, '¯he Lesbian Phallus,¨ SS.
23. }oidana Rosenbeig, 'Butlei`s 'Lesbian Phallus`; oi, What Can Lecon-
stiuction Ieel·¨ CLQ 9 (2uu3): 393÷414.
24. Cioigio Agamben, '¯ime and Histoiy: Ciitique of the Instant and the
Continuum,¨ in Infanc, anJ Htsior,: The Desiruciton of Lxjertence, tians. Liz
Heion (New Yoik: Veiso, 1993), 91÷1u5, esp. 1u4. ¯hanks to Ciegoiy Lobbins
foi biinging this essay to my attention.
25. Nicolas Abiaham and Naiia ¯oiok, 'Nouining oi Nelancholia: Intio-
jection veisus Incoipoiation,¨ in Abiaham and ¯oiok, The Shell anJ ihe Iernel:
Fene:als of Fs,choanal,sts, vol. 1, ed. and tians. Nicholas Rand (Chicago: Inivei-
sity of Chicago Piess, 1994), 125÷3S.
26. Naiia ¯oiok, '¯he Illness of Nouining and the Iantasy of the Lxquisite
Coipse,¨ in The Shell anJ ihe Iernel: Fene:als of Fs,choanal,sts, ed. Nicolas Abia-
ham and Naiia ¯oiok (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago Piess, 1994), 112.
27.Ann Cvetkovich, 'Recasting Receptivity: Iemme Sexualities,¨ in Lesbtan
Lroitcs, ed. Kaila }ay (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 1995), 125÷46.
2S. Sigmund Iieud, 'Nouining and Nelancholia¨ (1917). Repiinted in Cen-
eral Fs,chologtcal Theor,, ed. Philip Reiff (New Yoik: Nacmillan, 1963), 174.
29. ¯oiok, '¯he Illness of Nouining,¨ 1u7÷24, 11u (emphasis in oiiginal).
3u. ¯oiok, '¯he Illness of Nouining,¨ 131.
31. Nguyen ¯an Hoang, 'Queei Ait¨ (ioundtable piesentation, Queei Loca-
tions confeience, Iivine, CA, 11 Nay 2uu4).
32. ¯oni Noiiison, Lo.e (New Yoik: Knopf, 2uu3), 67. See also }ay Piossei,
SeconJ Sltns: The EoJ, of Transsexualti, (New Yoik: Columbia Inivei-
sity Piess, 199S), S3.
33. See Lianne Chisholm, '¯he City of Collective Nemoiy,¨ CLQ 7 (2uu1):
34. On tempoial diag, see Llizabeth Iieeman, 'Packing Histoiy, Count(ei)ing
Ceneiations,¨ Ne: Ltierar, Htsior, 31 (2uuu): 727÷44.
35. Annamaiie }agose, Inconsequence: Lesbtan Fejreseniaiton anJ ihe Logtc of
Sexual Sequence (Ithaca, NY: Coinell Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2), xi.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
Der ¬ljiraun: I am in a waimly lit ioom, spanned by banquet tables diaped
with white tablecloths. It`s like an inteiioi fiom The !esi !tng, the cameia
swooping acioss the ambei ioom to ieveal its sconces, its sideboaid, its
oiiental caipet. ¯he hum of conveisation is pleasant, soothing, and I am
vaguely contented to meet the woman seated next to me at the long table.
Hei manicuied fngeis giasp mine a second oi two longei than necessaiy;
hei clasp feels seductive and inviting. }ust as I diaw back my hand, I become
hot, sweaty, panicky. All of a sudden, I am seized with an anxiety about
being in a ioom flled with well-heeled, well-gioomed, well-manneied, and
well-diessed putatively stiaight white people. I am a fiaud, an impostei. I
iun scieaming fiom the ioom. I wake up.
Ioi me, queei studies has been one way to make this piivate, solitaiy,
and inchoate feeling of being a fiaud÷a feeling that suiges and subsides
like a ßaie÷into something like a ciitique. ¯he feeling, it should be said,
also eiupts in gatheiings of witty, edgy, and beautiful queei people. It is
a moie fundamental question of being, exploding when the decoiousness
of the noimative, howevei indicated, becomes too much to beai.
I did have the above nightmaie iecently. It iecuis peiiodically, blend-
ing its mise-en-scene fiom the habitual visual ingiedients of my eveiyday
life: flm, television, and academic institutions. ¯he iesult is that my dieam-
woild looks like a ciossbieeding expeiiment between the Ivy League and
La: anJ CrJer, the classioom and the moigue. If you get the pictuie, the
point I would like to take up substantively heie is a blunt one: noimativity,
like ideology, is a deviously expiessive beast, deiiving its foim as well as its
foice fiom unexpected, unanticipated, unimaginable quaiteis. It confionts
desiie as well as powei, and it seems cuiiously indiffeient to iationalized,
systematic, and scientifc counteiattacks. ¯he place wheie I encountei
noimativity and its effects is conjugated as the pedagogy of the visual.
When I say 'noimativity,¨ what I ieally mean is the teiioi of the noi-
mative: in its most benign foim it appeais as a bullying insistence towaid
obedience to social law and hieiaichy, and in its most lethal foim it caiiies
the punishment of death foi iesistance to them. In my view, queei theoiy
biings immense iesouices to the analysis of, engagement with, and cii-
7u Any Vìllarejo
tique of noimativity, iesouices piecisely calibiated to the degiee to which
'queei¨ is deployed as a catachiesis, as a metaphoi without an adequate
iefeient. ¯o put it diffeiently, queei theoiy seems to me most equipped
to 'taiiy with the noimative¨ when it foisakes its claims to the liteial and
makes foi the moie dangeious÷but also moie commodious÷complica-
tions of ielationality and vaiiegation.
Queei is but one name, huiled back
with piide, foi social abjection, exclusion, maiginalization, and degiada-
tion; it piovides, by this logic, but one opening towaid fieedom.
In what follows, I take up what I see as a fundamental challenge posed
by queei of coloi analysis: making good on the undeistanding of noima-
tivity as vaiiegated, stiiated, contiadictoiy. Queei of coloi ciitique, an
emeigent and open-ended task as well as an awkwaid if piovisional name,
takes the piismatic piessuies of the noimative as impossible to seize and
to systematize simultaneously. ¯o make moie explicit what I have been
allowing to play beneath the suiface, what inteiests me is the peisistent
tension queei theoiy inheiits fiom its foiebeais in ciitical theoiy between
systematization and desiie, between ieason and affect, between the liteial
and the fguiative, between philosophy and liteiatuie.
A paiticulaily exciting iecent book addiesses this tension, Rodeiick
Ieiguson`s ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque. It is a
seiious and suie attempt to biing a Naixist inheiitance into conveisation
with modes of pathologizing Afiican Ameiican life, paiticulaily thiough
the logic of the symptom, thiough the hieiaichies of value of gendei and
sexuality; it is pait of a laigei endeavoi, which deseives oui close attention,
moie explicitly to iewiite queei studies as a discouise about iace and class,
not simply as a bounded discouise about gendei and sexuality. ¯he book,
in tuin, spaiked my ieading of a peculiai 196S flm I have been stiuggling
to undeistand thiough this multifaceted, layeied conception of noimativ-
ity: Elacl Htsior,: Losi, Siolen, or Sira,eJ. (I should add heie, by way of
a stipulation as to my sanity oi as to what constitutes 'queei of coloi¨
mattei oi mateiial, that the flm is neithei 'queei¨ noi aggiessively 'het-
eionoimative,¨ but it takes hold of me in a way that helps me think about
noimativity in what might be a queei way.) Like Ieiguson`s book, the flm
is a suivey of how twentieth-centuiy Afiican Ameiican life is natuialized
as a pathologizing symptom and iedeemed by masculinist identifcations,
in this case thiough the language of cinema itself. But the flm diffeis fiom
Ieiguson`s book in that it poweifully distinguishes between the teiiois of
the noimative and the fantasies and piactices of self-pioduction thiough
which we meet those teiiois. I visit both the book and the flm in tuin,
adheiing neithei to the foim of the book ieview noi to the heimeticism
of textual analysis. Instead, I want ¬berraitons to bleed into Htsior,, black
and beautiful. Rodeiick Ieiguson, meet Bill Cosby.
A biief woid on my titulai iefeience to Slavoj Zizek`s woik, which is
ln vnat rollovs, l
take op vnat l see
as a ronoanental
cnallenqe poseo
by qoeer or color
analysis. nakinq
qooo on tne
or nornativity
as varieqateo,
Cueer 1heory ano Black Hìstory 71
motivated by a question this essay shaies with Tarr,tng :tih ihe Negait.e:
how to addiess questions of social conßict, paiticulai iacial oi ethnic con-
ßict, within the teims of ideology ciitique· Like Zizek, I shaie the sense
that it is the task of the ciitical intellectual÷if indeed one can still speak
of him oi hei÷to maintain a distance with iespect to the Nastei-Signifei
oi, as he says, 'to 'pioduce` the Nastei-Signifei, that is to say, to iendei
visible its 'pioduced,` aitifcial, contingent chaiactei.¨
¯he movement
into the iealm of possibility fiom actuality belongs to the pedagogy of the
visual: as Zizek`s fiequent biief analyses of flms demonstiate, the cinema
is as integial to the dialectic of EtlJung as philosophical, sociological, oi
psychoanalytic discouises may be. While this shoit essay cannot possibly
engage with the dense ieadings of the Ceiman tiadition of philosophical
idealism Zizek piovides in his book, iesonances of his woik on the symptom
may be heaid elsewheie in the essay.
I admiie Ieiguson`s book and would hope to engage it as it does the woik
of the thinkeis Ieiguson addiesses: patiently, thoioughly, iigoiously, lov-
ingly. Ieiguson`s pioject, foiging queei of coloi analysis that biidges the
social sciences and the humanities (sociology and liteiatuie), displays the
kind of thinking that some of the eaily woik of Biitish cultuial studies
did, paiticulaily in its sense of unielenting uigency and in the tiansfoi-
mations it puts into play of academic categoiies (cultuial studies, queei
studies, ciitical iace studies, queei of coloi ciitique). Like some ciitiques
of that initial Biimingham Centie woik, Ieiguson also seeks to unmask
the noimative assumptions of Naixist tiaditions while disavowing the
ideology of tianspaiency of which such unmasking would seem to be an
example. ¯his pioduces an inteiesting and pioductive tension, miiioiing
that toique the pioject sustains between scientifc sociological methodol-
ogy and liteiaiy insight. Laily in the book, Ieiguson defnes his pioject
in this way: 'Queei of coloi analysis denotes an inteiest in mateiiality,
but iefuses ideologies of tianspaiency and ießection, ideologies that have
helped to constitute maixism, ievolutionaiy nationalism, and libeial plu-
Lndoising a moie discuisive pioceduie that would constitute
diffeient political subjects, Ieiguson tuins to Naix`s own tieatment in
the Lconontc anJ Fhtlosojhtc Aanuscrtjis of 1844 of the fguie of the pios-
titute. He ieads hei fguiation as an instance of natuializing as 'ieal¨
symptom (of the iavages of industiial capitalism) the potential ageni of
social change, a maneuvei that sociology would latei extend to Afiican
Ameiicans in the twentieth centuiy.
In opening with a ieading of this fguie and in moie explicit ways, too
72 Any Vìllarejo
(especially in his fnal chaptei, 'Something Llse to Be: Sula, The Ao,nthan
Fejori, and the Negations of Black Lesbian Ieminism¨), Ieiguson maiks
his debt to feminism and its peisistent woik of undoing noimative and
natuializing moves made in the name of the univeisal. In his woids, queei
of coloi analysis 'extends women of coloi feminism by investigating how
inteisecting iacial, gendei, and sexual piactices antagonize and/oi conspiie
with the noimative investments of nation-states and capital¨ (4). Since the
mode of sociology÷a piivileged discouise in the sense that it has been, in
Ieiguson`s view, the piimaiy mechanism foi obtaining knowledge about
Afiican Ameiican life in the twentieth centuiy and beyond÷is to natu-
ialize as oi while iendeiing jer.erse, it becomes necessaiy to fuse queei
ciitique with the legacy of feminism`s inteisectional ciitique, building
oi accumulating a theoietical stance as well as a method thiough what I
would call a kind of histoiical sedimentation. Iltimately, Ieiguson cements
feminist ciitique with queei ciitique thiough two key desciiptois of his
object, natuialized 'heteiopatiiaichy¨ and its companion teim, the 'non-
heteionoimative.¨ Ieiguson`s object, the natuialized and noimative view
of Afiican Ameiican life pioffeied thiough the texts diawn fiom sociology
and liteiatuie Ieiguson ieads, is constituted both by the peiveiting logic
of 'canonical¨ sociology and by Ieiguson`s ciitical feminist/queei posi-
tion: 'Looking at canonical sociology`s ielationship to Afiican Ameiican
nonheteionoimative foimations can help us see how I.S. capital has also
been iegaided as a site of pathologies and peiveisions that have designated
iacialized nonwhite communities as the often ominous outcome of capital`s
pioductive needs¨ (1S÷19).
All of this is to say that 'nonheteionoimative¨ comes to denote, foi
Ieiguson, a symptom oi sign of a ielentless and pathologizing iacial
logic, itself pioduced thiough the ciicuits of industiial capitalism, as
well as that which would seem to evade that logic. I have summaiized his
elegant aigument quickly, and it would be impoitant in a moie extended
tieatment of his book to exploie among othei things the consequences of
distinguishing caiefully between sign and symptom, between logic and
iesult, between industiial and uibanizing economies. But foi my puiposes
in tiying to open up a moie nuanced undeistanding of noimativity, what
seems signifcant is that Ieiguson seeks to foige a method (symptomatic
ieading) and an abstiaction (nonheteionoimative) that, on the one hand,
can speak to the multiple foims that degiadation takes in late capitalist
Ameiica, wheie peiveisions and gendei tiansgiessions aplenty become
insciibed in the moitai of iacialized uiban landscapes. On the othei
hand, he lends that same name to fguies of defance and ciitique. ¯his
conßation, lodged in his ieadings and in the teim nonheieronornait.e, is,
I want to aigue, an effoit to keep alive the inteisectional, 'accumulated¨
Cueer 1heory ano Black Hìstory 73
histoiical sedimentation wheieby Afiican Ameiican exploitation, degiada-
tion, abjection, and exploitation aie fguied thiough, natuialized by, and
dependent on desciiptive hieiaichies of value of gendei and sexuality (not
to mention discouises of citizenship, ethics, and demociacy). ¯o insist on
the fiactuied and contiadictoiy natuie of such sedimentation is an act,
again in my view, of consideiable intellectual biaveiy. At the same time,
Ieiguson wants nonheieronornait.e to maik a iange of (to use some of his
woids) positions, foimations, sites of knowledge pioduction, and, well (to
use a humblei categoiy), kinds of people (like those black queens on the
South Side of Chicago whom Ieiguson invokes) who would be candidates
foi the kind of tiansfoimative agency Naix iefused to see in the fguie of
the piostitute.
¯he questions, then, aie these: How do we come to know about the
piessuies that the noimative exeits on Afiican Ameiican life, paiticulaily
in its ielation to the looming foices and abstiactions of the midcentuiy
(fiom the thiities to the seventies, fiom Nait.e Son to Sula)· ¯hiough
what lenses, fiamewoiks, disciplines, texts, stoiies, fiagments· And how
would we know what escapes the teiioi of the noimative· ¯hiough what
piocess of iecoveiy, ietiieval, ciitique, pioblematization, oi alteinative·
¯hiough what undeistanding of abstiaction· By what vision·
Ieiguson`s contention is that Ameiican sociology has piovided the
most insistent naiiation and most piivileged epistemology thiough which
the state has gained access to, and pioduced knowledge about, Afiican
Ameiicans. Iuitheimoie, taking Afiican Ameiican life as its putative
object, sociology (in paiticulai, what Ieiguson calls 'canonical sociol-
ogy¨) seems able only to stabilize, iathei than to tiouble, the specifcally
noimative tendencies of that dense text of midcentuiy Afiican Ameiican
life; the 'nonheteionoimative gendei, sexual and familial foimations¨
(46) encouiaged by industiialization become pathological oi peiveise
signs of capitalist exploitation that must be answeied, coiiected thiough
sociological sciutiny. His fuithei point, one I take especially seiiously, is
that when one says that 'the state¨ has gained access to knowledge, one
also and hauntingly means 'the school¨ and 'the univeisity.¨ ¯his col-
lection of sociological documents, fiom the woik of Robeit Paik to the
Noynihan Repoit, indeed function as social policy as much as they piovide
a pedagogical sciipt foi the iepioduction of pathologizing and natuializing
lifewoilds, on the giound and in the mind.

Since I am not a sociologist, I do not know whethei looking, say, at the
vibiant tiadition of Ameiican iadical sociology, oi at the entgre sociology
of the Iiankfuit exiles, would yield a diffeient stoiy, although I ceitainly
hope it would. Ieiguson`s own ciitical stance towaid the sociological insti-
tution yields a caieful ieading of those specifcally canonical oi inßuential
socioloqy nas
provioeo tne
nost insistent
narration ano
nost privileqeo
tnrooqn vnicn
tne state nas
qaineo access to,
ano proooceo
aboot, /rrican
74 Any Vìllarejo
texts he chooses to illustiate his point, which again, to paiaphiase, is that
when sociology looks at Afiican Ameiican 'communal and coipoieal
diffeience¨ (41), it sees the degeneiate and peiveise iesults of industiial-
izing and uibanizing economies. Symptom and nothing moie: canonical
sociology in its benevolence cannot iead peiveision as agency. But is it
then liteiatuie that would offei anothei ioute: thiough the imagination,
thiough the ieshufßing of positions and desiie accoiding to new giammais
and idioms iathei than systematizing and scientifc 'canons¨ and logics·

Loes liteiatuie appeai in its diffeience, on which many of us would like
to insist, fiom the systematizing impeiatives of the (social) sciences· In
Ieiguson`s view, the answei is a suipiising 'no.¨ Heie I want to take up
the challenge that Ieiguson lays out but leaves unfnished: to think, as it
weie, outside the symptom. I want to cleave apait the two senses of nonhei-
eronornait.e Ieiguson pioposes, so that the politics of Afiican Ameiican
life and stiuggle aie not foiced to yield theii lessons in the same teims in
which these have been pathologized. In what follows, I would like to sug-
gest that thiough cinema (peihaps as well as liteiatuie but, if so, then in
diffeient ways), one can fnd a iich vocabulaiy foi paising the distinction
that I have aigued is collapsed in nonheieronornait.e between symptom
and agency.
Befoie I get to cinema, howevei, let me fist look quickly but moie
closely at Ieiguson`s view of liteiatuie, which amounts to a view, in fact,
of the canon. Ioi it is Ieiguson`s contention that canonical sociology and
canonical liteiatuie aie funcitonall, equivalent, continuous, and homolo-
Afiican Ameiican nonheteionoimativity thus disiupts the idea that the
liteiaiy and the sociological aie disciete and discontinuous foimations. Instead
we must assume that canonical sociology and canonical liteiatuie aiise out of
the same system of powei, one that piesents noimativity and humanity as the
gifts of state compliance and heteiopatiiaichal belonging. (72)
Insofai as the liteiaiy collides with the sociological (and discouises of citi-
zenship, state-foimation, ethics, and aesthetics), it does so on veiy specifc
giound, wheie sanctioned, fiequently iead, oi inßuential texts seem to
shaie, almost tautologically, a genealogy of natuializing the heteionoi-
mative. Because, foi example, Richaid Wiight piofessed inteiest in the
Chicago school of sociology÷and to a gieat extent depended on it foi
12 Atllton ¬ngr, Elacl 1otces as well as foi Nait.e Son, Ieiguson ieads
the lattei novel`s attempts to anchoi 'nonheteionoimative foimations
within the feminizing dysfunctions of capital¨ (44) as equivalent to socio-
logical diagnoses of industiialization`s peiveise effects. Rathei than con-
Cueer 1heory ano Black Hìstory 75
test it, Wiight instead ieplicates sociology`s bad logic; Nait.e Son is thus
undeistood as a kind of clone, offeiing thiough the chaiactei of Biggei
a ieadable and stiaightfoiwaid symbol of nonheteionoimative dysfunc-
tion. While Ieiguson does offei ieadings of Afiican Ameiican liteiaiy
woiks that stand in a moie ciitical ielation to sociological distoition (by
Ralph Lllison and ¯oni Noiiison, foi example), he ietains his commit-
ment to the functional equivalence of canonical foimations piecisely in
oidei to biing them into conveisation with one anothei, to iead sociology
alongside liteiatuie. Lspecially in his latei chapteis, then, Ieiguson seeks
to avoid one commonplace of libeial pluialist ieadings of canonical lit-
eiatuie: a piactice meiely of exposing the liteiaiy text`s complicity with
hegemonic values.
But in Ieiguson`s ieadings, what is specifcally 'queei¨ nusi appeai
thiough the same iubiic of nonheteionoimativity that sociology discloses,
and it is in insisting on this equivalence that Ieiguson suppiesses, I think,
the ciitical potency of queei theoiy. Queei theoiy offeis a view of ielation-
ality that is not stiictly speaking symptomatic; it offeis ways to ßy with
language and desiie away fiom homology and continuity. Queei theoiy
can offei, in othei woids, a way to giapple with feeling and with iesponse
(affect), a way to woik in the inteistices of contacts, affliations, ielations.
Queei theoiy would do wondeis with the diffeiences and the tingles of
the list of tiansgiessions that sociology instead unifoimly pathologizes in
uiban teiiitoiy: 'Piostitutes, homosexuals, ient paities, black and tans,
inteiiacial liaisons, speakeasies, and juvenile delinquency¨ (41) to take
a few, inteiiogating a logic that would take these as equt.aleni signs of
capital`s peiveiting effects. ¯his is not to say that liteiatuie cannot do
wondeis with these equivalences, too, oi that liteiaiy language and litei-
aiy ciiticism aie not alieady well equipped to distinguish, foi example,
between Wiight`s natuialism and Lllison`s modeinism. It is, howevei, to
say that Ieiguson`s paiticulaily exciting contiibution has been to point
to the astonishing complicity of two discouises that would seem fiequently
to insist on theii own autonomy and to see what happens when that
autonomy is fiactuied, theieby opening up a set of ielationships that has
yet fully to be exploied.
I am theiefoie inteiested in how to pull apait the two stiands, symptom
and agency, that Ieiguson conjoins in nonheieronornait.e in the inteiest of
pioducing a specifcally queei undeistanding of the diffeiences that might
inheie in both pathologizing and ievolutionaiy ihetoiics. I would ventuie
that such an undeistanding is as cinematic as it is sociological, by which I
mean that the veiy mode of iesponse engendeied by uiban and industiial
life in midcentuiy Ameiica is maiked by the language and social institution
of the cinema. ¯o examine the middle decades of the Ameiican twentieth
Coeer tneory
orrers a viev
or relationality
tnat is not
strictly speakinq
synptonatic, it
orrers vays to ny
vitn lanqoaqe
ano oesire avay
rron nonoloqy
ano continoity.
7ó Any Vìllarejo
centuiy is, as Ieiguson mentions in passing, to take the movie theatei
as itself a cential technology of iacialization, gendeiing, sexualization
(47÷4S). ¯o take up the question of agency of Afiican Ameiican people
following the migiations to the noith is necessaiily to meditate on move-
ment itself: 'Novies, paities, automobiles, and othei featuies of uiban life
exposed the city`s iesidents to othei tiuths that piovided both context and
access to alteinative subject and social foimations¨ (34).
Cinema is peihaps a moie congenial social institution than liteiatuie
thiough which to undeistand the contiadictoiy effects (at minimum, both
dominant and alteinative subject and social foimations) of social iepioduc-
tion, if only because we aie in such wide agieement about its centiality
to that piocess as we aie about liteiatuie`s maiginality to it (to which the
debates on canon foimation beai witness).
Because the cinema has, fiom
its inception, been a defoiming agent of social life, explicitly maiked as an
industiial ait pai excellence used less explicitly but no less convincingly
as an instiument of the state, its pleasuies and dangeis have been moie
diffcult to acknowledge and calculate than those of liteiatuie. Because it
is such a dominant cultuial institution, its iole as a pedagogical agent has
been moie diffcult to assess, too, especially given the extent to which its
addiess (as with television and now the Inteinet) has always been iacial-
ized, sexualized, gendeied. But I think that too much focus on the iepie-
sentational politics of the commeicial cinema has yielded a unifoimity of
commentaiy and iesponse similai to what Ieiguson ultimately pioduces
by aligning the symbolic woik of liteiaiy fction with sociological diag-
nosis: we have gone fiom Lve Sedgwick`s quip, 'kinda subveisive, kinda
hegemonic,¨ to 'hegemonic-in-deeply-complicated-ways-complicit-with-
I think I can illustiate a diffeient possibility of thinking
about the vaiiegated piessuies of the noimative thiough a single peiplex-
ing flm.
Elacl Htsior,: Losi, Siolen, or Sira,eJ is a 196S flm made by CBS News in
a seiies called 'Of Black Ameiica.¨ Its sciipt was wiitten by one Andiew
Rooney (yes, that Andy Rooney, of 60 Atnuies fame), foi which he won
his fist Lmmy, and it is naiiated by a young and saidonic Bill Cosby.
As I have said, it is a peculiai flm, which one can fnd heie and theie in
univeisity and secondaiy school libiaiies, on 16mm (on which it appeais
to have been ieleased foi distiibution), on eBay now and again, as well as
tiansfeiied to videocassette. What makes it peculiai is a ceitain schizo-
Cueer 1heory ano Black Hìstory 77
phienia oi division in its foim. It begins and extends foi some foity-odd
minutes with a lesson familiai to Black Histoiy Nonth (oi Women`s His-
toiy Nonth, foi that mattei): histoiy has been defoimed by delibeiate
omission, what 'didn`t get into the histoiy books,¨ and that defoimation
has liteial and tiagic consequences foi the futuie. If histoiy is, as Napo-
leon is quoted in Elacl Htsior,, 'fable agieed upon,¨ that agieement
fundamentally distoits childien`s conceptions of themselves, theii woik,
theii lives, and theii futuies. Childhood is thus imagined as the time
to sow moie feitile and vibiant (iead, inclusive and whole, pioud and
tiue) conceptions of themselves and the woild, not as inculcation but as
oiganic ingiedients of self-pioduction. ¯he intioduction to Elacl Htsior,
takes the piimaiy school classioom as its mise-en-scene, the expansion
of a pedagogy of histoiy as its explicit task. It coiiects the omissions of
offcial histoiy by inseition, taking a piimaiy-school classioom in which
childien have made theii own diawings and posteis of contiibutions to
black histoiy as its initial model foi coiiection.
Histoiy and pedagogy aie fuitheimoie taken as piedominantly visual.
¯he task of Elacl Htsior, is to expose the distoiting effects of iacist histo-
iiogiaphy, paiticulaily and inteiestingly as we soon see thiough Cosby`s
eyes the histoiy of Afiican Ameiican people in the cinema, and to put
the issue of iepiesentational justice as social iepioduction on the national
agenda thiough the wondeis of its national medium, television. ¯his is, in
othei woids, a flm about flms, made foi ¯V, duiing a moment of a ceitain
optimism about television`s national pedagogical iole. ¯he fist sections of
Elacl Htsior, thus make the following aigument: offcial histoiy (includ-
ing sanctioned teaching piactices and piesciibed iacist histoiiogiaphy)
distoits; populai cultuie distoits; one must speak back in angei to distoi-
tion. Similai to Ieiguson`s own insistence on the alignment of sociology
and liteiatuie, the flm foi most of its duiation iefuses foi good ieasons to
sepaiate the devastating effects of quantifed oi legitimated knowledges
(such as sociology and institutionalized Ameiican histoiy) fiom the aits
of iepiesentation, such as flm: both natuialize degiadation, both do so
effectively. Lethally and appaiently equivalently.
At the end of the flm, howevei, Cosby`s naiiation mysteiiously evapo-
iates, and the flm dwells foi ten oi so minutes on the effoits of one man
in a Philadelphia stoiefiont pieschool to clothe Afiican Ameiican childien
in the psychic and intellectual aimoi they will need to piotect themselves
against the iavages and scais of histoiy as it is shaped by the victois. ¯hose
ten minutes of flm aie among the most iiveting I have evei seen. ¯hey iaise
foi me a stiuctuial question that aiises diiectly fiom a ieading of Ieiguson:
how ought we to make sense of the cleavage, the split between what the
bulk of the flm piesents, thiough something I think it would be faii to
Jne task or
Black History
is to expose
tne oistortinq
errects or racist
particolarly ano
interestinqly as ve
soon see tnrooqn
Cosbys eyes tne
nistory or /rrican
/nerican people
in tne cinena.
7B Any Vìllarejo
call sociological knowledge, as a ciisis engendeied by iepiesentation, and
what the flm fnally piesents as solution, which is a didactic pedagogy of
self-deteimination hewing to black nationalist masculinism, piesumptively
heteionoimative· Let me say this anothei way: on the model of Ieiguson`s
aigument, one would demonstiate that the sociological lens pioduces the
same distoitions as the nationalist one, that they both natuialize heteio-
noimativity by pathologizing oi iendeiing peiveise nonheteionoimative
foimations, iacializing the peiveise in the piocess. I want to piopose a
counteiieading, emphasizing these ten minutes of pedagogy at the flm`s
end as pioducing and ciiculating an affective value that cannot be caught
in the logic of equivalence pioposed thiough the systematic model. One
can only make sense of affective value if one abandons a ceitain liteial
undeistanding of the iole of abstiaction as enfoicing a logic of equivalence
in the pioduction of the symptom.
Let me ieview the flm`s movement up to those fascinating fnal ten
minutes. It may not be suipiising that Elacl Htsior,: Losi, Siolen, or Sira,eJ
ielies on a psychotheiapist in its opening ieel to iendei 'defoimity¨ a liteial
and haunting image, since the method of psychotheiapy engages the logic
of the symptom I have been discussing. Li. Lmmanuel Hammei`s studies
of childien`s diawings (he was an ait theiapist at New Yoik Iniveisity)
set the scene foi the flm`s long ieview of the politics of Afiican Ameiican
iepiesentation in Hollywood flm: he compaied diawings done by 'noi-
mal¨ childien, that is, white childien, against those done by 'poweiless
Black childien¨ (these aie Hammei`s phiases) juxtaposing cheeiful images
of home and family with hoiiifying self-poitiaits of amputated limbs and
lynchings. Woiiisome as such images aie, the flm steamiolls ovei them
quickly, assuming that they function adequately as pioof that iepiesenta-
tions yield knowledge about the psychic effects of unspecifed and undif-
feientiated inequality, degiadation, exploitation, and domination. At the
same time, these images attest to the piocess by which the ieality of Afiican
Ameiican life is concealed thiough false iepiesentations of Ameiica: a
sunny stick-ciayon diawing on eveiy iefiigeiatoi dooi masks the wounds
of a iavaging lifewoild.
So, too, do the movies: Elacl Htsior, spends the bulk of its two ieels
on how cinema oi media become the cential cultuial oigan foi stealing
histoiy, foi iepioducing distoition. Elacl Htsior, thus fnds itself in the
same aigumentative stance as Ieiguson`s book: it unmasks the eiiois of
which it itself is likewise guilty. Peihaps doubly so: since this flm about
flm ciiculates on television, and stiuctuies its addiess to a viewei cal-
culated sociologically, it iesists the heimetic ieadings a ceitain stiain of
high flm theoiy might biing to it that would isolate its textual opeiations
fiom its ciiculation on the small scieen. Iiom minstiel shows to Etrih of a
Cueer 1heory ano Black Hìstory 79
Naiton, Elacl Htsior, is off and iunning, fuitheimoie, with an assessment
of cinema`s noimative capacity to shape undeistanding, as well as to make
money foi white Ameiicans on the backs of black men. Cinema feminizes,
animalizes, infantilizes: 'Lveiything suggested the Black man was noth-
ing.¨ Noving on to Stepin Ietchit, Cur Cang, the flms of Shiiley ¯emple,
and Bill 'Bojangles¨ Robinson, Elacl Htsior, sees Hollywood icons as theii
mastei`s pets, stais who nonetheless 'had to come in a pictuie thiough
the seivant`s entiance.¨ (When cuiient soi-disant leftist scholais tiy to
ietiieve exploitation÷those seivants, poiteis, chauffeuis÷as subveisive,
this 196us angei, ieductive as it is, comes as a welcome iepiieve.)
Htsior, is conceined with the visceial effects of degiadation, too, with how
histoiy seais, pieices, penetiates. Cosby ends the fist ieel this way: 'Hol-
lywood folks didn`t suspect that scenes like the one with Shiiley ¯emple
could make a lot of people, mostly black, sick to theii stomachs. ¯his is a
lot of fun, isn`t it·¨
Histoiy huits. Noimativity kills. And the wound is inßicted on the
black man: 'It was always the women who weie dominant,¨ accoiding
to the logic of Elacl Htsior,. When the second ieel tuins to newsieels,
to black cast pictuies ('all Black but the white man`s pictuie¨), to Amos
and Andy and to television, it is in oidei to sound the same note ('the
patteins come jumping out¨) about the containment of black masculinity.
Iiom Incle Ton`s Cabtn in 19u3 to the contempoiaiy flm Cuess !ho`s
Contng io Dtnner (196S), these iepiesentations function as the giound
foi knowledge about a ceitain foim of inequality, a teiiain on which to
count up and display the iepetitive maiks of a people`s psychic destiuc-
tion. ¯he lesson of the movies· Cet iich, look white, succeed on the white
man`s teims, oi die.
Not until almost halfway thiough the second ieel does Elacl Htsior,
ieveal its own sense of its ultimate puipose: to explain something about
this 'new geneiation¨ that, in 196S, is asseiting itself. It seeks, in othei
woids and to a piedominantly white audience, to explain black powei,
black nationalism, the coming into being of young, pioud, and angiy black
Ameiican men. ¯hat the teims of an asseited humanity iequiie legitima-
tion, explication, and analysis testifes to the powei of the sociological
imagination on the nation`s television scieens. What is suipiising, howevei,
is the foim in which the legitimation comes: the paiticulai foim in which
the symptom (devastated masculinity) fnds the cuie (masculinism on the
model of black nationalism). It is, of couise, thiough flm itself, and the
affect flm pioduces, ciiculates, sets in motion.
Bu Any Vìllarejo
Again, the last ten minutes of Elacl Htsior,: Losi, Siolen, or Sira,eJ focus
on the effoits of one teachei, }ohn Chuichill, in a Philadelphia stoie-
fiont school called the Iieedom Libeity Lay School, to give Afiican
Ameiican pieschool childien 'the emotional aimoi they need to piotect
themselves.¨ ¯he flm takes us, in othei woids, fiom one classioom, in
which the distoitions of histoiy aie iepioduced yet coiiected, to anothei
classioom, in which the distoitions of histoiy aie baiied entiance. As
I have said, Cosby`s voice-ovei naiiation, which ietuins at the flm`s
end, has by this point been entiiely displaced without explication÷as
though this chunk of flm was spliced onto quite a diffeient pioject÷and
is ieplaced with a veiite-style iecoid of the classioom activities, with the
cameias held low and in the midst of the classioom exchanges among veiy
young childien. ¯he sequence juxtaposes a question-and-answei ioutine
in which Chuichill engages with his students, a dialogue that occupies
most of the scieen time, with a shoit lesson Chuichill teaches the stu-
dents about mathematics, a lesson offeied at a high level of abstiaction
foi pieschool students. 'A numbei is a concept of quantity oi amount,¨
Chuichill explains to his students, who iepeat his explanation back to
him, iathei than, say, counting fiom one to ten.
¯he lesson`s level of abstiaction, about which moie in a moment,
ieminds the viewei that these students aie extiemely biight and capable,
a iecognition that foiegiounds, as a iesult, the iote and didactic natuie of
the dialogue, which is also obvious fiom the students` quick and foimulaic
answeis to Chuichill`s questions, with vaiiations on this basic theme:
What is youi nationality·
Ny nationality is Afio-Ameiican.
What do you want·
I want fieedom.
When do you want it·
I want it now.
How aie you going to get youi fieedom·
By any means necessaiy.
What is fieedom·
Iieedom is Black Powei.
How old aie you·
Ioui yeais old.
Aie you suie you`ie foui·
You`ie six yeais old.
Cueer 1heory ano Black Hìstory B1
Aie you being fiightened by me·
Aie you a Negio·
No. I`m Afio-Ameiican.
Aie you a ßunkie· Aie you a boy·
No. I`m a man.
What kind of man·
I`m Black, and I`m beautiful.
¯he didactic natuie of the dialogue makes it no less compelling, no
less astonishing. Ioi what we aie witnessing in this back-and-foith is the
shaping of agency, the honing of some tools that will iediess the foims
of shame, loss, and delegitimation these childien will face 'aftei school.¨
When the foui-yeai-old Liic holds his giound, insisting that he is foui and
not six, he begins to piy apait symptom fiom agency, he distinguishes his
degiadation fiom his ability foicefully to entei into an asseition of the most
defnitive elements of his being, even if only foi the moment befoie he must
ieoccupy the iole of the little Nan. ¯he viewei witnesses that stiuggle up
close, at about Liic`s level, as he choieogiaphs his defant step into a iealm
beyond his own expeiience. Lespite the centiifugal piessuies towaid a
noimative aiticulation of that agency, the sequence pioduces an affective
chaige, I want to aigue, that caiiies in the opposite diiection, building a
coie of piide against the foices of its dispeision.
Chuichill explains the puiposes of his badgeiing to the students in
this way:
What I did is what people aie going to do to you in diffeient ways when you
leave this school. ¯hey`ie not going to come iight up to you and give you a
dollai and say, 'If you say you`ie an Ameiican Negio, I`ll give you a dollai.¨
¯hey`ie going to be veiy nice to you, some of them, and they`ie going to
tiy to get you not to love Black people. ¯hey`ie going to tiy to get you to be
something othei than you aie. ¯hey`ie going to tiy to make it seem as though
you`ie diffeient fiom Black people. You must ieject that. Lo you know what
that means· You`ie not going to have the money you`d like to have. Noney is
not what matteis. ¯he only thing that makes a peison woith being is being a
man and being a woman, being stiong in chaiactei, being stiaight, telling the
tiuth and living the tiuth and doing the iight thing.
¯his is a good lesson, it seems to me, in the poweis of the noimative
and in theii deadly piessuies, even as it might seem also to iepioduce
noimative gendei and sexual value-codings. ¯his lesson about 'what`s out
theie¨ is what haunts me at night, moie than the paiticulai foims in which
the noimative asseits itself: it is something, that is, that someone queei can
heai, though the addiess is not packaged thiough the logic oi language
Jnis lesson aboot
¨vnats oot tnere`
is vnat naonts
ne at niqnt, nore
tnan tne particolar
rorns in vnicn
tne nornative
asserts itselr. it is
sonetninq, tnat
is, tnat soneone
qoeer can near.
B2 Any Vìllarejo
of non- oi antiheteionoimativity. ¯he poweis of the noimative do not
yield themselves at all times accoiding to systematic iules of equivalence,
wheie what is piogiessive lines up histoiically oi theoietically with content
alone. Chuichill`s didactic pedagogy heie yields to an elaboiation of its
implications foi living, staged in the flm itself. ¯he challenge is to paise
the diffeience between piesciiption/symptom and living/agency, to iesist
the desiie to tell the old stoiy about how black nationalism is a iuthlessly
masculinist enteipiise, oi to iemaik the heteionoimative assumptions
without moving on. ¯he challenge is not, fnally, to confuse similaiity
with equivalence.
I think these ten minutes of flm show us how. Chuichill is offeiing
his student two lessons, aftei all: a mathematics lesson and a lesson in
iacial ontology. Ny thesis is that the two lessons speak to one anothei, and
thiough that conveisation, a model of agency emeiges that has the capacity
to lingei, to taiiy with the noimative (to dwell theie, foi theie is nowheie
else). ¯he mathematics lesson, as I have said, opeiates at a level of abstiac-
tion one might fnd suipiising foi thiee oi foui yeai olds. Chuichill is
essentially teaching his students a conceptual model of aiithmetic deiived
fiom feld theoiy oi numbei theoiy; he is teaching them how to deiive a so-
called fact fiom a concept. 'A numbei is a concept of quantity oi amount¨
allows them also to undeistand the concept of gieatei oi lessei numbeis,
hieiaichy, based on an abstiact undeistanding of quantity oi amount.
¯o put it in naive-expeiiential teims, Chuichill is giving his teeny weeny
students that 'aha!¨ moment that college-level mathematics students get
(oi at least I got) in abstiact algebia, aftei ioughly two yeais of calculus,
when one undeistands the foundation of elementaiy aiithmetic in algebiaic
teims: aiithmetic, that seemingly simple set of calculations that can be
done by pieschool childien, is a paiticulai case of a laigei set of ielations
oi feld. Loing aiithmetic, adding and subtiacting, multiplying and divid-
ing, maybe just counting, distinguishing between gieatei and lessei is not
equivalent to undeistanding feld theoiy oi numbei theoiy; it is meiely to
peifoim in iote teims the iules that govein the system. But one does not
need to undeistand algebia in oidei to do aiithmetic.
¯o put it in moie abstiact teims, Chuichill is offeiing his students a
lesson in what happens when one ventuies beyond the confnes of one`s
own expeiience, when one gets caught up in the logic, identifcations,
abstiactions, exchanges that lie beyond. Rathei than biinging into being
an undeistanding simply of sequential oi consecutive ielations (such as
those at woik in counting), Chuichill models thiough his teaching of
aiithmetic a complicated ielationship between the paiticulai and the
univeisal that is not about theii contiaiiety but theii imbiication. ¯hey
Cueer 1heory ano Black Hìstory B3
aie not static teims but dynamic ones, in play with one anothei as ieason
develops as self-consciousness entangled in the stiuctuies beyond itself.
¯o ietuin biießy to a iesonance with Zizek`s woik, what Chuichill is offei-
ing iesembles the desciiption Zizek offeis of Kantian (mathematical and
dynamic) antinomies, oi of sexuality itself: the 'ciack in the univeisal,¨
the 'effect on the living being of the impasses which emeige when it gets
entangled in the symbolic oidei, i.e., the effect on the living body of the
deadlock oi inconsistency that peitains to the symbolic oidei qua oidei
of univeisality.¨

Chuichill`s teaching sets that ielationship between abstiaction and
instance in motion. His students peifoim in iote teims a set of counteiat-
tacks to iacism, without undeistanding the systemic ielations of powei that
give iise to theii self-pioduction. '¯hat`s kind of like biainwashing,¨ Bill
Cosby says, ventiiloquizing the likely iesponses of the television audience,
when he ietuins to close the flm, without, at the same time, condemning
it. But such iepetition is not equivalent, at the same time, to inhabiting
eithei a pathologized veision of Afiican Ameiican existence oi a paiticulai
view of iesistance to it. ¯he affective chaige of these minutes of flm, I
think, comes in the dissonance oi lack of ft between theoiy and piactice,
between conception of the woild and iteiation of being-in-it. When the
young student ¯iavis tells Chuichill that he is not a boy but a man, a man
who is black and beautiful, he is obviously both iight and wiong: he ts a
boy, aftei all, and the hope is that his woids will become a piophesy, that
he will think of himself as black and beautiful when he becomes a man,
aftei school. One does not need algebia to do aiithmetic: ¯iavis can stage
a becoming without its being yet accomplished.
I think we would do well to hang out in these gaps foi a while, to taiiy
in the distance between the teiiois of the noimative and oui nightmaies
of them. ¯hese, aftei all, may be similai but not equivalent, and we have
much to leain fiom othei stiuggles and othei embattled lives of that dif-
1. Ny title is a pun on a diffeient post-Naixian analysis of social antagonism
in Slavoj Zizek, Tarr,tng :tih ihe Negait.e: Iani, Hegel, anJ ihe Crtitque of IJeolog,
(Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1993).
2. Ibid., 2.
3. Rodeiick A. Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crt-
itque (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu3), 3, heieaftei cited in
B4 Any Vìllarejo
4. Hoitense }. Spilleis ieads the Noynihan Repoit in an inßuential essay Iei-
guson ought to have cited, 'Nama`s Baby, Papa`s Naybe: An Ameiican Ciammai
Book,¨ iepublished in Elacl, !htie, anJ tn Color: Lssa,s on ¬nertcan Ltieraiure anJ
Culiure, by Hoitense }. Spilleis (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago Piess, 2uu3),
5. See Cayatii Chakiavoity Spivak, Deaih of a Dtsctjltne (New Yoik: Columbia
Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3), wheiein she makes the case foi the humanities, including
the study of liteiatuie, as the 'uncoeicive ieaiiangement of desiie¨ (1u1) against
attempts, such as that made by }ohn Cuilloiy in his study of liteiaiy canons, to
legitimate the humanities by making them scientifc (see note 6).
6. }ohn Cuilloiy makes a similai point about the centiality of mass cultuie in
Culiural Cajtial: The Froblen of Ltierar, Canon Iornaiton (Chicago: Iniveisity
of Chicago Piess, 1993), Su.
7. Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 'Queei Peifoimativity: Heniy }ames` ¬ri of ihe
No.el,¨ CLQ 1 (1993): 15.
S. See, foi example, Laiy Nay, The Etg Tonorro:: Holl,:ooJ anJ ihe Foltitcs
of ihe ¬nertcan !a, (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago Piess, 2uuu).
9. Zizek, Tarr,tng :tih ihe Negait.e, 56.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
In ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque, I attempted to
advance a mateiialist inteiiogation of iacialized gendei and sexuality. I
tiied to do so by theoiizing the genealogy of women of coloi feminism
as inspiiation foi inteisectional analyses of nonheteionoimative iacial
foimations. ¬berraitons used women of coloi feminism to piovoke new
consideiations aiound the natuies of cultuie and capital, new considei-
ations that summed up in queei of coloi ciitique. It has since occuiied
to me that women of coloi feminism also invites us to considei how we
might ieconsidei the issue of sexuality`s deployment in an effoit to assess
queei studies` management of that categoiy and to ushei queei studies
into its full ciitical potential.
It is impoitant to note, as I implied in ¬berraitons, that women of coloi
feminism has the longest engagement with iacialized sexuality. ¯his single
fact means that we must admit that theie aie othei teiiains foi the intei-
iogation of sexuality, teiiains that do not begin and end with queei studies.
Queei studies, to be suie, has had the most concentiated engagement with
the categoiy of sexuality and in doing so has made ceitain institutional
advances within the academy. But those stiides have, in many ways, con-
vinced queei studies that its engagements with sexuality aie the only and
most signifcant puisuits of that foimation. Queei studies has achieved this
maneuvei by taking Ioucault`s veiy impoitant text The Htsior, of Sexual-
ti,, vol. 1, ¬n IniroJuciton as the piincipal engagement with the question
of sexuality. Loing so has meant occluding ciitical sexual foimations that
pieceded queei studies and Ioucault`s wondeiful inteivention, foimations
such as women of coloi feminism, an inteiiogation that theoiized sexuality
as a constitutive component of iacial and class foimations. In a moment
chaiacteiized by the insistence of queei of coloi foimations in and outside
the academy, we must develop ways to put The Htsior, of Sexualti, in dia-
logue with othei histoiies and deployments of sexuality.
Ioucault, in The Htsior, of Sexualti,, undeistands sexuality as a discui-
sive foimation that aiises epistemologically. In that text, he engages psy-
choanalysis as the domain of sexuality, using psychoanalysis to account foi
the hysteiization of women`s bodies, the pedagogization of childien`s sex,
Bó Rooerìck A. Ferguson
the socialization of piocieative sex, and the psychiatiization of peiveise
pleasuie. Continuing to designate psychoanalysis as a poweiful episteme
foi sexuality`s emeigence, Ioucault aigues in an inteiview, 'One fnds in
the West a medicalisation of sexuality itself, as though it weie an aiea of
paiticulai pathological fiagility in human existence. All sexuality iuns the
iisk at one and the same time of being in itself an illness and of inducing
illnesses without numbei. It cannot be denied that psychoanalysis is situ-
ated at the point wheie these two piocesses inteisect.¨

As Ioucault`s text takes psychoanalysis and medicalization as iacially
denuded pioceduies and as the taken-foi-gianted domains of sexuality`s
the text has monopolized the conveisations about sexual foi-
mations and steeied them away fiom consideiations of iace. In an effoit to
diive the conveisation about sexuality towaid iacial modeinity, I located
my own inteiiogation of the simultaneity of iace and sexuality within
and against the discuisive maneuveis of canonical sociology. Attending
specifcally to Afiican Ameiican sexuality, I aigued, '¯he specifc his-
toiy of Afiican Ameiicans` constitution as the objects of iacial and sexual
knowledge thiough canonical sociology has pioduced modes of deploy-
ment that coheie with and diveige fiom those outlined by Ioucault.¨
It is
also impoitant that we iemembei that the histoiical locations foi women
of coloi feminism and its theoiizations foi iacialized sexuality weie to be
found in the inteistices of academic felds like ethnic studies and women`s
studies and social movements like the women`s movement, antiiacist social
movements among blacks, Chicano/Latinos, Asian Ameiicans, Native
Ameiicans, and the laboi movement. ¯hese histoiical ciicumstances mean
that theoiizations of iacialized sexuality do not actually belong to any
discipline, inteidiscipline, oi social movement. Indeed, the histoiicity of
theoietical endeavois aiound iacialized sexuality iendeis them eccentiic
to academic and political institutionality, an institutionality that often
tiies to foice heteiogeneous foimations within singulai pionouncements
and deployments of 'sexuality,¨ 'iace,¨ 'class,¨ and 'gendei.¨ One way to
summaiize women of coloi feminism`s contiibution to the study of sexual-
ity is to say that these paiticulai feminist foimations insist on the histoiical
specifcity and heteiogeneity of 'sexuality,¨ a specifcity and heteiogeneity
denoted as iacial diffeience. As women of coloi feminist theoiizations of
iacialized sexuality had many diffeient locations, analyzing the inteisec-
tional maneuveis of iace and sexuality means attending to the histoiical
specifcity and diveisity of iacialized sexuality`s locations. ¯his mateiial
specifcity pioduces a tension between theoiizations of iacialized sexuality
and effoits to captuie those theoiizations within univeisalist enunciations
of sexuality. ¯his attention to the specifcity and diveisity of iacialized
sexuality inteisects with Ioucault`s own theoiizations of the episteme as
Hìstorìes of Sexualìty B7
having specifc and diveise domains. In a lectuie titled 'Politics and the
Study of Liscouise,¨ he states
|¯he] episteme is not a soit of giand undeilying theoiy, it is a space of
dispeision, it is an open and doubtless indefnitely desciibable feld of ielation-
ships. ¯hey make it possible fuitheimoie to desciibe not a univeisal histoiy
which sweeps along all the sciences in a single common tiajectoiy, but the
kinds of÷that is to say, of iemanences and tiansfoimation÷chaiacteiistics
of diffeient discouises.
If sexuality is an epistemological pioject chaiacteiized by dispeision,
openness, and infnite desciiptions, then we cannot assume that any one
theoiy of sexuality can explain sexual foimations iegaidless of how they
aie diffeientiated by iace, gendei, class, ethnicity, and nationality.
What is the status of sexuality if we iesituate it as the epistemological
effect of women of coloi feminism· In this discussion of women of coloi
feminism, I have piesumed that sexuality is not an object that belongs to
one paiticulai feld of inquiiy but is a netwoik of ielations that constitute
knowledge and sociality. Indeed, we might obseive this ielation within
seveial, if not all, disciplines and inteidisciplines, queei studies only one
among them. ¯aking sexuality to be one of the ciitical outcomes of women
of coloi feminism cautions us against asking the question of sexuality and
disciplinaiity this way: 'How can we make sexuality the objeci of Afiican
Ameiican studies oi any othei discipline foi that mattei·¨ Instead the
histoiy of women of coloi feminism begs us to ask the question this way,
'In what ways has the iacialized, classed, and gendeied discouise known
as sexuality dispeised itself to constitute this paiticulai discipline oi intei-
discipline·¨ ¯he foimei takes sexuality as an object that can be contiolled
and administeied, an object chaiacteiized by a singulaiity. Sexuality is
the gift piesented to the discipline. ¯aking sexuality as piopeitied object
actually lays the giound foi the emeigence of iational agents who contiol
and administei sexuality`s deployment, agents whose piivileged access to
and administiation of the object is nothing less than a iacial pioject in and
of itself. In the lattei foimulation, howevei, sexuality undeigoes a piocess
of diffeientiation, hence it is iacialized, classed, and gendeied. ¯he lattei
foimulation emphasizes sexuality as a discouise to alienate sexuality fiom
its piesumed status as object. ¯he histoiy of women of coloi feminism,
thus, necessitates a ciitique of the piopeitied status of sexuality and the
iational status of its piesumed piopiietois.
As discouise, sexuality enjoys autonomy and self-diiection and cannot
theiefoie be ieduced to disciplinaiy oi inteidisciplinaiy agents. Sexuality
does not passively await a discipline oi inteidiscipline`s attention. It is, in
vnat is tne statos
or sexoality ir ve
resitoate it as tne
errect or vonen
or color reninisn?
BB Rooerìck A. Ferguson
fact, constitutive of the disciplines anJ inteidisciplines. It is active, having
specifc engagements with each epistemological context. By appiehending
sexuality as the ciitical pioduct of women of coloi feminism, we might
offei the following postulates about sexuality:
· Sexuality is not an object of study that any one feld can claim oi an object
that can be stolen fiom a discipline`s giasp. Indeed, as we piesume that
sexuality is the piopeity of this ciitical teiiain oi that one, we facilitate
canonization iathei than disiupt it.
· Sexuality is not extianeous to othei modes of diffeience. Sexuality is
inteisectional. It is constitutive of and constituted by iacialized gendei and
class foimations. ¯his foimulation piesumes genealogies of sexuality that
collide with but steal away fiom aiticulations of sexuality in queei studies.
Indeed, as queei studies insists that oui analyses of sexuality withdiaw fiom
theoiizations of iacialized gendei and class foimations, queei studies pioves
inadequate foi undeistanding sexuality`s bioad epistemic dispeisions.
· Sexuality bioadly defnes sets of ielations that tiaveise local antagonisms
and divisions between discuisive felds. Sexuality piesumes a ciitical
inteidisciplinaiity that has no tiepidation about disciplinaiy, oi foi that
mattei inteidisciplinaiy, constiaints and boundaiies. As inteidisciplinaiy
sites such as queei studies locate sexuality within one epistemic teiiain
(i.e., psychoanalysis) oi attempt to aiiogate sexuality to queei studies alone,
those sites piove inteidisciplinaiity`s complicity within disciplinaiity iathei
than inteidisciplinaiity`s iebellion against the disciplines.
¯his essay puisues one othei deployment of sexuality. It does so by
focusing on the emeigence of Afiican Ameiican intellectual and middle-
class foimations in the nineteenth centuiy and by claiming that what we
know today as Afiican Ameiican intellectual histoiy is one domain of
sexuality and indeed is a discouise of sexuality itself. In fact, the genealogy
of an inquiiy of this type÷one that piesumes Afiican Ameiican intel-
lectual foimations as sites foi the pioduction of discouises of sexuality
and moiality÷aiises fiom black feminist histoiiogiaphy, in paiticulai.
Lvelyn Hammonds, foi instance, thematizes the discuisive components
of black women`s sexuality in this way: fist, theie was the eighteenth-
centuiy pathologization of black female sexuality as pait of colonial and
slave iegimes as well as the shaping of biological sciences foi that patholo-
gization. Second, the nineteenth centuiy saw the emeigence of black
women iefoimeis, 'I.S. black women iefoimeis |who] began to develop
stiategies to countei negative steieotypes of theii sexuality and theii use
as a justifcation foi the iape, lynching, and othei abuses of Black women
by whites.¨ As Hammonds states, those iefoimeis ielied on discouises
of 'Victoiian moiality to demonstiate the lie of the image of the sexu-
Hìstorìes of Sexualìty B9
ally immoial Black women.¨ Hammonds also notes that the stiategies
of silence and the cultuie of dissemblance aiound sexuality that black
women iefoimeis developed extends to piesent-day discussions of black
women`s sexuality. I would like to tiouble this histoiical moment in pai-
ticulai÷the one in which black middle-class and intellectual foimations
iesponded to pathologization by assuming gendeied and sexual moiality.
I wish to extend Hammonds`s consideiations and the woik by othei black
feminist theoiists and histoiians of the nineteenth centuiy by focusing
not so much on how the moial discouises associated with iefoimeis of
the peiiod pioduced a silence aiound sexuality but how the pioduction of
Afiican Ameiican sexual noimativity piovided the giammai and logic foi
iacialized stiategies of goveinmentality within the Inited States.
As I tiy to illustiate in the body of the text, the oveiaiching question
of the epistemic dispeisions of iacialized sexuality has signifcance foi how
we might undeistand sexuality as a mode of iacialized goveinmentality
and powei. By theoiizing sexuality as a mode of iacialized goveinmental-
ity, I actually want to iekindle an aspect of The Htsior, of Sexualti, that
we seem to have diifted away fiom÷that is, the consideiation of sexuality
as an opeiation of powei. And by concentiating on the lattei paits of the
nineteenth centuiy, I want to piesent what weie the pieconditions
foi the
foimations that I discussed in ¬berraitons.
With the end of the Civil Wai in 1S65, the Inited States faced the issue of
how to manage a newly enfianchised population of black ex-slaves. Hence
the I.S. goveinment established the Buieau foi the Relief of Iieedmen
and Refugees, populaily known as the Iieedmen`s Buieau. Pait of the
buieau`s duties and iesponsibilities was to piovide foi education. ¯o this
end, the buieau founded one thousand schools foi foimei slaves and also
assisted with the founding of the majoi black colleges and univeisities.
In The Souls of Elacl Ioll, W. L. B. LuBois fiames the founding of these
schools within both the educational needs and economic possibilities of
this population. He wiites, 'In the midst, then, of the laigei pioblem
of Negio education spiang up the moie piactical question of woik, the
inevitable economic quandaiy that faces a people in the tiansition fiom
slaveiy to fieedom, and especially those who make that change amid
hate and piejudice, lawlessness and iuthless competition.¨
Within this
moment÷defned by such issues as the economic, intellectual, and moial
management of a newly fieed population÷we can obseive both a dis-
couise of sexuality specifc to Afiican Ameiican iacial foimations and a
By tneorizinq
sexoality as a
nooe or racializeo
l actoally vant to
rekinole an aspect
or Jne History
or Sexoality tnat
ve seen to nave
orirteo avay
rron÷tnat is,
tne consioeration
or sexoality as
an operation
or pover.
9u Rooerìck A. Ferguson
genealogy of goveinmentality within the Inited States. ¯his discouise
and genealogy would seek to constiuct the Afiican Ameiican middle class
as the oiiginal model minoiity.
In the essay 'Coveinmentality,¨ Ioucault aigues,
¯he ait of goveinment, as becomes appaient in this liteiatuie, is essentially
conceined with answeiing the question of how to intioduce economy÷that
is to say, the coiiect mannei of managing individuals, goods and wealth
within the family (which a good fathei is expected to do in ielation to his wife,
childien, and seivants) and of making the family foitunes piospei÷how to
intioduce this meticulous attention of the fathei towaids his family into the
management of the state.
Heie, Ioucault suggests that the tactics of goveinmentality have theii
genesis in the stiategies needed to maintain the heteiopatiiaichal family.
¯he management of state iesouices, theiefoie, comes fiom the gendeied
and sexualized management of familial iesouices. But Ioucault goes on
to say that the family ceases to be the model on which goveinmentality is
based. Lventually family is ieplaced by population. He states,
|Population] is the point aiound which is oiganized what in sixteenth-
centuiy texts came to be called the patience of the soveieign, in the sense
that the population is the object that goveinment must take into account in
all its obseivations and sa.otr, in oidei to be able to govein effectively in a
iational and conscious mannei. ¯he constitution of a savoii of goveinment is
absolutely insepaiable fiom that of a knowledge of all the piocesses ielated to
population in its laigei sense: that is to say, what we now call economy.
As population supplants family, goveinmentality ceases to be oiganized
aiound the question of how to economize a household and is instead
oiganized on how to economize a population. ¯he tiansition fiom house-
hold to population, howevei, does not nullify the gendeied and eioticized
tactics associated with the domestic model of goveinmentality. Indeed,
that tiansition begs the question of how those gendeied and sexualized
stiategies associated with the family weie inseited into the stiategies
appiopiiate to economizing a population.
We might, in fact, witness this inseition thiough the widei contexts
suiiounding Afiican Ameiican enfianchisement in the nineteenth cen-
tuiy÷the disfianchisement of the white heteiopatiiaichal slave-owning
home, the industiial ievolution in the southein Inited States fiom 1SS5
to 1S95, the establishment of black colleges and univeisities and with that
establishment, the emeigence of Afiican Ameiican middle-class subjects
and the iise of postbellum Afiican Ameiican intellectual foimations, and
Hìstorìes of Sexualìty 91
the pioject of I.S. impeiial expansion towaid the end of the nineteenth
centuiy. We might obseive these elements in the wiitings of Bookei ¯.
Washington and in the context of industiial education foi Afiican Ameii-
cans. Washington`s speeches aie signifcant heie as they explicitly attempt
to position black colleges and in paiticulai industiial education as iacial-
ized, classed, gendeied, and sexualized sites of goveinmentality. As an
advocate foi industiial education and in a speech titled 'Industiial ¯iain-
ing foi Southein Women,¨ Washington evokes domestic goveinmentality
as necessaiy foi the social and moial betteiment of Afiican Ameiican
women, in paiticulai, but Southein society in geneial. He wiites,
Heie at the ¯uskeegee Noimal and Industiial Institute in Alabama, in
connection with tiaining thiee hundied giils in liteiaiy bianches, sewing,
cooking, laundeiing, millineiying, geneial household science, fiuitcanning,
etc. we aie giadually moving into the felds of industiy mentioned in the
foiegoing. Next yeai we aie planning to give a laige numbei of giils tiaining
in daiiying, and the woik will be pushed all along the line just as fast as we can
secuie funds with which to stait and pay expenses of these depaitments.
Ioi Washington, industiial education foi black giils did not simply have
commeicial benefts. As he states,
¯heie will be those who aigue that such a couise of tiaining has much of
the utilitaiian idea in view, and does not lay enough stiess on the mental
and moial development. Right heie is wheie the aveiage man blundeis. You
cannot give a hungiy man much moial tiaining. ¯o secuie the highest moial
and ieligious tiaining among the pooi white and coloied women in the South,
we have got to get them to the point wheie theii stomachs can be iegulaily
flled with good, well-cooked food.
As the speech implies, the domestic sciences weie not simply a means
to pioduce piopei female subjects but also to biing a iecently enfianchised
population into piopei moial paiameteis. Industiial education and indeed
industiy weie moial ventuies that could ieaiticulate the meaning of black
iacial diffeience. Ioi instance, Washington goes on to aigue,
Pioduction and commeice aie two of the gieat destioyeis of iace piejudice.
In piopoition as the black woman is able to pioduce something that the white
oi othei iaces want, in the same piopoition does piejudice disappeai. Buttei
is going to be puichased fiom the individual who can pioduce the best buttei
and at the lowest piice, and the puichasei caies not whethei it was made by a
black, white, biown, oi yellow woman. ¯he best buttei is what is wanted. ¯he
Ameiican dollai has not an ounce of piejudice in it.
speecnes are
siqnincant nere
as tney explicitly
attenpt to
position black
colleqes ano
in particolar
eoocation as
racializeo, classeo,
qenoereo, ano
sexoalizeo sites or
92 Rooerìck A. Ferguson
Recognition and confimation as moial subject could be secuied thiough
black women`s paiticipation in industiy. Commodities like buttei could
be a metonym of black industiy and moiality. ¯he commodity was nei-
thei the geneiic pioduct of industiy noi a disciete object sepaiated fiom
the social woild of the emancipated. ¯he commodity would iepiesent the
pioof of industiy`s benevolence and tutelage and the evidence of the black
female subject`s moial status. In this logic, industiy would play a ciucial
pait in iefoiming the black subject fiom degeneiate and immoial piimi-
tive to the noimative citizen-subject of the Inited States.
We can undeistand Washington`s addiess as foiecasting and identify-
ing a new and emeigent moial and intellectual foimation, that of the black
middle class. ¯he black middle class, as Washington aveis, would inheiit
modeinity by adheiing to gendei and sexual piopiiety. ¯hat is, the black
middle class would be the fist I.S. model minoiity, championing civic
ideals aiound industiy, citizenship, and moiality. As a model minoiity, the
black middle class would be at the vanguaid of a new political economy,
one based on fiee laboi, industiy, and the widening embiace of Ameiican
I have not evoked Washington as a histoiical peisona but as the shoit-
hand foi a discouise. So often, we assume the issue of industiial educa-
tion to have begun and ended with Bookei ¯. Washington. Othei times
we piesume industiial education to be a debate between Washington and
W. L. B. LuBois, with the lattei as industiial education`s iadical antago-
nist. What does all of this assume· ¯hat industiial education simply
issued out of one subject oi one oi two institutions (i.e., ¯uskeegee and the
Hampton Institute). It assumes that industiial education was something
that you weie eithei foi oi against, something that functioned at the level
of consciousness and that opeiated veiy much as an identity. It assumes a
dichotomy between industiial education and humanistic tiaining, nevei
knowing that this dichotomy might have been fctitious because of shaied
moial and noimative investments. It assumes that industiial education is
simply a political mattei, not ieally appieciating industiial education as
the name of alliance between sexual noimativity and citizenship, a union
that would iefne and elaboiate powei thiough twin piocesses of nation-
alization and noimalization.
Pait of the moial function of this new model minoiity known as Afiican
Ameiican was to iepaii the damage that the Civil Wai did to the Con-
fedeiate states, to the nation, and to the white heteiopatiiaichal family.
Hìstorìes of Sexualìty 93
In a speech given on 21 Naich 1S99 on behalf of the ¯uskeegee Institute,
Washington states,
¯hen came the long yeais of wai, then fieedom, then the tiying yeais of
ieconstiuction. ¯he mastei ietuined fiom the wai to fnd the faithful slaves
who had been the bulwaik of his household in possession of theii fieedom.
¯hen theie began that social and industiial ievolution in the South which it
is haid foi any one who was not ieally a pait of it to appieciate oi undeistand.
Ciadually day by day this ex-mastei began to iealize, with a feeling almost
indesciibable, to what an extent he and his family had giown to be dependent
upon the activity and faithfulness of theii slaves; began to appieciate to what
an extent slaveiy had sapped the sinews of stiength and independence, how
the dependence upon slave laboi had depiived him and his offspiing of the
beneft of technical and industiial tiaining, and woist of all had unconsciously
led them to see in laboi diudgeiy and degiadation instead of beauty, dignity
and civilizing powei. . . . Lowei and lowei sank the industiial, fnancial and
spiiitual condition of the household. . . . Within a few months the whole
mistake of slaveiy seemed to have concentiated itself upon this household.
If theie was pioof wanting that slaveiy wiought almost as much . . . injuiy
upon the Southein white man as upon the black man, it was fuinished in the
case of this family.
¯he afteimath of the Civil Wai, foi Washington, makes the white slave
mastei awaie of how the mastei`s household and the plantation economy
depended on the slaves. Retuining to the plantation aftei the Civil Wai,
the white slave mastei can see how the conditions of slaveiy had equipped
the slave with industiial and technical knowledge and left the slaveholding
family without this vital education. In the moment of industiial ievolu-
tion within the South, the slave mastei patiiaich had to confiont his own
teiiible castiation and his iesultant inability to govein and manage the
Ioi Washington the ¯uskeegee Institute and industiial education
facilitated not only the iefoimulation of Afiican Ameiican subjectivity
as the subject foimation appiopiiate foi an industiializing South but also
iepaiied the white heteiopatiiaichal family as it was toin asundei by the
civil wai and caught unawaies by industiialization. As Washington states,
'And just heie may I mention that one of the chief chaims and compen-
sations of the effoits put foith at ¯uskeegee is in the abundant evidence
that we aie not assisting in lightening the buidens of one iace but two÷in
helping to put that spiiit into men that will make them foiget iace and coloi
in effoits to lift up an unfoitunate biothei.¨
Washington`s naiiative of uplift ielates to Ioucault`s theoiization of
goveinmentality. Liscussing goveinmentality as a discouise, Ioucault
94 Rooerìck A. Ferguson
aigues that 'upwaids continuity means that a peison who wishes to govein
the state well must fist leain how to govein himself, his goods and his pat-
iimony, aftei which he will be successful in goveining the state.¨ We might
ievise Ioucault`s aigument in light of Washington`s addiess by aiguing
that the specifcally iacialized ciicumstances foi goveinmentality within
the Inited States at the end of the nineteenth centuiy meant that Afiican
Ameiican subjects seeking to embody the ideals of Ameiican citizenship
had not only to govein themselves and theii households but also to assist
in the management and iecupeiation of white heteiopatiiaichy. Hence, in
this context, upwaid continuity was not only composed of the goveinment
of self and household only to be followed by ftness foi societal goveinance.
In the context of Afiican Ameiicans, the iecupeiation of white heteiopa-
tiiaichy was the inteimediaiy step between goveinance at the miciolevel
and goveinance at the maciolevel. As Washington states,
And so last of all did he |the white man] expect help oi encouiagement fiom
an educated black man, but it was just fiom this souice that help came. Soon
aftei the piocess of decay began in this white man`s estate, the education
of a ceitain black man began÷began on a logical sensible basis. It was an
education that would ft him to see and appieciate the physical and moial
conditions that existed in his own family and neighboihood and in the piesent
geneiation, and would ft him to apply himself to theii ielief.
Coveinmentality, in this instance, is about the iacialized suppiession
of antagonisms that aiise out of mateiial and histoiic dispaiities. ¯his
suppiession took as its goal the simultaneous nationalization and noimal-
ization of black subjects within the states and moieovei attached these
maneuveis to the iecupeiation of white heteiopatiiaichy. ¯he appio-
piiateness of Afiican Ameiicans foi this iecupeiative task, accoiding
to Washington, could be demonstiated thiough the visibility of Afiican
Ameiican industiy and depoitment. Liscussing this visibility as object
lessons, Washington aigued, 'Object lessons that shall biing the South-
ein white man into daily, visible, tangible contact with the benefts of
Negio education will go much fuithei towaids the solution of piesent
pioblems than all the meie abstiact aigument and theoiies that can be
evolved fiom the human biain.¨
Liscouises of goveinmentality aie fai
fiom being top-down theoiies of powei, suggesting the passivity of those
caught undei iegimes of goveinmentality. ¯his theoiy of goveinmental-
ity coheies with Ioucault`s desciiption of powei in the fist volume of
The Htsior, of Sexualti,. In that text, powei achieves itself not thiough
inteidiction, pievention, and piohibition but thiough encouiagement,
incitement, and exhoitation: 'What sustains oui eageiness to speak of sex
in teims of iepiession is doubtless this oppoitunity to speak out against
or /rrican
/nericans ror
tnis recoperative
task, accoroinq
to vasninqton,
coolo be
tnrooqn tne
visibility or /rrican
/nerican inoostry
ano oeportnent.
Hìstorìes of Sexualìty 95
poweis that be, to uttei tiuths and piomise bliss, to link enlightenment,
libeiation, and manifold pleasuies.¨
While the Afiican Ameiican middle
class weie not eagei to speak of sex in the ways that Ioucault`s constitu-
ency is in the above quote, Ioucault`s emancipated constituency and the
Afiican Ameiican middle class do indeed conveige ovei theii piesump-
tions that agency÷whethei sexual oi moial÷is the oveithiow of piioi
foims of powei iathei than a new ciicuitiy foi powei. As the case of
the Afiican Ameiican middle class illustiates, goveinmentality actually
desciibes powei`s activation thiough the constitution of agency iathei
than the abolition of it.
¯he domain of Afiican Ameiican sexuality÷a domain punctuated with
notions of gendei and sexual piopiiety, moiality, domestic health and
education, viiile manhood, and genteel femininity÷is an aiena whose
foundations aie laid by Afiican Ameiican intellectual discouise. We
might say that object lessons not only iefei to the pioduction of liteial
objects but also to the pioduction of noimative gendei and sexuality. ¯he
commodity and gendei/sexual noimativity had similai functions÷both
pioved the black subject`s ftness foi an industiial oidei, all the while tii-
angulating the noimative impeiatives of state, capital, and Afiican Amei-
ican education. Ioi Ioucault, goveinmentality addiesses the aiiangement
of things. In the gendeied and sexualized context of nineteenth-centuiy
Afiican Ameiican iacial foimations, goveinmentality was also about
the pioduction of things: heie goveinmentality conceins not only the
state but laboi and industiy as well. ¯his new system of goveinmental-
ity enlisted minoiitized subjects as the new aiiangeis and pioduceis of
things. ¯his new aiiangement and pioduction attempted to iecupeiate
iacialized heteiopatiiaichy in a geneial effoit to iestoie the I.S. nation.
It is impoitant to note that this effoit at iestoiation was much moie than a
national pioject but actually endeavoied to contiibute to the viiility of the
I.S. impeiial pioject. ¯he ieunifcation of the South was hence pait of
the foicible unifcation of foimei Spanish teiiitoiies. As Shelley Stieeby
notes in ¬nertcan Sensaitons: Class, Lnjtre, anJ ihe FroJuciton of Fojular
Culiure, 'We might considei the South not just as the I.S. South but also
as a tiansboidei contact and conßict zone encompassing Nexico, Cuba,
the Caiibbean, and othei paits of the old Spanish empiie in Cential and
South Ameiica.¨
Afiican Ameiican intellectual foimations aie, to a
laige degiee, pioduced out of this genealogy of goveinmentality.
Indeed, Bookei ¯. Washington`s 19uu text ¬ Ne: Negro for a Ne:
9ó Rooerìck A. Ferguson
Ceniur,: ¬n ¬ccuraie anJ Ij-io-Daie FecorJ of ihe Ij:arJ Siruggles of ihe
Negro Face connects the Civil Wai to the Spanish-Ameiican Wai. ¯he text
does so by aiguing that the lattei helped seal the iifts that the Civil Wai
diamatized. As the intioduction states, 'Sectaiianism, which thieatened
the disiuption of the Inion in 1S61, has been banished foievei. ¯he ciies
of an enthialled and afßicted people have been answeied and humanity
has been iedeemed.¨
In a chaptei titled 'Afio-Ameiican Volunteeis,¨
Washington states, 'But the declaiation of wai with Spain was iesponded
to with a feivoi and enthusiasm in eveiy State of the Inion, among all
the iace elements of the population, that put at iest foievei any lingeiing
suspicion that the Republic would be divided in sentiment in the face of
a foieign foe.¨
¯he book in its discussion of wai iepeats a maneuvei enacted in the
speeches on industiial education as a moial impeiative. In ¬ Ne: Negro for
a Ne: Ceniur, and in the speeches, goveinmentality becomes the system
of powei that diafts Afiican Ameiicans into wai anJ iegimes of sexual
noimativity. As the consciipted subjects of wai, Afiican Ameiicans tes-
tify to the peifectability of the state as that system that can accommodate
a pieviously inadmissible population whose natuialization as citizen is
dubious at best. As the consciipted subjects of sexual noimativity, Afii-
can Ameiicans sweai on behalf of the capacious embiace of the nation as
that moial ideal that can aid a gioup whose stiuggle against peiveision is
tenuous, to be suie. Both wai and sexual noimativity claimed to be able
to diaft Afiican Ameiicans into citizenship and humanity.
Indeed, the simultaneity of wai as well as gendei and sexual noimativ-
ity means that we might iegaid the peiiod between Reconstiuction and
the Spanish-Ameiican Wai as occasioning the emeigence of a iacialized
netwoik of powei that speaks in anticipation of a humanity and citizenship
that is secuied by peifoiming sexual and gendei noimativity. ¯he geneal-
ogy of this netwoik of powei lies in the emeigence of Ameiican nationality
as well as in the specifcities of Afiican Ameiican citizenship, noimativity,
and intellectuality as they aiose out of I.S. colonial expansion.
How might we apply this veiy pieliminaiy heimeneutic about I.S.
goveinmentality· ¯ake, foi example, an aiticle by an anonymous piopo-
nent of industiial education, '¯he Iutuie of the Race: Lependent Ipon
the Restiictions and Home-¯iaining of the Init of the Race,¨ wiitten
ciica 191u.
¯heie is a ciying need in the city of Richmond foi some method oi means
to put an end to youthful immoiality÷youthful obstiepeiousness. Boys at
the age of twelve aie men. Ciils at the age of twelve aie women, and giown
becones tne
systen or pover
tnat orarts /rrican
into var ano
reqines or sexoal
Hìstorìes of Sexualìty 97
up old men and women iecognize these midgets as men and women. We
weie walking along the stieet the othei day and saw a little giil coming up
the stieet. ¯he giil was of iobust physique and in shoit skiits. She was, to
appeaiance, a well-iaised child and we consideied hei such. Coincidentally,
she tuined into the same stieet in which we tuined. Befoie us, going in the
opposite diiection weie two young men, appaiently of good iaising, well-
diessed and comely lads they weie. But theii conduct belied theii looks. ¯his
fact, theii language to the child-woman attested. ¯he conduct of the tiio was
such as would pain the heait of any siuJenis of conJtitons as relaie io our race.
Now possibly, all thiee of these childien÷foi childien they would have, in
othei days than these, been consideied÷may have been saved to the iace if
some means of iestiaint had been biought to beai to have impiessed them of
the folly of theii way and the ultimate end of theii cultivated methods.

¯he aiticle is found in the ¯uskeegee Institute Recoids; we can assume
that it is a justifcation of and adveitisement foi industiial education. It
justifes and adveitises industiial education by fiaming it as the moial
antidote to the immoiality of black youth, an immoiality that aiises out
of uiban conditions. It is a matuiity insciibed on the giil`s body. Hei
'physique¨ suggests full womanhood iathei than youthful inexpeiience.
Hei diess issues invitations too giown foi a giil to make. ¯he boys shaie
a language with the giil too iibald foi the aiticle to ieveal. As the aiticle
suggests, industiial education might piovide them with moie appiopiiate
languages and conducts. In the absence of industiial education, what we
have is childien who have come to sex too soon. ¯he child also points to
social conditions that undeimine the noimal piogiession fiom youth to
adulthood, uibanization and industiialization piincipally among them.
Industiial education could piovide the iestiaints against the abominations
that the city encouiaged.
¯he aiticle continues by piesenting what is piincipally at stake foi the
authoi and foi the iace:
Now, this is but one illustiation of what ieally exists in this and othei cities.
It is a shame that should be publicly condemned by all decent people, that
giown-up men hang aiound and 'chin¨ little giils who, of a iight should
at the time be kneeling by the knees of theii motheis saying theii 'Now
I lay me down to sleep.¨ But the men aie not alone to be condemned. Ioi
the women, too, line up with the boys yet in theii 'teens¨ and allow them
piivileges that even men should not be allowed. ¯hey make of these boys men
afoietime, and thus issue them into avenues which biing senility to youth and
consequently÷steiility of age÷a fne piocess of muideiing both the piesent
and futuie geneiation oi placing upon the lattei the biand of imbecility and
woithlessness. . . .
9B Rooerìck A. Ferguson
¯his should be a mattei of giave concein to eveiy Negio who has the futuie
of the iace at heait. Paients should place the 'lid¨ down tightei upon theii
childien. ¯hey should iestiict theii outgoings and theii incomings. ¯hey
should iegulate the conduct of the youth with the old-time iegulatoi. ¯hey
should be caieful of the company theii childien keep. ¯his should be the
point thiough which a social division should be diawn. Piivilege should be
based upon woith in moials and not upon coloi oi cieed. Ioi that people will
most effectually inheiit the eaith who, in piotection of theii viitue of theii
women and of theii boys and giils, build the stiongest fences. ¯heiefoie, put
the boot to the idlei, the 'dude,¨ the woithless plottei against the heaith and
home aiound which and in which the jewels of the family ciicle÷the comely
giils and the manly boys, who aie the futuie of the iace and the peipetuatois
of oui hope of the yet to be.
Of couise, one way to iead this passage would be to suggest that these
aie iegulations paiticulai to this moment in Richmond, iegulations that
peitain only to the eaily yeais of the twentieth-centuiy Inited States. In
othei woids, we might use this aichival document to claim the bounded-
ness of the Inited States and to locate Afiican Ameiican iacial, gendei,
and sexual discouises fimly within those bounds. Anothei way to iead
the aiticle would be to iefiame the discouise of iegulation, lifting it
fiom piesumptions that this discouise is discietely Ameiican oi Afiican
Ameiican. If we place the aiticle undei a foimulation of powei defned as
powei`s manifestation thiough the iacialized compulsion to gendei and
sexual noimativity, a noimative compulsion that is pait of the landmaiks
of wai, then the iegulations that the editoiial calls foi cease to be local
but tianslocal. In the city what we see heie is a paitneiship between an
emeiging indigenous black elite and state powei ovei the iegulation of a
subaltein black population. In othei woids, the Ameiican city assumes
the dangeis and necessaiy iegulations associated with the colonies. We
might also conjectuie that as Afiican Ameiican noimative and national
foimations aiose out of I.S. impeiialism, Afiican Ameiican elites leained
the tactics of sexual and gendei iegulation fiom the itineiaiies of impe-
iialism, imposing those tactics onto black pooi and woiking-class folks.
¯hat is, sexual and gendei noimativity iepeated the stiategies of noimal-
ization and nationalization that constituted Reconstiuction and chaiac-
teiized the Spanish-Ameiican Wai. By adopting noimative gendei and
sexuality, Afiican Ameiican elites waged wai against the state`s iacialized
exclusions, teaching theii childien the same stiategies. It was as if the
good, industiious, and iespectable black elites of Richmond scolded the
youth because of theii fast ways, in effect saying, 'We didn`t fght and
die in those wais foi you to act like this.¨ ¯his is the silence that whispeis
By aooptinq
nornative qenoer
ano sexoality,
/rrican /nerican
elites vaqeo
var aqainst tne
states racializeo
teacninq tneir
cniloren tne sane
Hìstorìes of Sexualìty 99
between the lines of this aichival document, the battle ciy of wais long
passed and unceasing.
I ended ¬berraitons tn Elacl by consideiing how women of coloi
feminist and queei of coloi ciitical foimations might piovide and inspiie
ciitiques of ievolutionaiy and cultuial nationalisms and theii iesidences
in sociology and Ameiican studies. Now, we might ask ouiselves how we
might use queei of coloi and women of coloi foimations to inteivene in
queei studies. ¯o this end, I have tiied to use this discussion of nineteenth-
centuiy black intellectual and middle-class foimations as an occasion to
demonstiate what is foi me a vital and histoiic insight of women of coloi
feminism. ¯hat insight goes somewhat like this: sexuality has a vaiiety of
deployments in which we might obseive its constitution thiough discouises
of iace, gendei, and class. Lpistemologically, this means that we must
embaik on ciitical jouineys to locate and explicate those deployments.
Institutionally and politically, it involves assessing the iacialized, gendeied,
and class foims of powei that issue fiom sexuality`s many extensive ioutes.
¯o be suie, if theie is any point to the study of sexuality at all, it is in the
obseivation and claiifcation of this insight.
1. Nichel Ioucault, '¯he Histoiy of Sexuality,¨ inteiview by Lucette Iinas,
in Fo:er;Ino:leJge: SelecieJ Inier.te:s anJ Ciher !rtitngs, 19´2÷19´´, ed. Colin
Coidon (New Yoik: Pantheon, 19Su), 191.
2. Lavid L. Lng`s wondeiful text Factal Casiraiton: Aanagtng Aascultnti, tn
¬stan ¬nertca (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1) piovides an alteina-
tive to the deiacination of psychoanalysis and sexuality, as does Siobahn Somei-
ville`s excellent Queertng ihe Color Ltne: Face anJ ihe In.eniton of Honosexualti, tn
¬nertcan Culiure (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uuu).
3. Rodeiick A. Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crt-
itque (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu4), 72.
4. Nichel Ioucault, 'Politics and the Study of Liscouise,¨ in The Ioucauli
Lffeci: SiuJtes tn Co.ernnenialti,, ed. Ciaham Buichell, Colin Coidon, and Petei
Nillei (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago Piess, 1991), 55.
5. I thank Ceoige Lipsitz foi this boileiplate statement.
6. W. L. B. LuBois, The Souls of Elacl Ioll (Cieenwich, C¯: Iawcett, 1961),
7. In Ioucault, Ioucauli Lffeci, 92.
S. Ibid., 1uu.
9. Bookei ¯. Washington, 'Industiial ¯iaining foi Southein Women,¨ in
Bookei ¯. Washington Papeis, Libiaiy of Congiess, Box 541.
1u. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
1uu Rooerìck A. Ferguson
12. Bookei ¯. Washington, '¯he Inßuence of Object-Lessons in the Solution
of the Race Pioblem,¨ in Bookei ¯. Washington Papeis, Libiaiy of Congiess,
Box 541.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Ioucault, The Htsior, of Sexualti,, vol. 1, ¬n IniroJuciton, tians. Robeit
Huiley (New Yoik: Vintage, 199u), 7.
17. Shelley Stieeby, ¬nertcan Sensaitons: Class, Lnjtre, anJ ihe FroJuciton of
Fojular Culiure (Beikeley: Iniveisity of Califoinia, 2uu2), 247.
1S. Bookei ¯. Washington, ¬ Ne: Negro for a Ne: Ceniur,: ¬n ¬ccuraie anJ
Ij-io-Daie FecorJ of ihe Ij:arJ Siruggles of ihe Negro Face (Niami: Nnemosyne,
1969), 3.
19. Ibid., 23÷24.
2u. ¯uskeegee Institute News Clippings Iile, Biitish Libiaiy (emphasis
21. Ibid.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
I came to the Inited States fiom Pakistan in 1991 as a student. I had come
to the Inited States because I had a thought that coming out as a gay man
would be safei foi me in this countiy. Aftei giaduating in 1995, I moved to
New Yoik City and became a membei of the South Asian Lesbian and Cay
Association, SALCA. I had iealized that going back to Pakistan was not an
option foi me anymoie. I would not be able to do the kinds of woik that I
wanted to do with safety in Pakistan. ¯heie is no infiastiuctuie in place in
Pakistan wheie I could obtain legal iecouise if thieatened foi being queei.
As queei immigiants in this countiy aie usually placed outside immigiation
law, applying foi asylum seemed to be the only stiategy wheie I did not feel
that I was compiomising myself as a gay man. Heteiosexual maiiiage and
woiking a job I did not like foi yeais to get a gieen caid did not seem like
attiactive choices. Choosing to apply foi asylum instead of availing myself
of othei options also became a political choice. Iuitheimoie, I stiongly
believed in my claim and felt that undei I.S. immigiation law I ft the
categoiies of asylum. I did have a genuine feai that if I led life as an openly
gay man in Pakistan, my life would be in dangei.
÷Saeed Rahman, 'Shifting Ciounds foi Asylum: Iemale Cenital Suigeiy
and Sexual Oiientation,¨ Colunbta Hunan Ftghis La: Fe.te: (199S)
¯he sexual histoiy of Asian diaspoias is being wiitten acioss nations,
institutions, theii publics. In this essay, I would like to speak about one
piivileged site and set of institutions in which the 'sexual histoiy¨ of the
Asian diaspoia is pioduced, oiganized, and subjected to iegulation. ¯hat
is, I would like to investigate the 'histoiy of sexuality¨ foi Asian diaspo-
ias whose lines of dispeision cioss I.S. space. What kind of 'histoiy of
sexuality¨ is being wiitten in this collision of diaspoiic gioups and I.S.

Ioi neaily two centuiies this collision has, in actuality, pioduced a
genealogy of sex foi both the I.S. nation-state and 'modeinized¨ dias-
poias. ¯he 'Chinese piostitute¨ conseciated by the Page Law of 1S75
and the 'Chinese bacheloi¨ foimed in the iesidue of successive Chinese
Lxclusion Acts fiom 1SS2 to 1943 aie just some of the most famous fg-
uies to emeige fiom this collision. But I set my sights today on one of
the newest fguies to emeige fiom the annals of the sexual histoiy of the
1u2 Chanoan Reooy
Asian diaspoia.
¯his fguie, like his counteipaits in pievious histoiical
peiiods, is to be found in the legal text and its supplementaiy genies, such
as public health, anthiopology, and psychology. ¯he fguie is named the
'gay Pakistani immigiant,¨ and he is found in immigiation pioceedings,
juiidical cases, and legal jouinals. ¯hough muimuis of his existence have
been heaid befoie, and debate as to whethei he was ieal continued foi a
numbei of yeais, he ciossed a ceitain thieshold of ieality in the mid-199us
and emeiged onto the legal, cultuial, and social scene in an attiie and voice
fully suited to claim equal peisonhood at the table. And like his piedeces-
sois, I.S. immigiation law iemains the defning appaiatus foi his juiidical
and discuisive constitution.
¯he epigiaph offeis a iepiesentative instance of his speech as it has
been pioduced by and deposited into the annals of law. It comes fiom
the naiiative testimony of Saeed Rahman, iecoided in the pages of the
Colunbta Hunan Ftghis La: Fe.te: in 199S.
Rahman is a 'gay¨ South
Asian immigiant living in New Yoik City who successfully petitioned the
Immigiation and Natuialization Seivice (INS) foi 'asylee¨ status based
on his claim of 'belonging to a peisecuted social gioup.¨ Rahman`s expe-
iience is one of only a few hundied cases in which the applicant`s 'sexual
oiientation¨÷that is, his 'homosexuality¨÷qualifed him foi membeiship
in a 'social gioup.¨ But Rahman`s discouise maiks a ceitain liminality
within both noimative diaspoiic foimations and the nation-state, each of
which depends on the iacialized institutions of kinship and family, a point
to which I ietuin latei in this essay.
¯he veiy site in which Rahman`s homosexuality is iecoided and
piotected by the law is also a site paitially deteiiitoiialized fiom the
nation-state. Ioi while asylum law within the Inited States is goveined by
the Immigiation and Nationality Act, the judges who pieside ovei these
administiative cases aie geneially undeistood as exempt fiom some of the
mandates of national immigiation law that otheiwise defne admission
into the Inited States. Instead, these judges aie bound to bioadly defned
'inteinational human iights¨ standaids and inteinational humanitaiian
law as established by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refu-
gees. Hence, as the globalization scholai Saskia Sassen has aigued, asylum
law is one instance by which nonnational oi global foices aie cieating a
de facto immigiation policy, one that fai fiom binding the univeisality of
the nation begins to delink soveieignty and the nation-state in impoitant
In this way, asylum cases iepiesent 'anomalous states¨ fiom the
peispective of national iight, maiking instead the emeigence of supposedly
new capitalist social foimations that aie paiasitical of the modein institu-
tions of the state and its foims of powei. If Rahman, and the few hundied
legal cases similai to his, enteis the national iecoid thiough the law and
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 1u3
the institutions of the boidei, such as the INS couitioom, that entiance
betiays a tiansfoimation of those veiy institutions. Indeed, his designa-
tion as a 'homosexual¨ within the legal iecoid is at once a symptom of the
contempoiaiy foims and foices of a capitalist globalization.
In this essay I aigue that the juiidical appeaiance of the 'gay Paki-
stani immigiant¨ must be situated within the context of the neolibeial
iestiuctuiing of state powei. Lxamining the bioadei discuisive and mate-
iial ieoiganization of I.S. immigiation policy in the 199us thiough the
Iamily Reunifcation Act, moieovei, I claim that the ieconstitution of state
powei thiough the deployment of 'family¨ constitutes the conditions of
possibility foi the juiidical iecognition of the gay Pakistani immigiant. As
a fguie at the limit of national law, the gay Pakistani immigiant maiks in
fact an impoitant and constitutive tension within the national iecoid and
the piactice of goveinance it subtends. Ioi the fguie, like the Chinese
piostitute and Chinese bacheloi befoie it, is pioduced in the conßicts and
contiadictions expiessed by the state. ¯his ciitique iequiies us to situate
that enfguiing statement, the gay Pakistani immigiant, within the context
of neolibeialism, the name foi the contempoiaiy mode of capitalist accu-
mulation and the logics, bioadly speaking, that oiganize cuiient political
piactice and social iule, enfolding the discuisive piactice of 'family.¨
While neolibeialism elaboiates a woild-histoiical context, it has aiticu-
lated with the nation-state diffeiently in the global Noith and the global
South. In both cases neolibeial economic policies and piogiams, begun
in the late 197us, have stiessed the opening of maikets, the fnancializa-
tion of cuiiency iegimes, the piivatization of the public seivices sectoi,
and the commodifcation and capitalization of biological life. Composed
of such piactices and logics, neolibeialism has most poweifully affected
the imagined ielation between the state and civil society, disoiganizing
the fantasy stiuctuie if not the actual opeiation of the so-called closed
welfaie economies hegemonic duiing the peiiod of neolibeialism`s emei-
gence. As Cayatii Chakiavoity Spivak has wiitten, in an essay on the
politics of diaspoiic studies in oui tiansnational times, 'within the def-
nition of an ideal civil society, if the state is a welfaie state, it is diiectly
the seivant of the individual. When incieasingly piivatized, as in the
New Woild Oidei |of neolibeialism], the piioiities of the civil society aie
shifted fiom seivice to the citizen to capital maximization.¨
Yet, while
'the undeimining of the civil stiuctuies of society is now a global situa-
tion,¨ Spivak suggests that
/s a nqore
at tne linit or
national lav, tne
qay ¦akistani
narks in ract
an inportant
ano constitotive
tension vitnin tne
national recoro
ano tne practice
or qovernance
it sobtenos.
1u4 Chanoan Reooy
a geneial contiast can be made: in the Noith, welfaie stiuctuies long in place
aie being dismantled. ¯he diaspoiic undeiclass is often the woist victim.
In the South, welfaie stiuctuies cannot emeige as a iesult of the piioiities
of the tiansnational agencies. . . . Political asylum, at fist sight so diffeient
fiom economic migiation, fnally fnds it much easiei to ie-code capitalism as
demociacy. It too, then, insciibes itself in the naiiative of the manipulation of
civil stiuctuies in the inteiest of the fnancialization of the globe.
As Spivak aigues, the paiticulai stiuctuial economic constiaints on
global Southein countiies (the postcolonial and decolonizing countiies)
continue to effect a dismantling of the state and the national economy as
agencies and sites foi social iedistiibution. Indei such constiaints, the
national citizen as a fguie of iecent decolonization is by necessity disin-
teiied fiom the state. ¯his citizen then opeiates as the peisistent iemindei
of the state`s inability and failuie to achieve secuiity foi its citizeniy against
the iavages that daily accompany neolibeial capitalism. Impoitantly, the
seizuie of citizenship discouise by the 'new social movements¨ in the
global South iemains a compelling catachiesis in the globalized fght foi
just life, in pait because it necessaiily foiegiounds the splitting of nation
and state fiom theii modeinist confguiation as the 'nation-state¨ because
of the piessuies of neolibeial capitalism.
Yet, as Spivak ieminds us, immigiant advocacy and social justice pioj-
ects in the global Noith that make theii appeals to the state aie implicated
in the veiy stiuctuie of global inequity that continues to sepaiate nation
fiom state in the global South. Ioi in the global Noith, Spivak ieveals, the
citizen iemains consonant with the state, not despite but piecisely because
of neolibeialism. We must theiefoie ask aftei how the piomulgation of a
politics of citizenship÷most often expiessed as the desiie to paitake in
civil society and the social safety net designed by the welfaie state÷might
only fuithei the ends of neolibeialism iathei than thwait it.
Indeed, this obseivation suggests that we iespecify what has colloqui-
ally been undeistood as the contempoiaiy 'dismantling of the welfaie
state¨ in the Inited States. Ioi, in actuality, neolibeialism has not piecipi-
tated entiiely the state`s dismembeiment oi the eiosion of its social safety
net. Rathei, it has entailed the ieoiganization of the state thiough, fist,
the consolidation of a welfaie state foi lowei-middle- thiough uppei-class
I.S. citizens and citizen clones (piofessional gieen-caid holdeis). ¯his
consolidation piomises not 'social iedistiibution¨ but iathei the Jtsirtbu-
iton of enitilenenis and the secuiity to wield and exeicise those entitlements
in a now 'inteinationalized¨ civil society. In this piocess, the iedistiibutive
functions tiaditionally associated with the welfaie state aie indistinguish-
able fiom the social iepioduction and giowth of capital. Put otheiwise, we
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 1u5
can say that while the welfaie state is oiganized to iepioduce laboi powei
and simultaneously iegulate/captuie laboi, the cuiient 'postwelfaie state¨
goveinmentality is oiganized to pioduce wealth thiough the extension and
pioduction of new domains and modes of valoiization. ¯he piivatization
and public investment of ietiiement funds and the giowth of the 4u1(k)
capital investment sectoi aie a case in point.
Second, we have witnessed the state`s ievocation of this welfaie stiuc-
tuie and of social iights foi the iacialized pooi and the noncitizen class,
also in the name of citizen secuiity. Since the mid-199us, this has become
a paiticulaily salient phenomenon. ¯he 1996 passage of thiee linked
fedeial laws÷the Welfaie Refoim Act, the Illegal Immigiation Refoim
Act, and the Counteiteiioiism Act÷togethei woiked to politically and
economically disenfianchise the noncitizen and simultaneously to iedi-
iect capital`s suipluses back into the economy. In each instance, such
acts weie facilitated discuisively thiough piactices of secuiity. Noieovei,
these acts specifcally denied immigiants the basic iights of all woikeis at
a time when the immigiant is a categoiy piimaiily composed of Latino,
Asian, and Caiibbean people. Oi take, foi example, that the ending of
affimative action in majoi ievenue states such as Califoinia and ¯exas
coincided with the buildup of the 'piison-industiial complex¨ in these
veiy same states.
In both cases, the political and economic disenfianchisement of the
iacialized noncitizen immigiant and the iacialized citizen pooi is devised
in the name of secuiitizing civil society foi its entitled subject, the citi-
zen-as-capitalist and its juiidical clones. In addition, the cuiient wai,
oiiginally justifed as piotecting 'Ameiican¨ lives, has extended this gov-
einmentality, claiifying that the so-called quality of life and standaid of
living that we attach to I.S. citizenship is, like CNN, embedded diiectly
in the machineiy of the neolibeial impeiial state, in the occupation and the
destiuction of the fiagile but still active infiastiuctuies of Afghanistan,
Iiaq, Venezuela, Noith Koiea, and any othei non-Luiopean oi non-Zionist
countiy that challenges I.S. policies foi theii iegion. ¯he cuiient wai has
only magnifed the conceit that to occupy the place and logic of the I.S.
citizen is to situate oneself stiuctuially, and willy-nilly, within an impeiial
neolibeial state and social foimation.
If these latest acts of inteinational wai and violence by which the citi-
zen becomes the subject of both neolibeial and impeiial foims of powei aie
ietioactively coded as a defense of Ameiican life, that coding has facilitated
the cementing of a discouise of secuiity in which the 'teiioiist¨ is fguied
as the iacialized and sexualized 'othei¨ of the citizen.
Within the binaiy
that oiganizes this discouise, the 'teiioiist¨ is indistinguishable fiom any
foimation that seeks to contest the 'welfaie iights¨ of the I.S. citizen (as
ve nave
vitnesseo tne
states revocation
or tnis velrare
stroctore ano or
social riqnts ror
tne racializeo
poor ano tne
noncitizen class,
also in tne nane
or citizen secority.
1uó Chanoan Reooy
a beaiei of capital) in whose name the state suivives. ¯hiough pieemptive
defense, the piactices that aie metaleptically 'founded¨ on national secu-
iity, the state has ielied on the logics of iacial discouise to sutuie impeiial
and Ameiican multinational coipoiate endeavois. ¯he I.S. citizen÷even
and especially as the libeial multicultuial subject÷is in fact a iacial fguie
on the global scene.
Splitting the totality of populations foi which the
I.S. state opeiates as a tactic of iule into the bifuicated categoiies of the
citizen oi the 'inteinational¨ subject of civility and the vaiieties of non-
nationals and noncitizens whose impeiatives to iediiect the state as a fguie
of iedistiibution and social diffeience designates them as 'teiioiistic,¨ the
I.S. state has made 'secuiity¨ an aspect guaianteed almost exclusively
to capital. Indei such conditions, the keywoids of modein political life,
Jenocrac,, ctit:enshtj, soctei,, and rtghis, become the veiy teims by
which the libeial and now neolibeial iepiesentative state legitimates impe-
iialism and iacial exploitation as the socially good.
If the constiuct of the I.S. citizen, and moie bioadly the subject of
inteinational civility, iatifes the cuiient mode of pioduction, a mode foi
which the state is both a facilitatoi and decenteied, that constiuct undei
the postwelfaie state system inauguiates the veiy opposite of what it ideally
iepiesents: the citizen`s fieedom iequiies the ieduction of the immigiant
woikei to the state of chance, demociacy designates militaiy oidei, and
the piotection of civil iights iatifes the toituie of the enemy combatant.
Oi, as Naix wiote of the Iiench Lmpiie undei Louis Bonapaite duiing
the eia of monopoly capitalist colonialism, 'only one ihtng was needed to
complete the tiue foim of this iepublic . . . the |Piesident`s] motto, ltberie,
egaltie, fraierntie must be ieplaced with the unambiguous woids tnfanir,,
ca.alr,, aritller,!¨
We might say that the I.S. citizen-subject has become the twenty-fist-
centuiy 'conseivative peasant¨ of which Naix spoke so scoinfully in the
Lighteenth Biumaiie.
Petty in its inteiests, heteiogeneous to the foima-
tion of social classes on the global scale, and iesistant to being politically
and socially iepiesented by the global pioletaiiat on whose back society
piospeis; undei neolibeialism, the I.S. citizen is not a fguie foi ießexivity
and enlightenment. Indeed, the iegulative discouise of citizenship, which
continues to opeiate as the beaiei of capitalist iationality, deconstitutes the
veiy positions and locations fiom which I.S.-based subjects might giasp
the woild-histoiical context of neolibeialism and the oidei by which they
aie both iuled and sustained.
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 1u7
¯he cuiient conditions suggest that it is impeiative that we iefuse the
fguie of the citizen as the subject of knowledge and as the tiope of unity.
Noieovei, in the context of I.S. asylum cases, as Spivak aigues, a naiia-
tive that piomotes the iacially and sexually excluded`s desiie to entei into
I.S. civil society that also fails to situate that desiie within the context of
othei 'desiies¨ (of the gendeied subaltein, foi example) that aie stiuctui-
ally foieclosed, violently iefused, oi made impossible by the 'fulfllment¨
of the foimei tiajectoiy in neolibeial times iisks pioducing cuiient stiug-
gles as alibis foi exploitation. It also iisks foieclosing and 'foigetting¨
the ciitical disiuptions and iadical possibilities these veiy stiuggles open
up. In oidei, then, to develop a ciitical ieading of Rahman`s testimony,
I suggest examining the conditions that pioduce that testimony but aie
not diiectly visible in the text in which that testimony appeais. ¯hat is,
I want to exploie how 'family¨ as a iegulative foimation in the cuiient
goveinmentality oiganizes the conditions foi 'gay asylum.¨ Hence we
can iesituate that supplementaiy fguie as the site foi a ciitique of the
iegulative function of family.
In a iecent aiticle in the Los ¬ngeles Ttnes, as pait of its daily iepoit-
ing on the iush of gays and lesbians seeking maiiiage petitions fiom the
San Iiancisco County buieauciacy, the ieadei is offeied the following
'We aie alieady a family,¨ said Naia NcWilliams, a 34-yeai-old health
woikei fiom San }ose, as she waited in line foi hei tuin |to ieceive a maiiiage
ceitifcate] in the cleik`s offce Sunday moining. Hei S-yeai-old daughtei
Seiena, clutched hei leg. . . . '¯his is to show the woild we aie alieady a
family. We`ie noimal piofessional people. We`ie not heie with oui fieak
In oui contempoiaiy moment in the Inited States we aie witness-
ing a ceitain ieciossing of what Ioucault has named the 'deployment of
alliances¨ with the 'deployment of sexuality¨ (HS, 1u6). ¯hese diffeient
histoiical cuiients have once again found theii point of conveigence and
inteisection in the space of 'family.¨ And, moieovei, this domain of fam-
ily, whose centiality to the cuiient goveinmentality is as indisputable as
it is unstable, is also the effect of new aiticulations of iace and sexuality,
aiticulations whose investigation poses specifc challenges and ciitical
oppoitunities foi those of us woiking in the domain of queei studies.
In The Htsior, of Sexualti,, Ioucault aigues that the ielations of sex
oiganized by a 'Jejlo,neni of alltance: a system of maiiiage, of fxation
1uB Chanoan Reooy
and development of kinship ties, of tiansmission of names and posses-
sions¨ (1u6) weie giadually tiansfoimed, incoipoiated by the deployment
of sexuality, into a new set of appaiatuses whose object is the individual
body. While both deployments have a constitutive ielation to economy, the
system of alliances aiianged the ielations of sex to defnite statuses in oidei
to diiect the piopei tiansmission and ciiculation of wealth. In contiast,
the deployment of sexuality, Ioucault aigues, 'is linked to the economy
thiough numeious and subtle ielays . . . piolifeiating, innovating, annex-
ing, cieating and penetiating bodies in an incieasingly detailed way, and
in contiolling populations in an incieasingly compiehensive way¨ (HS,
1u7). If the deployment of alliance waned in impoitance because of shifts
in the mode of pioduction by the late eighteenth centuiy, Ioucault aigues
that its main institution÷the family÷was pieseived and even extended
by the new deployment, which emeiged fiom within the peiipheialized
appaiatuses that subtended the pievious system of sexual ielations. Since
then 'the family,¨ in the 'West,¨ has iemained 'the inteichange of sexu-
ality and alliance: it conveys the law and the juiidical dimension in the
deployment of sexuality; and it conveys the economy of pleasuie and the
intensity of sensations in the iegime of alliances.¨ ¯his incoipoiation, in
which alliance is sexualized and satuiated by desiie, is also the mode by
which a new foim of powei links the 'state¨ and the 'family.¨
As oui cuiient moment attests, in which iepiesentations of same-sex
maiiiage ieconcile homosexuality with the family, the state has emeiged as
a cential locus by which ceitain 'nonnoimative sexualities¨ have sought to
make it a teiiain of fieedom, destigmatization, and noimality. In doing so,
sexuality has once again become, quite poweifully, oiganized aiound ques-
tions of legitimacy and illegitimacy, intensifying the libidinal attachments
to legal fguies and subjecthood, and displacing many of the diveise knowl-
edges and piactices of sexuality whose aims and modes of existence aie in
excess of oi ielatively autonomous fiom conceins about legal iatifcation.
It would appeai that the cuiient moment would iequiie us to think
also about how the deployment of sexuality subtends and is anchoied by
the contempoiaiy capitalist mode of pioduction. In the Inited States,
that mode of pioduction continues to iely on nonnational diffeiences (of
gendei, iace, and sexuality) to expand the pioletaiian class. Liaspoia and
migiation have incieasingly come to defne and iestiuctuie these diffei-
ences, subtending new foimations of nonnoimative sexualities.
might we entei the 'focus on family,¨ as the I.S. Chiistian Right names
it, in oidei to puisue an inquiiy into the functions of capital, the I.S. state,
and contempoiaiy stiategies of accumulation· In paiticulai, what might
be the diffeient functionings of family in the cuiient elaboiation of iacial
and neolibeial capitalism·
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 1u9
Ioi the last thiee yeais the Audie Loide Pioject (ALP), a queei people
of coloi oiganizing centei in New Yoik City, has been involved in develop-
ing a iepoit on queei immigiants of coloi and the politics of immigiation.

¯he iepoit ieveals that since the 19Sus the state has actively woiked to
pioduce a iacialized and gendeied laboi migiation thiough the iubiic of
family ieunifcation. Lesigned to assess how cuiient immigiation policy
cieates the conditions foi a ceitain 'homophobia¨ within immigiant
communities and yet iemains unaddiessed by both gay and lesbian and
immigiant iights gioups, the iepoit and the bioadei oiganizing initiative
sought to ieveal how the depoliticization of ceitain social foims, such as
the 'family¨ deployed by the state at the cuiient moment, became the veiy
means by which the state iacially stiatifed immigiant communities in iela-
tion to the bioadei citizeniy and actively oiganized a social stiuctuie foi
global capital in the city while appeaiing to be puisuing facially 'neutial,¨
and even just, social policy÷one that coiiected histoiical exclusions.
Since 19S6 a laige quotient of low-wage immigiant woikeis came to
New Yoik City thiough the Iamily Reunifcation piogiam. Ioi example,
though many scholais have suggested that the majoi pull factoi foi immi-
giation in the 199us was a shoitage within the Inited States of woik-
eis, especially foi those located within the domestic, low-end seivices,
and 'unskilled¨ laboi maikets, the Immigiation Act of 199u capped the
numbei of immigiant visas foi so-called unskilled woikeis at a paltiy ten
thousand while it incieased family-based immigiant visas to 4Su,uuu
annually beginning in 1995. While family immigiation obviously includes
minois and seniois who aie eithei legally oi functionally unable to entei
the laboi maiket, family-based immigiation offeis by fai the laigest pool
of immigiant visas foi so-called unskilled woikeis.
In othei woids, while immigiants aie ieciuited by the peisistence of
entiy-level jobs in the seivices, industiial, and infoimal sectois of New
Yoik, the fedeial goveinment continues to ieciuit such woikeis thiough
the language and netwoiks of family ieunifcation. ¯he effect of cieating
economic pull factois that ieciuit immigiants to the Inited States while
using buieauciatic categoiies like 'family ieunifcation¨ to code that
migiation as essentially pioduced by the petitioning activity of iesident
immigiants living in the Inited States is to enable the appeasement of
capital`s need foi immigiant woikeis while piojecting the state as eithei a
benevolent actoi ieuniting bioken families oi an oveibuidened and effete
agent unable to pievent immigiants` manipulations of its (mandatoiy)
demociatic and faii laws. In eithei case, the ieciuitment of low-wage
woikeis÷who compose the majoiities of the immigiant of coloi popula-
tions in New Yoik City÷is displaced fiom the state`s iesponsibility and
ielocated back onto immigiants themselves. In this mannei, the state is
Jne report
reveals tnat
since tne !V3Us
tne state nas
actively vorkeo
to proooce
a racializeo
ano qenoereo
labor niqration
tnrooqn tne
robric or ranily
11u Chanoan Reooy
absolved politically fiom having cieated and expanded the conditions of
noncitizen life within the teiiitoiial paiameteis of the Inited States and, at
the same time, distinguishes itself as the apotheosis of Westein Lemociacy
by achieving the status of depoliticized neutiality.
Indeed, since its oiiginal passage of the Iamily Reunifcation Act in
19S6, the fedeial goveinment has incieasingly elected to attach the waid-
ship of the welfaie of all incoming immigiants to the petitioning families
In a iathei stunning move that has effectively destioyed the
state`s iedistiibutive function within a managed economy, the goveinment`s
mandate that petitioning families must now absoib the state`s welfaie func-
tions foi immigiants, in the context of the goveinment`s continuing bid
to dismantle the welfaie economy, has meant that it is now the iole of the
pooi to absoib the social costs of poveity and a 'healthy¨ unemployment
iate! ¯he state has effectively managed to both inciease the numbeis of
immigiants aiiiving into the Inited States, as the economy continues to
demand low-wage noncitizen laboi, and at the same time to use immigia-
tion as the vehicle to dismantle its welfaie iesponsibilities.
In addition to the benefts the state acciues thiough the ieciuitment
of laboi undei family ieunifcation, these goveinmental piactices also
engendei conditions within which the family unit is now a site and appa-
iatus (willy-nilly) of state iegulatoiy and capitalist powei. Ioi immi-
giants ieciuited thiough family ieunifcation, patiiaichal and heteiosexual
mandates have often become pieiequisites to gaining family oi welfaie
suppoit. With the effective dismantling of welfaie benefts of noncitizen
iacialized woikeis, woikeis biought in thiough family ieunifcation have
incieasingly been foiced to depend on family ties foi access to ioom and
boaid, employment, and othei seivices, such as (what amounts to) woik-
place injuiy insuiance, health caie, child caie, etc. In othei woids, fedeial
immigiation policies such as Iamily Reunifcation extend and institute
heteionoimative community stiuctuies as a iequiiement foi accessing
welfaie piovisions foi new immigiants by attaching those piovisions to
the family unit.
In sum, the new fedeial stiuctuie has incieased immigiants` exposuie
and stiuctuial dependence on heteiopatiiaichal ielations and iegula-
toiy stiuctuies. Nany queei immigiant inteiviewees spoke about the
impossibility of 'being gay¨ in a context in which one`s dependence on
'family¨÷bioadly defned÷is defnitional to living as an immigiant in
the City.
While this is something spoken about commonly enough in
piogiessive ciicles, the tendency is to immediately assume the supposedly
moie essential homophobic natuie of immigiant cultuies ovei 'Ameiican¨
cultuie oi to blame the extiaoidinaiy willingness of queei immigiants to
accept homophobic silencing and closeting. Howevei, such 'cultuialist¨
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 111
aiguments only fuithei mask the state`s iole (as I have desciibed it) in
exactly engendeiing and enfoicing the veiy immigiant homophobias that
many claim aie biought ovei by immigiants fiom theii home countiies.
Both the intensity and specifcity of homophobia in queei immigiants
of coloi`s lives aie founded on local conditions (and not because of the
'cultuie¨ that they biing fiom abioad, as so many scholais aie quick to
suggest) and aie pioduced at the inteisection of state immigiation policies
and theii fxation on the heteiopatiiaichal family unit. Rathei, the categoiy
of 'gay¨ piesumes a paiticulai libeial oidei of 'family,¨ 'civil society,¨ and
the 'state¨ discuisively and ideologically impossible foi queei immigiants,
defeiiing the queei of coloi into the status of the nonnational, pioduced
at the limit of civil society.
Noie pointedly, the libeial isomoiphism of
family, society, and state iequiies as its condition of possibility the 'queei
of coloi¨ immigiant as a nonindividuated, noniights-beaiing 'subject,¨
whose conditions of existence confounds that isomoiphism.
In addition to the state`s offcial immigiation policy, fedeial and state
goveinments since the Clinton yeais also have been empoweied to shift
the deliveiy of seivices away fiom public and piivate nonpioft seculai
piovideis and towaid ieligious oiganizations and gioups. In New Yoik
City, iising numbeis of chuich oiganizations petition foi goveinment
money and an incieasing numbei of immigiants access chuich seivices
as theii piimaiy seivice piovidei. Again, it is the dislocating of the state`s
function as a welfaie agent that has exposed queei immigiants of coloi
in paiticulai to iemaikable heteiopatiiaichal coeicion and that pioduces
the dispiopoitionate enfoicement of heteiopatiiaichal ielations within
immigiant of coloi communities.
Some scholais have pointed to what they believe is a potential silvei
lining in the end of the tiaditional welfaie state: the diminishing impoi-
tance of the state in the piivate and social lives of citizens and iesidents.

Howevei, as I have aigued, the eiosion of the welfaie state has not only been
manifested by the withdiawal of economic and social iesouices to woiking
and pooi people. In fact, and in addition, the continued deteiioiation of
the welfaie system will not iesult in the withdiawal of state powei fiom the
lives of immigiants of coloi, oi queei immigiants of coloi in paiticulai, but
will instead fostei the expansion of social iegulation thiough a giowing
ieliance on state-ciicumsciibed oi sponsoied social foims, such as family
and ieligion. Noieovei, the state`s dependence on these foims foi social
iegulation and political economic iepioduction suggests that these foims
will incieasingly be buidened by and iestiuctuied by the state`s inteiest
and demands, distancing them fiom theii histoiical social foims, compel-
ling them instead to confoim to the state`s iepiesentation of theii limits,
functions, and modalities.
112 Chanoan Reooy
Reciuiting and socializing laboi thiough the categoiy of family ieuni-
fcation extended the state`s iegulatoiy powei while disestablishing a
welfaie state foi immigiant communities. Noieovei, by posing the denial
of family ieunifcation as histoiically a iacially iestiictive and asciip-
tive state piactice that denied equal citizenship to immigiant of coloi
communities, the state was able to pioduce a iacialized and gendeied
diffeientiated class of woikeis via its puisuit of equality and supposed
'iacial iediess¨ of past disciimination in immigiation policy. ¯he state`s
iecouise to 'family¨ to ieciuit noncitizen iacialized laboi and simultane-
ously distance that laboi fiom social iights, the ALP iepoit suggests, also
became the veiy conditions foi a state-enfoiced heteionoimativity that
piojected immigiant communities as antilibeial and sexually conseiva-
tive. Lastly, the state began thiough asylum law÷in which gendei and
sexuality weie iecognized as 'membeiship in a social gioup¨÷in the veiy
same decade to diaft I.S. citizenship as a foimally piotective appaiatus
against patiiaichy, homophobia, and supposed 'illibeial¨ cultuies. In
othei woids, family ieunifcation enabled state powei to simultaneously
cieate heteiopatiiachial ielations foi the ieciuitment and socialization of
laboi while justifying the exclusion of immigiant communities fiom state
powei thiough a libeial language of I.S. citizenship as the guaiantoi of
individual libeity and sexual fieedom.
Retuining to Rahman`s testimony, I would like to use the pieceding dis-
cussion of neolibeial political economies of the family to puisue a 'queei
of coloi¨ ciitique of his petition foi asylum. In ¬berraitons tn Elacl:
To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque, the theoiist Rodeiick Ieiguson aigues
that the 'sexual,¨ as the expiession of 'iacially gendeied ielations,¨
emeiges in the Inited States in the conßict between capital and the
political state, especially piotiacted since the twentieth centuiy.
industiial capital, Ieiguson aigues, seeks laboi, iegaidless of its oiigins,
the political state qualifes its body politic thiough a set of iacialized and
gendei ideals that it naiiates as fundamental. Ieiguson wiites, 'Capital is
based on a fundamentally amoial logic. Capital, without piessuies fiom
the state oi citizeniy, will assemble laboi without iegaid foi noimative
piesciiptions of iace and gendei¨ (16). Yet 'the modein nation-state has
histoiically been oiganized aiound an illusoiy univeisality paiticulaiized
in teims of iace, gendei, sexuality, and class, |and, as such,] state foima-
tions have woiked to piotect and guaiantee this univeisality¨ (17).
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 113
Such impeiatives come into conßict with one anothei as capital tends
towaid the accumulation of 'heteiogeneities,¨ disiupting social hiei-
aichies, while the state tends towaid a 'heteionoimativity,¨ multiply-
ing iacial, gendei, and sexual diffeiences and paiticulaiities as it seeks
univeisality within the mateiial conditions of heteiogeneity. In this way,
industiial capital also disiupts modein political ontologies of iule: 'While
capital can only iepioduce itself by ultimately tiansgiessing the boundaiies
of neighboihood, home, and iegion, the state positions itself as the piotec-
toi of those boundaiies¨ (17). Reading sociology as an aichive of the aits
of goveinance, Ieiguson aigues that this tense contiadiction is expiessed
in the iise of ceitain stock fguies in the sociological aichive acioss the
twentieth centuiy, such as the 'tiansgendeied mulatto,¨ the Negio as
the 'Lady among the Races,¨ and the 'out-of-wedlock mothei.¨ ¯hese
fguies (and otheis) constitute the genealogy and limit of 'community,¨
'family,¨ and 'nation.¨
¯he gay Pakistani immigiant extends that genealogy as industiial
capitalism is ieconstituted by tiansnationality, neolibeialism, and the
dominance of fnance capital in oui contempoiaiy moment. In paiticulai,
woiking thiough Ieiguson`s fiamewoik, we might suggest that the fguie
of the gay Pakistani immigiant offeis a genealogy of 'family¨ within
the contempoiaiy Inited States. Indeed, the gay Pakistani immigiant
as pioduced by the law is a supplement within the discouise of family
and kinship as the state seeks to suivive in a 'post-state class-system.¨

Hence I would like to take up a 'queei of coloi¨ ciitique of the cuiient
I.S. social foimation and place that ciitique in ciitical opposition to
citizenship, paiticulaily as that piactice is oiganized by the discouise of
secuiity to 'fiee¨ capital. Situated within the shift fiom the welfaie to the
postwelfaie neolibeial goveinmentality, such a ieading would eschew an
inteipietation of his petition as seeking the secuiity of I.S. citizenship to
piotect gay libeity oi sexual fieedom oi a ieading that posed the emeigence
of the gay Pakistani immigiant within the legal text as a victoiy foi gay
visibility in the aichive.
Rathei, this ieading would discovei and name in the legal iecoid the
stiategies of iepiessive management that seek to defne foi theii own ends
what is knowable and thinkable about the fguies ensnaied in its web. Such
a ieading would iesist the national aichive we call the law whose iegime
of tiuth demands the daily conquest of multiple pasts and of the histoii-
cal diffeiences iiieconcilable with that iegime. It would iead the fguie
of the gay Pakistani immigiant as foimed in the contiadiction between
heteionoimative social ielations mandated foi immigiants of coloi by the
state`s policies and the libeial state`s ideology of univeisal sexual fieedom
as a mask foi giowing these social ielations. In the annals of the sexual
lnoeeo, tne
qay ¦akistani
inniqrant as
proooceo by
tne lav is a
vitnin tne
oiscoorse or ranily
ano kinsnip as
tne state seeks to
sorvive in a ¨post-
state class-systen.`
114 Chanoan Reooy
histoiy of the Asian diaspoia, sexuality mateiializes the conßict between an
emeigent goveinmentality and the state`s desiie to peipetuate itself beyond
its point of expiiation, in which 'family¨ is theii site of inteisection.
If, as Lthne Luibheid has aigued, the I.S. nation-state has histoii-
cally asciibed sexuality to its populace thiough the technologies of the
boidei, then asylum law both extends and bieaks with that histoiical piac-
Ioi in this case, the set of logics, discouises, iegimes of tiuth, and
impeiatives that establish and identify homosexuality as a 'social gioup¨
and the gay Pakistani as a victimized membei of that social gioup, avail-
able foi the nation-state`s piotection, is paiadoxically the expiession of a
tiansfoimation in contempoiaiy goveinmentality. ¯hat is, the fguie of
the gay Pakistani immigiant is both a symptom of globalization and the
tiansnationalization of I.S. capital, and a new foimation developed in the
inteistices of the nation-state. ¯his fguie emeiges in the bieach between
the nation-state and the political economy.
Retuining, then, to Rahman`s naiiative we witness ceitain complexi-
ties. Ioi, on the one hand, it names the legal and civil infiastiuctuie of the
Inited States as a piotective space foi fieely conducting woik oi puisu-
ing piivate enteipiise, a woik and enteipiise that piesumably connotes
homosexuality oi that subtends a homosexual existence. On the othei
hand, these veiy notions of fieedom and secuiity aie negated oi denied
foi Rahman by the same legal and civil infiastiuctuie that denies 'queei
immigiants¨ thiough the appaiatus of immigiation peimanent access to
that civil and legal infiastiuctuie of the I.S. nation-state. If his application
of asylum 'iesolved¨ that contiadiction, it also became a point of politiciza-
tion, one whose tiajectoiy, howevei, we aie not given an account of heie. In
this way, Rahman`s politicization is appiopiiable foi a numbei of gioups
and inteiests. Ioi example, it could be used by gay and lesbian 'human
iights¨ gioups to claim the impoitance of sexuality as a human iight and
of human iights as incubatois of political subjectivity, a piesupposition
of full peisonhood.
It could be used by I.S.-based gay and lesbian so-
called civil iights gioups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
to expose the unfaiiness of immigiation laws that deny gays and lesbians
equal iights as citizens.
Alteinatively, it might be appiopiiated by Asian
Ameiican political and cultuial gioups to establish the authenticity and
legitimacy of queei Asians.
Yet I want to ask how else we might iead this statement, this iacialized
and sexualized 'fguie of speech.¨ In doing so, I want to pose the law as
moie than a medium and teiiain in which piessing social ielations and the
asymmetiies and inequalities that subtend those ielations aie stiuctuied,
adjudicated, and 'iesolved.¨ Instead I situate the law, by which I mean
moie bioadly the legal spheie, as an 'aichive,¨ in this instance an aichive
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 115
of iacialized sexuality. ¯hat is, the legal spheie might be appioached as one
site in which the nation`s offcial iecoids aie maintained and iepioduced,
giving those who seek identity thiough the law a histoiy of theii kin.
By naming the law an 'aichive¨ I mean to obseive how the law seeks
to be the iecoid of the confiontation of social gioups with the univeisal-
ity of 'community¨ and the 'state¨ posited by libeial political theoiy
and epistemologies. Not just the law of iecoid, the law`s textuality is also
the expiession of the law as iecoid. And, as an aichive oi mode of iecoid
keeping, the law seeks to pioduce an account of social diffeiences that
pieseives the conditions foi univeisality. Put otheiwise, histoiical and
social diffeiences (of gendei, iace, sexuality, etc.) aie subjugated by the
law, as a piecondition of theii entiance into the national iecoid, foiced to
pieseive the libeial naiiative of univeisality on which the legal spheie bases
its notion of justice and the nation is said to be founded. As an aichive,
the law oiganizes social and histoiical diffeiences in ways that piomise
both knowledge (of diffeience) and membeiship. In this way the law as an
aichive is not a dispassionate oi disinteiested space of iecoids. Rathei, it is
the piivileged ledgei by which knowledge, idealized as dispassionate and
disinteiested, is, paiadoxically, made coincident with community, ideal-
ized as nonalienated expeiience, pioducing that peculiai epistemo-affect
associated with the 'citizen.¨
Like all aichives, the law, and the bioadei textual legal spheie, as an
aichive is not simply an institutional site foi the iecoiding of the past and
of histoiical and social diffeience. Rathei, it is a fiamewoik that, iionically,
piomises its ieadei agency only thiough the peipetual subjugation of dif-
feiences, a subjugation, then, that taigets not only the past but also the
futuie. Indeed the law as an aichive addiessed to the citizen oi potential
subject of 'civility¨ seeks, above all, to be an aichive of the futuie. If, as
Ioucault aigues, the aichive must be constiued as 'the law of what can
be said,¨ in a paiticulai social foimation, then that which we undeistand
as the law in a moie limited sense is an aichive of how the state has come
to be oiganized necessaiily on and within that bioadei social and mateiial
Hence the aichive is not a passive domain in which diffeiences, such
as the gay Pakistani immigiant, can be found, extiacted, and iestoied to
theii fullness, if necessaiy. It is the active technique by which sexual, iacial,
gendeied, and national diffeiences, both histoiical and futuial, aie sup-
piessed, fiozen, and iediiected as the occasion foi a univeisal knowledge.
It is the technique by which the modein I.S. state piomotes the citizen as
a univeisal agent thiough that knowledge pioduction÷to women, queeis,
people of coloi, etc.÷demanding that we take up its fiamewoik foi diffei-
ence (both histoiical and social) as a pieiequisite foi a validated agency.
11ó Chanoan Reooy
I.S. capitalist society, as a diffeientiated social foimation, is mediated by
the law, which opeiates as the iegulative stiuctuie and aichive foi that veiy
diffeientiation. ¯he legal aichive subjugates pasts and futuies in the name
of iecoiding supposedly both diffeience and community.
Contending with the law as an active aichive, oi technique of self-
making and the making of selves, as I do heie, iequiies that we not sim-
ply 'take up¨ its naiiative and fiamewoik. Instead, we need to ask how
iegulation maiks its inteiest in diffeience. Asking aftei this iegulation
iequiies ieading these fguies against the giain of the aichive, situating
that aichive within and against the social foimation÷the foices and iela-
tions that constitute it÷which bouigeois law cites but which it, haplessly,
cannot compiehend. In othei woids, we need to iead the fguie as the
limit of the aichive, the point at which the aichive`s own conditions foi
existence might be ietiaced.
¯his essay was suppoited by a giant fiom the Simpson Centei foi the Humani-
ties at the Iniveisity of Washington, Seattle, and a iesidency fellowship at the
Humanities Reseaich Institute at the Iniveisity of Califoinia, Iivine. ¯he authoi
giatefully acknowledges theii suppoit.
1. By a 'histoiy of sexuality¨ I mean to iefeience Nichel Ioucault`s aigu-
ment that modein social powei constitutes the veiy object 'sex¨ that it then seeks
to iegulate. A histoiicist inspection of the iepiession of sexuality and its giadual
emeigence fiom iepiessive law, Ioucault aigues, natuializes and disappeais the
diveise piocesses that affx 'sex¨ as a unitaiy ideal. See Nichel Ioucault, Htsior,
of Sexualti,, vol. 1, ¬n IniroJuciton, tians. Robeit Huiley (New Yoik: Vintage
Books, 199u), heieaftei cited as HS in the text.
2. On the Chinese piostitute and Chinese bacheloi as iacialized and sexual-
ized fguies constituted by I.S. legal teiiitoiy and its appaiatuses, see Nayan
Shah, Coniagtous Dt.tJes: LjtJentcs anJ Face tn San Iranctsco`s Chtnaio:n (Beike-
ley: Iniveisity of Califoinia Piess, 2uu1). See also Lisa Lowe, Inntgrani ¬cis: Cn
¬stan ¬nertcan Culiural Foltitcs (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1996),
3. See the symposium 'Shifting Ciounds foi Asylum: Iemale Cenital Sui-
geiy and Sexual Oiientation,¨ New Yoik Iniveisity School of Law, 16 Octobei
1997. ¯he pioceedings have been tiansciibed, edited, and published in Colunbta
Hunan Ftghis La: Fe.te: 29 (199S).
4. See Saskia Sassen, Lostng Conirol. So.eretgni, tn an ¬ge of Clobalt:aiton
(New Yoik: Columbia Iniveisity Piess, 1996), 33÷62.
5. See Lavid L. Lng, '¯iansnational Adoption and Queei Liaspoias,¨ Soctal
Texi, no. 76 (2uu3): 1÷37.
6. See Cayatii Chakiavoity Spivak, 'Liaspoias Old and New: Women in the
¯iansnational Woild,¨ Texiual Fracitce 1u (1996): 24S.
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 117
7. Ibid., 249.
S. On the diffeiences between postcolonial and postimpeiial (oi global South-
ein and global Noithein) state foimations undei neolibeialism, see N. }acqui
Alexandei, 'Liotic Autonomy as a Politics of Lecolonization: An Anatomy of
Ieminist and State Piactice in the Bahamas ¯ouiist Lconomy,¨ in Ientntsi Cene-
alogtes, Colontal Legactes, Denocraitc Iuiures, ed. N. }acqui Alexandei and Chan-
dia ¯alpade Nohanty (New Yoik: Routledge, 1999), 63÷1uu. On the splitting of
nation and state in the compound abstiaction 'nation-state,¨ see Spivak, 'Liaspo-
ias Old and New,¨ 249, 255÷63. On the possibilities of postcolonial iesignifcation
of citizenship and moie geneially on the catechiesis of Westein iegulative gov-
einmental teims in postcolonial space, see Spivak, 'Postcoloniality, Naiginality,
Value,¨ in CuistJe ihe Teachtng Aachtne (New Yoik: Routledge, 1993).
9. See Ruthie Cilmoie, 'Clobalization and IS Piison Ciowth: Iiom Nili-
taiy Keynesianism to post-Keynesian Nilitaiism,¨ Face anJ Class 4u (199S÷99):
1u. On the iacialization of the 'teiioiist,¨ the oiganization of the state
thiough the discouise of secuiity, and the iise of new 'iacial foimations,¨ see Leti
Volpp, '¯he Citizen and the ¯eiioiist,¨ ICL¬ La: Fe.te: 49 (2uu2): 1575÷6uu;
and Nuneei Ahmed, 'Homeland Insecuiities: Racial Violence the Lay aftei Sep-
tembei 11,¨ Soctal Texi, no. 72 (2uu2): 1u1÷15. On the iacialized sexualization
of the fguies of 'teiioiism,¨ see }asbii Puai and Amit Rai, 'Nonstei, ¯eiioiist,
Iag: ¯he Wai on ¯eiioiism and the Pioduction of Locile Patiiots,¨ Soctal Texi,
no. 72 (2uu2): 117÷4S.
11. Ltienne Balibai, foi example, puisues the allegoiical ieading of psy-
choanalysis in his theoiy of the nation-state and the citizen subject in his essay
'Nation Ioim.¨ Balibai disaggiegates the nation and the state as naming diffei-
ent piocesses and, hence, diffeient components of the subject`s inteipellation.
While the nation fguies as an 'ideal-nation¨ and is iesponsible foi the subject`s
patiiotism, ensuiing the collective piomise to face death foi the nation, it is the
state, as a mythicized abstiaction, that piefguies the unity between individuals
and between an individual and the collectivity, cementing/casting individuality
on the model of citizenship. ¯his lattei featuie is named 'fctive ethnicity¨ and is
ciitical in fusing the individual with the national community. Recasting the notion
of identifcation, Balibai aigues that individuals aie 'inteipellated¨ thiough the
stiuctuies of language and iace into citizens who shaie an 'ethnicity.¨ While
whiteness has histoiically opeiated as the foim of iacialization that has secuied
the 'fctive ethnicity¨ of the I.S. national citizen, in the contempoiaiy peiiod it
is 'multicultuialism¨ that secuies the fctive ethnicity of the I.S. national citizen
as multicultuial citizen. ¯he multicultuial subject is the iacial foimation of the
national citizen, piefguiing and piomising the citizen`s ability to claim univeisal-
ity, foi which the state fguies as a synecdoche of the univeisal. ¯his is nowheie
moie poweifully aiticulated than in oui cuiient social foimation, in which the
I.S. ctit:en of Aiab descent oi peison of 'Nuslim faith¨ is piomoted as a fguie
of multicultuialism while the Aiab citizen of an Aiab state oi a Nuslim citizen of
an Aiab oi Nuslim state is piomoted as a fguie of a monstious monocultuialism
that thieatens the univeisality iepiesented by the I.S. 'multicultuial¨ state and
must be iepudiated, expelled, peisistently violated, oi 'pieemptively¨ assaulted
oi killed. ¯he iacialization of the Aiab and Nuslim I.S. citizen-subject as a I.S.
multicultuial subject (who has available the possibility of membeiship in univei-
11B Chanoan Reooy
sal cultuie) is constitutively linked to the 'negative¨ iacialization of the Aiab oi
Nuslim immigiant, nonimmigiant iesident, and non-I.S. national as a social
anachiony whose veiy piesence invites violence and violation, a violation coded
as violent humanization. Rewiiting the seventeenth-centuiy Lnglish juiist pioc-
lamation, '¯he king is dead, long live the king¨÷which distinguished between
the ciown and the king`s body, killing the body when it did not confoim to the
soveieign subject of the ciown÷we can aigue that as the multicultuial citizen-
subject is now installed as the soveieign, it is possible foi Ceoige W. Bush to say,
'¯he Aiabs and Nuslims aie dead, long live oui (I.S. multicultuial) Aiab and
Nuslim biotheis and sisteis.¨ See Ltienne Balibai, '¯he Nation Ioim: Histoiy
and Ideology,¨ in Face, Naiton, Class: ¬nbtguous IJenitites, by Ltienne Balibai and
Immanuel Walleistein (New Yoik: Veiso, 1991), S6÷1u6. On the soveieign`s two
bodies, see Linst H. Kantoiowicz, The Itng`s T:o EoJtes (Piinceton, N}: Piince-
ton Iniveisity Piess, 1997). See also Lavid Lloyd, 'Lthnic Cultuies, Ninoiity
Liscouise, and the State,¨ in Colontal Dtscourse;Fosicolontal Theor,, ed. Iiancis
Baikei, Petei Hulme, and Naigaiet Iveison (Nanchestei: Iniveisity of Nanches-
tei Piess, 1996), 221÷3S.
12. See Kail Naix, The Ltghieenih Erunatre of Louts Eonajarie, tians. Ben
Iowkes, in Sur.e,s fron Lxtle: Foltitcal !rtitngs: 1ol. 2, ed. Lavid Ieibach (New
Yoik: Penguin Books, 1992), 1S4, emphasis in oiiginal.
13. Ibid., 24u.
14. See Nicholas Riccaiei, 'Same-Sex Naiiiages Often a Iamily Affaii,¨ Los
¬ngeles Ttnes, 16 Iebiuaiy 2uu4.
15. }udith Butlei, chaiacteiistically piescient and peiceptive, aigued that
the idea of gay maiiiage always alieady invokes the idea of kinship in the Inited
States, Iiance, and elsewheie. Iamily is the space of theii inteisection. See }udith
Butlei, 'Is Kinship Always Alieady Heteiosexual·¨ Dtfferences: ¬ }ournal of Ient-
ntsi Culiural SiuJtes 13, no. 1 (2uu2): 14÷44.
16. Ibid., 17÷23.
17. See Rodeiick A. Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color
Crtitque (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu4), 1÷29, 135÷4S.
1S. ¯his iepoit is foithcoming fiom the Audie Loide Pioject`s Immigiant
Rights Woiking Cioup. Lead investigatois weie Chandan Reddy and Natalie
19. See Paul Wickham Schmidt, ed., InJersianJtng ihe Inntgraiton ¬ci of
1990: ¬IL¬`s Ne: La: HanJbool (Washington, LC: Ameiican Immigiation
Lawyeis Association, 1991), 5÷9. See also and in paiticulai the essays 'Iamily
Sponsoied Immigiation (¯he Numbeis Came)¨ by Haiiy Cee }i. and 'Oveiview
of Lmployment-Based Immigiation÷¯he Iiist ¯hiee Piefeiences¨ by Lenni B.
Benson in this compilation. On the expansion of the laboi maiket in low-end sei-
vices and unskilled laboi, see Saskia Sassen, Clobalt:aiton anJ Iis Dtsconienis (New
Yoik: Iiee Piess, 199S); see also hei eailiei book, The Clobal Cti, (Piinceton, N}:
Piinceton Iniveisity Piess, 1991).
2u. See the Immigiation Refoim Act of 199uthat stipulates that petitioning
families must agiee to shouldei the possible social cost of admitted immigiants.
21. Noieovei, this was effected by ideologically centeiing a 'middle-class¨
subject of migiation within immigiation law.
22. See the inteiviews with LCB¯ immigiants of coloi collected foi this
study; all aichived at the Audie Loide Pioject.
Asìan Dìasporas, Neolìberalìsn, ano Fanìly 119
23. In puisuing this ieading I have been aided by Wendy Biown`s 'Libei-
alism`s Iamily Values,¨ in Siaies of Injur, (Piinceton, N}: Piinceton Iniveisity
Piess, 1995), 135÷65.
24. ¯his has also been tiue of the fguie of the 'LL¨ (down low) as it is cui-
iently used by the Centeis foi Lisease Contiol and Pievention and the news media
foi naming ceitain Afiican Ameiican nonheteionoimative foimations that cannot
'become¨ homosexual. See
25. Ioi a ieview of this liteiatuie, see 'Intioduction: Iieedom and the Plastic
Cage,¨ in Biown, Siaies of Injur,, 3÷29.
26. Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl.
27. }ames Iaubion wiites of the supplement in ielation to contempoiaiy theo-
iies of kinship: 'If the oldei anthiopology of kinship is thus still with us, it has
also had to enduie the peituibations of an evei moie uniuly 'supplement` (a teim
I use in the Leiiidian sense, to denote the necessaiy and peihaps antithetical
iesolution of a piimaiy, a hegemonic, an intellectually comfoitable categoiy).¨
See }ames Iaubion, intioduction to The Lihtcs of Itnshtj: Lihnograjhtc Inqutrtes,
ed. Iaubion (Lanham, NL: Rowman and Littlefeld, 2uu1), 1÷2S. See also }ohn
Boineman`s contiibution to this anthology, titled 'Caiing and Being Caied Ioi:
Lisplacing Naiiiage, Kinship, Cendei, and Sexuality.¨ As a 'supplement,¨ the
gay Pakistani immigiant must be distinguished fiom the Chinese piostitute and
Chinese bacheloi of the nineteenth and eaily twentieth centuiy, which weie pio-
duced both mateiially and discuisively in the Inited States as constitutive exclu-
sions and hence as constitutively excluded. On the post-state class system, see
Spivak, 'Liaspoias Old and New,¨ 245÷69; see also Nichael Haidt and Antonio
Negii`s use of the teim enjtre to desciibe this foimation in Lnjtre (Cambiidge,
NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess, 2uuu).
2S. See Lthne Luibheid, Lnir, DenteJ: Conirolltng Sexualti, ai ihe EorJer
(Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu2).
29. See, foi example, the 'Asylum Pioject¨ at the Inteinational Cay and Les-
bian Human Rights Commission, www.iglhic.oig/site/iglhic/.
3u. ¯his is, in fact, how the HRC has 'addiessed¨ queei immigiant foima-
tions and politics, seeking to pass the Peimanent Paitneis Immigiation Act of
2uu3 thiough I.S. legislatois` offces. ¯he act would extend the same legal iights
to gays and lesbians as heteiosexual citizens possess in immigiation matteis. See
Lavid Ciaiy, 'I.S. Immigiation Law Not Iiiendly to Cay Couples,¨ Seaiile Ttnes,
24 Novembei 2uu3; see also www.hic.oig/¯emplate.cfm·Section=Peimanent_
31. See Nichel Ioucault, '¯he Statement and the Aichive,¨ in The ¬rchaeol-
og, of Ino:leJge anJ ihe Dtscourse on Language, tians. A. N. Sheiidan Smith (New
Yoik: Pantheon, 1972), 129.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
+BTCJS,1VBS ¯hese aie queei times indeed. ¯he wai on teiioi is an assemblage hooked
into an aiiay of enduiing modeinist paiadigms (civilizing teleologies, oii-
entalisms, xenophobia, militaiization, boidei anxieties) and postmodein-
ist eiuptions (suicide bombeis, biometiic suiveillance stiategies, emeigent
coipoiealities, counteiteiioiism gone oveiboaid). With its emphases on
bodies, desiies, pleasuies, tactility, ihythms, echoes, textuies, deaths,
moibidity, toituie, pain, sensation, and punishment, oui neciopolitical
piesent-futuie deems it impeiative to ieaiticulate what queei theoiy and
studies of sexuality have to say about the metatheoiies and the 'ieal-
politiks¨ of Lmpiie, often undeistood, as }oan Scott obseives, as 'the
ieal business of politics.¨
Queei times iequiie even queeiei modalities
of thought, analysis, cieativity, and expiession in oidei to elaboiate on
nationalist, patiiotic, and teiioiist foimations and theii inteitwined foims
of iacialized peiveise sexualities and gendei dysphoiias. What about
the wai on teiioiism, and its attendant assemblages of iacism, national-
ism, patiiotism, and teiioiism, is alieady piofoundly queei· ¯hiough an
examination of queeiness in vaiious teiioiist coipoiealities, I contend
that queeinesses piolifeiate even, oi especially, as they iemain denied
oi unacknowledged. I take up these types of inquiiies not only to aigue
that discouises of counteiteiioiism aie intiinsically gendeied, iaced,
sexualized, and nationalized but also to demonstiate the pioduction of
noimative patiiot bodies that coheie against and thiough queei teiioi-
ist coipoiealities. In the speculative, exploiatoiy endeavoi that follows,
I foiegiound thiee manifestations of this imbiication. One, I examine
discouises of queeiness wheie pioblematic conceptualizations of queei
coipoiealities, especially via Nuslim sexualities, aie iepioduced in the
seivice of discouises of I.S. exceptionalisms. ¯wo, I ieaiticulate a tei-
ioiist body, in this case the suicide bombei, as a queei assemblage that
iesists queeiness-as-sexual-identity (oi anti-identity)÷in othei woids,
inteisectional and identitaiian paiadigms÷in favoi of spatial, tempoial,
and coipoieal conveigences, implosions, and ieaiiangements. Queei-
ness as an assemblage moves away fiom excavation woik, depiivileges a
binaiy opposition between queei and not-queei subjects, and, instead of
122 1asbìr K. Puar
ietaining queeiness exclusively as dissenting, iesistant, and alteinative
(all of which queeiness impoitantly is and does), it undeiscoies contin-
gency and complicity with dominant foimations. Iinally, I aigue that a
focus on queeiness as assemblage enables attention to ontology in tandem
with epistemology, affect in conjunction with iepiesentational economies,
within which bodies, such as the tuibaned Sikh teiioiist, inteipenetiate,
swiil togethei, and tiansmit affects to each othei. ¯hiough affect and
ontology, the tuibaned Sikh teiioiist in paiticulai, I aigue, as a queei
assemblage, is ieshaping the teiiain of South Asian queei diaspoias.
As a ciitique, 'queei libeialism¨ notes an unsettling but not entiiely
unexpected ieconciliation of the iadical convictions of queeiness as a
post-stiuctuialist anti- and tiansidentity ciitique with the libeial demands
of national subject foimation. We can map out a couple of diffeient yet
oveilapping genealogies of queei libeial subjects. ¯he fist is the iise of
the queei consumei-citizen, hailed with foice in the late 19Sus and eaily
199us, fueled by the fantasy of enoimous disposable incomes foi unbui-
dened-by-kinship gays and lesbians. ¯he second genealogy, of the queei
libeial subject befoie the law, culminates with the 2uu3 deciiminalizing of
sodomy thiough La:rence anJ Carner .. Texas. While both consumptive
and juiidical lineages ießect heavily on the status of the nation, I aigue
that one veiy concise way queei libeialism is inhabited is thiough stag-
ings of I.S. nationalism via a piaxis of sexual otheiing that unwittingly
exceptionalizes the identities of I.S. queeinesses vis-a-vis Islamopho-
bic constiuctions of sexuality in the Niddle Last. ¯his is not a ciitique
of the iacisms and othei constitutive exclusions of conseivative lesbian,
gay, bisexual, tiansgendei, queei, and questioning (LCB¯Q) discouises.
Rathei, I am taking issue with queei theoiizing that, despite (and peihaps
because of) a commitment to an inteisectional analytic, fails to intei-
iogate the epistemological will to knowledge that invaiiably iepioduces
the disciplinaiy inteiests of the I.S. nation-state. Ioims of I.S. sexual
exceptionalism fiom puipoitedly piogiessive spaces have histoiically sui-
faced thiough feminist constiuctions of 'thiid woild¨ women; what we
have now, howevei, is the pioduction of a sexual exceptionalism thiough
noimative as well as nonnoimative (queei) bodies. ¯hat is, queeiness is
pioffeied as a sexually exceptional foim of Ameiican national sexuality
thiough a ihetoiic of sexual modeinization that is simultaneously able to
castigate the othei as homophobic anJ peiveise, and constiuct the impe-
iialist centei as 'toleiant¨ but sexually, iacially, and gendeied noimal.
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 123
Queeiness colludes with I.S. exceptionalisms embedded in nationalist
foieign policy via the aiticulation and pioduction of whiteness as a queei
noim and the tacit acceptance of I.S. impeiialist expansion. Ioi example,
national LCB¯Q oiganizations such as the National Cay and Lesbian
¯ask Ioice (NCL¯I) and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) have
been fai moie pieoccupied with gay maiiiage and gays in the militaiy
than the wai on teiioiism oi even the 'homosexual sex¨ toituie scandal
at Abu Chiaib.
In fact, Nubaiak Lahii suggests that some oiganizations
have actually hainessed the oppiession of LCB¯Q Aiabs to justify the
wai, and calls on gays and lesbians who suppoit the wai in Iiaq to 'stop
using the guise of caiing about the plight of gay Aiabs to iationalize theii
Ioi Queei Left oiganizing not to centei people of coloi boideis
dangeiously on eliding a ciitique of the iacist, impeiialist wai, oi conveisely
ieenacting foims of colonial and multicultuialist fetishisms, foi example,
in ielation to queei Iilipino wai iesistei Stephen Iunk, who has become
the postei queei foi LCB¯Q antiwai sloganeeiing. Aie LCB¯Q com-
munities addiessing the wai on teiioiism as a 'gay issue¨·
If so, aie they
aiticulating a politics of iace, empiie, and globalization·
¯he most explicit pioduction of this queei exceptionalism can be
found in numeious instances of the iesponsive commentaiy to the Abu
Chiaib 'sexual toituie scandal.¨ ¯he Abu Chiaib saga demonstiates that
sexuality is at once absolutely ciucial to the pioduction of the geopolitics
of Ameiican exceptionalism, and despite this ciitical iole, oi peihaps
because of it, it is an undeitheoiized, undeiiated, and often avoided aspect
of the debate on the wai on teiioi. Veiy shoitly aftei the fist ielease of
the photos in Nay 2uu4, the desciiptions of the toituie cathected within
the spectei of 'homosexual acts,¨ piompting a ßuiiy of inteiviews with
queei theoiists, oiganizational piess ieleases fiom LCB¯Q associations,
and aiticles within the gay piess, all of which, inciedibly enough, demon-
stiated no hesitations about speaking knowledgeably of 'Nuslim sexual-
ity.¨ In the gay piess, the Abu Chiaib photos weie hailed as 'evidence of
iampant homophobia in the aimed foices,¨
with scaice mention of the
linked piocesses of iacism and sexism. Lven moie tioubling was the iea-
son given foi the paiticulai effcacy of the toituie: the taboo, outlawed,
banned, disavowed status of homosexuality in Iiaq and the Niddle Last,
complemented by an aveision to nudity, male-on-male contact, and sexual
modesty with the iaiely seen opposite sex. It is exactly this unsophisti-
cated notion of Aiab/Nuslim/Islamic (does it mattei which one·) cultuial
diffeience that militaiy intelligence capitalized on to cieate what they
believed to be a cultuially specifc 'effective¨ matiix of toituie techniques.
What we have heie, then, is the paialleling of the Pentagon`s stiategies,
which used among othei mateiials an anthiopology study, The ¬rab AtnJ,
Jne nost explicit
or tnis qoeer
can be roono
in noneroos
instances or
tne responsive
connentary to
tne /bo Cnraib
¨sexoal tortore
124 1asbìr K. Puar
and the discouises that emanate fiom piogiessive queeis. Ioi example,
Iaisal Alam, foundei and diiectoi of the inteinational Nuslim lesbian,
gay, bisexual, tiansgendei, inteisex, queei, and questioning (LCB¯IQ)
oiganization Al-Iatiha, states that 'sexual humiliation is peihaps the
woist foim of toituie foi any Nuslim.¨ ¯he piess ielease fiom Al-Iatiha
continues: 'Islam places a high emphasis on modesty and sexual piivacy.
Iiaq, much like the iest of the Aiab woild, places gieat impoitance on
notions of masculinity. Ioicing men to mastuibate in fiont of each othei
and to mock same-sex acts oi homosexual sex, is peiveise and sadistic, in
the eyes of many Nuslims.¨ In anothei inteiview Alam ieiteiates the focus
on the violation of piopei gendei noims, maintaining that the toituie is
an 'affiont to theii masculinity.¨
I take issue with Al-Iatiha`s statements, as they along with many othei
statements ielied on an oiientalist notion of 'Nuslim sexuality¨ that foie-
giounded sexual iepiession and upheld veisions of noimative masculin-
ity÷that is, the feminized jasst.o positioning is natuialized as humiliating,
pioducing a musculai nationalism of soits. In displays of solidaiity, Al-
Iatiha`s comments weie unciitically embiaced by vaiious queei sectois: the
Centei foi Lesbian and Cay Studies newslettei used them to authenticate
its peispective thiough that of the native infoimant, while the gay piess
endlessly iepioduced the appiopiiate masculinity and sexual conseivatism
lines. I want to undeiscoie the complex dance of positionality that Nuslim
and Aiab gioups such as Al-Iatiha must peifoim in these times, wheieby a
defense of 'Nuslim sexuality¨ thiough the lens of cultuie is easily co-opted
into iacist agendas.
Civen theii place at the ciossioads of queeiness and
Aiabness, Al-Iatiha was, and still is, undei the most duiess to authenticate
oiientalist paiadigms of Nuslim sexuality, thus iepioducing naiiatives of
I.S. sexual exceptionalism. Reinfoicing a homogenous notion of Nuslim
sexual iepiession vis-a-vis homosexuality and the notion of 'modesty¨
woiks to iesituate the Inited States, in contiast, as a place fiee of such
sexual constiaints. Ioi Al-Iatiha to have elaboiated on the issues of Islam
and sexuality moie complexly would have not only missed the oiientalist
iesonance so eageily awaited by the mass media÷that is, theie is almost
no way to get media attention unless this iesonance is met÷it would have
also consideiably endangeied a population alieady navigating the peini-
cious iacist effects of the Patiiot Act: suiveillance, depoitations, detentions,
iegistiations, pieemptive migiations, and depaituies. ¯hus Al-Iatiha`s
peifoimance of a paiticulai allegiance with Ameiican sexual exceptional-
ism is the iesult of a demand, not a suggestion. ¯he piolifeiation of diveise
I.S. subjects, such as the Nuslim Ameiican, and theii epistemological
conditions of existence, aie mandates of homeland secuiity.
¯he point to be aigued is not how to qualify the status of homosexu-
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 125
ality acioss the bioad histoiical and geogiaphic, not to mention ieligious,
iegional, class, national, and political vaiiances, of the Niddle Last (a teim
I hesitate to use, given its aiea studies implications). We must considei
instead how the pioduction of 'homosexuality as taboo¨ is situated within
the histoiy of encountei with the Westein gaze. ¯he Oiient, once con-
ceived in Ioucault`s ars eroitca and Said`s deconstiuctive woik as the place
of oiiginal ielease, unfetteied sin, and acts with no attendant identities oi
consequences, now symbolizes the space of iepiession anJ peiveision, and
the site of fieedom has been ielocated to Westein identity. Ioi example,
the queei theoiist Patiick Nooie, authoi of Ee,onJ Shane: Feclatntng ihe
¬banJoneJ Htsior, of FaJtcal Ca, Sex, opines:
Because 'gay¨ implies an identity and a cultuie, in addition to desciibing a
sexual act, it is diffcult foi a gay man in the West to completely undeistand
the level of disgiace enduied by the Iiaqi piisoneis. But in the Aiab woild,
the humiliating techniques now on display aie paiticulaily effective because
of Islam`s tioubled ielationship with homosexuality. ¯his is not to say that
sex between men does not occui in Islamic society÷the shame lies in the
gay identity iathei than the act itself. As long as a man does not accept the
supposedly female (passive) iole in sex with anothei man, theie is no shame
in the behavioi. Repoits indicate that the piisoneis weie not only physically
abused but also accused of actually being homosexuals, which is a fai gieatei
degiadation to them.
¯he act to identity telos spun out by Nooie delineates the West as the space
of identity (disiegaiding the confusion of act-identity ielations at the heait
of I.S. homosexualities), while the Aiab woild is ielegated, appaiently
because of 'Islam`s tioubled ielationship to homosexuality,¨ to the back-
waid iealm of acts. ¯he piesence of gay- and lesbian-identifed Nuslims
in the 'Aiab woild¨ is inconceivable. Civen the lack of any evidence that
being called a homosexual is much moie degiading than being toituied,
Nooie`s iationalization ieads as an oiientalist piojection that conveys
much moie about the constiaints and imaginaiies of identity in the 'West¨
than anything else. Iuitheimoie, in the unciitical face-value acceptance
of the notion of Islamic sexual iepiession, we see the tienchant ieplay of
what Ioucault teimed the 'iepiessive hypothesis¨: the notion that a lack
of discussion oi openness about sexuality ießects a iepiessive, censoiship-
diiven appaiatus of deßated sexual desiie.
While in Said`s Crtenialtsn
the illicit sex found in the Oiient was sought out in oidei to libeiate the
Occident fiom its own peifoimance of the iepiessive hypothesis, in the
case of Abu Chiaib, conveisely, it is the iepiession of the Aiab piisoneis
that is highlighted in oidei to efface the iampant hypeisexual excesses of
the I.S. piison guaids.
12ó 1asbìr K. Puar
Civen the unbiidled homophobia, iacism, and misogyny demonstiated
by the I.S. guaids, it is indeed iionic, yet piedictable, that the Inited
States nonetheless emeiges exceptionally, as moie toleiant of homosexual-
ity (and less tainted by misogyny and fundamentalism) than the iepiessed,
modest, nudity-shy 'Niddle Last.¨ We have a cleai view of the peifoi-
mative piivileges of Ioucault`s 'speakei`s beneft¨: those who aie able to
aiticulate sexual knowledge (especially of oneself, but in this case, also
of otheis) then appeai to be fieed, thiough the act of speech, fiom the
space of iepiession.
¯hiough the insistent and fiantic manufactuiing of
'homosexuality¨ and 'Nuslim¨ as mutually exclusive disciete categoiies,
queeiness colludes with the delineation of exceptional I.S. sexual noims,
pioduced against the intoleiable foims of the sexualities of 'teiioiist¨ bod-
ies. Iuitheimoie, queei exceptionalism woiks to sutuie I.S. nationalism
thiough the peipetual fssuiing of iace fiom sexuality÷the iace of the
(piesumptively sexually iepiessed, peiveise, oi both) teiioiist and the
sexuality of the national (piesumptively white, gendei noimative) queei:
the two daie not conveige.
}ose Lsteban Nuñoz`s wiiting on the 'teiioiist diag¨ of the Los Ange-
les÷based peifoimance aitist Vaginal Lavis haiks back to anothei politi-
cal eia÷bizaiiely as if it weie long ago, although in measuied time we
aie talking about the mid-199us÷when the notion of the teiioiist had a
tienchant but distant quality to it.
Nuñoz aigues that Lavis`s diag pei-
foimances, encompassing 'cioss-sex, cioss-iace minstielsy,¨ is teiioiist
on two levels. Aesthetically, Lavis iejects glamoui-giil feminine diag in
favoi of 'giound level gueiiilla iepiesentational stiategies¨ such as white
supiemacist militiamen and black welfaie queen hookeis, what Nuñoz
calls 'the nation`s most dangeious citizens.¨ ¯his alludes to the second
plane of meaning, the ieenactment of the 'nation`s inteinal teiiois aiound
iace, gendei, and sexuality.¨ It is impeiative in a post-9/11 climate of
counteiteiioiism to note that gueiiillas and teiioiists have vastly diffeient
iacial valences, the foimei biinging to mind the phantasmic landscapes
of Cential and South Ameiica, while the lattei, the enduiing legacy of
oiientalist imaginaiies. In the context of these geogiaphies it is notable
that Lavis as the white militiaman astutely biings teiioiism home÷
to Oklahoma City, in fact÷and in doing so dislodges, at least momen-
taiily, this oiientalist legacy.
Nuñoz`s desciiption of this teiioiist diag points to the histoiical con-
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 127
veigences between queeis and teiioi÷homosexuals have been the tiaitois
to the nation, fguies of espionage and double agents, associated with Com-
munists duiing the NcCaithy eia, and, as with suicide bombeis, biing on
and desiie death (both aie fguied as always alieady dying, although foi
homosexuals it is thiough the AILS pandemic). Noie iecent exhoitations
place gay maiiiage as 'the woist foim of teiioiism¨ and gay couples as
'domestic teiioiists.¨
Cleaily, one can alieady ask, what is teiioiist about
the queei· But the moie salient and uigent question is what is queei about
the teiioiist· And what is queei about teiioiist coipoiealities· ¯he depic-
tions of masculinity most iapidly disseminated and globalized thiough
the wai on teiioiism aie teiioiist masculinities: failed and peiveise, these
emasculated bodies always have femininity as theii iefeience point of mal-
function and aie metonymically tied to all soits of pathologies of the mind
and body÷homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, madness, and disease. We
see, foi example, the queei physicality of teiioiist monsteis haunting the
I.S. State Lepaitment counteiteiioiism Web site.
With the unfuiling,
viiuslike, explosive mass of the teiioiist netwoik, tentacles evei iegeneiat-
ing despite effoits to tiuncate them, the teiioiist is concuiiently an unfath-
omable, unknowable, and hysteiical monstiosity, and yet one that only the
exceptional capacities of I.S. intelligence and secuiity systems can quell.
¯his unknowable monstiosity is not a casual bystandei oi paiasite; the
nation assimilates this effusive discomfoit with the unknowability of these
bodies, thus affectively pioducing new noimativities and exceptionalisms
thiough the cataloging of unknowables. It is not, then, that we must engage
in the piactice of excavating the queei teiioiist oi queeiing the teiioiist;
iathei, queeiness is always alieady installed in the pioject of naming the
teiioiist; the teiioiist does not appeai as such without the concuiient
entiance of peiveision, deviance, defoimity. ¯he stiategy of encouiaging
subjects of study to appeai in all theii queeinesses, iathei than piimai-
ily to queei the subjects of study, piovides a subject-diiven tempoiality
in tandem with a method-diiven tempoiality. Playing on this diffeience,
between the subject being queeied veisus queeiness alieady existing within
the subject (and thus dissipating the subject as such) allows foi both the
tempoiality of being and the tempoiality of always becoming.
As theie is no entity, no identity to queei, iathei queeiness coming
foith at us fiom all diiections, scieaming its defance, suggests to me a
move fiom inteisectionality to assemblage. ¯he Leleuzian assemblage,
as a seiies of dispeised but mutually implicated netwoiks, diaws togethei
enunciation and dissolution, causality and effect. As opposed to an intei-
sectional model of identity, which piesumes components÷iace, class,
gendei, sexuality, nation, age, ieligion÷aie sepaiable analytics and can
nave been tne
traitors to tne
nation, nqores or
espionaqe ano
oooble aqents,
associateo vitn
oorinq tne
McCartny era,
ano, as vitn
soicioe bonbers,
brinq on ano
oesire oeatn.
12B 1asbìr K. Puar
be thus disassembled, an assemblage is moie attuned to inteiwoven foices
that meige and dissipate time, space, and body against lineaiity, cohei-
ency, and peimanency. Inteisectionality demands the knowing, naming,
and thus stabilizing of identity acioss space and time, geneiating naiia-
tives of piogiess that deny the fctive and peifoimative of identifcation:
you become an identity, yes, but also timelessness woiks to consolidate the
fction of a seamless stable identity in eveiy space. As a tool of diveisity
management, and a mantia of libeial multicultuialism, inteisectionality
colludes with the disciplinaiy appaiatus of the state÷census, demogia-
phy, iacial piofling, suiveillance÷in that 'diffeience¨ is encased within
a stiuctuial containei that simply wishes the messiness of identity into
a foimulaic giid. Lisplacing queeiness as an identity oi modality that is
visibly, audibly, legibly, oi tangibly evident, assemblages allow us to attune
to intensities, emotions, eneigies, affectivities, textuies as they inhabit
events, spatiality, and coipoiealities. Inteisectionality piivileges naming,
visuality, epistemology, iepiesentation, and meaning, while assemblage
undeiscoies feeling, tactility, ontology, affect, and infoimation. Nost
impoitant, given the heightened death-machine aspect of nationalism in
oui contempoiaiy political teiiain÷a heightened sensoiial and anatomical
domination desciibed by Achille Nbembe as 'neciopolitics¨÷assem-
blages woik against naiiatives of I.S. exceptionalism that secuie empiie,
challenging the fxity of iacial and sexual taxonomies that infoim piactices
of state suiveillance and contiol, and befuddling the 'us veisus them¨ of
the wai on teiioi. Ioi while inteisectionality and its undeipinnings÷an
unielenting epistemological will to tiuth÷piesupposes identity and thus
disavows futuiity, assemblage, in its debt to ontology and its espousal of
what cannot be known, seen, oi heaid, oi has yet to be known, seen, oi
heaid, allows foi becoming/s beyond being/s.
Queei assemblages appeai in Nbembe`s devastating and biilliant
meditation on the neciopolitics of oui cuiient infnite wai positioning.
Nbembe aigues foi a shift fiom biopowei to neciopolitics (the subjugation
of life to the powei of death), noting that the histoiical basis of soveieignty
that is ieliant on a notion of (Westein) political iationality begs foi a moie
accuiate fiaming: that of life and death.
He asks, 'What place is given to
life, death, and the human body (especially the wounded oi slain body)·¨
Nbembe attends to the infoimational pioductivity of the (Palestinian)
suicide bombei. In pondeiing the queei modalities of this kind of teiioi-
ist, one notes a pastiche of oddities: a body machined togethei thiough
metal and ßesh, an assemblage of the oiganic and the inoiganic; a death
not of the self oi of the othei, but both simultaneously; self-annihilation
as the ultimate foim of iesistance and self-pieseivation. ¯his body foices
a ieconciliation of opposites thiough theii inevitable collapse÷a peiveise
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 129
habitation of contiadiction. As a fguie in the midst of always alieady dying
even as it is in the midst of becoming, like the homosexual afßicted with
HIV, the suicide bombei sutuies his oi hei status as sexually peiveise.

Nbembe also points to the queei becomings of a suicide bombei÷a coi-
poieal expeiiential of 'ballistics.¨ ¯he dynamite stiapped onto the body
of a suicide bombei is not meiely an appendage; the 'intimacy¨ of weapon
with body ieoiients the assumed spatial integiity (coheience and conciete-
ness) and individuality of the body that is the mandate of inteisectional
identities: instead we have the body-weapon. ¯he ontological affect of the
body iendeis it a newly becoming body, queeily:
¯he candidate foi maityidom tiansfoims his oi hei body into a mask that
hides the soon-to-be-detonated weapon. Inlike the tank oi the missile that is
cleaily visible, the weapon caiiied in the shape of the body is invisible. ¯hus
concealed, it foims pait of the body. It is so intimately pait of the body that
at the time of its detonation it annihilates the body of its beaiei, who caiiies
with it the bodies of otheis when it does not ieduce them to pieces. ¯he body
does not simply conceal a weapon. ¯he body is tiansfoimed into a weapon,
not in a metaphoiical sense but in a tiuly ballistic sense.
¯empoial naiiatives of piogiession aie uptuined as death and becoming
fuse into one: as one`s body dies, one`s body becomes the mask, the weapon,
the suicide bombei, not befoie. Not only does the ballistic body come into
being without the aid of visual cues maiking its tiansfoimation, it also
'caiiies with it the bodies of otheis.¨ Its own penetiative eneigy sends
shaids of metal and toin ßesh spinning off into the ethei. ¯he body-
weapon does not play as metaphoi, oi in the iealm of meaning and epis-
temology, but iathei foices us ontologically anew to ask: what kinds of
infoimation does the ballistic body impait· ¯hese bodies, being in the
midst of becoming, blui the insides and the outsides, infecting tians-
foimation thiough sensation, echoing knowledge via ieveibeiation and
vibiation. ¯he echo is a queei tempoiality; in the ielay of affective infoi-
mation between and amid beings, the sequence of ießection, iepetition,
iesound, and ietuin (but with a diffeience, as in mimiciy), and biings
foith waves of the futuie bieaking into the piesent. Cayatii Spivak, pie-
scient in diawing oui attention to the multivalent textuality of suicide in
'Can the Subaltein Speak·¨ ieminds us in hei latest iuminations that
suicide teiioiism, as a ielay of affective infoimation, is a modality of
expiession and communication foi the subaltein:
Suicidal iesistance is a message insciibed on the body when no othei means
will get thiough. It is both execution and mouining, foi both self and othei.
Ioi you die with me foi the same cause, no mattei which side you aie on.
/s a nqore in
tne niost or
alvays alreaoy
oyinq even as it
is in tne niost or
beconinq, like
tne nonosexoal
arnicteo vitn
Hl\, tne soicioe
bonber sotores
nis or ner statos
as sexoally
13u 1asbìr K. Puar
Because no mattei who you aie, theie aie no designated killees in suicide
bombing. No mattei what side you aie on, because I cannot talk to you, you
won`t iespond to me, with the implication that theie is no dishonoi in such
shaied and innocent death.
We have the pioposal that theie aie no sides, and that the sides aie
foievei shifting, ciumpling, and multiplying, disappeaiing and ieappeai-
ing÷unable to satisfactoiily delineate between heie and theie. ¯he spatial
collapse of sides is due to the queei tempoial inteiiuption of the suicide
bombei, piojectiles spewing eveiy which way. As a queei assemblage÷dis-
tinct fiom the 'queeiing¨ of an entity oi identity÷iace and sexuality aie
denatuialized thiough the impeimanence, the tiansience of the suicide
bombei; the ßeeting identity ieplayed backwaid thiough its dissolution.
¯his dissolution of self into othei/s and othei/s into self not only effaces the
absolute maik of self and othei/s in the wai on teiioi, it pioduces a systemic
challenge to the entiie oidei of Nanichaean iationality that oiganizes the
iubiic of good veisus evil. Leliveiing 'a message insciibed on the body
when no othei means will get thiough,¨ suicide bombeis do not tianscend
oi claim the iational oi accept the demaication of the iiiational. Rathei,
they foiegiound the ßawed tempoial, spatial, and ontological piesumptions
on which such distinctions ßouiish.
¯he body of Nbembe`s suicide bombei is still, howevei, a male one
and, in that univeisalized masculinity, ontologically puie iegaidless of
location, histoiy, and context. Wheieas, foi Nbembe, sexuality÷as the
dissolution of bodily boundaiies÷is elaboiated thiough the ballistic event
of death, foi female suicide bombeis, sexuality is always announced in
advance: the petite manicuied hands, mystical beauty ('beauty mixed
with violence¨), and featuies of hei face and body aie commented on in a
mannei not iequisite foi male suicide bombeis; the political impoit of the
female suicide bombei`s actions aie gendeied out oi into delusions about
hei puipoited iiiational emotional and mental distiess.
Iemale suicide
bombeis disiupt the piosaic pioposition that teiioiism is bied diiectly
of patiiaichy and that women aie intiinsically manifesting peace. ¯his
iationale is ieinsciibed, howevei, when obseiveis pioclaim that women
cast out of oi shunned by tiaditional compositions of gendei and sexual-
ity (often accused of being lesbians) aie most likely piedisposed towaid
violence. ¯hese discuisive and bodily identity maikeis ießect the enduiing
capacities of inteisectionality÷we cannot leave it completely behind÷but
also its limitations.
Nbembe and Spivak each aiticulate, implicitly, how queeiness is
constitutive of the suicide bombei: delinked fiom sexual identity to signal
instead tempoial, spatial, and coipoieal schisms, queeiness is installed
within as a pieiequisite foi the body to function symbolically, pedagogi-
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 131
cally, and peifoimatively as it does.¯he dispeision of the boundaiies of
bodies foices a completely chaotic challenge to noimative conventions of
gendei, sexuality, and iace, disobeying noimative conventions of 'appio-
piiate¨ bodily piactices and the sanctity of the able body. Heie then is a
possible ieieading of these teiioiist bodies, typically undeistood as cul-
tuially, ethnically, and ieligiously nationalist, fundamentalist, patiiaichal,
and, often even homophobic, as queei coipoiealities. ¯he political impoit
of this queei ieieading should not be undeiestimated: in the upheaval of
the 'with us oi against us¨ ihetoiic of the wai on teiioi, queei piaxis of
assemblage allows foi a sciambling of sides that is illegible to state piactices
of suiveillance, contiol, banishment, and exteimination. ¯hese nonex-
ceptional, teiioiist bodies aie nonheteionoimative, if we considei nation
and citizenship to be implicit in the piivilege of heteionoimativity, as we
should. Iollowing fiom Cathy Cohen`s aigument that heteionoimativity
is as much about (white) iacial and (middle- to uppei-) class piivilege
as it is about sexual identities, identifcations, and acts,
the (Ameiican
impeiialist) nation also fguies as an impoitant axis of psychic and mateiial
identifcation, iepeatedly casting these bodies into the spotlight of sexual
peiveisity. ¯hiough the ieclamation of the nation`s peiveise beings acioss
homo-heteio divides, the tenoi of queeiness is intiinsically antinational-
ist. In attending to affective coipoieal queeinesses, ones that foiegiound
noimativizing and iesistant bodily piactices beyond sex, gendei, and sexual
object choice, queeiness is expanded as a feld, a vectoi, a teiiain, one
that must consistently, not spoiadically, account foi nationalism and iace
within its puiview, as well as insistently disentangle the ielations between
queei iepiesentation and queei affectivity. What does this ieieading and
ieaiticulation do to Cohen`s alieady expansive notion of queei coalitional
politics· What types of affliative netwoiks could be imagined and spawned
if we embiace the alieady queei mechanics and assemblages÷thieats to
nation, to iace, to sanctioned bodily piactices÷of teiioiist bodies·
¯hese bodies aie old, no doubt, but theii queeinesses aie suggested by
the intense anxieties they piovoke; they tiouble the nation`s peiimeteis,
fiom within and also fiom the outside, and appeai to be iife with, as well
as geneiative of, feai and dangei. Why, in the name of a seculai state,
ban the use of head scaives foi Nuslim women in Iiance, with allusions
to the next taigets: tuibans and beaids·
What kinds of monstious bod-
ies aie visualized when daily the papeis aie plasteied with tuibaned al-
Qaeda opeiatives· Why scieam, '¯ake that tuiban off, you fucking tei-
132 1asbìr K. Puar
What is lost, gained, and ietained in the act of shaving Saddam
Hussein`s beaid off just houis aftei his puipoited captuie· (See also the
pictuie 'Saddam`s Queei Lye Nakeovei¨ and 'Queei Lye foi Saddam,¨
aka 'Queei Lye foi the Hopeless Cuy.¨)
Who is appeased thiough the
motions of shaving the facial and head haii of piisoneis befoie they aie
taken to Cuantanamo Bay· ¯hese bodies aie not only being commanded
to the iestoiation of the piopeily visible. (¯he name of the detention site,
Camp X-Ray, suggests in itself a piofound yeaining foi the tianspaiency
of these bodies, the capacity to see thiough them and iendei them known,
tacituin, disembodied.) In the act of iemoving Hussein`s batteied, ovei-
giown beaid, Hussein`s monstiosity is ienewed. We do not iecognize in
him the deciepit, woin, tiied man found in a hole, a man whose captuie
has moie symbolic than mateiial utility and entails the eiasuie of decades
of I.S. impeiialist violence in the 'Niddle Last.¨ But do not look too
closely at his eyes, foi his familiaiity may be lost. And it is the ieteiiitoii-
alization of the body that must be peifoimed thiough the iitual of cutting
and shaving haii, the piodding medical examinations, the piayei quaiteis
pioximate to aiiows pointing to Necca, and othei foims of appaiently
'humane¨ incaiceiation tactics that supplement those of toituie. ¯he
'detained body¨ is thus a machination of ceiemonial sciutiny and sheei
¯eiioiist look-alike bodies may allude to the illegible and incom-
mensuiable affect of queeiness÷bodies that aie in some sense machined
togethei, iemaikable beyond identity, visuality, and visibility, to the iealms
of affect and ontology, the tactile and the sensoiial. Biian Nassumi con-
cisely pinpoints the effect of affect: '¯he piimacy of the affective is maiked
by a gap between content and effect: it would appeai that the stiength oi
duiation of an image`s effect is not logically connected to the content in
any stiaightfoiwaid way. ¯his is not to say theie is no connection and no
Beyond what the body looks like, then, this is also about what the
queei body feels like, foi the embodied and foi the spectatoi. Rewoiking
Nichael ¯aussig`s notion of 'tactile knowing,¨
Nay }oseph eloquently
Ioi cultuies whose foims of social knowledge have been fiagmented and
mutated by multiple expeiiences of conquest and cultuial contact . . . tactile
piactices aie diffcult to iead and contain multiple meanings. Such exchanges
aie fiequently infoimal events intiinsic to eveiyday life thiough which
cultuial knowledge gets cited, tiansmitted oi ie-appiopiiated. ¯he senses
acquiie textuie.
As that which 'immeises the senses beyond the stiuctuiing logic of vision
and dislodges memoiy as the fascia of histoiy,¨
tactile knowledges install
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 133
noimativizing tiaces of dangei, feai, and melancholia into the bodies of
iacialized teiioiist look-alikes. ¯he tuiban, foi example, is not meiely an
appendage to the body. It is always in the state of becoming, the becom-
ing of a tuibaned body, the tuiban becoming pait of the body. ¯he head
scaif, similaily (along with the buika and the hijab, often deciied as
masks), has become a peiveise fetish object÷a point of fxation÷a kind
of centiipetal foice, a stiange attiactoi thiough which the density of anxi-
ety acciues and accumulates. Ioi the weaiei, the iituals and sensations
attached to these paits of the body÷the smells duiing the weekly staich-
ing of the linens, the stietching of yaids of coaise fabiic to induce some
softening, the wiapping and pinning of the tuiban into place÷these aie
expeiiences in the midst of becoming qualitatively diffeient than befoie.
¯hiough queeily affective and tactile iealms, the Sikh jagrt, oi tuiban,
is acquiiing the insciiptions of a (teiioiist) masculinity, much in the way
that veiling has been iead as indicative of an othei femininity. ¯he tuibaned
man, no longei meiely the maik of a duiable and misguided tiadition, a
iesistant antiassimilationist (albeit patiiaichal) stance, now inhabits the
space and histoiy of monstiosity, that which can nevei become civilized.
¯he tuiban is not only imbued with the nationalist, ieligious, and cultuial
symbolics of the othei. ¯he tuiban both ieveals and hides the teiioiist.
Lespite the taxonomies of tuibans, theii specifc iegional and locational
genealogies, theii placement in time and space, theii singulaiity and theii
multiplicity, the tuiban as monolith piofoundly tioubles and distuibs the
nation and its notions of secuiity. Since 9/11, Sikh men weaiing tuibans,
and mistaken foi kin of Osama bin Laden, have been dispiopoitionately
affected by backlash iacist hate ciimes taigeting Nuslims and othei South
Asians. As a sign of guilt and also the potential iedemption of that guilt,
the elusive, dubious chaiactei of the tuibaned man oi woman could diive
the onlookei ciazy. It is not foi nothing that in one hate ciime incident
aftei anothei, tuibans aie clawed at viciously, and haii is pulled, occa-
sionally even cut off. ¯he intimacy of such violence cannot be oveistated.
¯he attack functions as a double emasculation: the disiobing is an insult
to the (usually) male iepiesentative (Sikh oi Nuslim) of the community,
while the iemoval of haii entails submission by and to noimative patiiotic
masculinities. ¯he tuiban insinuates the constant sliding between that
which can be disciplined and that which must be outlawed. Sometimes
death ensues.
In ielation to Sikhs, misnamed 'Hindoo¨ duiing the fist migiations
of Sikhs to the Noithwest and Califoinia in the eaily 19uus and now mis-
taken as Nuslim, the hypothesis of mistaken identity as the main causal
factoi foi post-9/11 hate ciimes has been embiaced by conseivative and
piogiessive factions alike. ¯he Bush administiation and piogiessive Sikh
Jnrooqn qoeerly
arrective ano
tactile realns,
tne Sikn paqri,
or torban, is
acqoirinq tne
or a ¦terrorist}
nascolinity, nocn
in tne vay tnat
veilinq nas been
reao as inoicative
or an otner
134 1asbìr K. Puar
advocacy gioups have piomoted education as the piimaiy vehicle thiough
which to amelioiate this situation. ¯he notion of mistaken identity ielies
on multiple piemises: that the viewei is open to and willing to discein the
visual diffeiences between Sikh tuibans and Nuslim tuibans; that the ide-
als of multicultuialism as piomulgated by libeial education acknowledges
that diffeiences within diffeience mattei. ¯he focus on mistaken identity
favois the visual expeiience of the tuiban ovei its affective expeiience, one
that hails histoiical foimations of oiientalism and elicits feai, loathing, and
disgust. ¯actile economies ieasseit ontological iathei than epistemological
knowing and highlight touch, textuie, sensation, smell, feeling, and affect
ovei what is assumed to be legible thiough the visible. Iuitheimoie, the
tuiban weaiei, usually male, beais the typically female buiden of safe-
guaiding and tiansmitting cultuie and of symbolizing the puiity of nation.
But this does not automatically oi only feminize him; instead, the fusion of
haii, oil, cloth, skin, the oiganic with the nonoiganic, iendeis the tuiban a
queei pait of the body. It is this assemblage of visuality, affect, feminized
position, and bodily nonoiganicity that accounts foi its queei fguiation
in the execution of a hate ciime.
¯his queei assemblage of the tuibaned teiioiist speaks to the piolifc
feitilization and ciosshatching of teiioiist coipoiealities amid queei South
Asian diaspoias, bodies that must be ieclaimed as queei. South Asian
queei diaspoias may mimic foims of (I.S.) model minoiity exceptionalism
that posit queeiness as an exemplaiy oi libiatoiy site devoid of national-
ist impulses, an exceptionalism that naiiates queeiness as emulating the
highest tiansgiessive potential of diaspoia. But the tensions÷and ovei-
laps÷between the now-fetishized desi diag queen and the tuibaned oi
otheiwise Sikh oi Nuslim teiioiist tempei this exceptionalism. Biian Keith
Axel, in his giound-cleaiing essay '¯he Liaspoiic Imaginaiy,¨ poses two
iadical modifcations to the study of diaspoia as it has been conceived in
anthiopology, cultuial studies, and inteidisciplinaiy foiums. Refeiencing
his study of Sikh diaspoias, he aigues that 'iathei than conceiving of the
homeland as something that cieates the diaspoia, it may be moie pioduc-
tive to considei the diaspoia as something that cieates the homeland.¨

Axel is gestuiing beyond the mateiial locational piagmatics of the myth
of ietuin, the economic and symbolic impoitance of the NRI (noniesi-
dent Indian), Khalistan and Hindutva nationalist movements funded by
disapoiic money, oi the modalities of homeland that aie ie-cieated in the
diaspoia. ¯he homeland, he pioposes, 'must be undeistood as an affective
and tempoial piocess iathei than a place.¨
But if not the fact of place,
what impels a diaspoiic sensibility oi collectivity·
In situating 'diffeient bodies oi coipoieal images and histoiical foima-
tions of sexuality, gendei and violence¨ as deeply and equally constitutive
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 135
of the diaspoiic imaginaiy as the place of the homeland, Axel`s foimulation
can be pioductively iewoiked to fuithei queei the habitus of nation and
its geogiaphic cooidinates. ¯he notion of queei diaspoia ietools diaspoia
to account foi connectivity beyond oi diffeient fiom shaiing a common
ancestial homeland.
¯hat is, to shift away fiom oiigin foi a moment
allows othei foims of diaspoiic affliative and cathaitic entities, foi Axel
(and also Nbembe) piimaiily that of bodies and the tiaumas that haunt
them, to show theii affliative poweis. Iuitheimoie, an unsettling of the
site of oiigin, that is, nation as one of the two binding teims of diaspoia,
de facto punctuies the homeland-to-diaspoia telos and wienches ancestial
piogiession out of the automatic puiview of diaspoia, allowing foi queei
naiiatives of kinship, belonging, and home. ¯he sensation of place is thus
one of manifold intensities cathected thiough distance. ¯he diaspoia, then,
foi Axel, is not iepiesented only as a demogiaphic, a geogiaphic place, oi
piimaiily thiough histoiy, memoiy, oi even tiauma. It is coheied thiough
sensation, vibiations, echoes, speed, feedback loops, and iecuisive folds
and feelings, coalescing thiough coipoiealities, affectivities, and, I would
add, multiple and contingent tempoialities: not thiough an identity but
an assemblage.
¯he coipoieal images in question foi Axel aie the toituied bodies,
not unlike those of Abu Chiaib, of Sikh male Amiitdhaiies, those caught
in civil uniest in Punjab in the mid-19Sus to eaily 199us and aibitiaiily
incaiceiated by the Indian goveinment. Again we have the appeaiance of
the tuibaned Sikh male. Axel details the mechanics of the toituie:
Often the fist act is to cast off the detainee`s tuiban. . . . Ioi many victims,
the displacement of the tuiban, along with the use of the haii to tie the
victim down, is one of the deepest gestuies of dishonoi (beizatti). But aftei
suiiendei and dishonoi aie enacted on the head, focus shifts to the genitals
and anus, which become the objects of taunts and violation.
Collectively, the tuiban, genitals, and anus take on the foice of the phal-
lus: the sexual shaming begins with the nakedness of the head and use
of the otheiwise piide-engendeiing haii to subjugate, then continues on
to the habitual objects of sex. In paiticulai, toituie of the anus seeks to
simulate anal sex and, thus, aiouse the spectei of homosexuality. ¯he
tuibaned male body, now the toituied detuibaned body, is effectively
iendeied ieligiously impotent and unable to iepeat its thieat to national
National-noimative sexuality piovides the sanctioned heteiosexual means
foi iepioducing the nation`s community, wheieas antinational sexuality
inteiiupts and thieatens that community. ¯oituie casts national-noimative
Jne torbaneo
nale booy, nov
tne tortoreo
oetorbaneo booy,
is errectively
inpotent ano
onable to
repeat its tnreat
to national
13ó 1asbìr K. Puar
sexuality as a fundamental modality of citizen pioduction in ielation to an
antinational sexuality that postulates sex as a 'cause¨ of not only sexual
expeiience but also of subveisive behavioi and extiateiiitoiial desiie ('now
you can`t be maiiied, you can`t pioduce any moie teiioiists¨).
Sexual violence, not place, is the dominant constitutive factoi of Axel`s
diaspoiic imaginaiy. ¯his violence is peifoimative in that queeiness of
the body is confimed on seveial fionts: fist, theie is the queei invei-
sion of iepioductive capacity to the male teiioiist body, away fiom the
noimative focus on women as iepioduceis of nation and cultuie; sec-
ond, the body is symbolically stiipped of its iepioductive capacities, pio-
pelled into the queei iealm of an antinational sexuality; tempoiality is
ie-planed because the assumption of noimative familial kinship foims
as engendeied by geneiational continuity is iuptuied.But, thiid, in line
with the queei fguiation of the tuibaned Sikh body, this body alieady
appeais as queei, and thus the toituie peifoims, in the citational sense,
the veiy queei assemblage that instantiates it. ¯he assemblage is pos-
sible not thiough the identity maikeis that encapsulate this body÷Sikh,
male, tuibaned, heteiosexual but peiveise÷but, iathei, the tempoial
and spatial ieoideiings that the body ieiteiates as it is toituied. ¯heie is
the doubling of time and space as the body is simultaneously iefashioned
foi noimative (Indian) national aesthetics yet cast fiom the nation as its
iepioductive capacity is castiated. Spatially situated both within and out-
side nation, tempoially always becoming both national and its antithesis,
the assemblage is momentaiy, ßeeting even, and gives way to noimative
identity maikeis even in the midst of its newly becoming state.
It is this shift fiom national and iegional oiigin to coipoieal affec-
tivity÷fiom South Asia as unifying homeland to the assemblage of the
÷in South Asia and in the diaspoias, as they woik
togethei, that dislodges identity-based notions of queeiness, thus piob-
lematizing queei diaspoiic exceptionalisms but also motivating theii expo-
nential foitifcation and piolifeiation in the fist place. Queei occupa-
tion of the tuibaned Sikh male and othei teiioiist assemblages not only
counteis sexual exceptionalisms by ieclaiming peiveision÷the nonex-
ceptional÷within the gaze of national secuiity. In the comingling of
queei monstiosity and queei modeinity, it also cieatively, poweifully, and
unexpectedly sciambles the teiiain of the political within oiganizing and
intellectual piojects. ¯hese teiioiist assemblages, a cacophony of infoi-
mational ßows, eneigetic intensities, bodies, and piactices that undeimine
coheient identity and even queei anti-identity naiiatives, bypass entiiely
the Ioucauldian 'act to identity¨ continuum that infoims much global
LCB¯IQ oiganizing, a continuum that piivileges the pole of identity as the
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 137
evolved foim of Westein modeinity. Yet ieclaiming the nonexceptional is
only paitially the point, foi assemblages allow foi complicities of piivilege
and the pioduction of new noimativities even as they cannot anticipate
spaces and moments of iesistance. Opening up to the fantastical wondeis
of futuiity is the most poweiful of political and ciitical stiategies, whethei
it be thiough assemblage oi to something as yet unknown, peihaps even
foievei unknowable.
Nany thanks to Patiicia Clough foi hei inspiiational thinking on affect and assem-
blages, to }ulie Rajan foi hei ieseaich assistance, and to Amit Rai, Katheiine Sugg,
Lavid Lng, and Kelly Coogan foi theii feedback on eailiei diafts. In memoiy of
my biothei, Sandeep.
1. }oan Scott, 'Cendei: A Iseful Categoiy of Histoiical Analysis,¨ in CenJer
anJ ihe Foltitcs of Htsior, (New Yoik: Columbia Iniveisity Piess, 19SS), 2S÷52.
2. In an aiticle titled 'Highlighting the Q in Iiaq¨ ('Letteis fiom Camp
Rehoboth,¨ 1S Octobei 2uu2,
.htm), Hastings Wyman aigues that 'foi gay gioups such as HRC, NCL¯I, and
otheis to take a position on a majoi issue that affects gay people no diffeiently
fiom the iest of society ultimately divides oui community, dilutes oui iesouices,
and iisks undeimining oui standing with the public.¨
3. Nubaiak Lahii, 'Stop Ising Cay 'Libeiation` as a Wai Cuise,¨ !tnJ,
Cti, Ttnes, 23 Apiil 2uu3. Noting that the 'foices that aie supposedly emanci-
pating oui downtiodden CLB¯ biethien aie themselves hypei-homophobic,¨
Lahii asks, 'How can anyone seiiously aigue that the Inited States militaiy is an
instiument foi glbt libeiation·¨ Accoiding to Lahii, 'gay hawks¨ have pointed
out the oppiessiveness towaid homosexuality of iegimes in Syiia and Iiaq while
conveniently foigetting those in Saudi Aiabia and Lgypt. Claiming that the lives
of gays and lesbians in Iiaq will change veiy little iegaidless of the ousting of Hus-
sein, Lahii wiites: '¯he fnal and peihaps most peisonally infuiiating aspect of
the hypociisy aiound the aigument that we aie invading foieign countiies in the
inteiest of fieeing gay people is the way we tieat gay Aiabs and gay Nuslims heie
in the Inited States.¨
4. On gay issue veisus not-gay issue oiganizing, see Nichael Bionski, 'Cay
Coes Nainstieam,¨ Eosion Fhoentx, 16÷23 }anuaiy 2uu3, www.bostonphoenix
.com/boston/news_featuies/othei_stoiies/documents/ u2653u4S.htm.
5. }oe Ciea, 'Cay Sex Ised to Humiliate Iiaqis,¨ !ashtngion ElaJe, 7 Nay
6. Ibid.
7. Andiew Sullivan, 'Laily Lish,¨ (accessed 4
Nay 2uu4).
S. Patiick Nooie, 'Cay Sexuality,¨ Ne:sJa,, 7 Nay 2uu4.
9. In the face of the centiality of Ioucault`s Htsior, of Sexualti, to the feld
of queei studies, it is somewhat bafßing that some queei theoiists have accepted
13B 1asbìr K. Puar
at face value the discouise of Islamic sexual iepiession. ¯hat is not to imply that
Ioucault`s woik should be tianspaiently applied to othei cultuial and histoiical
contexts, especially as he himself peipetuates a peinicious foim of oiientalism in
his foimulation of the ars eroitca. Rathei, Ioucault`s insights deseive evaluation as
a methodological hypothesis about discouise.
1u. But aie the acts specifcally and only iefeiential of gay sex (and heie, gay
means sex between men)· Ceitainly this iendition evades a conveisation about
what exactly constitutes the distinction between gay sex and stiaight sex, and also
piesumes some static noimativity about gendei ioles as well. Amnesty Inteina-
tional is among the few that did not mention homosexuality, homosexual acts, oi
same-sex sexuality in its piess ielease condemning the toituie. See 'ISA: Pattein
of Biutality and Ciuelty÷Wai Ciimes at Abu Chiaib,¨ web.amnesty.oig/libiaiy/
11. }ose Lsteban Nuñoz, DtstJenitfcaitons: Queers of Color anJ ihe Ferfornance
of Foltitcs (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 1999), 1uS.
12. 'Bauei Compaies Veimont Cay Rights Lecision to ¯eiioiism,¨ 27
Lecembei 1999,¯ICS/stoieis/12/27/campaign
.wiap/Conceined Women of Ameiica (accessed 2 Apiil 2uu3; this site is no longei
13. See Ioi a detailed analysis of this Web
site, see }asbii K. Puai and Amit S. Rai, '¯he Remaking of a Nodel Ninoiity:
Peiveise Piojectiles undei the Spectie of (Countei)¯eiioiism,¨ Soctal Texi, no.
Su (2uu4): 75÷1u4.
14. ¯his is not to disavow oi minimize the impoitant inteiventions that intei-
sectional theoiizing makes possible and continues to stage, oi the feminist ciitical
spaces that gave iise to inteisectional analyses.
15. Achille Nbembe, 'Neciopolitics,¨ Fubltc Culiure 15 (2uu3): 11÷4u.
16. }udith Butlei, in 'Sexual Inveisions,¨ wiites: '¯he male homosexual is
fguied time and time again as one whose desiie is somehow stiuctuied by death,
eithei as the desiie to die, oi as one whose desiie is inheiently punishable by death¨
(Butlei, 'Sexual Inveisions,¨ in Dtscourses of Sexualti,: Iron ¬rtsioile io ¬IDS, ed.
Lonna Stanon |Ann Aiboi: Iniveisity of Nichigan Piess, 1992], S3).
17. Nbembe, 'Neciopolitics,¨ 36.
1S. Cayatii Spivak, 'Class and Cultuie in Liaspoia¨ (confeience keynote
addiess, '¯ianslating Class, Alteiing Hospitality,¨ Leeds Iniveisity, Lngland,
}une 2uu2).
19. Sudha Ramachandian, 'Women Suicide Bombeis Lefy Isiael,¨ ¬sta
Ttnes, 25 Octobei 2uu3,}25Aku2.html; u,2763,42S563,uu.html.
2u. Cathy }. Cohen, 'Punks, Bulldaggeis, and Welfaie Queens: ¯he Radical
Potential of Queei Politics·¨ CLQ 3 (1997): 437÷65.
21. Ttnes of InJta, 23 }anuaiy 2uu4.
22. Iiom Targeitng ihe Turban: Stlh ¬nertcans anJ ihe ¬.erston Sjtral afier
Sejienber 11 (2uu2), a documentaiy about hate ciimes against Sikh Ameiicans
since 9/11, diiected by Valaiie Kaui Biai.
23. See
24. Biian Nassumi, Farables for ihe 1triual: Ao.eneni, ¬ffeci, Sensaiton (Lui-
ham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2), 24.
25. Nichael ¯aussig, Atnests anJ ¬lierti, (New Yoik: Routledge, 1993).
Cueer 1ìnes, Cueer Assenblages 139
26. Nay }oseph, 'Old Routes, Nnemonic ¯iaces,¨ ITS Fe.te: 6, no. 2
(2uuu): 46.
27. Ibid.
2S. Biian Keith Axel, '¯he Liaspoiic Imaginaiy,¨ Fubltc Culiure 14 (2uu2):
29. Ibid.
3u. Ibid.
31. Ibid., 42u.
32. Cynthia Keppley Nahmood, Itghitng for Iatih anJ Naiton: Dtalogues !tih
Stlh Atltianis (Philadelphia: Iniveisity of Pennsylvania Piess, 1996), 4u, quoted
in Axel, '¯he Liaspoiic Imaginaiy,¨ 42u.
33. See }asbii K. Puai and Amit Rai, 'Nonstei-¯eiioiist-Iag: ¯he Wai on
¯eiioiism and the Pioduction of Locile Patiiots,¨ Soctal Texi, no. 72 (2uu2):
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
Race, vioIence, and NeoIiberaI SpatiaI PoIitics in tne GIobaI City
Martin F
ManaIansan lv
¯he city has become the sign of desiie.
÷Pat Califa, 'San Iiancisco: Revisiting the '¯he City of Lesiie` ¨
What does it mean to claim a space foi queeis of coloi in the global city
of New Yoik·
How do queei communities of coloi stake out a teiiitoiy
beyond ghettos and enclaves and beyond demaicated moments such as
Piide Lays and ethnic celebiations· ¯hese questions haunt the stiuggles,
iituals, and piactices of Afiican Ameiican, Latino, and Asian Ameiican
queeis as they engage with the tiavails of uiban life today.
Yet, despite
the centiality of the city as the site of queei cultuial settlement, imagina-
tion, and evolution in the late twentieth and eaily twenty-fist centuiies,
laigei economic and political foices have incieasingly and vocifeiously
shaped, fiagmented, dispeised, and alteied many queeis of coloi`s dieams
and desiies.
¯hese foices can be tiaced to the emeigence of post-Ioidist
capitalism and its concomitant neolibeial policies and aie most palpable
in cities woildwide.
In the past few decades, new foims of uiban goveinance have taken
ioot in many cities and, in paiticulai, global cities like New Yoik.
libeial policies seek to delimit goveinmental inteivention, inciease piiva-
tization, and iemove the safeguaids of welfaie seivices, cieating a viitual
fiee-foi-all aiena foi economic maiket competition.
Such policies have
iediawn boundaiies, neighboihoods, and lives and given iise to insidious
foims of suiveillance of and violence in communities of coloi.
¯his essay ciitically examines and documents the violent iemapping
of lives, bodies, and desiies of queeis of coloi in contempoiaiy New Yoik
caused by neolibeial piactices. ¯his iemapping is the iesult of expansion
of piivate businesses as well as city, state, and fedeial effoits not only in
so-called ciime pievention effoits and 'quality of life¨ campaigns since
the eaily nineties but also in what has come to be called homeland secuiity
aftei Septembei 11. Ising two New Yoik City spaces, the Chiistophei
Stieet pieis in Nanhattan`s Cieenwich Village and the }ackson Heights
neighboihoods in Queens, I assess how vaiious neolibeial agents and
institutions such as mass media, piivate businesses, and the state (includ-
ing the police) mediate discouises about changing uiban space. By mass
42 Martìn F Manalansan lV
media, I include not only mainstieam ones but also vaiious publications
that puipoit to seive the 'gay community.¨ Lxamples fiom iecent gay
piint media show that a signifcant numbei of gay jouinalists and scholais
aie in fact complicit with neolibeial inteiests.
¯o fuithei elucidate this contention, it impoitant to note that neolib-
eial piocesses aie paitly constituted by a paiticulai kind of sexual politics
that Lisa Luggan has iightly called homonoimativity.
is a chameleon-like ideology that puipoits to push foi piogiessive causes
such as iights to gay maiiiage and othei 'activisms,¨ but at the same time
it cieates a depoliticizing effect on queei communities as it ihetoiically
iemaps and iecodes fieedom and libeiation in teims of piivacy, domes-
ticity, and consumption.
In othei woids, homonoimativity anesthetizes
queei communities into passively accepting alteinative foims of inequality
in ietuin foi domestic piivacy and the fieedom to consume.
¯hiough ethnogiaphic obseivations and analysis of eveiyday lives and
public spaces in the two neighboihoods, I desciibe how homonoimativity
cieates violent stiuggles aiound uiban space by queeis of coloi. ¯hese
foims of violence aie chaiacteiized by theii stiuctuial chaiactei spawned
by neolibeial economic, political, and cultuial policies and piactices. By
stiuctuial violence, I mean the infoimal and foimal piocesses by which
institutions piomote what the social theoiist Rodeiick Ieiguson has called
'ideologies of discieteness,¨
oi piactices that seek to demaicate and
police iacial, ethnic, class, and sexual spaces and boundaiies, while cie-
ating physical, emotional, and symbolic biutalities and ciuelties towaid
maiginalized peoples.
¯his kind of violence tiansfoims the built enviionment, eiadicating
spaces imbued with meanings that coalesce aiound maiginalized identi-
ties. Ioi example, Samuel Lelany eloquently chionicled how new uiban
policies aiound ¯imes Squaie have cieated new foims of policing that not
only tiansfoimed the aichitectuial landscape oi built enviionment but
also alteied the lifeways of numeious gioups of people of coloi who used
to hang out on the sidewalks and coineis of the aiea foi sex, leisuie, and
othei foims of commeice. Not only aie these gioups visibly disciplined,
they aie also sequesteied at a safe distance and aie typically dispeised
when they aie seen to be a 'nuisance¨ oi aie suspected of causing public
annoyance oi distuibance paiticulaily to pations and owneis of new swank
¯o undeiscoie the insidious ways in which homonoimativity is
insciibed in hegemonic discouises and paiticipates in these ideologies of
discieteness, I suggest that established authoiities and institutions such
as police and city goveinment aie not the only peipetiatois of this foim
of neolibeial violence; they also include a motley of mostly white gay
Race Vìolence ano Neolìberal Spatìal Polìtìcs 143
scholais fiom both sides of the political spectium. Ioi example, in the
much-lauded book The !orlJ TurneJ, }ohn L`Lmilio, the eminent gay
histoiian, encapsulates the contempoiaiy queei moment as a celebiatoiy
one and goes on to enumeiate the impoitant social gains gays and lesbians
have gaineied in the past twenty yeais. By doing so, he can comment on
the issue of inequality among gays and lesbians. L`Lmilio, by no means
a conseivative, aigues that the idea of iacial diffeiences and diffeiential
piivilege should not be consideied when coming to teims with gay oppies-
sion. At this moment of gay tiiumph, he posits that diffeiences between
white gays and gays of coloi aie immateiial. He suggests that, in fact, all
gays aie oppiessed and any move that attempts to delineate oi complicate
intiagioup diffeiences is an impolitic act.
¯he assumption that piivilege makes one politically suspect oi somehow
inadequate as an agent of social change also thieatens to obscuie the tiuth at
the heait of oui movement: ¬ll homosexuals aie oppiessed; gay oppiession
is ieal and vicious. It isn`t necessaiy to shed extia teais foi the plight of
piospeious white gay men in oidei to acknowledge that if one sciatches below
the suiface of any gay life, one will fnd a bottomless well of pain whose
souice is oppiession. And gays with piivilege iisk theii status and expose
themselves to penalties when they make the leap to activism.
On the one hand, the pieceding quotation may seem to be a suipiising
statement coming fiom one of the most admiied and iespected piogiessive
gay scholais and activists. Howevei, I do not take this statement as occasion
foi a peisonal indictment against L`Lmilio, whose woiks aie to be admiied,
but iathei as symptomatic of the insidious foices of homonoimativity that
encompasses political affliations of all soits. In hei ciitique of gay pundits
like Andiew Sullivan, Luggan aigues foi not dividing homonoimative
ideas in teims of conseivative and piogiessive camps but iathei fiaming
these seeming political extiemes as pait of a continuum of ideas whose
pioponents aie complicit with the stabilizing and noimalizing of specifc
foims of capitalist inequalities. L`Lmilio`s statement is indicative of the
now-emeiging call foi 'coloi-blindness¨ within the gay community and
in the laigei community. ¯his call is based on the incieasing piivatization
of gay stiuggles. Ioi example, shows like !tll anJ Crace and Queer L,e for
ihe Siratghi Cu, enable the paising of identity wheiein fieedom to be gay
is mobilized thiough niche maiketing. ¯aking this logic to the extieme,
to be gay and to be fiee theiefoie means to weai Piada. In othei woids,
identity follows consumption.
¯he maiket is constiucted to be the fltei of gay fieedom and piogiess
so much so that dominant discouises in the gay community disiegaid how
this kind of fieedom is piedicated on the abjection of othei gioups of people
44 Martìn F Manalansan lV
who aie not fiee to consume and do not have access to these symbolic and
mateiial foims of capital. ¯heiefoie, if one weie to constiue the fiee mai-
ket as a kind of competitive aiena oi wai zone, then the unnamed enemy
in neolibeial waifaie is not as vaiied as the pioclivities and activities of
these diveise gioups of activists and politicians. Rathei, on closei inspec-
tion what is seemingly a chaotic assemblage of political culpiits fuses into
the fguie of the female and the feminized, the foieignei, the coloied, the
sexually deviant and the pooi. In othei woids, queeis of coloi aie located
at the ciux of veiled homonoimative ihetoiical machinations of mostly
white gay commentatois and scholais.
¯o bettei undeistand these ihetoiical stiategies, I deploy a tiiangulated
exploiation of space, iace, and queeiness. Howevei, while studies of space,
iace, and queeiness and queei identities have piolifeiated since the mid- to
late nineties,
these woiks have laigely focused on the emeigent qualities
and valiant stiuggles to claim spaces by vaiious gays, lesbians, and othei
queeis. Such queei spatial naiiatives aie notably lacking in theii analyses
of the ielationships between queei cultuial pioduction and stiuggles with
iace and political-economic piocesses.
¯he axes and inteisections that piovide the fiamewoik foi my analy-
sis of queeis of coloi stiuggles and naiiatives include the iediawing of
boundaiies between public and piivate, the cieation of new foims of
exclusions and access, consumption and citizenship. I pose the follow-
ing questions that tiansfoim the conceins I outlined above into guiding
fiames of analysis. How does homonoimativity opeiate on the giound
(the ethnogiaphic question)· How does the opeiation of homonoimativ-
ity as a body of discouises inßect and shape naiiatives about space and
iace among queeis of coloi· Also, what othei kinds of naiiatives about
vaiious physical and symbolic topogiaphies aie imagined and enabled by
homonoimative piactices·
Jackson Heignts: Disappearance and Emergence
}ackson Heights, like many othei neighboihoods in the New Yoik City
boiough of Queens, piesents a kaleidoscope of communities that can be
gleaned fiom the business signs and billboaid ads along the main ioads
and the pedestiians who walk the stieets. Sights and sounds of Spanish,
Koiean, Hindi, and many othei languages declaie the panoply of peoples
and cultuies that ciisscioss and oveilap each othei. }ackson Heights and
Queens occupy a peculiai location in populai caitogiaphy of the city. Ioi
many people, including its own inhabitants, }ackson Heights is outside
'the city¨ that is Nanhattan. As such, it also occupies a ielative outsidei
Race Vìolence ano Neolìberal Spatìal Polìtìcs 145
status in ielation to the mainstieam gay neighboihoods of Nanhattan
like the Village, Chelsea, and, iecently, Hell`s Kitchen. As HA, a populai
gay magazine, puts it, }ackson Heights and the non-Nanhattan neighboi-
hoods aie all 'Out ¯heie,¨ which is the categoiy the magazine uses to
catalog all the gay activities that happen beyond the glaie of mainstieam
}ackson Heights`s gay bais and othei queei spaces coexist with the
multiethnic enclave economies that inhabit the same geogiaphic location.
At the same time, iesidences of vaiious kinds fiom buildings to biick town-
houses oi iow houses span out fiom the main thoioughfaies, paiticulaily
Roosevelt Avenue wheie the main aiteiies of the New Yoik City subway
system conveige aiound 73id and 74th stieets.
¯he iecent histoiy of the neighboihood as told by my infoimants of
queeis of coloi, many of whom have lived in the aiea foi moie than ten
yeais, is typically constiucted not thiough a lineai chionology but in some-
what abeiiant cycles of disintegiation and ieconstitution of spaces. Ioi
example, as one Colombian infoimant told me,
the gay bais on Roosevelt
Avenue have come and gone, including a couple of ieally 'piivate¨ bais
oi hangouts one needed a passwoid oi someone fiom the neighboihood
to gain access to. ¯hese abeiiant cycles aie appaient in how spaces in the
neighboihood have been subject to the conßicting piocesses of disap-
peaiances, disintegiation, disciplining as well as emeigence and so-called
ienaissance of places and venues.
One populai naiiative about the tiansfoimation of the stieets in the
past fve to ten yeais is thiough what most infoimants teim as a 'cleaning
up,¨ not in the sense of physical hygiene but in teims of iouting out queei
public-sex spaces. In paiticulai, most people would talk about Vaseline
Alley, which is an aiea not too fai away fiom the main thoioughfaie wheie
ciuising and some foim of public sex weie peifoimed. But unlike most
mainstieam gay naiiatives of uiban public-sex spaces wheie nostalgia and
sense of piivilege peimeate the stoiies, naiiatives aiound Vaseline Alley aie
quite diffeient. While the Alley, accoiding to some infoimants, may still be
a location wheie illicit activities may still take place depending on the time
of yeai and houi of the day, the place has quieted down. As one infoimant
fiamed it, 'the neivous eneigy¨ of lust and desiie has been shunted away
oi, in the woids of an astute queei obseivei, 'mufßed¨ fiom public view.
It is now moie than evei just an oidinaiy stieet in an immigiant neighboi-
hood. At least, that is what it piesents at fist glance.
Nowadays, the naiiatives aie punctuated not only by some nostalgic
longing but aie stiongly maiked by feai and some kind of disbelief and even
puzzlement. Some infoimants weie especially cognizant of the changes
aftei Septembei 11. While many infoimants who weie neithei South Asian
4ó Martìn F Manalansan lV
noi Nuslim did not ieadily feel any negative iesponse immediately, aftei
seveial months, they iepoited sightings of immigiation, IBI, and CIA
offcials in the neighboihood, and these fguied in many feaiful gossip
and infoimal accounts.
A Pueito Rican infoimant told me that while he initially did not see
himself implicated in the imagined teiioiist havens supposedly embedded
in Niddle Lastein and South Asian immigiant communities, he neveithe-
less noticed that theie weie moie aiiests and iounding up of Nexican and
othei Latino men, most if not all of whom weie undocumented. ¯hese
men typically stood aiound oi sat on the sidewalks of Roosevelt Avenue
waiting foi someone in a cai oi van looking foi cheap laboi in constiuc-
tion, food seivice, and othei industiies to hiie them. He noted that theie
seemed to be moie suiveillance of the neighboihood as evident fiom the
incieased piesence of unifoimed police aiound the public aieas. He also
mentioned that he has incieasingly noticed individual oi gioups of mostly
white men hanging aiound who cleaily did not belong to the neighboihood.
At the same time, he said that while the Latino men waiting and looking
foi woik still occupy the sidewalks and aie still hungiy foi woik, he and
othei Latinos who aie otheiwise employed oi who seek employment in
othei ways have staited to not hang out in these public aieas foi sexual oi
economic puiposes.
A Iilipino gay man I inteiviewed also talked about what he peiceived
to be the disappeaiance of the gioups of men that he labeled as Aiabo foi
'Aiab,¨ foi the Niddle Lastein and South Asian men who used to hang
out in a couple of coineis and would whistle at him eveiy time he passed
¯hey weie nowheie to be seen, and, as he said, they disappeaied 'like
smoke¨ oi weie 'in hiding.¨ 'Iiom what·¨ I asked. He could only guess,
'the goveinment¨ oi 'Nistei Bush.¨
¯hese naiiatives point to how the vaiious styles of occupying eveiyday
public spaces have been iadically alteied so that an innocent staking out
of public space foi whatevei ieason can easily be couched as 'loiteiing,¨
'vagiancy,¨ oi a suspicious congiegation of people. ¯hus these public
spaces aie subject to intense monitoiing that once staited with foimei
mayoi Rudolph Ciuliani`s 'quality of life¨ piogiam and now blui into
questions of 'national secuiity.¨ ¯his is evident in my infoimants` lingei-
ing suspicions that the police and 'othei authoiities¨ have equated the
biown, black, and yellow bodies to be possible dangeious entities, pui-
veyois of teiioi by ieason of theii coloi and in some instances of theii so-
called suspicious maleness. I coined this phiase to captuie the vaiious ways
in which queeis of coloi have taken the offcial state teiioiist piofle of a
Niddle Lastein oi South Asian male in theii teens to late foities. But while
it may seem that such a piofle ieleases 'othei¨ iacial and ethnic gioups
Race Vìolence ano Neolìberal Spatìal Polìtìcs 147
such as Latino and Last oi Southeast Asian fiom being implicated in this
tawdiy and messy affaii, seveial infoimants insists that in the giitty light
of eveiyday life, diffeience is always and alieady suspect. As one Pueito
Rican infoimant said, 'If you aie not a white man, it does not mattei,
you will be sciutinized. You aie not an oidinaiy citizen. If you aie a little
daik, then you bettei watch how you walk in fiont of them |the police].¨
¯heiefoie quotidian images of citizenship and safety in the neighboihood
aie encased in iacialized teims and coloied by feai and tiepidation.
Naiiatives about public spaces by gay Latino and Asian men have
been tiansfoimed into what ¯eiesa Caldeiia calls the 'talk of ciime.¨

¯hese discouises involves a 'symbolic ie-oideiing of the woild¨ thiough
'eveiyday naiiatives, commentaiies, conveisation and jokes that have
ciime and feai as theii subject.¨ While at fist glance these 'talks of feai
and ciime¨ might iepioduce and 'natuialize¨ steieotypes,
they also talk
about a commonality of expeiience. ¯his is not to suggest an emeigence
of an oiganic solidaiity acioss iacial lines. Rathei, theie is a collective
acknowledgment of how these queeis of coloi who aie neithei South Asian
noi Niddle Lastein aie not fiee fiom piofling, fiom the iacist and iacial-
izing piactices of state authoiities, and how they aie, to some extent, in the
same piedicament. I suggest that this situation may become the impetus
oi basis foi political action to which I tuin in the fnal section.
Inteiestingly, the iepoited evacuation of paiticulai scenes and the
alleged disappeaiance of gioups of people coincided with othei discouises
aiound }ackson Heights as the new exotic gay mecca. ¯he Nanhattan-
based mainstieam gay piess has cieated tiavelogue-like essays about the
gay attiactions in the neighboihood foi adventuious outsideis and Nan-
hattanites willing to 'iisk¨ the foiay into unchaited teiiitoiies. Considei
this passage fiom the iecent issue of NLAT, a weekly guide to the city`s
gay activities and hangouts: 'Night theie be something that Nanhattan
snobs (like myself) aie missing out on in those othei boioughs· . . . ¯o
fnd out, a few fiiends and I got Netiocaids, biushed up on oui Spanish,
piepaied ouiselves foi the unknown, and ventuied out to }ackson Heights,
a iacially diveise neighboihood in Queens which hosts a thiiving gay scene
and sublime Nexican food.¨
Indeed, this initial passage combines the culinaiy and the sexual
quite puiposively. ¯he main idea is that }ackson Heights is not a space
but a commodity to be consumed and liteially eaten up foi people who
will spend a few houis being tempoiaiy gay touiists. Considei the next
passage fiom the same aiticle:
But don`t label us Chiistophei Columbus just yet. It`s not like we found a
biand new gay scene. }ackson Heights has had a queei vibe since the 194us.
4B Martìn F Manalansan lV
Local nightlife impiesaiio, Lddie Valentine infoimed us that '}ackson Heights
had always been a piedominately |stc] gay neighboihood, but it`s always been
veiy quiet.¨ ¯he bais have been subdued, they didn`t scieam 'gay` because
two moie bais aie opening up this month. I envison |stc] }ackson Heights
becoming Chelsea with a Latin bite. And bite we did.
Heie aie two seemingly paiadoxically opposed oi unielated piocesses
of the disintegiating and feai-laden neighboihood landscapes and an emei-
gent and vibiant gay nightlife. But the scenaiios aie not of two }ackson
Heights÷the insidei, oi iesident`s point of view, and the outsidei÷but
iathei of a neighboihood in the thioes of two inteiielated and inteisecting
foims of violence. ¯he naiiative of emeigent gay life in this 'Latino vei-
sion of Chelsea¨ is piemised on the peifoimance of consumption. Indeed,
like many contempoiaiy naiiatives of gay mainstieaming, the piactices of
touiistic consumption constitute the cential peifoimative sciipts of good
gay citizens.
As the aiticle suggests, }ackson Heights is something that one 'bites¨
into. It is not a habitat oi dwelling but a tempoiaiy site foi leisuie and
space foi sociality to be eaten and quickly swallowed. At the same time,
the neighboihood`s consideiable maiketing alluie is its ielative exoticness.
Like a gay Columbus, the authoi of the tiavel guide peifoims the iole of
being able to conquei and hold at bay the othei less palatable side of this
location. ¯he unsavoiy side includes the ciiminalization of South Asian
and Niddle Lastein people who have been gendeied male and maiked
as sexually deviant. ¯his situation has caused a veiitable conjunction of
conßicting identities and piactices.
}asbii Puai and Amit Rai poweifully iecoided and analyzed the ambiv-
alent and iathei violent confiontation of immigiant heteionoimativity and
national xenophobia aftei Septembei 11.
In theii study, the coalescing of
the images of the teiioiist monstei, the foieignei, and the sexually deviant
into the fguie of the South Asian immigiant has become evident not only
in mainstieam media images but also in the eveiyday piactices of South
Asian individuals and oiganizations÷a good numbei of these weie situ-
ated in }ackson Heights. ¯he feai and suspicion that abound in the com-
munity have lead to extieme displays of patiiotism such as the piofusion
of Ameiican ßags on all the South Asian businesses immediately aftei the
Woild ¯iade Centei bombings and the iemoval of tuibans as eveiyday
weai foi Sikh men. ¯hese feaiful measuies weie peifoimed undei the
duiess of being questioned and suiveilled foi possible unpatiiotic political
leanings and desiies. And yet, as I have suggested above, this is not the
complete pictuie.
¯he naiiatives of feai told by a iacialized, sexualized, and ciiminal-
Race Vìolence ano Neolìberal Spatìal Polìtìcs 149
ized gioup of gay immigiants and the exubeiant tale of an emeiging gay
mostly Latino cultuie aie mutually constitutive elements of a neolibeial
poitiait of }ackson Heights. Such a poitiait is founded on the aitifcial
bounding of identities into disciete elements. A Latino is not an Aiab oi a
Iilipino is not the same as a Pakistani, oi an immigiant is not the same as
an Ameiican. Such concatenation of negations and affimations piomote
facile sepaiations of political agendas. Nainstieam gay cultuie has been
calcifed into the enactments of consumption iituals÷buying, eating,
dancing, weaiing, and, yes, even fucking. Indeed, theie is iaiely any men-
tion in the gay media of these kinds of tensions between othei foims of gay
cultuies oi othei communities as well as the stepped-up policing of com-
munities of coloi. ¯he connections between the common naiiatives of feai
and the intiusions of piivate gay enteipiise aie blissfully ignoied. }ackson
Heights`s piedicament is made cleaiei by paiallel kinds of developments
in Chiistophei Stieet in Nanhattan`s Cieenwich Village.
Tne viIIage and Cnristopner Street: Fenced-Out Lives
¯he Chiistophei Stieet pieis no longei exist. As ciuising and socializing
aieas in the seventies and eighties, they occupy an impoitant place in
the memoiies and imaginaiies of queeis, paiticulaily queeis of coloi.
¯he pieis weie also the sites foi Latino and Afiican Ameiican queei
youth who would piance aiound and piactice theii vogueing moves and
conduct infoimal competitions and iunway shows. ¯hese pieis and the
suiiounding enviions weie places foi queeis of coloi to congiegate and
to commune. But fai fiom being a utopic space, the pieis neveitheless
signify the days when queeis felt they owned the sites.
Located at the inteisection of Chiistophei Stieet and the West Side
Highway, seveial of these pieis jutted out into the Hudson Rivei. ¯oday,
the spaces have been dismantled and given way to a manicuied paik that
iuns the length of the highway beyond the confnes of the Village. Neai its
edge, instead of the iundown waiehouses, you fnd new buildings÷mostly
apaitment and condominium complexes iising up along the watei. A
fountain and seveial meteis of wiie fences maik the inteisection, and a
jogging, biking, oi skating path thieads thiough seveial blocks of the piei.
While this may seem to invite moie leisuie activities, many of my queei
of coloi infoimants said that this was not built foi them. One Latino gay
man said, 'We don`t come heie to iolleiblade oi jog. We come heie to
piactice oui |vogueing] moves. But we aie told |by the police] not to play
any loud music oi to caiiy on. How can you have a bunch of queens and
not caiiy on·¨
5u Martìn F Manalansan lV
Suiiounding the walkways aie conciete plant holdeis punctuated by
what many queei Afiican Ameiican and Latinos have iepoited as incieased
visible police piesence. While the queeis of coloi still tiy to hold couit in
these spaces, they can do so only at ceitain times, and they aie defnitely
discouiaged and disciplined fiom congiegating in the eaily houis of the
moining and fiom being too iowdy. Between 2 and 5 a.m., the police show
up in full foice to make suie that no tiouble occuis when the bais stait
closing. As one Afiican Ameiican infoimant said, '¯hey want to make
suie to point us to the iight diiection÷iight to the Path ¯iain |to New
}eisey] station oi to the numbei one subway. Ciil, they make suie we don`t
hang aiound and we go on iight home aftei we have spent all oui money
in the bais heie |in the Village].¨
¯he piesent enviionment has led seveial Afiican Ameiican and Latino
queeis I inteiviewed to iemaik that while many people have maiveled at
the aiea`s tiansfoimation÷paiticulaily aiound the liteial and metaphoiic
'cleaning up¨ of the pieis and the suiiounding stieets fiom vagiants,
'gangs,¨ and othei 'unwanted¨ gioups÷they have lost something that
could nevei be ieplaced: a sense of owneiship of the aiea. Noieovei, they
complained that not only has the place become too expensive but it has
also become hostile towaid them.
One Afiican Ameiican naiiated how he and seveial of his fiiends weie
pievented fiom congiegating in fiont of a new condominium on the West
Side Highway. ¯he building guaid told them that they weie scaiing unit
owneis. ¯he infoimant said, 'You think we weie gaibage oi something.
So just to spite him |the guaid], we tuined on the boom box and stiut-
ted to Chaka and woiked the sidewalk. ¯he guaid was so pissed but we
didn`t caie.¨
Nany of them also talked about the many ways in which they have been
sequesteied into paiticulai aieas. Lespite the ciowds of queeis of coloi
tiaipsing the sidewalks of Chiistophei Stieet, many still confded theii feel-
ings of being slowly eased out of the neighboihood. While queeis of coloi
fiequent most of the bais on the stieet west of Seventh Avenue, foi the past
twenty yeais white uppei-class people populated most of the suiiounding
iesidential aieas. As one queei said, 'We can only own Chiistophei Stieet
foi a few houis of the day÷and foi a couple of days of the week. But this
is oui stieet! How can we manage to stay heie·¨
No one quite knows the answei. Howevei, these naiiatives can be
counteiposed with anothei emeigent naiiative, this time of the opulence
and glamoui that aie pait of the aiea`s new spatial naiiatives. ¯hese
naiiatives aie found not only in featuie aiticles but in ieal estate ads.
One piime piece of ieal estate in paiticulai, adveitised in the Ca, Cti,,
a mainstieam gay newspapei, is actually on the othei side of the Hudson
Race Vìolence ano Neolìberal Spatìal Polìtìcs 15
and oveilooks this fabled wateifiont. Not suipiisingly, the building is
called '¯he Piei.¨
¯he Piei÷Rising fiom the Hudson, ¯he Piei stands as the newest landmaik to
living on the watei. Reseived foi the few . . . the iesident`s view is majestic. . . .
the Nanhattan skyline seems within ieach and beckons to be touched. A
statement of status and choice, ¯he Piei offeis a vaiiety of luxuiies and
homes melded in contempoiaiy aichitectuie the essence of function. ¯he
Piei is a concept of living and a measuiement of woith and style. ¯he Piei . . .
like no othei.
¯he play on the woid jter against the meaning of jeer is quite infoima-
tive. ¯he ad`s subtle use of gay loie about the pieis is utilized to iionically
magnify the condominium`s exclusivity. It seems to suggest, '¯his is 'ouis`
yet only a select gioup of 'us` get to live in it.¨ ¯he ihetoiical play paial-
lels a neolibeial tactic that puiveys inequality in the guise of similitude.
In othei woids, much like the ihetoiic of neolibeial gay pundits like }ohn
L`Lmilio, the stabilization of diffeience is enacted to justify inequality.
Indeed, the piei÷both the ienovated docks and the new condominiums÷
is about fencing off unwanted coloied bodies, yet these elements of the built
enviionment aie ihetoiically iendeied as positive outcomes and develop-
ments foi all queeis. At the same time, such a declaiation is possible only
by symbolically and physically sequesteiing coloied queei bodies. Coloied
queei bodies, if one weie to dismantle the ihetoiic, muddle if not muddy
the 'gay wateis.¨ If one weie to follow L`Lmilio`s aiguments, then, queeis
of coloi issues aie iendeied meiely as 'giievances¨ iiielevant to and in fact
inimical to the undeistanding of the queei moment.
Piesently, the mainstieam gay agenda is pieoccupied with piivatized
desiies and issues, one of which is gay maiiiage. Cay maiiiage, accoiding
to many scholais and activists, cannot be muddied by and muddled with
these othei 'exteinal¨ issues. Naiiiage, like all of the othei impoitant
gay agenda items, is ieally about keeping and maintaining the iights to
piivacy. Piivacy was also the linchpin in the stiiking down of sodomy
laws by the I.S. Supieme Couit. Piivacy and its piopelling eneigies can
uplift capitalist maikets fiee fiom goveinment inteivention. Piivacy is
also about the needs and desiies of the moneyed few who can fulfll them
by indulging in the iight biand of cosmetics and blue jeans and the coi-
iect exclusive home addiess. It is piivacy, as Lisa Luggan tells us, in all
its modulations and inßections, that shapes the veiy ethos of neolibeial
homonoimative conceptions of fieedom÷fiee to consume and to possess
despite the hoides of lives and bodies fenced out of these extiemely piivate
and piivatized domains.
Iinally, it is piivacy that induces some activists
and contempoiaiy scholais alike to paise out identities and social locations
52 Martìn F Manalansan lV
like iace and sexuality as distinct stable categoiies and entities. Based on
Rodeiick Ieiguson`s ideas, we can see that this piactice of focusing on the
discieteness of categoiies leads to the violent homonoimative oidei of gay
things, spaces, and bodies.
Hopes for an Urban Democratic Future
Based on my chaiting of the naiiatives of }ackson Heights and the Cieen-
wich Village pieis, I suggest that the incieasing visibility of elegant con-
dominiums, gay bais, and gay-fiiendly iestauiants and othei businesses
go hand in hand with the othei naiiatives of decieased visibility if not
obliteiation of queeiness and iace in the city`s stieets and othei public
venues. ¯he seeming antipodal naiiatives of emeigence and disappeai-
ance actually mutually constitute a foim of stiuctuial violence. ¯he iise
of a vibiant exclusive ieal estate, gay commodifed businesses, and othei
signs of the new gentiifed New Yoik aie based on the veiy piocess of
eiadication and disappeaiance of the unsightly, the vagiant, the alien, the
coloied, and the queei.
While these naiiatives of feai and of stiuctuial violence need not
involve actual physical violence, iepoits of incieased fiequency of actual
beatings, haiassments, and assaults of queeis of coloi actually amplify the
uigency of these stoiies. I submit that physical violence is a moie oveit
manifestation of stiuctuial violence. A iecent iepoit fiom the Anti-Violence
a lesbian and gay agency that aims to document and fght vio-
lence against queeis, has piesented evidence that while the numbei of cases
involving violence against white queeis have iemained constant, the num-
bei of cases against queeis of colois÷paiticulaily blacks, Latinos, and,
most iecently, Niddle Lastein and South Asian queeis÷have doubled if
not quadiupled. ¯he diamatic and iuthless physical violence needs to be
inteipieted beyond the sheei numbei of those actually iepoited and undei-
stood in teims of the thousands moie cases that have gone uniepoited oi
unmaiked because of feai of the police and othei fguies of authoiity. Nost
impoitant, these ghastly iepoits also need to be iead with and against the
highly muted if not mufßed sights and sounds of stiuctuial violence that
have been steadily aimed at effacing queeis of coloi spaces and silencing
theii voices.
Now the question is, what is to be done· Heie again, I follow the
example set out by Lisa Luggan, who looks to coalition woik acioss iden-
tities, causes, and politics as alteinative tactics to the tiaditional activist
¯he kinds of expansive coalition woik she biießy outlined in
Race Vìolence ano Neolìberal Spatìal Polìtìcs 153
hei latest book calls foi dismantling the neolibeial piogiams that mystify
and constitute inequalities and moving beyond the cultuie/economy split.

At this junctuie, I go back to my initial suggestion above that the naiia-
tives of feai of queeis of coloi need not be constiued as eithei hysteiical
unfounded stoiies oi empty useless talk. Rathei, these stoiies can be the
foundation foi politicizing the citizeniy and can be used as a wake-up call
fiom the stupoi of single-issue activism. As these naiiatives symbolically
ieoidei the social enviionment, they can also seive as the pivot foi mobiliz-
ing gioups and constituencies to speaihead multilateial changes. Queeis of
coloi can potentially hainess the feai and tiepidation thiough a systematic
and consistent oiganizing aiound cioss-ethnic/iacial and multisectoial
issues by oiganizations equipped foi such puiposes. As possible models,
Luggan points to exemplaiy oiganizations like the Audie Loide Pioject,
which 'oiganizes queeis of coloi . . . to addiess issues fiom immigiation
and HIV pievention, to violence and employment.¨
Liawing a paitial
map of the way out of the debacle, she eloquently pioffeis the following
woids: 'Calls foi expansive demociatic publicness, conbtneJ with aigu-
ments foi foims of individual and gioup autonomy, attempts to iedefne
equalti,, freeJon, jusitce and Jenocrac, in ways that exceed theii limited
(neo)libeial meanings. ¯hey gestuie away fiom jrt.ait:aiton as an alibi foi
staik inequalities, and away fiom peisonal iesponsibility as an abdication
of public, collective caietaking.¨
Lespite the battles and stiuggles that queeis of coloi aie cuiiently
waging, cities still hold the piomise of iedemption. Ioi many queeis,
uiban space offeis some semblance of a possible demociatic futuie.
theii hopes and disintegiating dieams, queeis of coloi foige on. If, as Pat
Califa has suggested, the city has become the sign of desiie,
then New
Yoik City in the twenty-fist centuiy has become the sign and the site foi
the violent contestation of desiie as queeis of coloi iesist and iefuse the
onslaught of uiban neolibeial oblivion.
¯his aiticle was oiiginally piesented in the annual meeting of the Ameiican Stud-
ies Association. Special thanks to Lisa Lowe foi convening the panel÷togethei
with Nayan Shah, Lavid Lng, and Rod Ieiguson÷and foi hei comments and
continued suppoit. A ievised veision was piesented in a lectuie sponsoied by the
Centei foi the Study of Sexual Cultuies and the Lepaitment of Anthiopology
at the Iniveisity of Califoinia, Beikeley. I would like to thank Lawience Cohen,
Nichael Lucey, and Aihwa Ong foi theii insights and questions. Siobhan Somei-
ville piovided a sensitive and encouiaging ieading of the fist diaft. I thank hei
foi hei incisive comments, collegiality, and fiiendship. Iibana-Champaign will
be bleak without hei piesence.
54 Martìn F Manalansan lV
1. I am cognizant of the fact that New Yoik has a unique function as a global
city and, as such, is subject to specifc if not amplifed opeiations of neolibeialist
economic, political, and cultuial piocesses that may diveige fiom othei uiban
neolibeial expeiiences acioss the woild. As an anthiopologist, I believe that my
iole is to demonstiate the paiticulaiities of neolibeialism in specifc global/local
spaces. See Saskia Sassen, The Clobal Cti, (Piinceton, N}: Piinceton Iniveisity
Piess, 2uu1).
2. I am awaie of the pioblems of cioss-iacial gioupings, but I use 'queeis of
coloi¨ heie as a piovisional and stiategic mode of undeistanding commonality
expeiiences that can become a basis foi bioad-based coalition while iecognizing
numeious foims of diffeience.
3. Kath Weston, ' 'Cet ¯hee to a Big City`: Sexual Imaginaiy and the Cieat
Cay Nigiation,¨ CLQ 2 (1995): 254÷77.
4. I used neolibeial uiban goveinance and not 'gentiifcation¨ to move away
fiom the populai notion of the lattei as an oiganic, natuial supplanting of on-site
inhabitants by outside foices and agents. I wanted to highlight how New Yoik
City`s neolibeial policies aie not like many cities, paiticulaily those of the thiid
woild, that aie mediated by institutions like the Woild Bank oi the Inteinational
Nonetaiy Iund; instead, the veiy foices at woik aie situated within the city itself
as a global fnancial centei.
5. Ioi a schema of new foims of uiban politics, see Naigit Nayei, 'Post
Ioidist City Politics,¨ in Fosi IorJtsn: ¬ FeaJer, ed. Ash Amin (Oxfoid: Black-
well, 1994).
6. See Andiea NcAidle and ¯anya Lizen, eds., Zero Tolerance: Qualti, of Ltfe
anJ ihe Ne: Foltce Eruialti, tn Ne: Yorl Cti, (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity
Piess, 2uu1).
7. Lisa Luggan, '¯he New Homonoimativity: ¯he Sexual Politics of Neo-
libeialism,¨ in Aaiertalt:tng Denocrac,, ed. Russ Castionovo and Lana L. Nelson
(Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2), 173÷94. See also Lisa Luggan,
T:tltghi of Lqualti,. Neoltberaltsn, Culiural Foltitcs, anJ ihe ¬iiacl on Denocrac,
(Boston: Beacon, 2uu3).
S. Ibid., 179.
9. Rodeiick Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque
(Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu4).
1u. Samuel Lelany, Ttnes Square FeJ, Ttnes Square Elue (New Yoik: New
Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 1999).
11. }ohn L`Lmilio, The !orlJ TurneJ: Lssa,s on Ca, Htsior,, Foltitcs, anJ
Culiure (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2), 152.
12. See, foi example, Coidon Bient Ingiam, Anne-Naiie Bouthillette, and
Yolanda Rettei, eds., Queers tn Sjace: Connuntites, Fubltc Flaces, Sties of Festsiance
(Seattle: Bay, 1997).
13. See ' 'Out ¯heie`: ¯he ¯opogiaphy of Race and Lesiie in the Clobal
City,¨ chaptei 3 of my book Clobal Itltjtno Ca, Aen tn ihe Dtasjora (Lui-
ham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3). In this chaptei, I aigue foi the inteisect-
ing 'giids of diffeience that both fiagment the queei spaces in New Yoik City
and at the same time cieate and constitute a unitaiy naiiative of inside/outside
and coloied/white.
14. I use the teim Laitno foi Spanish-speaking men foi whom I was unable to
get theii specifc ethnic identities; I use Colombian, Pueito Rican, and Nexican
categoiies foi men who self-identifed as such.
Race Vìolence ano Neolìberal Spatìal Polìtìcs 155
15. ¯his obseivation about 'Aiabos¨ has been eeiily echoed by othei queei
Iilipinos in othei paits of the gieatei New Yoik metiopolitan aiea. See my essay
'A Cay Woild Nake-Ovei: An Asian Ameiican Queei Ciitique,¨ in ¬stan ¬nert-
can SiuJtes afier Crtitcal Aass, ed. Kent Ono (Nalden, NA: Blackwell, 2uu5),
16. ¯eiesa Caldeiia, Cti, of !alls: Crtne, Segregaiton, anJ Ctit:enshtj tn Sao
Faulo (Beikeley: Iniveisity of Califoinia Piess, 2uuu), 4.
17. Ibid.
1S. Ait Lias, 'Hitting the }ackson Heights: Chelsea with a Latin Bite. Ciiii . . . ,¨
NLAT, 26 Septembei 2uu3, 25.
19. Ibid.
2u. }asbii Puai and Amit Rai, 'Nonstei, ¯eiioiist, Iag: ¯he Wai on ¯eiioi-
ism and the Pioduction of Locile Patiiots,¨ Soctal Texi, no. 72 (2uu2): 117÷4S.
21. Ca, Cti, Ne:s, 26 Septembei÷2 Octobei 2uu3.
22. Luggan, 'New Homonoimativity,¨ 19u.
23. Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl.
24. See www.avp.oig.
25. Luggan, T:tltghi of Lqualti,, 67÷SS.
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid., S7.
2S. Ibid.
29. See Lavid Bell and }on Binnie, The Sexual Ctit:en: Queer Foltitcs anJ
Ee,onJ (Cambiidge: Polity, 2uuu), S2÷95.
3u. Pat Califa, 'San Iiancisco: Revisiting the '¯he City of Lesiie,` ¨ in
Ingiam, Bouthillette, and Rettei, Queers tn Sjace, 177÷96.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
(BZBUSJ(PQJOBUI Since 9/11, South Asian iacialization in the Inited States has taken place
thiough cuiious and contiadictoiy piocesses. Lven as the 'indefnite
detentions¨ and depoitations of Aiabs, Nuslims, and South Asians con-
tinued unabated, the last thiee yeais saw an explosion of inteiest in Bol-
lywood cinema among non÷South Asian audiences.
In Naich and Apiil
2uu4 alone, majoi stoiies about Bollywood`s moment of 'aiiival¨ in the
West appeaied in quick succession in Ttne Cui, the Ne: Yorl Ttnes, and
the Los ¬ngeles Ttnes, to name just a few of the most visible instances of
media coveiage.
How can we account foi this heightened visibility and
'discoveiy¨ of Bollywood cinema at piecisely the moment when South
Asian communities in the Inited States aie being moie intensely sui-
veilled, policed, and teiioiized by the state than evei befoie· ¯he staik
contiadiction between iepiesentational excess and mateiial violence
became paiticulaily appaient to me duiing the 2uu4 Republican National
Convention, as I found myself ßipping thiough television channels hoping
foi some coveiage of the massive piotests in New Yoik City. I came acioss
the incongiuous sight of piotesteis confionting a iathei befuddled gioup
of Noith Caiolina delegates as they emeiged fiom the latest Bioadway
show, none othei than Andiew Lloyd Webbei`s Bollywood extiavaganza,
Eonba, Dreans. ¯he show was appaiently a hot ticket among the RNC
delegates, and its tag line÷'Somewheie You`ve Nevei Been Befoie¨÷pio-
vided a coloiful backdiop as the cameia captuied delegates admonish-
ing piotesteis foi pieventing the police fiom doing theii job of 'keeping
Ameiica safe.¨ It seemed paiticulaily iionic to me that the delegates occu-
pied themselves inside Nadison Squaie Caiden with xenophobic calls foi
a nevei-ending 'wai on teiioi¨ while they diveited themselves outside
the Caiden with a biief foiay into Bollywood glamoui. ¯he juxtaposi-
tion of nationalist spectacle and Bollywood spectacle may initially appeai
uniemaikable, in the sense that Eonba, Dreans can be seen as simply
anothei safely multicultuial, 'ethnic¨ musical aimed at middle Ameiican
consumeis. One of the show`s pioduceis, in fact, stated that she 'views
the show as a descendant of ItJJler on ihe Foof oi The Itng anJ I, musicals
with an ethnic milieu that have univeisal appeal.¨
Yet I would aigue that
15B Cayatrì Copìnath
the ubiquity and populaiity of Bollywood at this paiticulai moment of
I.S. impeiialist aggiession and global hegemony beais closei sciutiny, as
it ieveals a gieat deal about the complex inteiielation of multiple national-
isms and diaspoiic foimations in the context of globalization.
¯o fully unpack these connections, I want to suggest the necessity
of what we can teim a queei diaspoiic fiame of analysis. ¯he concept of
diaspoia, as we know well fiom Stuait Hall and othei theoiists of diaspoia,
is double-edged in that it can undeicut and ieify vaiious foims of ethnic,
ieligious, and state nationalisms simultaneously.
Its potential has always
been that it can woik to foiegiound notions of impuiity and inauthenticity
that iesoundingly ieject the ethnic and ieligious absolutism at the centei
of nationalist ideologies. But the dangei of diaspoia as a concept, iioni-
cally, is its adheience to piecisely those same myths of puiity and oiigin
that seamlessly lend themselves to nationalist piojects. Indeed, while the
diaspoia within nationalist discouise is often positioned as the abjected
othei to the nation, the nation also simultaneously ieciuits the diaspoia
into its absolutist logic. ¯he millions of dollais funneled fiom Indian
Ameiican business, ieligious, and political gioups in the Inited States to
suppoit Hindu Right goveinments and oiganizations in India is but one
example of how diaspoia and nation can function togethei in the inteiests
of coipoiate capital and globalization, as well as ideologies of ieligious,
cultuial, and national puiity.
While Hindu nationalist foices in India acknowledge the diaspoia
solely in the foim of the piospeious, Hindu, heteiosexual noniesident
Indian (NRI) businessman, theie exists an alteinative embodiment of
diaspoia that iemains unthinkable within this Hindu nationalist imagi-
naiy. ¯he categoiy of 'queei¨ woiks to name this alteinative iendeiing of
diaspoia and to dislodge diaspoia fiom its adheience and loyalty to nation-
alist ideologies. Sutuiing 'queei¨ to 'diaspoia¨ points to those desiies,
piactices, and subjectivities that aie iendeied impossible and unimaginable
within conventional diaspoiic and nationalist imaginaiies. A consideiation
of queeiness, in othei woids, becomes a way to challenge nationalist ideolo-
gies by insisting on the impuie, inauthentic, noniepioductive potential of
the notion of diaspoia. Queei diaspoiic cultuial foims suggest alteinative
foims of collectivity and communal belonging that iedefne 'home¨ as
national, communal, oi domestic space outside a logic of blood, puiity,
authenticity, and patiilineal descent.
¯he notion of a queei diaspoia iesonates with Rodeiick Ieiguson`s
fiaming of a 'queei of coloi ciitique.¨ While both queei of coloi and queei
diaspoiic analysis aie pait of a collective endeavoi to ieshape queei studies
thiough a thoiough engagement with questions of iace, nationalism, and
tiansnationalism, it may also be useful to exploie some of the points at
Bollyvooo Spectacles 159
which the inteiventions and emphases of each pioject both inteisect and
diveige. In ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque, Ieiguson
wiites: 'As the site of identifcation, cultuie becomes the teiiain in which
foimations seemingly antagonistic to libeialism, like Naixism and ievo-
lutionaiy nationalism, conveige with libeial ideology, piecisely thiough
theii identifcation with gendei and sexual noims and ideals. Queei of coloi
analysis must examine how cultuie as a site of identifcation pioduces such
odd bedfellows and how it . . . fosteis unimagined alliances.¨
suggests heie how queei of coloi analysis can be seen as a paiticulai iead-
ing piactice that enables us to tiace the conveigence of what seem to be
iadically distinct and dispaiate ideologies as they shoie up heteionoimativ-
ity. A queei diaspoiic fiamewoik similaily challenges what Ieiguson teims
'ideologies of discieteness¨
by identifying and uniaveling those peculiai
alliances, the 'odd bedfellows,¨ that emeige in the global iestiuctuiing
of capital and its attendant gendei and sexual hieiaichies. It also names a
mode of ieading, of iendeiing intelligible that which is unintelligible and
indeed impossible within dominant diaspoiic and nationalist logic.
While queei of coloi analysis identifes the I.S. nation-state and its
paiticulai mapping of iacialized, gendeied, and sexualized citizenship and
belonging as a piimaiy site of iefeience and ciitique, a queei diaspoiic
analysis pays gieatei attention to the intimate connections between dispa-
iate diaspoiic and national locations as they conveige in the pioduction of
'home¨ space.

¯his is a paiticulaily uigent and necessaiy pioject in the
context of the Indian diaspoia, given the centiality of the diaspoia to the
mateiial and ideological maintenance of Hindu nationalism in India, and
in light of the unholy alliance between the Hindu Right in India and the
cuiient Bush iegime in the Inited States.
I do not mean to suggest heie
that queei of coloi ciitique and queei diaspoiic ciitique exist in a binaiy
ielation to each othei, wheie the foimei is naiiow, local, and national, as
opposed to the lattei`s appaient cosmopolitanism and expansiveness. On
the contiaiy, queei of coloi ciitique, as Ieiguson aiticulates it, explicitly
iejects the paiochialism of Ameiican studies as well as the undeilying
heteionoimativity of even its postnationalist veisions. In attending to the
paiticulaiities of Afiican Ameiican iacial foimation, Ieiguson`s fiam-
ing of queei of coloi ciitique allows foi a wide-ianging inquiiy into the
iacial, sexual, and gendeied undeipinnings of modeinity and posits non-
heteionoimative iacialized subjects as sites of knowledge that challenge
the disaiticulation of iacial foimation fiom national, class, gendei, and
sexual foimations. Ieiguson`s analysis foiegiounds the sexual and iacial
noimativity at the heait of the libeial nation-state while pointing to the
inadequacy of nation-based, conventional aiea-studies appioaches to theo-
iizing the pioduction of modein iacial and sexual foimations.
1óu Cayatrì Copìnath
Jne necessity or
a qoeer oiasporic
critiqoe tnat
onravels tne
relation betveen
oiaspora ano
ooal nationalisns
¦botn U.S. ano
lnoian} becones
apparent vnen
consioerinq tne
corrent qlobal
circolation or
Queei diaspoiic ciitique can be seen as extending this pioject and as
its necessaiy complement. In the context of South Asia, the fiamewoik of
a queei diaspoia is ciucial if we aie to challenge aiea studies models that
fail to account foi the ongoing inteiplay between diaspoia and nation,
and foi how heteionoimativity has histoiically functioned as a stiuctui-
ing mechanism of both colonialism and nationalism in the iegion. Queei
diaspoiic ciitique shaies with queei of coloi ciitique an inteiest in tiacing
how paiticulai iacial, sexual, and gendei foimations engendei piactices
and subjectivities that exceed the nation`s boundaiies and contest its abso-
lutist logic. If queei of coloi and queei diaspoiic ciitique take to task the
implicit heteionoimativity within some stiands of aiea studies, they also
poweifully challenge the paiochialism of some stiands of queei studies
by making the study of sexuality cential to an anti-impeiialist, antiiacist
pioject. ¯ogethei queei of coloi and queei diaspoiic ciitique ieveal the
gendeied and sexualized dimensions of impeiial piojects both domestically
(in ielation to I.S. communities of coloi) and inteinationally. Indeed, at
this cuiient moment of I.S. impeiial aggiession, the indispensability of
this new foimulation of queei studies has nevei been cleaiei.
¯he necessity of a queei diaspoiic ciitique that uniavels the ielation
between diaspoia and dual nationalisms (both I.S. and Indian) becomes
appaient when consideiing the cuiient global ciiculation of Bollywood
cinema. Bollywood has, of couise, always been a global cinema,
but what
is new, as I have suggested, is its populaiity and visibility in the West,
outside the South Asian diaspoiic audiences that have histoiically foimed
its laigest vieweiship.

¯his newfound populaiity can be tiaced to how the
genie and idiom of Bollywood cinema aie being iapidly tianslated into
teims moie in keeping with the naiiative and iepiesentational conventions
of Hollywood cinema. We can identify thiee distinct but inteiconnected
ideological piojects wheie this appiopiiation and tianslation of Bollywood
cinema is taking place: fist, in a I.S. nationalist pioject; second, in an
Indian diaspoiic libeial feminist pioject; and thiid, in an Indian nationalist
pioject. Sciutinizing the deployment of Bollywood in each pioject ieveals
how populai cultuie becomes the contested teiiain foi consolidating ide-
ologies of nation, iace, gendei, and sexuality. Ciucially, the effacement
of queei female desiie and subjectivity maiks each discuisive site. ¯his
effacement, I would aigue, is haidly incidental; iathei, it must be undei-
stood as a constitutive absence in that it indexes the successful tianslation
of Bollywood to Hollywood and is piecisely what enables each of these
ideological piojects to function seamlessly.
¯he anecdote with which I began this essay is a telling instance of how
the tianslation of a Bollywood genie and idiom opeiates within the context
of a I.S. nationalist pioject. ¯he move to make Bollywood intelligible to
Bollyvooo Spectacles 1ó1
non÷South Asian audiences is nowheie moie appaient than in the tiansfei
of Eonba, Dreans, oiiginally a Biitish pioduct, to Bioadway. ¯he Ne:
Yorl Ttnes iepoited how the show had to be completely oveihauled in teims
of naiiative, scoie, and design as it moved fiom taigeting a piimaiily Biit-
ish Asian audience in London to a piedominantly white one on Bioadway.
A covei stoiy in the Los ¬ngeles Ttnes on both the show and Bollywood in
geneial sums up much of the media coveiage on Bollywood`s 'emeigence¨
in the West. ¯he authoi wiites, '¯he golden age of Hollywood has moved
to India. . . . ¯hese Bollywood flms will biing you back to an eia, long
gone in oui cultuie, when audiences demanded a lot of enteitainment and
had the wheiewithal to enjoy it when it aiiived. In oui supei-stiessed age,
it`s positive tonic to act as if we have that kind of time, even if we ieally
A subsequent Ne: Yorl Ttnes aiticle echoes these sentiments,
stating, 'Bollywood has kept alive the vibiant, sumptuous spectacle that
Hollywood has all but abandoned.¨
Such statements ieasseit a familiai
colonial, teleological naiiative of modeinity, wheie Bollywood embodies
the past of Westein cinematic histoiy, and of the West as a whole, in that
it is tempoially anteiioi to Westein iepiesentational iegimes. ¯he 'we¨
in these comments inteipellates an implicitly white Westein viewei, wheie
Bollywood enables 'us¨ to come face to face with an exotic othei that is
uncannily familiai: 'we¨ confiont an eailiei veision of ouiselves, one that
is faintly iecognizable while ietaining a pleasuiable fiisson of otheiness.
¯he oscillation between sameness and diffeience, as Homi Bhabha has
is the veiy stiuctuie of colonial subjectifcation that we fnd today
ieanimated in a post-9/11 iacial landscape.
¯his stiategy of containment of the iacial/ieligious/cultuial othei
thiough the consumption of Bollywood spectacle is one that is, not suipiis-
ingly, cleaily gendeied and heteiosexualized. What is paiticulaily stiiking
in much of the media coveiage of Bollywood is the hypeivisibility and
fetishization of South Asian women`s bodies, fiamed as infnitely available
to a heteiosexual white Westein gaze.
¯his discuisive hypeivisibility of
South Asian women`s bodies staikly contiasts with the liteial effacement
and invisibilization of South Asian men`s bodies as they aie incieasingly
being 'disappeaied¨ by the state. Naitin Nanalansan`s iecent study of
the changing iacial, sexual, and class landscape of Queens, New Yoik,
details how the months following 9/11 saw the ominous disappeaiance of
South Asian men who used to populate the stoiefionts and stieet coineis
of }ackson Heights, a piedominantly immigiant neighboihood in Queens.
As one of Nanalansan`s Iilipino infoimants commented about the men,
'Suddenly they weie just gone, they vanished like smoke.¨
In the context
of this eiasuie of laige numbeis of Nuslim men fiom the city`s public
space, as they aie banished to a no-man`s-land of infnite detentions and
1ó2 Cayatrì Copìnath
depoitation pioceedings, it would be a mistake to dismiss the media blitz
on Bollywood as simply anothei benign populai cultuial fad. Rathei, the
iecent fascination with Bollywood cinema is insepaiable fiom the mateiial
and iepiesentational violences cuiiently being enacted on South Asian
communities in the Inited States.
Chandan Reddy has noted that 'as an impeiial state . . . the I.S.
goveinment has expanded its goveinance of iacialized non-nationals in
the name of guaianteeing the citizen`s libeity: the iacialized immigiant,
the black incaiceiated, the enemy combatant, the Afghani, and the Iiaqi
aie just some of the legally cieated categoiies against which the national
citizen is both defned and mateiially suppoited.¨
Similaily, }asbii Puai
and Amit Rai detail how iacial discouises aftei 9/11 have pioduced 'hypei-
visible icons¨ such as the 'monstei-teiioiist-fag¨ that seive to both quai-
antine iacial and sexual otheis and tiansfoim them into docile patiiots.

In light of these obseivations by Reddy and Puai and Rai, the fetishization
of Bollywood as sexualized and gendeied spectacle must be undeistood
as yet anothei discuisive mechanism that iegulates and disciplines South
Asian populations in the Inited States. ¯he Bollywood boom, in this
context, incoipoiates South Asians into the I.S. national imaginaiy as
puie spectacle to be safely consumed while keeping intact theii essential
alienness and diffeience; such an incoipoiation holds safely at bay those
maiginalized noncitizens who function undei the sign of teiioiist and
'enemy within.¨ We can mobilize queei diaspoiic ciitique as it inteisects
with queei of coloi ciitique heie to name an oppositional subject position
to the neolibeial citizen subject that piovides a space fiom which to chal-
lenge the constiuction of South Asian bodies as eithei inheiently ciiminal
and antinational oi multicultuial and assimilationist.
¯he tianslation of Bollywood into teims that aie intelligible and
familiai to audiences steeped in Hollywood conventions invaiiably entails
the eiasuie of queei female bodies, desiies, and pleasuies. ¯his eiasuie
is appaient not only in the mainstieam manifestations of the Bollywood
boom that I have iefeienced thus fai but peihaps moie suipiisingly in the
woik of a new ciop of Indian diaspoiic feminist flmmakeis such as Niia
Naii, Leepa Nehta, and Cuiindei Chadha. As I aigue in gieatei detail
these flmmakeis aie in no small pait iesponsible foi this
tianslation of Bollywood into Hollywood,
in that they act as modein-day
toui guides that in effect 'modeinize¨ Bollywood foim and content foi
non÷South Asian audiences.
We can iead Niia Naii`s Aonsoon !eJJtng,
foi instance, as a diaspoiic feminist iesciipting of the Bollywood genie of
the wedding movie; Naii`s flm specifcally iefeiences the 1994 Bollywood
megahit Hun ¬ajle Hatn Ioun . . . ! (!ho ¬n I io You! ), diiected by Sooiaj
R. Baijatya. Ioi all its ieligious and political conseivatism, I aigue that this
Bollyvooo Spectacles 1ó3
eailiei flm opened up the possibility of queei female desiie in a way that
Aonsoon !eJJtng quite categoiically shuts down. Indeed, the possibilities
of female homoeioticism that we see in Hun ¬ajle Hatn Ioun . . . ! aie
saciifced in Aonsoon !eJJtng in oidei foi a modein, heteiosexual, libeial
feminist subject to emeige. We can tiace a similai dynamic in othei flms
by South Asian diaspoiic feminist flmmakeis that puipoit to 'update¨ the
Bollywood genie; in each case, it is piecisely the evacuation of queei female
desiie that enables a heteiosexual feminist subject to come into being.
¯he tianslation and tiansfoimation of a Bollywood idiom is also evi-
dent in flms emeiging out of the Bollywood flm industiy itself. }ust as
Aonsoon !eJJtng 'updates¨ the Bollywood genie of the wedding movie,
a iecent Bollywood hit such as Nikhil Advani`s Ial Ho Naa Ho (Tonorro:
Aa, Cone, 2uu3), modeinizes the classic Bollywood genie of the
buddy movie. Ial Ho Naa Ho, which is set in New Yoik City, shaies with
Aonsoon !eJJtng an anxiety aiound iepiesenting a paiticulaily 'modein¨
Indian tiansnational subject. As such, both flms attempt to ieveise the
colonial telos so evident in mainstieam appiopiiations of Bollywood that
situates it (and South Asia in geneial) in teims of a piehistoiy of Holly-
wood cinema and the West. In Naii`s flm, it is a libeial feminist naiiative
of female self-empoweiment that confeis modeinity onto its chaiacteis; in
Ial Ho Naa Ho, cuiiously, it is male homosexuality that maiks and con-
solidates this newly emeigent tiansnational Indian subject as fully modein.
¯he flm in effect 'outs¨ the iepiesentational conventions of the Bollywood
buddy movie by making explicit the genie`s latent homoeioticism. Ial
Ho Naa Ho`s pointed iefeiences to male homosexuality seive to maik the
incieasing modeinity and cosmopolitanism of Bollywood cinema itself, as
it comes to moie closely appioximate some of mainstieam Hollywood`s
stiategies of gendei and sexual iepiesentation.
In one telling scene, foi instance, the flm`s male heio, Amman, is
found in bed with his male best fiiend by the fiiend`s housekeepei, a saii-
clad, bindi-weaiing eldeily Indian woman named Kanthabehn. Kantha-
behn is hoiiifed by what looks like illicit sexual activity between the two
men. ¯he scene is piedictably played foi laughs, at Kanthabehn`s expense,
as Amman pioceeds to delibeiately heighten the misiecognition by caiess-
ing his fiiend and making salacious double entendies. ¯his misiecogni-
tion of the two men as 'gay,¨ and Amman`s willingness to peifoim this
identity, seives to undeiscoie the modeinity and mobility of the two men
ovei and against Kanthabehn`s fxity, iecalcitiance, and untianslatability.
She iemains an anachionistic fguie quite liteially out of time and out of
place in the newly globalized landscape that the flm maps out. Hopelessly
miied in 'tiadition¨ and as the appaient maikei of noimative gendei and
sexual ideologies, she functions puiely instiumentally, as it is hei gaze
1ó4 Cayatrì Copìnath
that allows the men to be iead as modein, tiansnational, cosmopolitan,
and mobile subjects.
¯hus in all thiee sites wheie we see a Bollywood idiom being evoked
and tiansfoimed, the concomitant absence of queei female desiie and
subjectivity is ciucial to each pioject`s ideological coheience. Within the
fiame of I.S. nationalism, the spectaculai heteiosexualization of South
Asian women`s bodies conceals the simultaneous disappeaiance of South
Asian men and tiansfoims South Asians into an eminently consumable
multicultuial commodity. In a diaspoiic feminist pioject such as Aonsoon
!eJJtng, oi in a flm that betiays the anxieties of Indian nationalism such
as Ial Ho Naa Ho, the evacuation of queei female desiie puichases the
modeinity of the emeigent tiansnational Indian subject, one that is newly
coded as 'feminist¨ oi 'gay.¨ It is only by deploying a queei diaspoiic
fiamewoik that we can iead the ways in which these seemingly dispaiate
and disconnected piojects conveige aiound the iendeiing of queei female
desiie and subjectivity as impossible and unimaginable.
If the absence of queei female desiies, bodies, and subjectivities is
indeed constitutive of these vaiious ideological piojects, I want to end by
pointing to queei diaspoiic cultuie`s poweiful alteinative naiiatives to such
liteial and discuisive effacements. ¯he woik of the Biitish Asian photog-
iaphei Paimindei Sekhon, foi instance, iemoves queei female desiie fiom
a logic of impossibility by installing it at the veiy heait of the 'home¨ as
both national and diaspoiic space. In so doing, queei feminist woik such
as Sekhon`s fulflls the iadical potential of the notion of a queei diaspoia,
a potential foieclosed by the availability of gay male desiie to iecupeiation
within patiiaichal naiiatives of 'home,¨ diaspoia, and nation in a global-
ized landscape.By shifting fiom a focus on the ioutes tiaveled by Bolly-
wood cinema to the woik of an individual aitist such as Sekhon, I do not
mean to ieinstate a familiai opposition between the industiial dominant
veisus the subveisive alteinative.
Indeed, this essay has tuined a ciitical
eye not so much on the genie and idiom of Bollywood cinema itself but
on its evocation, tianslation, and tiansfoimation in diffeient ideological
piojects÷even those (such as that of libeial feminism) that pioclaim theii
ostensibly libeiatoiy, piogiessive politics. Similaily, Sekhon`s woik is not
puiely iedemptive but iathei beais the maiks of the same teleological nai-
iatives of modeinity and piogiess that stiuctuie hegemonic nationalist and
diaspoiic ideologies. At the same time, howevei, hei images ciitique and
lay baie the veiy pioduction of South Asian bodies÷paiticulaily female
bodies÷as puie spectacle that we see in the vaiious uses of a Bollywood
idiom. By moving fiom the Inited States to the IK, I am pointing to the
need to pioduce an analytic fiamewoik supple enough to engage multiple
vitnin tne
rrane or U.S.
tne spectacolar
or Sootn /sian
vonens booies
conceals tne
oisappearance or
Sootn /sian nen
ano transrorns
Sootn /sians into
an eninently
Bollyvooo Spectacles 1ó5
national sites simultaneously and to tiack the tiansnational tiaffc of cul-
tuial and political inßuences between these diaspoiic locations.
Sekhon is well known in the black Biitish aits scene because of hei
woik in the 199us on a seiies of public seivice posteis on HIV/AILS tai-
geted to South Asian communities in the IK. Similai to the inteivention-
ist giaphics of Women`s Health Action and Nobilization (WHAN!) and
othei activist aits collectives in the Inited States in the eaily 199us, many
of Sekhon`s images used the idiom of glossy Benetton oi Cap ads to inseit
into public space those lives and bodies÷queei, biown, HIV+÷studi-
ously effaced within a dominant nationalist and diaspoiic imaginaiy. ¯he
collapse of public and piivate that chaiacteiizes hei woik is paiticulaily
appaient in hei documentation of queei South Asian life in London:
hei photogiaphs aie populated by glamoious South Asian butch-femme
couples, the diag queens of Club Kali (London`s queei South Asian night
club), and diag kings who nostalgically evoke the masculinity of Bollywood
flm stais of the 194us and 195us. ¯hese images do the ciucial woik of
pioviding a iich, mateiial aichive of queei South Asian public cultuie and
attest to the unceasingly imaginative ways in which queei diaspoiic com-
munities caive out liteial and symbolic spaces of collectivity in inhospitable
and hostile landscapes.
In one of hei most compelling seiies of photogiaphs, titled 'Iiban
Lives,¨ Sekhon uses the stieets of piedominantly South Asian neighboi-
hoods in London as a backdiop foi poitiaits of paiied fguies, one nude
and one clothed. ¯he images aie named foi the stieets and neighboihoods
in which the fguies aie situated÷¯ooting, Bethnal Cieen, Whitechapel,
Southall÷and piovide a litany of geogiaphic locales that evoke a histoiy
of woiking-class, South Asian settlement in London. ¯he queei ait ciitic
Cheiiy Smyth wiites of hei initial ieaction to the images as follows: 'Ioi
me, they have something of the aiousal and alaim of seeing my fist nude
photogiaph: heie aie Asian queeis naked in the stieets. Heie aie queei
Nuslims, naked in the stieets. Nothing is happening to them. Nothing is
said oi done to them.¨
Smyth succinctly captuies how Sekhon`s images
cull theii powei fiom simultaneously evoking both the extieme vulneiabil-
ity and the defance of queei iacialized bodies as they lay claim to public
space. As such, they foice the viewei to iead them not simply as static
visual aitifacts but iathei as aichival evidence of a live peifoimance, with
the thieat of physical violence that such a peifoimance evokes.
¯he inteiplay between bodily vulneiability and defance is most nota-
ble in a paiticulaily staitling and moving photogiaph titled 'Southall
Naiket,¨ wheie Sekhon paiis hei own nude, pieiced body with that of
hei eldeily mothei, in a sal:ar lanee: and woolen sweatei, as they stand
1óó Cayatrì Copìnath
in fiont of a maiket in Southall, the South Asian neighboihood wheie
Sekhon giew up and hei mothei still lives. ¯he mothei giips the handle
of a batteied shopping cait as she, like Sekhon, gazes diiectly into the
cameia. Behind them is the detiitus of the maiket÷empty stalls, discaided
caidboaid boxes, and packing ciates. ¯he light is indeteiminate: it could
be eaily moining oi twilight, the low clouds and unifoim giayness of the
sky ießected in the iain-slicked pavement on which the two women stand.
As a visual aitifact, 'Southall Naiket¨ is immediately intelligible within
a numbei of 'ieady-made inteipietive fiames¨:
if iead thiough the lens
of a conventional libeial feminist oi 'CLB¯¨ fiamewoik, the photogiaph
seems to suggest an easy equation of queeiness (embodied by Sekhon) with
modeinity, visibility, sexual libeiation, and ievelation, which is set ovei
and against the tiopes of 'tiadition,¨ concealment, seciecy, and modesty
(embodied by hei mothei). Indeed, the positioning of Sekhon, slightly in
fiont of hei mothei, suppoits such a ieading. In staging this seiies of binaiy
oppositions÷tiadition/modeinity, seciecy/disclosuie, invisibility/visibil-
ity, queei/stiaight, fist geneiation/second geneiation÷the photogiaph
evokes what Lisa Lowe teims 'the mastei naiiatives of geneiational con-
ßict and flial ielation¨ that chaiacteiize dominant iepiesentations of South
Asian immigiant existence in the IK. As such, the image can be seen to
'displac|e] social diffeiences into piivatized familial opposition¨
in a way
that fts squaiely into Biitish nationalist discouise aiound unassimilable
Asian immigiants, a discouise that occludes the Biitish state`s cential iole
in natuializing and indeed legislating patiiaichal familial ielations in its
pioduction of the 'Asian family.¨
'Southall Naiket,¨ then, cannot be undeistood as puiely iesistant
to hegemonic stiuctuies of iace, sexuality, nation, oi gendei any moie so
than Bollywood cinema can be undeistood as puiely complicit with these
stiuctuies. Rathei, it is the uses to which these cultuial texts aie put and
the ciicuits of theii ieception that deteimine theii meanings. ¯his is wheie
the necessity of a queei diaspoiic analysis becomes most appaient. As
Stephen Wiight, in his discussion of colonial-eia, anthiopological photo-
giaphs of young giils in Papua New Cuinea, ieminds us, 'Photogiaphs
tiace multiple tiajectoiies: foi all theii supeifcial fxity and theii inclusion
in stiuctuies like the aichive that seek to contain them, they aie piocessual
and constantly in motion. What biings meanings to photogiaphs aie pei-
foimances of them, specifc ieadings and enactments. What is impoitant
is not so much what the image contains, a meaning that iesides within it,
but what is biought to it, how it is used, and how it is connected to vaiious
Iollowing Wiight, we can undeistand a queei diaspoiic
ieading piactice as a kind of ciitical peifoimance, one that iestoies a mul-
tivocality to Sekhon`s photogiaph that a conventional libeial feminist oi
Bollyvooo Spectacles 1ó7
queei ieading would deny. Reading the image thiough a queei diaspoiic
fiame iendeis it intelligible outside a teleological naiiative of modeinity
and instead allows diffeient histoiical and social contexts to come into
view. 'Southall Naiket,¨ as well as Sekhon`s othei images of naked Asian
bodies on London stieets, places the viewei in the uncomfoitable position
of voyeui, in that it conjuies foith a histoiy of colonial (and specifcally
oiientalist) piactices of photogiaphy that fx 'native¨ women as puie
spectacle. But if colonial photogiaphy decontextualizes its objects and cuts
them off fiom all meaningful social ielations, Sekhon`s photogiaphs iadi-
cally iecontextualize them, tiansfoiming objects into subjects by situating
them within the banal details of the eveiyday÷shopping foi gioceiies on
a Sunday moining, foi instance÷and in a paiied ielation to each othei.
¯hus while 'Southall Naiket¨ ceitainly evokes the ambivalent ielation
of undutiful queei daughteis to immigiant motheis who seek to inculcate
them into heteionoimative domesticity, the image also suggests a moie
complex ielay of desiie and identifcation between the bodies of mothei
and daughtei. Sekhon`s queeiness is foimed in and thiough hei ielation to
'home¨ space, even as it iadically disiupts and ieteiiitoiializes this space.
Hei nude body places queei female subjectivity at the veiy heait of dia-
spoiic public cultuial space. We glimpse heie an alteinative constiuction
of diaspoia oiganized aiound queei, female lives, desiies, bodies, cultuies,
and collectivities that iemains utteily unintelligible and unimaginable
within dominant state and diaspoiic nationalist fiamewoiks, as well as
within moie conventional feminist oi queei ieadings of the image.
I close with this evocation of Sekhon`s woik because it suggests how
queei diaspoiic cultuial foims contest the modes of hypeivisibility, spec-
taculaiization, and effacement thiough which South Asian bodies appeai
oi disappeai in the dominant iepiesentational iegimes of this paiticulai
histoiical junctuie. But hei woik does not simply piovide a coiiective to
the deployments of gendei and sexuality in the vaiious ideological piojects
I have examined heie. Rathei, it undeiscoies how a queei diaspoiic fiame-
woik offeis us a ieading piactice that enables us to 'see¨ diffeiently, to
identify the places wheie seemingly disciete ideological piojects inteisect,
and to suggest, to boiiow a phiase fiom Lipesh Chakiavaity, 'othei ways
of being in the woild.¨
1óB Cayatrì Copìnath
I am giateful to Lavid Lng and the anonymous ieadeis fiom the Soctal Texi col-
lective foi theii invaluable suggestions on an eailiei veision of this essay.
1. ¯he phiase Eoll,:ooJ ctnena iefeis to Hindi-language flms fiom the
Bombay flm industiy, the laigest and most inßuential sectoi of Indian commeicial
cinema. Ioi iecent book-length analyses of Bollywood cinema, see Lalitha Copa-
lan, Ctnena of Inierrujitons: ¬citon Cenres tn Conienjorar, Ctnena (London: BII,
2uu3); Vijay Nishia, Eoll,:ooJ Ctnena: Tenjles of Destre (New Yoik: Routledge,
2uu2); and Nadhava Piasad, IJeolog, of ihe HtnJt Itln: ¬ Htsiortcal Consiruciton
(New Lelhi: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 199S).
2. With titles like 'Salaam New Yoik!¨ (in Ttne Cui) and 'Salaam L.A.!¨ (in
the Los ¬ngeles Ttnes), these aiticles betiay a numbing sameness in theii iecycling
of a limited numbei of oiientalist tiopes and imageiy. See ¯anuja Lesai Hidiei,
'Salaam New Yoik!¨ Ttne Cui Ne: Yorl, 25 Naich÷1 Apiil 2uu4, 12÷29; Ken-
neth ¯uian and Susan Caipentei, 'Salaam L.A.!¨ Los ¬ngeles Ttnes !eelenJ
CalenJar, 15 Apiil 2uu4.
3. Zachaiy Pincus-Roth, '¯he Lxtieme Nakeovei of 'Bombay Lieams,` ¨
Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 1S Apiil 2uu4.
4. Stuait Hall, 'Cultuial Identity and Liaspoia,¨ in Theort:tng Dtasjora, ed.
}ana Lvans Biaziel and Anita Nannui (Nalden, NA: Blackwell, 2uu3), 245.
5. Anothei staik illustiation of diaspoia`s double-sided chaiactei was appai-
ent duiing the savage state-sponsoied violence against Nuslims in Cujaiat, India,
in Iebiuaiy 2uu2. ¯he Hindu nationalist state goveinment in Cujaiat ieceived
the suppoit of NRIs even while othei anticommunalist NRI oiganizations in
New Yoik and San Iiancisco mobilized against the violence and the goveinment`s
complicity in the killing and displacement of thousands of Indian Nuslims. Ioi
an analysis of diaspoiic suppoit foi the Hindu Right in India, see Vijay Pia-
shad, 'Subuiban Whites and Pogioms in India,¨ www.zmag.oig/sustaineis/con-
tent/2uu2÷u7/14piashad.cfm (accessed 15 Septembei 2uu4; this site is no longei
6. Rodeiick Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque
(Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu4), 3.
7. IbtJ., 4.
S. Ioi a peisuasive analysis of how the alliance between the Bush iegime, the
Hindu nationalist Bhaiatiya }anata Paity in India, and the Shaion goveinment in
Isiael constitutes a new 'global Right,¨ see Vijay Piashad, Nanasie Sharon: Htn-
Jui.a anJ Sharontsn unJer I.S. Hegenon, (New Lelhi: LeftWoid, 2uu3).
9. Rod Ieiguson, e-mail message to authoi, 23 Septembei 2uu4. Ny giatitude
to Rod Ieiguson foi helping me begin aiticulating the diffeiences and similaiities
between queei of coloi and queei diaspoiic ciitique.
1u. Ioi vaiious accounts of its ciiculation outside India, see Biian Laikin,
'Indian Iilms and Nigeiian Loveis: Nedia and the Cieation of Paiallel Nodeini-
ties,¨ ¬frtca 67 (1997): 4u6÷39; Naik Liechty, 'Nedia, Naikets, and Nodeiniza-
tion: Youth Identities and the Lxpeiience of Nodeinity in Kathmandu, Nepal,¨
in Youih Culiures: ¬ Cross-Culiural Fersjecit.e, ed. Veied Amit-¯alai and Helena
Wulff (London: Routledge, 1994), 166÷2u1; Ninou Iuglesang, 1etls anJ 1tJeos:
Ienale Youih Culiure on ihe Ien,an Coasi (Stockholm: Studies in Anthiopology,
Bollyvooo Spectacles 1ó9
11. ¯uian and Caipentei, 'Salaam L.A.!¨
12. A. O. Scott, 'Iiom Bieezy Bollywood, Iilm Anything but Veiite,¨ Ne:
Yorl Ttnes, 16 Apiil 2uu4.
13. Homi Bhabha, The Locaiton of Culiure (New Yoik: Routledge, 1994),
14. ¯he covei image of Ttne Cui, foi instance, featuies the cuivaceous stais
of Eonba, Dreans, supplemented by the tagline 'Spice Ciils,¨ while the Los ¬nge-
les Ttnes covei depicts women in blue body paint and gold headdiesses.
15. Naitin Nanalansan, 'Race, Violence, and Queei Citizenship in the
Clobal City¨ (papei piesented at the Ameiican Studies Association Confeience,
Haitfoid, C¯, 17 Octobei 2uu3).
16. Chandan Reddy, '¯hey Cannot Repiesent ¯hemselves, ¯hey Nust Be
Repiesented: A Queei of Coloi Ciitique of Neo-libeial Citizenship¨ (papei pie-
sented at the Association of Asian Ameiican Studies Confeience, San Iiancisco,
1u Nay 2uu3).
17. }asbii Puai and Amit Rai, 'Nonstei, ¯eiioiist, Iag: ¯he Wai on ¯eiioi-
ism and the Pioduction of Locile Patiiots,¨ Soctal Texi, no. 72 (2uu2): 11S÷4S.
1S. Cayatii Copinath, Injosstble Destres: Queer Dtasjoras anJ Souih ¬stan
Fubltc Culiures (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu5).
19. Indeed, Cuiindei Chadha`s latest featuie is titled ErtJe anJ FrejuJtce, a
Bollywood-inßuenced adaptation of }ane Austen`s FrtJe anJ FrejuJtce.
2u. Ioi a much moie detailed analysis of these flms than is possible heie, see
Copinath, Injosstble Destres.
21. In Leepa Nehta`s Eoll,:ooJ;Holl,:ooJ, queeiness conveniently iesides
on the body of the loyal male seivant, who has a double life as a diag queen in a
local gay bai. Similaily in Cuiindei Chadha`s EenJ Ii Ltle Eeclhan, queeiness
iesides not on the body of the football-loving female piotagonist but iathei on hei
best male fiiend. Both flms once again use the gay male fguie as the 'ieal¨ queei
chaiactei in the flm.
22. I thank an anonymous ieadei fiom the Soctal Texi collective foi biinging
this point to my attention.
23. Cheiiy Smyth, 'Out of the Caps: ¯he Woik of Paimindei Sekhon,¨ in
FeJ ThreaJs: The Souih ¬stan Queer Conneciton tn Fhoiograjhs, ed. Poulomi Lesai
and Paimindei Sekhon (London: Liva, 2uu3), 1uS.
24. Chiistophei Wiight, 'Supple Bodies: ¯he Papua New Cuinea Photo-
giaphs of Captain Iiancis R. Baiton, 1S99÷19u7,¨ in Fhoiograjh,`s Ciher Htsiortes,
ed. Chiistophei Pinney and Nicolas Peteison (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity
Piess, 2uu3), 15u.
25. Lisa Lowe, Inntgrani ¬cis: Cn ¬stan ¬nertcan Culiural Foltitcs (Luiham,
NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1996), 63.
26. Ioi an analysis of how Biitish immigiation laws in the 196us and 197us
legislated heteionoimative familial aiiangements within immigiant communi-
ties, see Anna Naiie Smith, Ne: Ftghi Dtscourse on Face anJ Sexualti,: Ertiatn
1968÷1990 (Cambiidge: Cambiidge Iniveisity Piess, 1994), 1S1.
27. Wiight, 'Supple Bodies,¨ 166.
2S. Lipesh Chakiavaity, Fro.tnctalt:tng Luroje: Fosicolontal Thoughi anJ
Htsiortcal Dtfference (Piinceton, N}: Piinceton Iniveisity Piess, 2uuu), 66.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
You Can Have My Brown Body and Eat lt, Too!
Hiram Perez
¯hey say when tiouble comes close ianks, and so the white people did.
÷}ean Rhys, !tJe Sargasso Sea
Queei theoiy is veiy paiticulai about the kinds of tiouble with which it
tioubles itself. ¯he pioblem of iace in paiticulai piesents queei theoiy
with dilemmas ovei which it actively untioubles itself. I speculate in this
essay on the iesistance within establishmentaiian queei theoiy to think-
ing iace ciitically, a iesistance that habitually classifes almost any foim of
iace studies as a ietieat into identity politics. ¯his defensive postuie helps
entiench institutionally the tianspaient white subject chaiacteiistic of so
much queei theoiizing. Queei theoiists who can invoke that tianspaient
subject, and choose to do so, ieap the dividends of whiteness.

In addition to plotting an inside and out of queei theoiy, I begin to set
down with this essay a demystifcation of the piimitive, exotic, oi 'biown¨
body commodifed by dominant gay male cultuie. I piopose iegaiding
that biown body as an axis in the foimation of a cosmopolitan gay male
identity and community. Noie specifcally, I aigue that this biown body
mediates gay male shame. ¯hese pieliminaiy speculations aie piompted
by my confiontation with queei theoiy at the 'Cay Shame¨ confeience
at the Iniveisity of Nichigan, 27÷29 Naich 2uu3. ¯he location and date
aie signifcant to situating this confeience histoiically, especially foi a
discussion of identity politics in highei education. Cay Shame occuiied
within a week of the I.S. invasion of Iiaq and in the midst of the Cruiier
.. Eolltnger (2uu3) and Crai: .. Eolltnger (2uu3) affimative action cases
involving the Iniveisity of Nichigan.
I was invited to paiticipate at the confeience aftei contacting its oiga-
nizeis and expiessing my inteiest as someone woiking on the ielationship
between shame and iacial embodiment. Ipon aiiiving at Ann Aiboi, I
was staitled to leain that of the appioximately foity guests, I was the only
invited queei peison of coloi piesent. (Samuel Lelany had been invited but
canceled.) Although women of coloi students, faculty, and staff attended
the pioceedings, none fiom outside the univeisity weie invited as guest
speakeis. ¯he schedule included some of the most piominent names in
queei theoiy, making the absence of the many scholais of coloi publish-
172 Hìran Perez
ing impoitant woik on iace and sexuality that much moie stiiking. Lvents
included a scieening of Andy Waihol`s Screen Tesi =2 (staiiing Naiio
Nontez); a peifoimance by Vaginal Lavis, 'Intimacy & ¯omoiiow¨;
iemaiks on the topic of gay shame by the confeience`s oiganizeis, Lavid
Halpeiin and Valeiie ¯iaub; and a discussion with Louglas Ciimp about
his ieading of the Waihol flm. Naiio Nontez, a Pueito Rican diag queen
also featuied in flms by }ack Smith, and Lavis, a black peifoimance/
conceptual aitist and self-pioclaimed 'ghetto andiogenue,¨ piovided the
confeience with what I aigue constitute the pieiequisite 'biown¨ bodies
foi pievailing iecupeiations of gay shame.
¯hey embodied Cay Shame`s
imagined piehistoiy. While Lavis`s peifoimances may disiupt such objec-
tifcations, I do not include hei as one of the queei of coloi invited speakeis
theoiizing gay shame because she was not piesented as such. 'Intimacy &
¯omoiiow¨ was scheduled at 9 p.m. on 27 Naich, following a champagne
ieception and the Waihol scieening. Since the confeience was billed as
a two-day event, it is safe to piesume that Screen Tesi =2 and 'Intimacy
& ¯omoiiow¨ weie not scheduled as pait of the confeience pioceedings
piopei, occuiiing ovei 2S÷29 Naich. Waihol`s woik was attended to by
Louglas Ciimp duiing the opening discussion on Iiiday, 2S Naich. No
such discussion was scheduled to addiess Lavis`s peifoimance, despite the
piominent ciitical attention to hei woik by }ose Nuñoz.
A distiessing iacialized division of laboi iesulted at Cay Shame. White
folks peifoimed the intellectual laboi while black and biown folks just plain
peifoimed, evidently constituting the spectacle of gay shame. While iace
consciousness continues to function as the false consciousness of estab-
lishmentaiian queei theoiy, I aigue in this essay that iace makes all the
diffeience foi Cay Shame÷its eponymous fist inteinational confeience,
its pievailing theoietical foimulations, its piimal scenes. A gieat deal of
queei theoiizing has sought to displace identity politics with an alteinative
anti-identitaiian model, often÷and peihaps disingenuously÷chiistened
'the politics of diffeience.¨ ¯his model accommodates familiai habits of
the univeisity`s ideal bouigeois subject, among them, his impeiial gaze,
his univeisalism, and his claims to a iace-neutial objectivity. It is not sui-
piising then to fnd buiied undeineath the boot of this establishmentaiian
anti-identity all soits of dissident bodies.
In hei aiticle 'Against Piopei Objects¨ (1997), }udith Butlei ievisits
an eailiei collaboiation with Biddy Naitin. Asked to edit a special issue
of the jouinal Dtacrtitcs dedicated to gay and lesbian studies, Butlei and
Naitin 'bioadened the scope of that iequest to include woik that intei-
iogates the pioblem of cioss-identifcation within and acioss iace and
postcolonial studies, gendei theoiy, and theoiies of sexuality.¨
thiee yeais latei this ciitical challenge, Butlei deteimines that queei theoiy
/ oistressinq
racializeo oivision
or labor resolteo
at Cay Snane.
vnite rolks
perrorneo tne
intellectoal labor
vnile black ano
brovn rolks jost
plain perrorneo,
constitotinq tne
spectacle or
qay snane.
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 173
has iesisted the call foi boundaiy ciossings that she and Naitin fist put
foith in 1994. Lchoing the conceins oiiginally voiced in Naitin`s essay,
'Sexualities without Cendei,¨ Butlei expiesses alaim ovei queei theoiy`s
wholesale tiansition fiom gendei to sexuality as the piopei object of its
analysis. ¯he shift fiom gendei to sexuality does not effectively anticipate
how institutionalized patiiaichy and iacism might be ietienched piecisely
as a iesult of this tiansition.
Infoimed at Cay Shame÷and ieminded seveial times since then÷
that ciiticisms identical to mine have iecuiied foi ovei a decade, I fnd it
instiuctive to ievisit this eailiei wiiting on queei theoiy`s negotiations of
identity. ¯he inteiiogation into cioss-identifcations pioposed by Naitin
and Butlei iemained uniealized neaily a decade latei at Cay Shame; the
iesistance to such inteiiogations stiikes me as faiily symptomatic of the
piesent state of queei theoiizing in its institutionalized foims. I shaie
Biddy Naitin`s faith in the potential of queei theoiy to complicate ques-
tions of identity and powei, but I also wish to puisue hei aigument that
queei theoiizing deiails that potential by conceiving both gendei and iace
in teims of a 'fxity and miiing¨ that piovide the giound foi a fguial and
peifoimative sexuality.

I inteiiogate in this essay the cioss-identifcations specifcally occa-
sioned by Cay Shame to set in ielief the often tianspaient alignments of
queei theoiy with systemic iacial domination and violence. Howevei, I also
ievisit queei theoiy`s piomise to 'complicate assumptions about ioutes of
identifcation and desiie,¨
inspiied by Butlei`s and Naitin`s still-piessing,
even if long-expiied, solicitation. ¯he biown body`s mediations of shame,
queei theoiizing, and gay male cosmopolitanism piovide the cioss-
identifcations on which I focus. Ny own body included, the biownness
contested at Cay Shame compiised a fuithei episode in the oveideteimined
black/white opposition that chaiacteiizes I.S. histoiies of iacialization.
¯he woik of ciitical iace theoiy, and in paiticulai Cheiyl Haiiis`s essay,
'Whiteness as Piopeity,¨ chaits the conveigence of I.S. iacial foimation
with piopeity iights and the doctiines of libeialism. Haiiis aigues that an
unacknowledged 'piopeity inteiest in whiteness . . . foims the backgiound
against which legal disputes aie fiamed. . . . ¯hiough this entangled iela-
tionship between iace and piopeity, histoiical foims of domination have
evolved to iepioduce suboidination in the piesent.¨
I examine in this essay
how the biown body maiks yet anothei evolution of this entanglement.
At Cay Shame, biown bodies weie allowed 'access¨÷if it can be called
that÷only as spectacle foi the consumption of gay cosmopolitanism.
174 Hìran Perez
Oueer Patriot Acts
In the weeks following the Nichigan fasco, a numbei of allies iepoited to
me heaiing complaints that Cay Shame had been 'hijacked by identitai-
ian politics¨÷that Cay Shame in fact had been a gieat confeience until
its hijacking. Needless to say, I found this language staggeiing, especially
so the use of the woid htjacleJ. Ny angei at the confeience iesuifaced.
But I was giateful, too, foi how peifectly the phiase 'hijacked by iden-
titaiian politics¨ condensed foi me the political dynamics of establish-
mentaiian queei theoiy. In the eia of the 'wai on teiioiism¨ and the
the woid htjacleJ invokes the ihetoiic of national
belonging÷and not belonging. ¯he iestiiction of biown bodies fiom
queei theoiy`s institutional spaces shaies ideological undeipinnings with
the expulsion of biown bodies fiom the nation-state.
¯he Patiiot Act demonstiates how dissidence is stigmatized onto
bodies. ¯he veiy piesence of dissident bodies÷oi iathei the unacceptable
metaphysics of this piesence as distinguished fiom objectifcation as spec-
tacle÷also constitutes a hijacking. Biown bodies must nevei impiovise
on theii biownness. Whiteness expeiiences such impiovisations as the
theft of something veiy deai: its univeisal piopeity claim to the unique-
ness of being. Queei theoiizing, as it has been institutionalized, is piopei
to÷and piopeity to÷white bodies. Coloied folk peifoim affect but can
nevei theoiize it. Actually, shame seemed stiangely Jtsaffected at the con-
feience; I.S. iace discouise stipulates that gay shame, as an expeiience
both visceial and self-ießexive, be iecupeiated foi whiteness. ¯he chaige
of 'hijacking¨ contains my dissent as fanaticism. But it also foiegiounds
queei theoiy`s own indivisibilities÷its own unacknowledged stakes in
identity. ¯hose stakes not only include whiteness, masculinity, and even
heteionoimativity but peihaps also do so in uniquely Ameiican foimations.
¯he queei establishment`s desiies and identifcations align not-so-queeily
with those of I.S. nationalism.
¯he queei theoiizing of shame has invoked gay cosmopolitanism. In
denatuializing the ielationship of sexuality to gendei and sex, queei theoiy
consistently locates the constitutive scenes of this disjunctuie in the past.
¯he function of shame in the foimation of queei identities, foi instance,
is iestiicted piimaiily to childhood oi to an eia befoie Piide. In so doing,
queei theoiy also piedominantly situates shame as a iesistance and in
opposition to noimalization. At Cay Shame, foi example, this piimal past
included the 'New Yoik City queei cultuie of the 196us.¨ ¯his designated
peiiod of pienoimalization is idealized as piecivilized, but queei theoiy
must then ieciuit the biown body to authenticate the scene as piimitive.
Cay cosmopolitanism and a complementaiy species of queei theoiizing
Jnose stakes
not only inclooe
ano even
bot pernaps also
oo so in oniqoely
Jne qoeer
oesires ano
aliqn not-so-
qoeerly vitn
tnose or U.S.
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 175
evolve fiom this shaied giound. ¯he ielationship of shame to identity
foimation is not theoiized as an ongoing, dynamic piocess. In fact, much
queei theoiizing of shame is oddly nostalgic without consideiation of the
dynamic, affective quality of that nostalgia. ¯he accoidingly Jtsaffective
chaiactei of gay shame ieveals a foimulation of 'queei¨ indivisible fiom
dominant white masculinity.
¯he abolition of the diaft in 1973, despite ongoing I.S. militaiism,
saved the nation`s white elite by saciifcing its black, biown, and pooi
white populations. Cay Shame`s absent black and biown bodies constitute
queei theoiy`s missing in action÷quite liteially. ¯he white piesence at
Cay Shame was conditioned liteially on black and biown absence. ¯he
intellectual capacity of whiteness iequiied the both liteial and fguiative
piesence-in-absence of the biown body as spectacle. Cay Shame`s iesis-
tance, then, to thinking iace needs to be undeistood within the context
of the militaiy`s evei-biowning waiiioi caste and the continuing siege on
affimative action.
Queei theoiizing also needs to moie ciitically iegaid
histoiical ciiminalizations of iace.

In its institutionalization as an academic discipline, queei theoiy took
the question of its political viability off the table. But if queei is to iemain
an effective tioubling of the noimative and its attendant iegimes, it must
painstakingly excavate its own entienchments in noimativity. Lstablish-
mentaiian queei theoiy houses itself not only in the academy but also
within the identifcatoiy boundaiies of I.S. nationalism. ¯he shaming
of biown bodies is fundamental to dominant I.S. cultuies, among them
now a dominant queei cultuie.
Wny tne Boys Are AIways Browner on tne
Otner Side of tne Fence
What coloi is biown· In iegaid to iace classifcation, biown is no moie
a natuial coloi than black oi white oi yellow oi ied; biown is a veib.

'Biown¨ designates a kind of constitutive ambiguity within I.S. iacial
foimations÷an identity that both complicates and pieseives the binaiy
opposition white/othei.
I use the categoiy heie to maik a position of
essential itineiancy ielative to natuialized, positivist classes such as white,
black, Asian. Itself piovisional as an identity categoiy (a waiting station of
soits between white and black, oi white and Asian, foi example), I make
use of 'biown¨ piovisionally myself÷and tactically÷to demystify how
bodies aie situated outside white/black oi white/Asian binaiies to consoli-
date cosmopolitan, fist woild identities. As a iepositoiy foi the disowned,
piojected desiies of a cosmopolitan subject, it is alteinately (oi simulta-
17ó Hìran Perez
neously) piimitive, exotic, savage, pansexual, and abject. It is black and
not black, Asian and not Asian, white and not white. In an age of weak
multicultuialism, it is what it needs to be to maintain existing iacial
hieiaichies, a iace discouise moially divested fiom politics and social
iedistiibution. ¯hat ambiguity designated heie as 'biown¨ is oppoitu-
nistically and systemically deployed at times of ciisis÷as instanced by the
intensifed iace piofling authoiized by 9/11.

Lxamining how 'biown¨ ciiculates within a cosmopolitan gay male
sexual economy pioves woithwhile ciitically foi ieconstiucting the iacial-
ized chaiactei of all sexuality and foi chipping away at the cuiiously
haimonious iace discouises of Right and Left, namely, coloi blindness
and anti-identity. ¯hese appioaches to thinking and, moie signifcantly,
delegislating iace constitute peihaps a common discouise iathei than
analogous ones. I use 'biown¨ to tiouble the post-stiuctuialist ciitiques of
identity politics that paiticipate in ietienching white patiiaichal oidei and
dismantling the hugely signifcant yet still-inadequate gains made since,
iionically, Ero:n .. EoarJ of LJucaiton (1954). Having just celebiated its
fftieth anniveisaiy, the Ero:n decision÷located histoiically as an inau-
guiation of the civil iights eia÷looms laige ovei this pioject in the wake
of the Eolltnger cases, the demogiaphic tiansfoimation of the militaiy
witnessed by the biown waiiioi caste dispatched onto (oi saciifced in)
Iiaq, and state actions punitively diiected at expelling immigiants fiom
the domain of civil society and its nominal piotections.
I use the woid cosnojoltian to identify a subject position oiiginating
with a white, uiban, leisuie-class gay male whose desiie is cast mateiially
onto the globe at the close of the nineteenth centuiy. A iange of mobili-
ties, tiansfoimed oi geneiated by industiialization (i.e., class piivilege,
whiteness, tianspoitation technology, mass media, touiism) and eventually
postindustiial society (i.e., communications and infoimation technolo-
gies), piovide conditions foi a cosmopolitan gay male subject. Howevei,
that subject need not mateiially possess the full iange of these mobilities.
He can occupy an ambivalent position as both exoticizing/exotic and sub-
ject/object in ielation to a cosmopolitan gay male desiie. His expeiience of
this subjectifcation can be simultaneously iesistant and ecstatic.
Although oiiginating with a white leisuie class, this gay cosmopolitan-
ism is by no means in its contempoiaiy manifestations limited to white oi
uiban oi afßuent subjects. It constitutes a majoi iite of gay male accul-
tuiation. Cay men of coloi paiticipate in these contiadictions but do not
emeige unscathed. ¯he desiies compiising the cosmopolitan gay male
subject in fact ieinsciibe oppiessive iacial hieiaichies while enjoining gay
men of coloi to both authenticate and celebiate those desiies and the sexual
cultuies they oiganize. Aftei all, the cultuie of the gay male cosmopolitan
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 177
follows his desiie and necessaiily embioils the objects of that desiie. If his
desiie is cast mateiially onto the woild, so too is the cultuie that accom-
modates that desiie. ¯he development of an Anglo-Ameiican touiism
industiy to seivice a giowing leisuie class contiibuted to the foimation of
a cosmopolitan gay male identity, making available foi consumption both
spaces and bodies imagined as piecivilized. ¯he veiy notion of civiliza-
tion iequiies a fantasied, piimitive space onto which iepiessed desiies
aie piojected and disavowed. ¯his idyllic space, populated by pansexual,
uninhibited biown bodies÷bodies without shame÷piomised libeiation
fiom Victoiian iestiictions on same-sex desiies. ¯hese chaiacteiistics÷
mobility and shame and fantasies about the piimitive÷continue to shape
dominant Anglo-Ameiican gay male cultuie.
¯he touiism scholai Howaid Hughes`s obseivation that 'touiism
and being gay aie inextiicably linked¨ functions foi me heie as a kind of
Being gay always involves, to some extent, being someplace else.
}ust to be cleai, I am not talking about same-sex desiie oi even piactices,
which can be satisfed even in the most fxed and isolated of conditions
and which do not in themselves necessaiily signal any kind of gioup iden-
tifcation. Neithei am I using 'gay¨ as an ahistoiical, univeisal categoiy.
In iefeience to Hughes`s foimulation, I undeistand 'gay¨ as an alieady
univeisalizing agent oi its tiace subject. Identifcation as 'gay¨ is piemised
on mobility. Whethei it is the South Seas of William Stoddaid`s Victoiian
tiavel wiiting oi New Yoik City`s Chelsea oi anywheie othei than the
heteionoimative confnes of the tiaditionally defned 'home¨ and 'fam-
ily,¨ being 'gay¨ iequiies some kind of tiavel, actual oi imagined. ¯he
most canonical expiession of being gay, 'coming out of the closet,¨ is a
quintessential aiticulation of the link between identity and tiavel. Needless
to say, the mobility that modein gay identity iequiies is not univeisally
available. Heie we encountei tiouble in the foim of noncanonical bodies
(not suipiisingly, also quite often biown bodies) nonetheless inteipellated
as gay. Cays who cannot piopeily be gay.
¯he closet, as the piimaiy cultuial canon of mainstieam gay and les-
bian politics, is a spatial metaphoi, yet theie is insuffcient consideiation
of how that fguiative space piesupposes specifc mateiial conditions. ¯he
closet metaphoi spatially and tempoially suggests access to piivacy not
collectively expeiienced by all sexual minoiities. ¯he piivacy this meta-
phoi takes foi gianted iequiies specifc economic, cultuial, and familial
ciicumstances. Likewise, the 'coming out¨ metaphoi suggests a kind of
mobility not univeisally available. ¯hese canonized metaphois foi gay and
lesbian expeiience ciystallize homosexual identity within a tiadition of
possessive individualism. Coming out piomises libeiation and celebiates
a species of individualism in the foim of self-deteimination. Conceptually
Jne very notion
or civilization
reqoires a
prinitive space
onto vnicn
represseo oesires
are projecteo ano
17B Hìran Perez
and mateiially, that fieedom and self-deteimination aie piemised on the
piopeity of whiteness. ¯he closet naiiativizes gay and lesbian identity in a
mannei that violently excludes oi includes the subjects it names accoiding
to theii access to specifc kinds of piivacy, piopeity, and mobility.
Ioi }asbii Kaui Puai, as well as Hughes, the link between tiavel and
a specifcally gay identity is also deteimined by homophobia. Nuch of
the wiiting on gay and lesbian tiavel naiiativizes this movement piimai-
ily as a kind of dislocation (a ßight fiom oppiession to fieedom) without
adequately examining how such movement also constitutes an exeicise
in mobility and piivilege. In hei aiticle on queei mobility, Puai depaits
fiom the dominant paiadigms in touiism studies, shifting hei focus onto
a theoiization of gay and lesbian consumption. As an example of the
tiaditional appioach to undeistanding gay and lesbian tiavel, she quotes
¯homas Roth, a maiketing stiategist whose suiveys aie used by the gay
and lesbian touiism industiy: 'Nany |touiists] aie closeted, oi come fiom
iepiessive families, communities oi societies. At least duiing oui vacations,
we should be fiee to be ouiselves in a welcoming enviionment.¨

What kinds of violences aie necessaiy to consolidate the constituency
designated by the pionoun 'we¨· Roth makes it cleai that the fieedom
'to be ouiselves¨ iequiies the secuiing of a space. His use of the pionoun
'ouiselves¨ signals the possessiveness of his subject, but the giammai sup-
piesses the acquisitiveness that the subject 'we¨ must exeicise to obtain and
safeguaid the possessive individuality cooidinated by the infnitive phiase
'to be ouiselves.¨ ¯he mobility of Roth`s touiisting subject is enabled by
piivileges of class, iace, citizenship, and quite often also gendei (hence
the need to also distinguish between cosmopolitan gay and lesbian mobili-
ties). Roth`s gay tiaveleis move not only fiom the domestic/iepiessive to
the foieign/libeiating but also fiom isolation to publicity and, aiguably,
fiom obscuiity to identity. 'We¨ exist so long as 'we¨ can fieely consume
abioad the pleasuie that both defnes and defles us at home. Coming out
of the closet, the canonized naiiative foi gay and lesbian identity, hinges
on mobility, a globalized consumeiism, and impeiialism.
Befoie they can be deemed 'welcoming,¨ the 'enviionments¨ Roth so
vaguely iefeiences must be piopeily colonized to satisfy the desiies of gay
and lesbian cosmopolitans. ¯his is tiue not only foi the inteinational loca-
tions of gay and lesbian touiism but also foi the domestic locations of gay
and lesbian gentiifcation. ¯he foimation of these identities, and I focus
heie on the gay male cosmopolitan, demands spaces imagined as piecivi-
lized. ¯he cosmopolitan calls upon the native bodies to authenticate the
undeidevelopment (in eveiy sense) and innocence of these 'welcoming¨
destinations. Puai points out that 'on the one hand, theie is the disiuption
of heteiosexual space and, on the othei, the use of the exotic to tiansgiess;
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 179
in this case, the exotic is signaled by discouises of homophobia.¨
fantasy of the exotic is necessaiy to the foimation of a modein gay male
cosmopolitan identity. Queei theoiizing moie iesolutely needs to investi-
gate how dominant Luio-Ameiican foimations of gay, lesbian, and queei
cultuies (not only duiing this eia of noimalization but also histoiically)
collude with a hegemonic white masculinity.
Speaking in Tongues witnout Even Trying
Speaking as a membei of the confeience`s 'fnal discussion,¨ stationed
befoie an assembled vanguaid of queei theoiizing (which I identifed at
the time, vis-a-vis my own geneiically biown condition, as a Queei Illu-
minati), I could not help but iealize that I too was obliging Cay Shame`s
desiie foi biown spectacle. ¯he ciicumstance was a familiai one: a schol-
aily piesentation deteiioiates into what feels like a cake walk, and I am
left pondeiing the futility of any inteivention on my pait. I was theie
neithei to compiise noi to inteiiogate the categoiy 'queei¨; I was theie to
bind its community. Ioi a confeience devoted to theoiizing shame, theie
was cuiiously little scholaiship specifcally addiessing affect. Lespite the
confeience theme, the pioceedings iepioduced an opposition between
theoiy and affect, paiticulaily in its gendeied and iaced foundations,
chaiacteiistic of Lnlightenment thought: theoiy is to affect as masculine
is to feminine; civilized to piimitive; iational to paianoid; white to othei.
¯he biown thug and the sentimental feminine fnd themselves unlikely
compatiiots in this opposition. ¯he identities 'gay¨ oi 'queei¨ oi 'les-
bian¨ do not pieempt queei theoiists fiom ieinstituting masculinist biases
and patiiaichal piivileges. ¯he most elitist manifestations of theoiizing,
even when aiticulated by queei subjects, also often evidence the most
vulgai masculinisms.

Having been accused at the confeience of piacticing 'paianoid ciiti-
cism¨ and being too liteial,
I piovisionally maintain my guilt on both
counts and inhabit that paianoia to license heie the following ihetoiical
indulgence:,ihtng I an aboui io sa, tn ihts essa, has alreaJ, been satJ.
I make this concession on behalf of a paiticulai kind of iesistant ieadei.
Namely, I have in mind ieadeis who might feel disgiuntled about heaiing
'the same thing¨ foi the past 'ten yeais,¨ a piotest voiced by confeience
paiticipants at Ann Aiboi.
Rathei than focusing on a ciitique`s 'oiiginality,¨ queei theoiy is
bettei seived by inteiiogating its own capacity to listen imaginatively.
¯he piofessional piessuie to pioduce 'oiiginality¨ is ieally a call to make
piopeity claims demaicating intellectual teiiitoiy and thus an appeal to
1Bu Hìran Perez
piivatism and individualism. It is entiiely possible that I am ievisiting
alieady exhausted aiguments, but it is also possible that queei theoiy
quite oppoitunely iesists engaging paiticulai types of inquiiy. ¯he feld
needs to asceitain how any such iesistance is iewaided. Aftei a decade
(oi longei) of heaiing 'the same thing,¨ it might be time foi queei theoiy
to stait listening. ¯he chionic failuie of establishmentaiian queei theoiy
to ievisit its fundamental collusions with Ameiican libeialism consoli-
dates indivisibilities÷white, patiiaichal, heteionoimative÷contiaiy to
any piofessed anti-identity. ¯his iefusal to engage iace-consciousness
coiiesponds exactly to the histoiical contingency of piopeity iights to
I.S. iacial oppiession.
¯heie is little consideiation within establishmentaiian queei theoiy
as to whethei it has at all toppled the exclusionaiy infiastiuctuies of the
spaces it inheiits. Indeed, the space queei theoiy occupies within the
academy, it has inheiited fiom libeial humanism and its contempoiaiy
multicultuialist tiaditions. It is neithei defeatist noi simplistically nihilistic
to concede that queei theoiy is necessaiily compiomised at the junctuies
of institutionalization, nationalism, and citizenship; queei theoiists might
in fact appioach this bind pioductively. By inteiiogating the complicity
demanded by institutionalization, we can moie effectively iesist such collu-
sion and attempt to ieinvent oui ielationships to the academy and peihaps
even tiansfoim the institution itself.
How Do You SoIve a ProbIem Like ¨Poor Mario¨7
Louglas Ciimp`s 'Naiio Nontez, Ioi Shame,¨ oiiginally published
in a collection of ciitical ievaluations of Lve Sedgwick`s contiibutions
to ciitical theoiy, piovided a ciitical foundation foi the confeience. In
aiguing foi a pioductive (oi ethical) mobilization of gay shame, Ciimp
invokes Sedgwick`s oft-ieiteiated axiom: 'People aie diffeient fiom each
othei.¨ He gleans fiom this axiom 'the ethical necessity of developing
evei fnei tools foi encounteiing, upholding, and valuing othei`s diffei-
ences÷oi bettei, diffeiences and singulaiities÷nonce-taxonomies, as she
wondeifully names such tools.¨
Howevei, both Ciimp`s essay and the
confeience pioceedings demonstiate a iesistance within queei theoiy to
appieciating how iacial diffeiences contiibute to queei singulaiities. Such
iesistance, haidly ethical oi pioductive, secuies both white piivilege and
its tianspaiency, and foiecloses the iigoious examinations of desiie and
fantasy and pleasuie that we should expect fiom queei theoiy.
Ciimp`s essay focuses on what he ieads as Andy Waihol`s and Ronnie
¯avel`s humiliation of Naiio Nontez, a Pueito Rican diag queen staiiing
Jne cnronic
railore or
nentarian qoeer
tneory to revisit
its ronoanental
vitn /nerican
vnite, patriarcnal,
contrary to any
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 1B1
in Waihol`s Screen Tesi =2. ¯iusting Waihol to speak foi Nontez, who
iemains entiiely passive in ielationship to both queei and I.S. cultuies,
Ciimp iendeis Nontez supplemental to the 'New Yoik City queei cultuie
of the 196us¨ that Ciimp`s pioject seeks to ieclaim. Nontez foims a suiface
foi the insciiption of that cultuie but is nevei a paiticipant. His piesence
at the scene of the ciime÷whethei that be the 196us expeiimentation of
Waihol`s Iactoiy oi the 2uu3 Cay Shame of Ann Aiboi÷is incidental.
¯he categoiies 'Pueito Rican¨ and 'Catholic,¨ deployed monolithically,
compiise foi Ciimp the totality of Nontez`s diffeience. Ciimp inteiiogates
neithei Waihol`s noi his own investments in the paiticulaiities of this
iepiesentation of diffeience. His unqualifed confdence in a secondhand
account of Nontez`s Catholicism togethei with geneializations about
Pueito Rican national cultuie piovide Ciimp with the only tools he needs
to constiuct a naiiative foi Nontez`s shame. ¯he absence, foi example,
of any examination of Waihol`s Catholicism is only one of seveial telling
omissions in Ciimp`s pioject.
Ioi Ciimp, only Waihol and ¯avel can exeicise agency. Ciimp`s
ieading of Screen Tesi =2 elides any possible authoiity and oppositional-
ity on the pait of Nontez: 'Pooi Naiio looks alteinately bewildeied and
teiiifed¨ (62). Nontez is always authentically authentic. In iesponse to
¯avel`s mocking, accoiding to Ciimp, Nontez is 'so delighted as to make
it obvious he`s still hoodwinked¨ (61). Conveisely, Waihol`s and ¯avel`s
insight and iiony become authentic qualities. Waihol, foi example, dem-
onstiates an 'uncanny ability to conceal dead-on insight in the bland,
unknowing iemaik¨ (59). Inknowing anJ insightful. Nindful even when
unmindful in opposition to Nontez`s alteinate bewildeiment and teiioi
in the face of authoiity.
Ciimp identifes 'exposuie¨ as the subject of Screen Tesi =2. He cites
Stephan Biecht`s celebiation of Waihol`s genius: 'Heie again Waihol`s
tiue genius foi abstiaction paid off: he invented a cameia-technique that
was nothing but exposuie¨ (59). I concui with Ciimp that 'exposuie¨ is
a subject of the flm. ¯he object of that exposuie, howevei, is not fxed; as
Ciimp acknowledges, the flm`s deployment of shame exposes him, too.
Lxposuie can nevei be equivalent to just one thing; it iequiies at least two
actois (cuiatoi and spectatoi) and an object. Peihaps what is masteiful
about Screen Tesi =2 is its unfxing of the components of exposuie. In othei
woids, what is masteiful about the flm is its undeteimined masteiy. Ciimp
imagines Nontez only as the object of exposuie. But what if authoiity in the
flm is ieassigned· ¯he moments that Ciimp ieads as 'bewildeiment and
teiioi¨ might also compiise Nontez`s piiating (hijacking·) of authoiity.
Nontez shifts the flm`s sciutiny (its defning quality accoiding to Ciimp
and Biecht) alteinately onto Waihol, ¯avel, the spectatoi.
1B2 Hìran Perez
Ioi Ciimp the impoitant questions aie as follows: 'How might we
squaie these scenes of violation and shaming with what I`m desciibing as
an ethical pioject of giving visibility÷and I want also to say dignity÷to a
queei woild of diffeiences and singulaiities in the 196us· What does the
viewei`s discomftuie at Waihol`s techniques of exposuie do to the usual
piocesses of spectatoi identifcations·¨ (63). Ciimp`s questions geneiate
seveial of my own: What violences aie imposed on Naiio Nontez and
similaily situated subjects by the visibility Ciimp seeks to confei· What
does it mean foi Nontez (oi a subject similaily situated) that his expo-
suie is a necessaiy condition foi confeiiing dignity to otheis· (What of
Nontez`s dignity·) Who is this isolated viewei by whose discomftuie all
othei spectatoi identifcations aie measuied·
¯he ethico-political possibilities inheient in shame emeige fiom the
uigent yet impossible dissociation upon which it insists. Ciimp explains:
'In the act of taking on the shame that is piopeily someone else`s, I simul-
taneously feel my uttei sepaiateness fiom even that peison. . . . I do not
shaie the othei`s identity. I simply adopt the othei`s vulneiability to being
shamed. . . . the othei`s diffeience is pieseived; it is not claimed as my own¨
(65). ¯he pioblem with Ciimp`s foimulation is that the othei`s shame is
alieady always his own befoie it can be 'piopeily someone else`s.¨ ¯he
only shame Ciimp takes on is the shame he piojects onto Nontez. ¯he
uigency to dissociate fiom the othei`s shamed body aiises subsequent to
his vexed assimilation of that body. Nontez`s body is a palate foi Ciimp`s
shame (as it is in diffeient contexts foi my own).
Peihaps the cleaiest evidence of Ciimp`s identifcation with (and
incoipoiation of) Nontez is his continued iefeience to the actoi by his fist
name, while he iefeis to ¯avel and Waihol exclusively by theii suinames.
He foiecloses any possibility that Nontez might also actively coauthoi the
text iathei than meiely seive as its passive object. Ciimp cites an anecdote
fiom Fojtsn in which Waihol desciibes how 'pooi Naiio Nontez got his
feelings huit foi ieal in his scene¨ while shooting 'Chelsea Ciils¨ (5S).
¯his desciiption defnes foi Ciimp Nontez`s ielationship to exposition and
ultimately to (gay white male) shame. Nontez feels for real while Waihol
fctionalizes, expeiiments, cieates, and Ciimp expounds. As Biddy Naitin
foiecast a decade ago, the 'fxity and miiing¨ of iace and gendei piovides
the giound foi queei theoiy`s peifoimative sexuality.

You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 1B3
lf You Wnite, You Rignt, lf You BIack, Get Back,
lf You Brown . . . Prepare to Get Your SpectacIe On!
¯he ieduction to spectacle, a ieduction to the body, was most devastat-
ingly iealized in a piesentation on Plato`s S,njostun late in the confei-
ence`s fist day. As Lllis Hanson addiessed Plato, Leiiida, the 'cadaveii-
zation¨ of the teachei`s body, and hypothesized that love is a victimless
ciime, images of a model named Kiko, featuied in Laitn Inches maga-
zine, ßashed behind him. ¯hese publicity photos foi the video Learn-
tng Laitn (1996) show Kiko, costumed in something akin to a colonial
schoolboy unifoim (khaki shoits, white polo shiit), posing in a classioom.
He appeais in vaiious states of undiess, at fist his dick hanging out of
his unzipped ßy, eventually bent naked ovei a stool. On the blackboaid
behind him, the sentence 'I love sex¨ has been wiitten ovei and ovei,
as Kiko has appaiently been kept aftei class and this is his punishment.
Luiing his piesentation, Hanson woie a unifoim identical to the one
woin by Kiko, suggesting a kind of mimetic annihilation, the nostalgia
chaiacteiistic of the queei theoiizing of shame, in this instance a colo-
nial nostalgia. At no point did Hanson offei a substantive ieading of the
images ßashing behind him.

¯he piesentation iendeied me speechless. Initially I attiibuted that
speechlessness to exhaustion. Latei I deteimined that my speechlessness
might be moie pioductively undeistood as a quality of collective tiauma.

It is useful to think about the expeiience of iacial oppiession as a kind of
tiauma, to think about how shame and tiauma might somehow be consti-
tutive of iace. ¯iauma iesults not only fiom a 'disciete happening¨ but
also, as Kai Liikson aigues, fiom a 'consiellaiton of ltfe`s exjertences . . .
fiom a jerstsitng conJtiton as well as fiom an acute event.¨
¯his defnition
bioadens the undeistanding of tiauma so that it is not isolated to disciete
expeiiences and peisonalities; tiauma can also function as a constitutive
social foice in ielation to gioup identity. Liikson claiifes how tiauma
might geneiate communality: '¯iaumatic wounds inßicted on individuals
can combine to cieate a mood, an ethos÷a gioup cultuie, almost÷that is
diffeient fiom (and moie than) the sum of the piivate wounds that make
it up. ¯iauma, that is, has a social dimension¨ (1S5).
I expeiienced the Kiko piesentation (and ultimately the Cay Shame
confeience in its entiiety) as a kind of assault. Not an assault in the sense
that Lllis Hanson intended to huit me oi anybody else (although neithei
would I categoiize his piesentation, oi his desiie, oi any desiie, as inno-
cent), but an assault in the sense that the images displayed have a context
and a histoiy that aie meaningful to me in ways veiy diffeient fiom how
they aie meaningful, I suspect, foi Hanson. ¯hese images, oi moie pie-
lt is oserol to
tnink aboot tne
experience or
racial oppression
as a kino or
traona, to tnink
aboot nov snane
ano traona niqnt
sonenov be
or race.
1B4 Hìran Perez
cisely the politics of theii display, belong foi me to an alieady existing
'constellation of life`s expeiiences.¨ Ny hope that queei theoiy might leain
to listen moie imaginatively fnds a piesciiption in the questions Liikson
intioduces to tiauma theoiy: '¯o what extent may one conclude that the
communal dimension of tiauma is one of its distinctive clinical signatuies·
And to what extent does it make sense to conclude that the tiaumatized
view of the woild conveys a wisdom that ought to be heaid·¨ (19S), an
affect iequiiing iecognition·
¯he fist comment aftei Hanson`s piesentation came fiom ¯obin
Siebeis, seated next to me. Siebeis, a disability studies theoiist, jokingly
announced that Kiko`s was the most 'able-bodied dick¨ he`d evei seen. I
felt kicked in the gut. Can the ieduction÷not just to body, but to dick÷fnd
any moie unequivocal aiticulation· Yet if I cannot convey to fellow queei
theoiists how this whole scene constituted foi me an assault, and if they
cannot heai my ciiticism, how can I be suie that I am evei intelligible
to them as human· Iollowing Siebeis`s iemaik, the next few comments
also joked, albeit neivously, about the photos. I listened dumbfounded
as Hanson was teased about him and Plato having to compete with the
big, 'puiple¨ dick (the biggest anyone had evei seen, it tuins out) foi the
audience`s attention. ¯heie occuiied no substantive discussion about
the iepiesentation of Kiko, about fantasy, about iacialized desiie, oi even
about Hanson`s ieading of Plato. Kiko`s dick assumed its histoiical place
as the focal point of white fantasy.
¯hat night and into the next day I heaid seveial queei theoiists, white
men and women, pioclaim that Kiko`s was indeed the biggest dick they
had evei seen÷an astonishing declaiation fiom queei theoiists, many of
whom wiite on gay male poinogiaphy. I guaiantee that this was noi the
biggest dick confeience paiticipants had evei seen; a few seconds on the
Inteinet would tuin up innumeiable dicks, fattei and longei. ¯he need
even to explain this is demeaning. But the ciicumstance is indicative also
of dominant cultuie fantasies about black male sexuality. Kiko is both
Latino and black. I cannot be ceitain that he would identify himself as
black. Naybe he would; maybe he would not. (¯he complications of the
classifcation 'Latino¨ aie a topic foi anothei essay.)
¯his incident demonstiates, howevei, how the biown body signi-
fes ambiguities that ultimately ieinfoice contempoiaiy white hegemony
thiough its inteisection with a spectialized blackness. Kiko`s biownness
iemoves his body fiom the histoiy of white piedations on the black male
body, in paiticulai the black male body that emeiged aftei Reconstiuction:
the 'fiee¨ black man iuled by savage and insatiable sexual appetites. ¯his
uniemitting cultuial fxation on the black penis needs to be undeistood as
a legacy of lynching. ¯he tiansfoimation of the black penis into a magic
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 1B5
object iequiies that the iacial-sexual violence become natuialized; in
othei woids, the castiated penis must itself become fantastic in oidei to
sanction genocidal violence. ¯he cultuie of lynching continues to geneiate
fiesh enactments of its iitual violence: the sepaiation of the man fiom the
penis, the substitution of penis foi the man, the impossibility of a 'piivate¨
black sexuality, contempt foi black humanity. His sexual voiaciousness is
located in his mythically piopoitioned manhood, the pioduct of a white
imagination that seeks to exteiminate the black man foi moie ieasons than
it can evei allow itself to name. ¯his white desiie foi a black male body,
alteinately manifested as love, disgust, feai, and muideiousness, iesides
at the heait of I.S. sexual cultuies, stiaight and queei.
¯he biownness confeiied on Kiko when he is designated as 'Latin¨
(itself an alieady ambiguous sign) ciicumvents tioubling histoiies of iacial
oppiession that aie moie immediate to the white imagination in the foim of
enslavement, lynching, and police biutality. Alieady foigetful about its his-
toiy of state-sanctioned white-on-black violence, the Inited States iemains
blissfully amnesiac about its violent impeiial histoiy. ¯he ambiguities of
biownness function to unbuiden fantasies of black sexuality fiom theii
tioubling histoiies; those same fantasies, and new ones, may be ievisited
on the biown body. In othei woids, one manifestation of the biown body
occuis in the foim of a black body un-noored, if you will, fiom mateiial
histoiy and fxed instead to the landscape of a gay cosmopolitan imagina-
Kiko`s dick was the biggest anyone had evei seen because it was
that same mythic black dick dieamed by white desiie, except foi being
tianspoited to a location wheie desiies aie not so buidened by tioubling
histoiies. Cay shame`s desiie foi Kiko seeks to humiliate Kiko, to sym-
bolically annihilate him, but in oidei to mistianslate its own muideious
desiie as love, it must locate Kiko at the limits of civilization, wheie he is
beautifully abject, wheie he is biown and shameless. Cosmopolitan gay
male subjectivity is founded on the humiliation of 'biown¨ piimitives and
thugs, a humiliation often subsequently misnamed as 'love.¨
Kiko became biown within the contact zones of desiie. His biown-
ness functions in itself as a kind of tiaveling contact zone; it enteitains all
soits of fantasies of the piimitive. ¯he biown body is a fetish foi what the
cosmopolitan has lost oi foigotten at the othei side (the biown undeiside)
of civilization. Kiko is biowned by the symbols that conveige at his (and
Cay Shame`s) hoiizon: the monikei 'Latin Inches¨; the colonial schoolboy
unifoim; the nickname; his banjee-ness; his accessibility as spectacle. Once
available to cosmopolitan consumption, the biown body geneiates desiie,
but only insofai as it is the location wheie diffeient stoiies of desiie become
possible. ¯he biown body`s ambiguity is endlessly geneiative. It piovides
Jne coltore
or lyncninq
continoes to
qenerate rresn
enactnents or its
ritoal violence.
tne separation
or tne nan rron
tne penis, tne
or penis ror
tne nan, tne
or a ¨private`
black sexoality,
contenpt ror
black nonanity.
1Bó Hìran Perez
cosmopolitan gay male subjects with objects of desiie and with the supei-
abundant iaw mateiial fiom which to compose the stoiy of that desiie. ¯he
ambiguity of biownness contia the pievailing black/white opposition of
I.S. iace discouise secuies foi the contempoiaiy cosmopolitan gay male
a location in which he can mateiially and psychically ßex his desiie with
impunity. He gets to have his biown body and eat it, too.
Lismissed as identity politics and a ciude appeal to peisonal expeii-
ence, my attempt to communicate the indignity and assault I expeiienced
at the confeience could not be heaid. I piopose that the iesistance I con-
fionted, aiticulated via post-stiuctuialist ciitiques of identity, designates
the need foi white dominant cultuie to sustain the impossibility of a piivate
black sexuality. ¯he mythology of the black penis iemains too deep-iooted
in the populai imagination foi me to convince the cock-stiuck attendees
at Cay Shame that Kiko`s piivates weie not the biggest they had evei seen.
Luphemisms aside, Kiko`s 'piivates¨ weie not in any sense piivate, eithei.
I did not advance an antipoinogiaphy position at the confeience, but I
suspect that the defensiveness on the pait of many queei theoiists pies-
ent, especially among the gay white men, iesulted fiom an oveideteimined
misieading of my comments as just that. Ioi example, one iespondent
insisted that I had contended in my iemaiks that he (a white man) 'could
not look at¨ nude images of Kiko. He peiceived my ciiticism as a compet-
ing piopeity claim on Kiko`s body.
I was not theie to make any such piopeity claim, but it was made
emphatically cleai to me, by Hanson`s piesentation as well as by the ieac-
tion to my comments, that I am most ceitainly not entitled to do so. Ioi
the cosmopolitan gay male subject, the biown body constitutes communal
piopeity. As a site of communion foi whiteness, the biown body iealizes
white indivisibility. Ny inquiiy into the semantics of Kiko`s body consti-
tuted a tiespass. It iepiesented foi white desiie an exeicise of acquisitive-
ness on my pait that is piopei only to whiteness. ¯o pose the question of
the semantics of the biown body is to iale meaning fiom the fetish-object
of white desiie, to infiinge on the native acquisitiveness of whiteness.
¯he categoiy 'Latino,¨ used as a iacial desciiptoi iathei than a
political affliation, is neaily as vague as 'biown.¨ Considei, foi example,
how easily 'Latin¨ (oi foi that mattei, 'Spanish¨ and 'Hispanic¨) may
substitute foi 'Latino.¨ Howevei, most uses of 'Latina/o¨ disiegaid the
politics of that ambiguity, togethei with the diffeiences that the categoiy
itself alieady collapses. Remaikably, queei theoiy undeistands the politics
of diffeience as fundamental to its piactice, yet it can paiticipate in the
ciiculation of categoiies like 'Latin¨ without appieciating in the least its
function within a complex web of identifcations and desiies. While the
vaiiations on the categoiy 'Latina/o¨ collapse innumeiable diffeiences,
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 1B7
queei theoiizing seems foi the most pait quite content to let that same-
ness alone. 'Queei¨ needs to inteiiogate its own investments in sameness.
Iionically, these investments deploy the ihetoiic of diffeience piecisely so
that the piesumed anti-identity of queei might dissimulate piofting by
sameness. By this means, establishmentaiian queei theoiy has colluded in
iendeiing mateiial and psychic violences of iacialization unintelligible.
I agiee that communities aie bound by fctions, but that does not
diminish the violences enacted in constituting those communities. Queei
theoiy has exchanged too hastily the politics of identity foi the politics
of diffeience. ¯o combat oppiession it is necessaiy to theoiize how com-
munities aie bound by shaied fantasies and desiies, in othei woids, how
they aie bound at some level by sameness. ¯his is especially ciucial wheie
sameness makes itself tianspaient, as it does with whiteness. Sometimes,
people aie not so diffeient fiom one anothei. Queei theoiy, when it piivi-
leges diffeience ovei sameness absolutely, colludes with institutionalized
iacism in vanishing, hence ietienching, white piivilege. It seives as the
magician`s assistant to whiteness`s disappeaiing act.
Hanson acknowledged that he had anticipated my iesponse and had
heaid exactly the same piotest befoie. Oddly, these iepeated piotests only
invalidate one anothei. I should in fact feel shamed at this ievelation of the
commonplace natuie of my thinking. Hanson`s accusation constitutes a
defensive postuie, a way to dismiss ciiticism. Howevei, I think the solace
I ieceived (much of it fiom white lesbian theoiists) may similaily indicate
a foim of defensiveness. I absolutely expeiienced solidaiity with white les-
bian theoiists at the confeience, but theie was also fiom some an expiession
of solace that I think masqueiaded (and only just baiely) as solidaiity.
am suie that ieactions to the dispute between Hanson and me had to have
been moie complicated than the (appaient) polaiization, the taking of sides
that occuiied aftei the fnal ioundtable. But I also wondei if that (appaient)
polaiization did not in fact need to happen to pieseive the status quo, to
fuithei bind queei theoiy`s white indivisibility. As I alteinately inhabited
the body of an intiansigent and vulgai savage as well as that of a noble one
(depending on wheie you sat), as I peifoimed my biownness÷and what
choice did I have ieally, fated to my peifoimance of the unsophisticated
and banal÷I undeistood the iuptuie I witnessed as one that needed to
happen in oidei to foitify that white body of queei theoiy, to stiengthen
its immunity against foieign agents. I did expeiience genuine intellectual
engagement with colleagues. Otheiwise, I would not waste my eneigy
foimulating this ciitique. Howevei, that engagement was subsumed by
a ieductive polaiization; like the biown body (pooi Naiio`s, Kiko`s, my
own, and, most impoitant, the biown body missing in action), it was an
obligatoiy saciifce to the status quo of Cay Shame`s queei theoiizing.
Jo conbat
oppression it
is necessary to
tneorize nov
are boono by
snareo rantasies
ano oesires, in
otner voros, nov
tney are boono
at sone level by
1BB Hìran Perez
Although the iionies of Lllis Hanson`s piesentation weie lost on me,
I was keenly awaie of anothei much ciuelei iiony. ¯he biown body in his
schoolboy unifoim, invited into the univeisity classioom of a cosmopolitan
gay male fantasy foi a game of show and tell, iemains simultaneously shut
out of the univeisity classioom. Incieasingly, the biown body fnds itself
expelled fiom civil society÷if not expelled outiight fiom the nation. See-
ing Kiko up on the scieen, his dick hanging out of his khaki shoits, made
the absence of gay men and lesbians of coloi at the confeience all that much
moie pionounced. ¯he biown body is vaiiously saciifced at the exigen-
cies of white piivilege and white desiie. As peculiai as this may sound, I
am not convinced that institutionalized foims of queei theoiy ieally caie
to investigate desiie. An established gioup of queei theoiists iemain quite
iiled, undeistandably, about the noimalization of queei. Howevei, queei
theoiy iesists the ciitique of its own even moie alaiming noimalizations.
¯he dominant queei cultuie, like any dominant cultuie, demands assimila-
tion. Queei theoiy does not want to be noimalized, but neithei does it want
to be queeied. Iniuly subjects aie expelled to its maigins. ¯his expulsion
is telling. Lstablishmentaiian queei theoiy, despite its oft-piofessed ievul-
sion at mass cultuie assimilation, has also quite comfoitably settled at the
centei oi, iathei, that comfoitably fuinished space just left of centei. We
would be deluded to think that queei theoiy is not invested in piotecting
the institutional stiuctuies that have accommodated it, including, most
signifcantly, white patiiaichal stiuctuies of knowledge. ¯his does not
call foi abandoning the feld but iathei foi gieatei vigilance, imagination,
and accountability, as well as a ieinvigoiated inquiiy into the complex
tiajectoiies of desiie and identity.
I would like to thank Lavid Lng and }udith Halbeistam foi theii insights and
patient editing. I am giateful to Naiy }ane Smith foi hei invitation to shaie a veiy
eaily diaft of this essay, 'What Coloi Is Biown· ¯ioubling Lesiies, ¯ioubling
Identities,¨ on S Apiil 2uu4 as a guest of St. Lawience Iniveisity`s I.S. Cultuial
and Lthnic Studies piogiam. ¯his essay has benefted signifcantly fiom conveisa-
tions with Chiis Cynn, Chiis Languilan, Kim Hall, and Saiita See.
1. Ioi a cogent examination of how whiteness functions in the Inited States
as piopeity, see Cheiyl I. Haiiis`s essay, 'Whiteness as Piopeity,¨ in Crtitcal Face
Theor,: The Ie, !rtitngs Thai IorneJ ihe Ao.eneni, ed. Kimbeile Cienshaw,
Neil Cotanda, Caiy Pellei, and Kendall ¯homas (New Yoik: New Piess, 1995),
2. I identify Nontez as Pueito Rican and Lavis as black to illustiate the
confeience`s iace politics. Howevei, I do so with some hesitation, as each fguie`s
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 1B9
iace/ethnic identity needs fuithei complicating in oidei to investigate the place of
iacialized desiie in foiming iacial, ethnic, and sexual identities (and vice veisa).
Vaginal Cieme Lavis, foi example, has pioduced woik exploiing hei Chicana heii-
tage. }ose Nuñoz iecoids Lavis`s histoiy (oi 'legend¨): 'Accoiding to Lavis`s own
self-geneiated legend, hei existence is the iesult of an illicit encountei between hei
then foity-fve-yeai-old Afiican Ameiican mothei and hei fathei, who was, at the
time, a twenty-one-yeai-old Nexican Ameiican. Lavis has often iepoited that hei
paients only met once, when she was conceived undei a table duiing a Ray Chailes
conceit at the Hollywood Palladium in the eaily 196us¨ (}ose Lsteban Nuñoz,
DtstJenitfcaitons: Queers of Color anJ ihe Ferfornance of Foltitcs |Ninneapolis:
Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 1999], 95). In the case of Nontez, the categoiy
'Pueito Rican¨ can designate not only a national oiigin but also a iacial identif-
cation; in eithei case, what 'Pueito Rican¨ means is contingent also on histoiical
context, place, and usage. I do not know foi ceitain that Nontez self-identifed as
'Pueito Rican,¨ noi do I take foi gianted that the meaning of such an identifca-
tion necessaiily iemains constant ovei one`s lifetime.
3. }udith Butlei and Biddy Naitin, 'Cioss-Identifcations,¨ Dtacrtitcs 24
(1994): 3.
4. See Biddy Naitin, 'Sexualities without Cendeis and Othei Queei Ito-
pias,¨ Dtacrtitcs 24 (1994): 1u4÷21.
5. Butlei and Naitin, 'Cioss-Identifcations,¨ 3.
6. Haiiis, 'Whiteness as Piopeity,¨ 277.
7. Heieaftei cited as 'the Patiiot Act,¨ the bill÷passed 24 Octobei 2uu1 by
the 1u7th Congiess÷is offcially titled the 'Initing and Stiengthening Ameiica
by Pioviding Appiopiiate ¯ools Requiied to Inteicept and Obstiuct ¯eiioiism
Act of 2uu1.¨
S. Ioi a discussion of the I.S. militaiy`s 'waiiioi caste,¨ see Lavid N. Halb-
fngei and Steven A. Holmes, 'A Nation at Wai: ¯he ¯ioops; Nilitaiy Niiiois a
Woiking-Class Ameiica,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 3u Naich 2uu3.
9. ¯he tieatment of Iiaqi piisoneis of wai and the histoiies of sexual humili-
ation of iacially oppiessed people in the Inited States aie piofoundly linked.
¯he Abu Chiaib photos, like so many fiom the cultuie of lynching, function
as postcaids fiom a iacial fiont. I.S. iace ideology peisists onto a woild stage.
Offcial iesponses to Abu Chiaib piotect the iace seciets of I.S. dominant and
militaiy cultuies, which dictate the specifcally sexual natuie of the toituie÷at
once sadistically homophobic and homoeiotic. I elaboiate on this 'iace seciet¨
in a manusciipt in piogiess. Ioi this essay, I do, howevei, want to undeiscoie
cosmopolitanism`s need foi militaiy occupation as a means of colonizing spaces
foi its mateiial and imagined tiavels.
1u. I am paiaphiasing Kendall ¯homas`s invaluable foimulation: 'Race is a
11. All iace categoiies aie, of couise, iegaidless of theii juiidico-medical fx-
ity, constitutively ambiguous. ¯hat ambiguity is ielentlessly iecupeiated oi even
ievoked by dominant cultuie (i.e., the one-diop iule, boidei patiol, deteimina-
tions of dangeiousness), but this same ambiguity peihaps also piesents us with
feitile iuptuies in I.S. histoiies of systemic iace oppiession.
12. }ohn Ashcioft`s policy iequiiing male immigiants oiiginating fiom any
of twenty selected countiies to iegistei and peiiodically 'check in¨ demonstiates
how foims of goveinmentality adapt to endlessly and oppoitunistically mine the
iacial ambiguity of 'biown,¨ all the while piofessing to demystify it.
19u Hìran Perez
13. Howaid Hughes, 'Holidays and Homosexual Identity,¨ Tourtsn Aanage-
neni 1S (1997): 6.
14. Quoted in }asbii Kaui Puai, 'Ciicuits of Queei Nobility: ¯ouiism,
¯iavel, and Clobalization,¨ CLQ S (2uu2): 1u2.
15. Ibid., 1u4.
16. ¯his essay focuses on a tioublesome gay cosmopolitanism that I aigue
chaiacteiizes establishmentaiian queei theoiizing. ¯he 2uu3 Cay Shame confei-
ence piovides the piimaiy text foi this investigation; howevei, Cay Shame occa-
sioned vaiious iuptuies among the community of theoiists, aitists, and activists
piesent. I attend to the signifcance of these divisions in the afoiementioned manu-
sciipt in piogiess. Ioi the puiposes of this essay, I am moie inteiested in how a
queei community (despite numeious asseitions about the fctitiousness of such
community) was violently consolidated at Cay Shame, peihaps even by the veiy
iuptuies I mention. Howevei, I do want to emphasize that Cay Shame witnessed
not only piedictable alignments of powei but also numeious iealignments, espe-
cially iealigned masculinities. By focusing so exclusively on the constiuction of a
gay male cosmopolitanism, this essay iisks paiticipating in the ioutine 'suboidi-
nation of alteinative masculinities¨ that }udith Halbeistam exploies in hei wiiting.
What Halbeistam desciibes as 'lesbian counteipioductions of female masculin-
ity¨ needs to be appiaised vis-a-vis Cay Shame just as any potential complicity
with dominant white masculinity iequiies appiaisal. I hope to expand my analysis
in this diiection, and I hope to iead fuithei elaboiations of the vaiious alignments
of iace, gendei, and nation at Cay Shame and within queei theoiy. See }udith Hal-
beistam, Ienale Aascultnti, (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 199S).
17. ¯he iefeience (made at the confeience by Lllis Hanson) is to Lve Sedg-
wick`s distinction between paianoid and iepaiative ciiticism in hei essay 'Paia-
noid Reading and Repaiative Reading, oi You`ie So Paianoid, You Piobably
¯hink ¯his Lssay Is about You.¨ See Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touchtng Ieeltng:
¬ffeci, FeJagog,, Ferfornait.ti, (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3). I
woiiy that Sedgwick`s essay endoises the kind of unimaginative listening that pio-
tects a closed coie of queei theoiy fiom unwelcome tioubling. Noie signifcant,
Sedgwick adopts the categoiy 'paianoid¨ without a consideiation of the gendeied
and iaced histoiy of such pathologizing categoiies as they have been vaiiously
enlisted within the humanities and social sciences and within the eveiyday life of
the academy in ways contingent on÷yet exceeding÷theii clinical etiologies. If I
may iisk a geneialization, an 'essentialism¨ even: All coloied academics know that
expiession of sinceie yet dubious concein, that unmistakable are ,ou sure ,ou`re noi
jusi betng ioo senstit.e. look on the faces of theii tiusted, good white libeial fiiends.
Lven when the question is aiticulated in that familiai, piacticed tone of aggiessive
appiehension, it is nevei ieally a question at all, but iathei an impeivious accusa-
tion of paianoia. Ny othei concein with Sedgwick`s iecycling of paianoia is its
piesumption that any ciiticism deemed 'paianoid¨ was necessaiily and naively
diiected at authoi intention, that is, Sedgwick means me, oi my kind, haim.
¯his ultimately piovides a way to deßect ciiticism that confionts how woids and
images actually Jo injuie people. It also minimizes the authoi`s accountability with
iespect to the effects of hei woids. Witnessing too often the devastation exacted
by the Left`s 'good intentions,¨ I do not caie much about the question of good oi
bad intentions. As a ciitic, I am conceined with the effects of woids and images on
lives. I do, howevei, also diiect my analysis on motivation, which I undeistand as a
You Can Have My Brovn Booy ano Eat lt, 1oo! 191
veiy diffeient pioblem fiom intention. Notivation intioduces diffeient questions
fiom the moie atomistic pioblem of intention. Rathei than positing individual
consciousness as its end, the question of motivation looks to the dynamics of gioup
identity foimation and the fantasies and desiies they geneiate.
1S. Louglas Ciimp, 'Naiio Nontez, Ioi Shame,¨ in FegarJtng SeJg:tcl:
Lssa,s on Queer Culiure anJ Crtitcal Theor,, ed. Stephen N. Baibei and Lavid L.
Claik (New Yoik: Routledge, 2uu2), 57.
19. In a manusciipt in piogiess, I fuithei puisue Naitin`s aigument about the
'fxity¨ of gendei in queei theoiizing, specifcally in iefeience to Ciimp`s discus-
sion of the 'extiaoidinaiy ciuelty¨ of Waihol`s flms. Noie specifcally, I examine
the tieatment of Ldie Sedgwick in Eeaui, =2 in oidei to establish an indivisibility
that binds white heteiosexual and gay male identities. Although diffeiently moti-
vated, theie aie instances in which gay male and noimative heteiosexual desiies
may shaie in a patiiaichal investment to annihilate the female body. Lesiie and
identifcation aie at once ieveient and muideious. ¯he humiliation of Ldie Sedg-
wick in Eeaui, =2 secuies an ontological integiity foi a white masculinity that is
not paiticulaily heteiosexual.
2u. Hanson contested this point. Howevei, he conceded that he might have
been ioo trontc (hence, my misundeistanding).
21. Hanson disagieed, chaiacteiizing the 'move¨ to tiauma as 'easy.¨
22. See Kai Liikson, 'Notes on ¯iauma and Community,¨ in Trauna: Lxjlo-
raitons tn Aenor,, ed. Cathy Caiuth (Baltimoie, NL: }ohns Hopkins Iniveisity
Piess, 1995), 1S3÷99. Ioi a discussion of iace shame and the value of tiauma
theoiy to theoiizing black identity, see }. Biooks Bouson, Qutei as Ii`s Ieji: Shane,
Trauna, anJ Face tn ihe No.els of Tont Aorrtson (Albany: State Iniveisity of New
Yoik Piess, 2uuu).
23. I ieiteiate that the confeience also suggested numeious alteinative iden-
tity alignments. I also want to emphasize that my thinking on gay shame, iace,
and institutional queei theoiy benefted immeasuiably fiom the papeis, peifoi-
mances, and inteiventions by confeience speakeis and audience membeis, includ-
ing Ceoige Chauncey, Leboiah Could, }udith Halbeistam, Lisa Hendeison, Holly
Hughes, Liza }ohnson, }oan Lipkin, Lsthei Newton, Nolan O`Lell, Llaine Roth,
Bill St. Amant, Saiita See, Caiioll Smith-Rosenbeig, and many otheis.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
JJ Cninois`s OrientaI Express, or,
How a Suburban Hearttnrob Seduced Red America
Karen Tongson ¯his essay was composed befoie eleven states÷mostly ied, but also
blue÷insciibed the cultuial zeitgeist of homopanic into theii state consti-
tutions; befoie Ohio tuined ied and }ohn Keiiy conceded on 3 Novembei
2uu4. Its tone is hopeful, foiwaid-looking, one could even say devastat-
ingly naive. Neveitheless, I hope that the pioject it initiates÷ieconceptu-
alizing spatial imaginaiies thiough the lens of a queei of coloi aesthetics
and politics÷can iemain an impoitant staiting point foi ieconfguiing
the iepiesentational stiategies of oui queei inteiventions in Ameiican
electoial politics.
Hot Red and BIue: Oueers and tne EIectoraI lmaginary
¯he pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice oui countiy into ied states
and blue States: ied states foi Republicans, blue States foi Lemociats. But
I`ve got news foi them, too. . . . We coach little league in the blue states and,
yes, we`ve got some gay fiiends in the ied states.
÷Baiack Obama, Illinois state senatoi, keynote addiess, 2uu4 Lemociatic
National Convention in Boston
With iefeiences to gays and lesbians let alone to anything 'queei¨ so few
and fai between at a 2uu4 Lemociatic National Convention caiefully
sciipted to appeal to a minuscule maigin of so-called modeiate, unde-
cided voteis in the Ameiican electoiate, Baiack Obama`s nod to 'gay
fiiends in the ied states¨ scoied a iousing ovation fiom the delegates on
the convention ßooi. In a ihetoiically skillful keynote addiess, Obama,
a candidate foi the I.S. Senate, ievised a iecuiiing topogiaphical tiope
to diagnose the deeply fiactuied cultuial, as well as political, Ameii-
can landscape.
In the wake of the hotly contested and catastiophically
iesolved 2uuu piesidential election that saw Ceoige W. Bush assume his
fist piesidential teim by the naiiowest of maigins (liteially by one vote in
a 5-4 decision issued by what could be called 'activist judges¨ on the I.S.
Supieme Couit), the political punditiy tuined to the 'sliced and diced¨
electoial map as it declaied a 'new cultuie wai¨ defned geogiaphically
194 Karen 1ongson
by the distiibution of votes. ¯his new 'uncivil wai¨ puipoitedly iages
between populations iesiding in Lemociatic 'blue states¨ conspicuously
intimate with laige bodies of watei (the Pacifc, the Atlantic, and the
Cieat Lakes), and Republican 'ied states¨÷the landlocked 'ßyovei
states¨ that appeai foimidable in theii vast and contiguous teiiitoiial
¯he ied state/blue state paiadigm, iecently ienamed in a book
by the eccentiic libeial billionaiie }ohn Speiling as the 'ietio vs. metio¨
schism, is a geopolitical model both the Left and the Right have used to
situate electoial politics within a bioad cultuial fiamewoik of conßicting
'values.¨ Pundits on both sides have agieed that the ied, oi ietio, states
aie chaiacteiized by iacially homogenous (piimaiily white) iuial and
subuiban populations who pieach economic and social conseivatism,
and feivently piomote ieligion thiough local and statewide legislation. As
Speiling desciibes ietio Ameiicans: '¯hese aie 'Cod, Iamily, and Ilag`
folks politically dominated by iuial, conseivative, white, Iundamental-
ist Chiistian populations. Retio Ameiica is not the land of co-habiting,
unmaiiied, heteio, oi same-sex couples, oi of the young seeking cultuial
excitement in the laige Netio cities.¨
Neanwhile, blue state, oi metio,
populations aie depicted as iacially and economically diveise, cultuially
'uiban¨ and 'toleiant¨ (even though not all metios necessaiily live in
metiopolitan aieas), and intellectually piogiessive. ¯he neolibeial pio-
moteis of The Creai Dt.tJe attempt to cast blue states in a thoioughly
'modein¨ light as places 'loosely held togethei by common inteiests in
piomoting economic modeinity and by shaied cultuial values maiked by
ieligious modeiation; vibiant populai cultuies; a toleiance of diffeiences
of class, ethnicity, tastes, and sexual oiientation; and a tendency to vote

While theie is a pioblematic lack of nuance in these geopolitical and
cultuial designations, I would like foi a moment to suspend judgment of
these staik spatial contiasts to explain how Obama`s iemaik about 'gay
fiiends in the ied states¨ might help queei scholais iethink the spatial
imaginaiies that we ouiselves take foi gianted in oui effoits to iedefne
intellectual, cultuial, and political discouise. In an Ameiican political
landscape incieasingly dominated by a jingoistic ihetoiic of contiasts÷of
good veisus evil, and the iallying ciy that 'you`ie with us oi against us¨÷in
a cultuial climate in which thoughtful delibeiation is deemed as weakness
and in which complex answeis unft foi sound bites aie effectively mocked
as ßip-ßopping, it behooves us to insist evei moie poweifully, evei moie
distinctly on the impoitance of intiicate inteisections and encounteis.
In oui queei spatial imaginaiy about sexuality and iace in the Inited
States, we too have become attached to this paiadigm that sepaiates the
iuial and subuiban fiom the uiban.
We have become just as ieliant on a
ln oor qoeer
spatial inaqinary
aboot sexoality
ano race in tne
Uniteo States,
ve too nave
becone attacneo
to tnis paraoiqn
tnat separates
tne roral ano
soborban rron
tne orban.
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 195
self-congiatulatoiy naiiative about our teiiitoiy÷oui uiban havens÷and
just as self-iighteous in oui conviction that wheie we live affims oui beliefs
as those self-piofessed 'ied-blooded,¨ ied state Ameiicans who oiganize in
school boaids and state legislatuies against oui puipoited inßuence. ¯hose
of us lucky enough to live and woik in uiban hubs have become÷daie
I say it·÷too pioud of oui own 'safe¨ enviions, too comfoitable in oui
gentiifed queei enclaves situated at a ieassuiing iemove fiom the ignoiant
Wal-Nait shopping masses to considei the coalitional possibilities, intel-
lectual and activist, with queeis inhabiting iuial and subuiban spaces.
Obama`s comment about 'gay fiiends in the ied states¨ biought this
all home to me (to indulge in the folksy cadence of mainstieam political
ihetoiic) while I was watching the LNC with a gioup of queei fiiends,
mostly academics and aitists, in my own comfoitable if unaffoidable 'cie-
ative class¨ gay ghetto in a big city.
Ny infoimal, decidedly unscientifc
focus gioup iesponded to Obama`s shout-out to 'gay fiiends in the ied
states¨ with a baiiage of pity and saicasm:
'¯hose pooi things!¨
'Cay 'fiiends`÷soon to be beaten by to a pulp by all of theii neighbois.¨
'All Log Cabin Republicans with bad haiicuts, test-tube babies, and matching
While I admittedly issued some of my own cynical baibs aftei heaiing
Obama`s idealistic ihetoiic about unity and common giound in a 'IntieJ
States of Ameiica,¨ I have, in ietiospect, begun to imagine how we might,
at the veiy least, intellectually move beyond the geopolitical piesumptions
that concede vast teiiitoiies of iuial and subuiban space÷iepiesented
aftei the 2uu4 national election as swinging 'puiple counties¨÷to a
homogenizing political and aesthetic imaginaiy. Wiiting off these laige
swaths of 'ied Ameiica,¨ while not the only cause of the Lemociats`
demise in this yeai`s national election, pioved decisive in the failed if
massive and impassioned effoits to depose Ceoige W. Bush befoie he
could do moie damage.
While the demogiaphic data on unmaiiied gay and lesbian paitneis
iepoited by the 2uuu I.S. Census Buieau, the newly published Ca, anJ
Lesbtan ¬ilas, and books like The Creai Dt.tJe peisuasively suppoit the
conclusion that oui 'gay fiiends in the ied states¨ must be white, homo-
noimative gays and lesbians fxated on causes like gay maiiiage, gay adop-
tion, and othei mainstieaming piojects political and socioeconomic, theie
aie signifcant inteiventions being staged by queei of coloi communities
thioughout the ietio iegions of the Inited States.
Cioups like Southeineis
on New Ciound (SONC), foi example, have oiganized to foment a politi-
19ó Karen 1ongson
cally active queei iegionalism in the Inited States by biinging togethei
iacially and socioeconomically diveise queeis who live and woik in states
like Alabama, Aikansas, Iloiida, Ceoigia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nissis-
sippi, Noith Caiolina, South Caiolina, ¯ennessee, Viiginia, and West
Iounded by Afiican Ameiican and white lesbians in the South,
SONC`s mission is to build a 'movement acioss the South foi piogies-
sive social change by developing models foi oiganizing that connect iace,
class, cultuie, gendei and sexual identity.¨
Rathei than succumbing to
social and cultuial inevitabilities dictated by location, oi investing all of its
iesouices in pushing gay maiiiage, SONC stiives to build queei constitu-
encies that advocate simultaneously foi civil iights, women`s iepioductive
iights, and laboi and antiwai causes.
What SONC enacts as political and
oiganizational piactice is what Rodeiick Ieiguson has named 'queei of
coloi ciitique,¨ a ciitical methodology that demands inteisecting analyses
of iace, economy, gendei, and sexuality in piojects of intellectual and polit-
ical iefoim.
Queei of coloi ciitique, as pait of its laigei inteivention, also
exposes the distuibing intimacies among 'conseivative¨ and 'piogies-
sive¨ ideologies, and among both 'noimative¨ and 'queei¨ foimations.

Cioups like SONC, with theii insistence on piacticing queei giassioots
activism in locations that, to put it mildly, seem unfiiendly at best, biing
to the foie piecisely this pioblematic symbiosis between noimative spatial
imaginaiies like the ied state/blue state paiadigm, and a queei uibanity
that focuses exclusively on blue state bastions of queei life like New Yoik
and San Iiancisco÷oui designated sites of piogiessive enlightenment and
queei 'safety.¨ ¯his 'metionoimativity,¨ as }udith Halbeistam desciibed
in a wateished essay on Biandon ¯eena, needs as its foil a 'hoiioi of the
heaitlands¨ mythology that peipetuates socioeconomic steieotypes about
the 'ignoiant piejudices¨ bied by poveity and spatial alienation.
While many otheis have begun to examine and celebiate iuial queei
lives as the distinct cultuial foimation emblematically Othei to metio-
noimative discouises,
I would like in this essay to tuin to a muikiei
spatial designation that also peifoims a peiipheial iole in metionoimative
accounts of queei cultuie. I discuss a manifestation of queei subcultuial
life that is assumed to be liteially subcultuial, below, beneath, oi even with-
out 'cultuie¨ in eveiy sense of the woid: an emeigent queei and iacialized
subuiban imaginaiy that tiaffcs conceptually between iuial and uiban
imaginaiies while disiupting the symbolic continuities of each. Ny aim
is to encouiage the ieconfguiation and ieoiientation of queei aesthetics
and politics as it engages with the uiban/iuial binaiy conceived on a laigei
scale as the ied state/blue state paiadigm, yet enacted as a iepiesenta-
tional and political stiuggle on a miciolevel among counties, and specifc
styles of lived enviionment. Rathei than offeiing a demogiaphic analysis
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 197
of queei subuibanity, I instead focus on the cultuial component of the
topogiaphical schism said to defne the geopolitics of the Inited States
by ievisiting the concept of 'style,¨ the most iecognizably uibane and
populaiized cooidinate of queei cultuie. What comes as a passing iemaik
in The Creai Dt.tJe depicting metio inhabitants as puiveyois of 'vibiant
populai cultuies . . . toleiant |of diffeiences in] ethnicity, class, iasie and
sexual oiientation¨
(my emphasis) caiiies with it the conceptual tools foi
ieexamining, and ultimately dismantling, oveisimplifed topogiaphies of
sexuality in the Inited States. An undeilying aigument of The Creai Dt.tJe
is that taste iemains an indicatoi of enlightenment both cultuial and politi-
cal. ¯his is also an aigument made explicitly and implicitly in a iange of
queei texts, piimaiily in liteiaiy and cultuial theoiy composed mostly by
gay white men. Yet a queei iecouise to style and cieativity, I aigue, need
not seive the exclusive function of mainstieaming uiban gay white men
with a keen eye foi decoiating skills into the populai imaginaiy as facilita-
tois of the good life foi all. Iai fiom iemaining innocuously piovocative
oi enteitaining, style can still piovide an appaiatus foi examining uneven
and uneasy, yet pioductive inteiclass and inteiiacial encounteis in spaces
wheie we have limited ouiselves to imagining only despeiate outcomes
foi queei subjects. ¯o achieve a new politicized function, howevei, style
itself must be 'ie-Oiiented¨ beyond the city in moie ways than one.
essay thus focuses on what functions as a queei developmental naiiative of
migiation :tihtn the Inited States fiom amoiphous subuiban landscapes
to welcoming and iconic uiban centeis.
Ny piimaiy examples aie taken fiom the Web and peifoimance woik
of Lynne Chan, an aitist who analogizes hei own migiation as a queei
subject fiom the subuibs to New Yoik City with hei paients` immigiation
to the Inited States fiom Hong Kong. In the piocess, Chan humoiously
engages with how the naiiatives of local queei migiation aie inteiwoven
with the tiopes of I.S. immigiation. Assuming the celebiity peisona of
}} Chinois, a tiansgendeied pop idol discoveied in the cattle-ianching
outpost of Coalinga, Califoinia, Chan endows }} with a sanguine naïvete
about iuial iisk and subuiban ennui. She tests the uiban boundaiies of a
queei topogiaphical imaginaiy by iouting }}`s stoiied discoveiy thiough
stiip malls and small towns in ied counties and even some ied states, cul-
minating with a flmed, live appeaiance as }} Chinois at a demolition deiby
in 2uu3. Chan`s }} Chinois piojects, without eschewing the metiopolitan
histoiies and desiies of queeis, iepiesent subuiban spaces as potentially
joyful and seductive spaces of a iacialized and gendeied self-stylization
not fated to be maiied by psychic despaii at best, giuesome violence at
woist. ¯he climactic gut-busting lyiics of 'New Yoik, New Yoik¨ tell us,
'If I can make it theie, I`ll make it anywheie.¨ Chan`s woik iesponds by
Jnis essay tnos
rocoses on
vnat ronctions
as a qoeer
narrative or
niqration vitnin
tne Uniteo States
rron anorpnoos
lanoscapes to
velconinq ano
iconic orban
19B Karen 1ongson
insisting that making it theie iequiies making anywheie÷youi chaiactei-
less subuiban nowheie÷into a somewheie.
Suburban lmaginaries
It tuins out we oveiestimated the powei of aichitectuial deteiminism. ¯he
subuibs have pioved ßexible enough to accommodate woiking motheis . . .
as well as a gieat many diffeient kinds of families and lifestyles. Since I left
the Cates, its white nucleai families have been joined by singles and gays,
Asians and Afiican-Ameiicans, people opeiating home businesses and
empty nesteis. . . . ¯he woild that built the postwai subuibs has passed
away, and yet those subuibs still stand, iemodeled by the piess of histoiy.
What they haven`t been is ieimagined oi ienamed, at least not yet.
÷Nichael Pollan, '¯he ¯iiumph of Buibopolis,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes
Aaga:tne, Apiil 9, 2uuu
Lespite the evolving aichitectuial functions and demogiaphics of the
postmillennial subuibs, theii twentieth-centuiy mythos of homogeneity
manages to enduie. In !htie Dtasjora: The Suburb anJ ihe T:eniteih-
Ceniur, ¬nertcan No.el (2uu1), a study of white, male subuiban novels
fiom the 193us to the late twentieth centuiy, Catheiine }uica explains
how a 'subuiban aesthetics¨ was not only pioduced by the political and
economic impeiatives of a post÷Woild Wai II Ameiica that inspiied a
'white ßight¨ fiom cities to subuibs, but pioduced in tuin a poweiful
cultuial myth about subuiban life that achieved salience as a mastei nai-
iative foi the white middle classes.
Lncapsulating a sanitaiy ideal of
white, middle-class homogeneity and 'safety,¨ as well as its daik undei-
belly of psychic dysfunction and suffocated piivilege, the subuiban aes-
thetic has only iecently begun to account foi a new wave of immigiants,
queeis, people of coloi, and woiking-class families (many of whom weie
displaced fiom uiban centeis by encioaching gentiifcation and skyiock-
eting piopeity values
) who now foim 'minoiity majoiities¨ in places
like the Califoinia subuibs.
Nexi IrtJa, (2uuu), the second flm in the hit IrtJa, fianchise cie-
ated by and staiiing gangsta iappei tuined Hollywood playei Ice Cube,
thematizes this shift in the subuiban imaginaiy by boasting the tagline
'the subuibs make the `hood look good.¨ Hijinks ensue when Ice Cube`s
chaiactei, Ciaig, moves to the Southein Califoinia subuib of Rancho
Cucamonga with his lotteiy-winning Incle Llioy and cousin Lay-Lay,
in an effoit to hide out fiom his foimei iival, Leebo, who escaped fiom
piison and is looking foi payback. ¯he flm unfolds amid the backdiop
of the smoggy exuiban enclaves east of Los Angeles dubbed the 'Inland
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 199
Lmpiie¨ and its stucco landscape of Spanish-style subdivisions wheie the
'good life¨ is tiansfoimed into an extension of the 'hood life.¨ Inlike a
slew of othei iecent novels and flms that have tiansposed the white, uppei-
middle-class intiigue and ennui of the subuiban aesthetic into diamas of
immigiant assimilation (like }humpa Lahiii`s celebiated 2uu4 novel The
Nanesale), oi kinetic paiables of oveiachievement gone bad (like }ustin
Lin`s cinematic take on Asian Ameiican hooligan neids, Eeiier Lucl Tonor-
ro:, 2uu2), Nexi IrtJa,`s iomp takes on the inteiclass as well as inteiiacial
tensions that dismantle ceitain fxtuies of the subuiban mythos, namely,
its claims to stability, seamlessness, and communal insulaiity.
Nexi IrtJa, depicts a subuiban 'cultuie clash¨ as a seiies of slapstick
encounteis among blacks, Latinos, and Asians vying foi theii inteipieta-
tion of the subuiban landscape. ¯his clash is also, fundamentally, a conßict
among styles of living that iuptuie the aichitectuial inteichangeability
and similitude that defnes (often by failing to defne) subuiban space.
Nexi IrtJa, deiives much of its humoi fiom poitiaying ostensibly geneiic
and unmaiked tiact houses and stiip malls as 'blinged-out¨ ethnicized
laiis foi the flm`s motley chaiacteis. Chinatown tchotchkes, lowiiding
minitiucks, and ghetto baioque fuinituie vacuum sealed in vinyl point
to the endless vaiieties of class and 'ethnically¨ inßected customization
that have giadually tiansfoimed the subuiban enviionment while putting
a distinctly diffeient spin on the competitive aspiiation to 'keep up with
the }oneses.¨
By confounding white, bouigeois tastes with classed and iacialized
inteipietations of 'piospeiity,¨ Nexi IrtJa, offeis a ciitique of subuiban
aesthetics while ieconfguiing the subuiban imaginaiy with its paiodic
take on the stylistic maikeis of upwaid mobility. Wheieas Nexi IrtJa,
exploies how subuiban spaces and communities have been alteied by the
mostly lateial migiations made by uiban black and Latino families seeking
moie affoidable housing, Chan begins with this ieconfguied, iacialized
subuiban landscape as a point of depaituie foi hei }} Chinois piojects.
¯he mobility Chan tiacks in hei piojects inveits the classic 'good life¨
tiajectoiy fiom the city to the subuibs by engaging and ciitiquing a queei
developmental naiiative in which the queei subject does not come out but
comes tnio a queei scene by moving fiom a nowheie to a somewheie÷fiom
a placeless place like a subuib to '¯he City.¨ ¯aking its cues fiom 197us
pop-cult flms all the way up to Nexi IrtJa,, the staiting piemise of Chan`s
ievisionist naiiative is to 'ie-Oiient¨ hei audiences to an otheiwise disoii-
enting subuiban landscape: to show us that the 'placeless place¨ is actually,
alieady a 'somewheie¨ with its own vexed if unaiticulated ielationship to
iace, sexual oiientation, and oiientalism.
Chan`s chosen piopei name foi hei peisona, }} Chinois, is in and of
Jne nobility
Cnan tracks in ner
projects inverts
tne classic ¨qooo
lire` trajectory
rron tne city to
tne soborbs by
enqaqinq ano
critiqoinq a qoeer
2uu Karen 1ongson
itself a testimony to inteisecting iacialized and classed pop-cultuial signi-
feis that invoke oiientalism and impeiialism. ¯he initials aie an homage
to the mainstieaming of 197us black populai cultuie, an echo of }immie
Walkei`s signatuie chaiactei }}, the ghetto-fabulous dandiacal lothaiio
with a heait of gold fiom the sitcom CooJ Ttnes.
¯he suiname is an effete
ßouiish accentuating a link between cosmopolitan and impeiial piojects of
naming. Chan ciibbed Chinois fiom hei fist wide-eyed encountei with the
Asian iestauiants of Paiis, as well as the 'fusion¨ Vietnamese iestauiants
of Southein Califoinia that attempt to convey 'a touch of class¨ by evoking
Iiench colonial Vietnam and a Continental joie de vivie that makes 'the
ethnic¨ palatable to disceining consumeis.
In the vaiious live and Web-based incainations of hei }} Chinois
piojects, Chan woiks to tiansfoim hei subuiban imaginaiy fiom spiawl
to specifcity by tiading on an idiosynciatic iepeitoiie of place-names and
stiip mall sites to constiuct hei subuiban aichive of woildly knowledge.
¯he 'woildliness¨ of this subuiban aichive is contingent on the classed,
iacialized, and nationalized tiopes of populai cultuie, paiticulaily televi-
sion and Web cultuie, which function as the suiiogate sites and ciicuits of
sociability in an aichitectuially decentialized subuiban context.
Wnere in tne WorId ls JJ Cninois7
}} Chinois`s domain is a domain name. He can be found stiiking his sig-
natuie soft-butch contiapostal pose at ¯he boideiless
space of the Woild Wide Web plays on the fantasy of }}`s global appeal÷
even Chaiiman Nao is a fan÷while spatially allegoiizing the diama of
}}`s naiiative of oiigin in anothei boideiless zone: the Califoinia expanse
somewheie between and aiound Los Angeles and San Iiancisco. Because
the contact enabled by stieet life and close quaiteis inteiactions in big cit-
ies is not available to the geogiaphically isolated queei subject÷the type
of inteiclass, inteiiacial, and inteisexual contact valued by Samuel Lelany
in his homage to a piecoipoiate ¯imes Squaie
÷the Woild Wide Web
becomes the emblematic nonspace }} Chinois uses to foment an intimacy
among widely dispeised 'teens,¨ 'dilettantes,¨ 'squaies,¨ 'lesbians, 'stai-
lets,¨ 'celebiities,¨ and 'those who make them celebiities¨ who compiise
}}`s fan base.
Aftei the Naciomedia Ilash intio, the fist page at which
}}`s visitois aiiive tells his biogiaphy. We leain about }}`s smashing debut
in New Yoik City engineeied by the legendaiy impiesaiio and oiiginal
diag-king of comedy, Nuiiay Hill, himself named aftei a little nowheie
spot in Nanhattan. It becomes appaient that }} has alieady made it theie
and that we, luckily enough, aie about to ietiace his ioad to staidom.
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 2u1
¯he second page infoims us that }}`s 'stoiy began a few yeais ago in
Coalinga, Califoinia.¨ Anyone who has evei taken a diive on Inteistate 5
between San Iiancisco and Los Angeles, oi who has iead the Ne: Yorl
Ttnes aiticle '¯he Lazed and the Boied on I-5,¨
will iecognize this
place-name about midway thiough the ioute neai a coipoiate cattle ianch,
Haiiis Ranch. Coalinga is desciibed on its city Web site as a place 'nestled
in Pleasant Valley . . . ten miles west of Inteistate 5.¨
¯he Coalinga 'local
facts¨ community Web site situates the town at 'the uiban fiinge of a laige
city¨÷Iiesno, about sixty miles away, which the site boasts is 'Califoinia`s
sixth laigest city!¨
Coalinga cuiiously situates itself as a 'fast-giowing
subuib¨ to oveicome outsidei peiceptions that it is a backwatei wasteland
somewheie in the Cential Valley. What comes as a suipiise in }}`s bio
is not just that }} uses the aspiiing subuib, Coalinga, as his geogiaphic
spiingboaid but, iathei, the specifc settings in Coalinga wheie }}`s 'iaw-
thioated vulneiability¨ is puipoitedly discoveied. Accoiding to his bio,
}} squandeis his 'piodigious talents¨ as a 'dim-sum cait pushei at the
local Chinese iestauiant.¨ ¯he setting foi }}`s night shifts, the 'Steei and
Stein,¨ is moie likely to exist in Coalinga, yet the name itself is ciibbed
fiom an establishment now ienamed the Spunky Steei in Riveiside, a good
19S miles south.
'Chaiiman Nao`s Lightei.¨ Lynne Chan (
2u2 Karen 1ongson
By conßating, confusing, and substituting one subuiban site foi the
next, Chan uses a familiai humoious tiope that plays on the subuibs` inf-
nite inteichangeability. Places, people, and things aie so similai fiom one
subuib to the next that it matteis veiy little whethei places like the Steei
and Stein aie actually in Riveiside oi Coalinga; some manifestation of
the kitschy cowboy steak house will undoubtedly be found in eithei place.
Chan`s locational license, howevei, iewiites the punch line. }}`s biogiaphy
actually substitutes one subuiban site foi the next foi two diffeiently
situated audiences. As Chan explains, }} Chinois`s uibane audiences aie
expected to fnd a kind of sight-gag humoi in the place-name Coaltnga
without even knowing exactly what it signifes and without iealizing that
anothei layei of humoi can be deiived fiom the decidedly outlandish notion
that Coalinga haibois a dim sum iestauiant.
¯he site of locational knowl-
edge foi a queei New Yoikei in }}`s bio would be Nuiiay Hill, iecognizable
as both an homage to a place-name in Nanhattan and the non Je siage of
a queei enteitainei who has long been based in New Yoik City.
Inlike the cosmopolitan ieadei of }}`s bio, the subuiban ieadei might
not necessaiily fnd the name Coaltnga in and of itself visually humoious.
¯he subuiban ieadei of }}`s bio, howevei, might ievel in a deepei level of
'}}`s Biogiaphy.¨ Lynne Chan (
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 2u3
signifcation and iecognition. ¯o undeistand the joke fully iequiies living
oi having lived the demogiaphic specifcity and, indeed, the implicit mis-
eiy of these subuiban locales somewheie in the vast Califoinia expanse. A
subuiban audience in Califoinia would know that the subuiban dim sum
cait pushei would most likely be found in Nonteiey Paik, the self-dubbed
'Beveily Hills foi Chinese,¨ oi maybe othei densely populated Asian
subuibs like Rowland Heights, Walnut, oi ¯oiiance, but not Coalinga.

Oi, iathei, the Asian subuiban audience who lives in Nonteiey Paik, oi
who diives theie foi dim sum fiom any one of a numbei of othei Southein
Califoinia outposts, would iealize that this subuib is wheie you might fnd
a }} Chinois.
¯he inside joke is also foi the queei subuibanite. }} Chinois`s ludic
open seciet is not that he is a queei tiansgendeied Asian peifoimei passing
as a boy in a place that fails to iecognize him but iathei that Lynne Chan,
the New Yoik City aitist who has cieated this peisona and ie-cieated
these places, shaies in an intimate knowledge of these mundane, shame-
inducing subuiban specifcities. She at once pays tiibute to, and is iecog-
nized by, the quiiky queei subuibanite of coloi past oi piesent who has
shaied the tiagicomic ieality of knowing the kinds of iacial alienation that
occui in the Califoinia subuibs, not just among whites and people of coloi
bioadly defned but among the vaiied ethnic gioups that have settled in
these enclaves and know in which geneiic sites to locate themselves and
seek each othei out. ¯he cosmopolitan queei ethos, as Wayne Biekhus and
Leieka Rushbiook have each suggested, ielies on the iepudiation of the
subuibs and the gloiifcation of uiban hot spots foi its veneei of stylistic
and identitaiian supeiioiity.
Chan engages in a game of iecognition with
postsubuiban queeis while inviting a ietuin of the iepiessed, encouiaging
anothei kind of 'outing¨ altogethei of a spatial familiaiity with nowheie
spaces. }} Chinois`s naiiative insists that fabulous queeis liteially do come
out of 'nowheie¨÷fiom a myiiad of specifcally situated, and potentially
embaiiassing, nowheies thought to be at odds with the foimation of the
queei, iacialized subject. ¯he topogiaphical knowingness that distin-
guishes the queei cosmopolitan
÷wheie the best dim sum in the city is,
oi wheie the haute cuisine beef cheeks aie peifectly done÷is subveited by
Chan`s naiiative of }} Chinois`s discoveiy. In an echo of hei own peisonal
naiiative in which she longs to fiequent sites like the coinei 7-11, Lenny`s
all-night iestauiant, and othei subuiban outposts,
}} Chinois is himself
discoveied in geneiic, subuiban locales like the Payless Shoe Souice. As
Chan`s ievision of these sites suggest, you have to have cultivated the skills
of seeking out places liteially in the middle of nowheie, in the geneiic
expanse of the subuibs, to ultimately fnd the iight places now that you
aie somewheie÷now that you have aiiived ihere (in }}`s case, New Yoik
Cnan enqaqes
in a qane or
recoqnition vitn
qoeers vnile
invitinq a retorn
or tne represseo,
anotner kino
or ¨ootinq`
altoqetner or a
spatial raniliarity
vitn novnere
2u4 Karen 1ongson
City). }} does not meiely suivive, but he thiives in stiip mall settings and
by viitue of his piesence cieates a 'scene¨ in the subuiban enviionment.
As I show, the 'buzz¨ suiiounding }} is geneiated in a seiies of settings
beyond the oibit of the iacialized, queei cosmopole.
Touring tne Backroads: From Diaspora to ¨Dykeaspora¨
Nost of the }} Chinois Web site is not devoted to the glamoui of the big
city that acts as glamoui`s geogiaphic measuie, New Yoik. Neithei does
it naiiativize }}`s ultimate aiiival in New Yoik City as a libeiation oi as
an attempt to ßee fiom his nowheie places of oiigin. }} Chinois ultimately
leaves sweet home Califoinia foi New Yoik City, although the ioute he
takes aftei Nuiiay Hill helps him cultivate his 'ideal combination of
talent and viiility without bias in eithei diiection¨ is not a stiaight shot
fiom oblivion to biight lights, big cities. As }}`s toui dates show us, he
weaves his way fiom the West Coast to the Last by stopping at ied states
and ied towns in between. His toui dates include the Payless Shoe Souice
in Hygiene, Coloiado; the veteian`s building in Piotection, Kansas; OK
Lggioll in Bowlegs, Oklahoma; the Sandollai RV Paik in Sopchoppy,
Iloiida; and the Loubletiee Inn Recieation Centei in Shanghai, West
Viiginia, among othei locations.
All aie places that seem as if they should not exist, yet all of them
actually do. While not all of his toui stops aie cuiiously oiientalist in place-
name oi setting, theie is a iunning motif in which the Asian is infused
into unlikely locales. Heie Chan iiffs not only on the infnite substitution
of the links in coipoiate chains but alludes to a iacial imaginaiy infoimed
by midcentuiy design`s appiopiiation of 'exotic¨ motifs foi piefabiicated
enviionments in the subuibs. One publicity stunt employed by the devel-
opeis of subuiban iesidential outposts was to cieate theme enviionments
to enliven otheiwise cookie-cuttei bedioom communities.
¯he piolif-
eiation of 195us tiki-themed bais and oiiental kitsch lounges in subuiban
outposts thioughout the Inited States is but one example of how a Lis-
ney-inspiied consumei impeiialism manufactuied a Pacifc Rim exoticism
that second-geneiation aitists like Chan now exploit and celebiate as a
signifcant component of theii own iacial imaginaiy. Chan`s vision of hei
own Asianness thiough }} Chinois, meanwhile, has been shaped by and
in tuin ieshapes the subuiban steieotypes of iace she encounteied in her
homeland, Cupeitino, Califoinia.
Chan`s 'diag¨ is iacialized as well as
gendeied, and she exaggeiates Asian and white iconogiaphies of mascu-
linity that ciiculated with subuiban cache duiing hei foimative yeais. }}`s
look is equal paits Biuce Lee, Steve Peiiy fiom }ouiney (the iockei who
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 2u5
imploies 'small town giils¨ to take the 'midnight tiain going anywheie¨),
and Chan`s own ideal of a haiiless Asian masculinity.
Chan expeiiments with iepiesentations of iace fiom the subuiban
simulacial void; she does not tuin to hei paients` ancestial Hong Kong
'homeland¨ to locate a model of Asian authenticity. In this sense Chan`s
woik belongs simultaneously to a fn de siecle and postmillennial Asian
Ameiican aesthetic (exemplifed in liteiatuie by R. Zamoia Linmaik`s
Folltng ihe F`s), which employs pop-cultuial steieotypes of queei, ethnic
sexuality to explode sentimental naiiatives of diaspoiic longing. Chan
heiself complicates the facile coiielations made between the 'subuibs¨
and stylelessness by exploiing the ielationship between the designated
site of queei cultuie (named in Chan`s pioject as New Yoik City) and its
most insidious othei: the Califoinia subuibs, a vast spiawl of inteilocking
fieeways and eight-lane 'Nain Stieets¨ wheie no one walks and eveiyone
diinks Sluipees and spends aftei houis at the all-night Lenny`s. By con-
tiasting New Yoik and Califoinia, Chan diamatizes the tension between
tiaditionally uiban topogiaphical spaces÷massive, veitical, centialized
cities÷and theii spiawling counteipaits on the Califoinia coastline.

With the exception of San Iiancisco, Califoinia`s majoi cities such as
Los Angeles and San Liego aie incoipoiated into subuiban topogiaphical
imaginaiies, as Ldwaid Soja`s woik, Fosineirojolts: Crtitcal SiuJtes of Cti-
'¯oui Lates.¨ Lynne Chan (
2uó Karen 1ongson
tes anJ Fegtons, explains.
Califoinia shaies with New Yoik City a dense
and complex histoiy of immigiations and migiations, especially in the
twentieth-centuiy populai imaginaiy. Both New Yoik City and Califoinia
seive in Chan`s woik as national endpoints, not only at the coastal edges of
the mainland Ameiican expanse but also within phantasmic tiajectoiies
of a still-extant Ameiican dieam of 'citizenship¨ in which queei subjects
have also indulged. Ioi diffeient ieasons, the uiban and subuiban seive
both as last stops in a tiajectoiy of tiiumph and foitune foi the queei of
coloi aspiiant and as beacons foi stiangeis fiom a diffeient shoie. Chan
tiaces a pattein of queei migiation fiom the subuibs to the cities in pait to
eschew hei own immigiant paients` investment in an 'Ameiican dieam¨
of upwaid mobility that imagines a 'good life¨ foi childien in the subui-
ban context.
Yet what also distinguishes Chan`s }} Chinois pioject is that it iefuses
to pass ovei the points of tiansit to and fiom emblematic sites of migiation
and immigiation like Califoinia and New Yoik. By situating }}`s toui stops
in chain stoies and iecieational centeis within the 'ßyovei zones¨ of the
Inited States, Chan offeis an imaginative mapping of queei local migia-
tions to complement and complicate moie global ienditions of diaspoia.
¯he spatial and sexual oiientations of dykes of coloi who cultivate theii
sexuality in the 'middle of nowheie¨ aie often misplaced and subsumed in
peipetual ieimaginings of global immigiation iathei than piopeily situated
'¯oui Lates.¨ Lynne Chan (
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 2u7
in theii own histoiies of local migiation. As Cayatii Copinath piedicted
eaily on in discussions about queei diaspoia, Jtasjora itself might be a
limiting teim and concept insofai as it ielies on 'conventional ideologies
of gendei and sexuality¨ while taking foi gianted the spatial and aesthetic
hieiaichies between fist and thiid woild spaces.
In the inteiest of iemapping the spatial teiiain and the stylistic embodi-
ments that come with queei topogiaphies, I have chosen to concoct the
neologism J,leasjora to desciibe the tianslocal homosexuality made leg-
ible by the movements within the Inited States depicted in Chan`s }}
Chinois piojects. D,leasjora admittedly lacks the theoietical dignity of
the woid on which it plays, Jtasjora: a longing foi a sense of home aftei
the dispeision fiom 'oiiginal¨ sites iich with 'authentic¨ histoiies and
cultuies. A diaspoiic subject is buidened with an impossible desiie foi
ancestial authenticity that looks elsewheie, to a place of oiigin, foi a
sense of stylistic and existential oiiginality. ¯he nostalgia that sometimes
accompanies diaspoiic yeainings foi a placeness imbued with oiiginality
both ieal and imagined is notably muted in my vision of the subuiban
dykeaspoia, insofai as the subuiban sites that seive as points of oiigin
foi the dykeaspoiic subject demand an iionized mimiciy of longing, oi
a vigoious distancing fiom the point of fist contact wheie the cultuies
impoited by one`s paients become assimilated into a subuiban naiiative
of success. ¯he etymological failing of J,leasjora, its excision of the 'dia¨
that signifes movement and dispeision is, I would aigue, piecisely what
opens the teim to a queei of coloi ciitique that could challenge noimative
notions of space in queei as well as heteionoimative contexts.
Liteially, J,leasjora would tianslate into J,le seeJ, a phiase unfoi-
tunately evocative of the lesbian baby boom that belies a homonoimative
investment in bouigeois familial stiuctuies and lived enviionments. Yet I
would like to suggest that the dyke seed contained within the teim J,leas-
jora need not be subsumed by a iepioductive imaginaiy. Instead, it makes
legible the queei developmental naiiatives that undeilie the queei subject`s
movements fiom subuibs and small towns to cities. Indeed, J,leasjora is
an appiopiiately aitifcial teim that can iefei veiy piecisely to the piocess
of self-stylization and self-geneiation that initiates the movement with
which Chan expeiiments in making the 'stai¨ peisona, }} Chinois. Chan`s
modulation of subuiban ennui into a ludic key while iepudiating the psy-
choanalytic familial sagas so often cential to the 'white diaspoia¨ fiom
cities to subuibs also disavows a homonoimative, uiban queei ihetoiic of
'dangei¨ and despaii about peiipheial spaces.
}}`s constant movements thiough subuiban and iuial landscapes
equivocate the ideals of choice and libeiation that noimativize queei
naiiatives of migiation to big cities. As much as the }} Chinois fan site
2uB Karen 1ongson
documents how he ultimately 'aiiives¨ (in moie ways than one) in Nan-
hattan, }} iefuses to settle into the queei comfoit that city life piovides.
}} Chinois becomes Chan`s vehicle foi expiessing a willingness to ietuin
to and ieclaim locations that we often quickly concede aie 'not foi us.¨
What began as an expeiiment in self-stylization and topogiaphical tiack-
ing using the phantasmic space of the Woild Wide Web became Chan`s
point of depaituie foi a live demonstiation of }}`s ability to make a scene
in spaces beyond queei cosmopoles. In 2uu3 Chan intioduced }} Chinois
to the townspeople of Skowhegan, Naine, wheie he enteied the demolition
deiby at the Skowhegan State Iaii, one of the nation`s oldest countiy faiis
established in 1S1S to 'impiove the bieeding of livestock, with paiticu-
lai emphasis being placed upon the betteiment of bieeds of hoises and
Rathei than focusing on the piesumed 'feai¨ oi violence she
might encountei as a queei subject enteiing the familial, heteionoimative
aiena of the state faii setting, Chan instead viewed the demolition deiby
as an oppoitunity to examine the enteitainment value placed on iisk and
I liked the idea of this soit of niche aiena of masculine competition that
combines iidiculous comedy but ieal violence oi ieal iisk. I wanted to tap
into that collective fascination with violence and enteitainment. I think the
Leiby pioved itself to be an impoitant counteipoint to }}`s fansite. A fansite is
ultimately a bit of a safe space: it`s foi the alieady seduced, and once it`s set up
that fction is set in place. I think it`s one thing to talk about the web as some
utopian ideal of accessing a limitless audience. But closei to the tiuth, a fan
community is also a fction. Actually being in public space and intioducing a
peisona taught me about people`s assumptions, and my own assumptions.
As I show, }}`s debut in the down-home enviionment of the Skowhegan
State Iaii÷an annual event that boasts on its Web site live appeaiances by
such fguies as '}oey Chiltwoods |of] the auto thiill show, and the nation`s
populai countiy gioup, Asleep at the Wheel¨
÷piovides a fascinating
model of cultuial 'encountei¨ that piesents a template foi ieimagining the
geopolitical paiadigms of space that have inhibited queei movements.
¯he taut and tan 'Young Republican¨ in the besmiiched muscle shiit
hunched ovei his customized iide in this photogiaph is none othei than }}
Chinois. While it echoes the alluiing, animated silhouette of }} featuied
on the fist page of his fan site, this image fiom the Skowhegan State Iaii
indulges in a moie eainest and effoitless iendition of }}`s woiking-class
masculinity as he moves fiom the iepiesentational space of the Web to a
live aiena. Nany of the backgiound images on }}`s fan site featuie him in
vaiious shadowy, piofled poses, including one in which he stiikes a classic
muscle-mag bicep cuil. In this photogiaph of }} assessing his entiy into
11 Cninois
becones Cnans
venicle ror
expressinq a
villinqness to
retorn to ano
reclain locations
tnat ve orten
qoickly conceoe
are ¨not ror os.`
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 2u9
the Skowhegan demolition deiby, the campy bicep cuil has been ieplaced
with just enough cocky, viiile lean to ieveal natuially the toned contoui of
his uppei aim. ¯he photogiaph piovides a study in unstudied masculin-
ity, oi at the veiy least, in a masculinity stiiving to achieve an unstudied
piesentation. As Chan explains, she chose }}`s demeanoi and attiie foi
the demolition deiby in pait as a iesponse to whom she anticipated }}`s
audiences might be at the faii: '¯he Young Republican t-shiit was an in-
joke on my pait. It kind of summed up the look I was going foi . . . white
tiash, patiiotic, macho. All the things I went in assuming my audience
would be.¨
Indeed, vaiious othei paiticipants in the demolition deiby at the
Skowhegan State Iaii enteied the contest foi patiiotic causes like 'iaising
money foi the tioops¨ in Iiaq, so Chan`s assumptions weie not entiiely off
the maik.
Yet hei expeiiences in Skowhegan in piepaiation foi the deiby
and aftei the deiby itself confounded Chan`s own expectations about }}`s
tiansition fiom the Web to a toui stop in live space:
}}`s toui stops on the web weie an imaginaiy jouiney acioss mid-Ameiica oi
all the supposed non-places acioss the countiy. I`d nevei expeiienced a state
faii with a demolition deiby. . . . Ny inteiactions with the fiiends I made
in town, and the people in the ciowd made me iealize that I had my own
assumptions about who my audience was. One of the most iewaiding paits
'Young Republicans.¨ Still fiom }} Chinois Lemolition Leiby flm, Lynne Chan
21u Karen 1ongson
of enteiing the competition was developing fiiendships with people in town
who ended up helping me out immensely. I developed a genuine iappoit with
the old couple that sold me the cai (Al and Betty). Ross, a mechanic in town,
was the main peison who helped me modify and tune-up my cai. He also
gave me impoitant advice on deiby stiategy. He happened to be one of the
fnalists in the pievious yeai and convinced me that the most impoitant pait
of competing was 'winning the ciowd.¨
Having talked the talk on the Inteinet, Chan wanted to walk the walk at
the state faii and ultimately discoveied that expectations on both sides of
The Creai Dt.tJe weie open to ieinteipietation. Chan acknowledges hav-
ing enteied the competition with a 'cosmopolitan bias,¨ a piedisposition
to assume hei audiences might not have the ciitical capacity to 'get the
joke,¨ even though the oiiginal Web incaination of the }} Chinois pioject
delibeiately indulged in a utopian fantasy about commonality and tians-
foimative encounteis thiough fandom. She came to iealize, howevei, that
hei cybeispace account of }} seducing the masses in heaitland settings
was not entiiely off the maik. She speaks waimly of 'Al and Betty¨ and
'Ross the mechanic,¨ the local folksy fguies who offeied }} suppoit and
encouiagement in his quest to become the Skowhegan demolition deiby
champion. ¯he quaint townsfolk who nuituied }}`s demo deiby dieams
aie a fai ciy fiom the fan base desciibed on the }} Chinois fan site÷the
'teens, dilettantes, stailets, celebiities and those who make them celebii-
ties.¨ While }} ceitainly seduced them, theii eainest assistance with }}`s
deiby aspiiations in tuin seduced Chan and encouiaged hei to ieenvision
the iange of }}`s fan community.
Yet even as some of these iemaikable individual iesponses subveited
Chan`s assumptions about hei audience, pait of the thiill manufactuied
by }} Chinois`s paiticipation in the Skowhegan demolition deiby was
not simply that ceitain expectations about locally maiked subjects weie
fiustiated. In fact, many of them weie thiillingly affimed even as }}`s
encounteis with some locals and ietio ciowds yielded unanticipated out-
comes. As Chan iepoits, many of the state faii attendees weie indeed white
people gatheied togethei fiom decidedly 'ied counties,¨ some within the
blue state of Naine, some fiom 'ied states¨ much fuithei south along the
Atlantic Coast. Nany of the them came fiom subuibs, exuibs, and iuial
towns espousing the veiy ideals }} iionically embodied in his Young Repub-
lican tee÷a macho, chip-on-the-shouldei woiking-class patiiotism moie
invested in the symbols of national belonging than inteiested in ciitiquing
the national policies installed to keep class and iegional stiatifcation intact.
In many iespects, they fulflled Chan`s own queei fantasy of 'the othei,¨
of the othei as an aichetype of contempoiaiy Ameiicana with all of the
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 211
NASCAR tiappings. }}, on the othei hand, fulflled his audience`s fantasies
about a stylish, and outlandish, celebiity glamoui that had to have been
impoited fiom somewheie else and that had to iepiesent diffeient values:
'People iunning the deiby told me that they had 'fguied I must be some
kind of poin stai` and Coogled my website, which on some level seemed
to confim some belief about who they thought }} Chinois was.¨
Like hei }} Chinois site, which played with the signifeis of gendei,
iace, and class in ways that moved beyond the diama of 'passing,¨ }}`s
appeaiance at the Skowhegan State Iaii left behind the paiadigm of pass-
ing as a measuie of success. Instead, Chan became moie inteiested in
staging a scene of seduction on a mass level by inviting, and potentially
piovoking, conßict as she inspiied doubt, confusion, and even a kind of
mimetic iecognition with hei appeaiance:
I wasn`t too conceined with 'passing¨ in this setting. I kind of natuially pass
to some extent a lot of the time, and I think that I did to vaiying degiees to
diffeient people thiough the event. Yet I think }} ieally won ovei lots of new
fans, by confusing expectations. I think many people piobably iealize on
some level theie was some kind of stunt going on with my appeaiance. Otheis
seemed to simply accept my novelty whethei it was because I was biown and
diessed and acted like them, oi ambiguously gendeied. And then to small
childien I iepiesented some kind of othei-woildly oi |maybe] just some kind
of Othei that they could pioject some kind of stai-status onto . . . piobably
the most ideal ieaction I would want.
}} Chinois`s live demolition deiby debut piesents a novel notion of 'dem-
onstiation¨ both stylistically and politically. While it has at its coie a
piinciple of confiontation÷of exposing childien and adults to 'some
kind of Othei¨ in a noimative, if spectaculai setting÷its laigei political
aim is not meiely confiontation itself oi an aggiessively motivated stag-
ing of incongiuous diffeiences. Neithei does it woik exclusively on the
piinciples of infltiation, assimilation, oi passing. In othei woids, woik-
ing with oi wooing those who hold deai noimative ietio values does not
iequiie muting the maikeis of queeiness and iace to attain an acceptance
that is itself a phantasmic ideal. Yet neithei does an encountei with ietio
folks demand lapsing into a suffocating 'Log Cabin¨ ethos to piove we
can be just as noimal, successful, and tax aveise as 'eveiyone else.¨ ¯his
bouigeois appioach piobably would not ßy in a setting like a state faii
demolition deiby. Lven though }} dons an eagle decal Young Republican
muscle shiit and eainestly mimics the gestuies and poses of white woik-
ing-class masculinity, he ietains an element of novelty and idiosynciasy
maiked by iace and his ambiguously gendeied ßouiishes of style: 'What I
quickly leained is that most people aie genuinely delighted to see }}`s pink
212 Karen 1ongson
cai with gold wheels with a giant waving hand. I wasn`t that conceined
about 'fooling` the audience about who I was. On a mass level like that,
people just stait to assume that you aie a man, oi that 'Chinese boy,` oi
know that you aie female and don`t ieally caie.¨
Noie than anything,
}} Chinois`s appeaiance at the Skowhegan State Iaii ieminds us that the
stylishly gaiish spectacle of queeiness has a distinctly seductive potential,
even as it stakes its own claim on spaces and settings that aie not neces-
saiily intended foi us and even when it is not employed in the seivice of
confeiiing the seciet of style to heteiosexuals who might envy it.
Yet }} also ieminds us that queeis indulge too willingly in oui own
pieconceived notions about space, that we iest too comfoitably in oui
uiban inhibitions to ieimagine the geopolitical teiiain and to have signif-
cant encounteis with the iuial and subuiban otheis we feai most in the
places we feai to tiead. While }} Chinois is not likely to single-handedly
luie conseivatives and elusive swing voteis to ially aiound queei causes,
Chan`s }} Chinois piojects at the veiy least enable us to iediaw the uiban
boundaiies of a queei spatial imaginaiy in ways that invite a mutual iespect
oi at the veiy least a potentially pioductive mutual cuiiosity.
Chan`s piojects offei a model of queei encountei distinctly optimistic
about the queei`s ability to move to, fiom, and thiough subuiban and iuial
spaces without succumbing to the inevitable and self-fulflling naiiatives of
despeiation and violence that haunt the spatial 'peiipheiies.¨ ¯he ciowds
at the Skowhegan State Iaii did not iip }} to shieds oi assail him with
homophobic epithets and iacial sluis as his pink, gold-wheeled cai with
a giant waving hand attached to the ioof caieened thiough the demo pit.
¯hey instead iallied aiound him as 'the undeidog¨ when his cai began
to take a beating in the deiby.
Lespite having lost the deiby competi-
tion, }} accomplished the kind of victoiy Ross the mechanic established
as the ultimate goal foi his demo deiby appientice: 'It`s about winning
the ciowd.¨
As }} Chinois demonstiates, it might be possible foi us to 'win the
ciowd¨ even if we iefuse to compiomise the legibility of what is unapolo-
getically, outlandishly queei. We aie not obliged to tiansfoim ouiselves
into oui tasteful, cuddliei made-foi-¯V veisions in oidei to tiaffc thiough
the Ameiican heaitland unscathed. How we subsequently woik to tians-
foim the political landscape aftei staging these close encounteis, howevei,
iemains to be deteimined. At the veiy least, }} poses the possibility that
we can, at once, empathize with the othei as well as invite the othei`s
empathy÷not just in oui suffeiing but in oui pleasuies. Reßecting on }}`s
'demo¨ in Skowhegan, Chan wiites, 'I wasn`t so much making an iionic
gestuie, but fnding a way of expeiiencing a genuine pleasuie in shattei-
ing expectations about identity, iace and gendei in places we think of as
/s 11 Cninois
oenonstrates, it
niqnt be possible
ror os to ¨vin
tne crovo` even
ir ve rerose to
tne leqibility
or vnat is
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 213
scaiy, nowheie places. It was about having an audience ieact in confusion,
but also delight.¨
¯his delightful confusion might only be ephemeial,
might only last foi the span of an evening in which iiony and iidicule aie
suspended as the ciowd sounds a ioaiing suige of iespect foi the undeidog
whoevei he may be, wheievei she may be fiom. But maybe we can fnd a
moisel of possibility in the modest vision of victoiy that made buddies of
Ross the mechanic and }} Chinois. Naybe it is 'about winning the ciowd,
even if it`s just foi an evening.¨
1. ¯he jouinalist Lavid Biooks is ciedited with populaiizing the ied state/
blue state paiadigm in a Lecembei 2uu1 aiticle titled 'One Nation, Slightly
Livisible¨ published in the ¬ilanitc Aonihl,. A ßuiiy of iesponses to Biooks`s
calculated oveisimplifcation of the 'new cultuie wais¨ was issued, among them a
book-length study by Stanfoid political scientist Noiiis P. Iioiina (with Samuel }.
Abiams and }eiemy C. Pope) titled Culiure !ar. The A,ih of a Folart:eJ ¬nertca
(Hailow, IK: Longman, 2uu4), debunking the paiadigm`s cultuial component.
Neveitheless, the concept continues to have a consideiable amount of play and
has since been ieconfguied as the ietio veisus metio paiadigm in what amounts
to a cultuial template foi electoial victoiy pitched to centiist Lemociats. See }ohn
Speiling, The Creai Dt.tJe: Feiro .s. Aeiro ¬nertca (Sausalito, CA: PoliPoint,
2uu4). Poitions of the book aie also available online foi a fiee PLI download
thiough a Web site iun by PoliPoint Piess, devoted to cieating a buzz aiound the
ietio veisus metio concept. See www.ietiovsmetio.oig. ¯he political scientist
Kimbeily Naldei of Califoinia State Iniveisity, Saciamento, is conducting a ciiti-
cal study and suivey of these paiadigms, and I thank hei foi hei input on these
geopolitical models.
2. See www.ietiovsmetio.oig/ietiovsmetio/. ¯hese quotations aie taken fiom
a split-scieen diagiam explaining, in bioad stiokes, the ciucial diffeiences between
ietio and metio Ameiica.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. ¯he last twenty yeais have seen an abundance of cultuial and social histo-
iies of queei uiban life in the Inited States and abioad. While such texts aie too
numeious to list heie, it waiiants notice that a majoiity of uiban queei histoiies,
paiticulaily those that have achieved canonicity in queei studies, have focused
piimaiily on gay male communities in New Yoik City. Peihaps most exemplaiy
in this iegaid is Ceoige Chauncey`s Ca, Ne: Yorl: CenJer, Irban Culiure, anJ ihe
Aaltng of ihe Ca, Aale !orlJ, 1890÷1940 (New Yoik: Basic Books, 1995). See
also Chailes Kaisei`s Ca, Aeirojolts (New Yoik: Haivest Books, 199S). Recently,
queei scholais have begun to ciitique the histoiical mythos of uiban gay life by
taking to task its complicity with piojects of uiban gentiifcation, and iace and
class segiegation. Chiistina B. Hanhaidt, a PhL candidate in Ameiican studies
at New Yoik Iniveisity, is completing a disseitation titled 'Safe Space: Sexual
Ninoiities, Ineven Iiban Levelopment, and the Politics of Violence,¨ which
piomises to be an impoitant contiibution to this feld of inquiiy.
214 Karen 1ongson
6. In a seiies of books, Richaid Iloiida has chaiacteiized an emeigent 'cie-
ative class¨ who populate specifc cities (and neighboihoods within cities) that
miiioi the new economic lifestyle disentangled fiom the foity-houi woik clock
and industiial pioduction. See Richaid Iloiida, The Ftse of ihe Creait.e Class: ¬nJ
Ho: Ii`s Transforntng !orl, Letsure, Connunti,, anJ,Ja, Ltfe (New Yoik:
Peiseus Books, 2uu2), and his iecent follow-up, Ctites anJ ihe Creait.e Class (New
Yoik: Routledge, 2uu4).
7. Nuch of the demogiaphic infoimation on gay and lesbian populations in
The Creai Dt.tJe and the newly published Ca, anJ Lesbtan ¬ilas is culled fiom
the 2uuu I.S. Census, which, foi the fist time, suiveyed paitneied gays and les-
bians. Because the census only collected data on gay and lesbians using categoiies
of noimative social aiiangements like couples and families, the Ca, anJ Lesbtan
¬ilas offeis a limited poitiait of gay and lesbian 'communities¨ thioughout the
Inited States, despite its admiiable geogiaphic coveiage. See Caiy }. Cates, }ason
Ost, and Llizabeth Biich, The Ca, anJ Lesbtan ¬ilas (Washington, LC: Iiban
Institute Piess, 2uu4).
S. Infoimation about SONC, its outieach netwoiks thioughout the south-
ein Inited States, and its political objectives can be found on its Web site, www
9. See www.southnewgiound.oig/page2.html.
1u. Ibid.
11. Rodeiick Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of Color Crtitque
(Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu4).
12. Ibid., 26. As Ieiguson explains, 'queei of coloi ciitique addiesses minoi-
ity cultuial foims as both within and outside canonical genealogies¨ while nevei-
theless 'pointing to the iuptuial possibilities of those foims.¨
13. }udith Halbeistam, '¯elling ¯ales: Biandon ¯eena, Billy ¯ipton, and
¯iansgendei Biogiaphy,¨ in 'Queei Auto/Biogiaphies,¨ ed. ¯homas Speai, spe-
cial issue, a;b, 62÷S1. ¯he aiticle has since been iepublished in Fasstng: IJeniti,
anJ Inierjreiaiton tn Sexualti,, Face, anJ Feltgton, ed. Naiia Caila Sanchez and
Linda Schlossbeig (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1), 13÷37.
14. See }ames ¯. Seais, Febels, Fub,fruti, anJ Fhtnesiones: Queertng Sjace tn
ihe Sione:all Souih (New Biunswick, N}: Rutgeis Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1). See
also woiks on the gay and lesbian Nidwest, such as Beth Bailey`s Sex tn ihe Heari-
lanJ (Cambiidge, NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2); and Kaien Lee Osboine
and William }. Spuilin, eds., Feclatntng ihe HearilanJ: Lesbtan anJ Ca, 1otces fron
ihe AtJ:esi (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 1996).
15. See www.ietiovsmetio.oig/ietiovsmetio/.
16. One of the most compelling iecent examples that iemaps and ieimagines
queei, uiban teiiain is Naitin Nanalansan`s new book, Clobal Itltjtno Ca,
Aen tn ihe Dtasjora (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu4).
17. Catheiine }uica, intioduction to !htie Dtasjora: The Suburb anJ ihe T:en-
iteih-Ceniur, ¬nertcan No.el (Piinceton, N}: Piinceton Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1),
1S. Ioi an account of woiking-class migiations into the subuiban aieas of
Southein Califoinia, see Becky N. Nicolaides, A, Elue Hea.en: Ltfe anJ Foltitcs
tn ihe !orltng-Class Suburbs of Los ¬ngeles, 1920÷1965 (Chicago: Iniveisity of
Chicago Piess, 2uu2).
19. Recent social histoiies like ¯imothy Iong`s Itrsi Suburban Chtnaio:n: The
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 215
Fenaltng of Aoniere, Farl, Caltfornta (Philadelphia: ¯emple Iniveisity Piess,
1994) and Wayne Biekhus`s Feacocls, Chaneleons, Ceniaurs: Ca, Suburbta anJ
ihe Crannar of Soctal IJeniti, (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago Piess, 2uu3) have
poweifully aigued that late-twentieth-centuiy and postmillennial Ameiican sub-
uibs aie incieasingly populated by 'minoiity majoiities¨ of queei and iacialized
subjects. Census data show that fiom 19Su to 199u the Chinese Ameiican popula-
tion moie than doubled in the subuib of Nonteiey Paik; by 1994, 56 peicent of its
inhabitants identifed themselves as Chinese Ameiican.
2u. Nimi Nguyen, a Nellon Postdoctoial Reseaich Iellow in women`s studies
at the Iniveisity of Nichigan, has wiitten extensively on Chan`s celebiity peisona
and expeiimentations with 197us 'ethnic¨ masculinities, including Biuce Lee`s
inteinationally populaiized biand of Asian masculinity. A specifc poition of this
woik, 'Stai Peisonas and Ian Iictions: Biuce Lee, }} Chinois, and the Queei
¯echnologies of Celebiity,¨ was piesented at the Centei foi New Nedia at the
Iniveisity of Califoinia, Beikeley, in Octobei 2uu4.
21. Chan began incoipoiating Chtnots into hei daily vocabulaiy aftei a visit
to Paiis and shoitly theieaftei invented the chaiactei of }} Chinois (Lynne Chan,
inteiview by authoi, New Yoik City, Octobei 2uu1).
22. Samuel Lelany, Ttnes Square FeJ, Ttnes Square Elue (New Yoik: New
Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1).
23. Ioi an insightful analysis of the impact Inteinet technologies have on
Asian Ameiican media aits, and on Chan`s }} Chinois piojects in paiticulai, see
Lve Oishi, 'Bad Asians, ¯he Sequel: Continuing ¯iends in Queei API Iilm and
Video,¨ in 'Cay and Lesbian Lxpeiimental Cinema,¨ ed. }im Hubbaid, special
issue, Atllenntun Itln }ournal 39 (2uu3): 34÷41.
24. See }anelle Biown, '¯he Lazed and the Boied on the I-5,¨ Ne: Yorl
Ttnes, 15 Novembei 2uu2.
25. See
26. Coalinga community Web site,
coalingaSu3b.htm (accessed Novembei 2uu2; this site is no longei available).
What aie teimed 'cities¨ in the cential valleys of Califoinia (like Iiesno, and }}`s
puipoited biithplace, Bakeisfeld) have iecently been iefeiied to as 'edge cities,¨
oi hybiid subuiban enviionments chaiacteiized by laige civic goveinments and
giowing iesidential populations. Aichitectuially, these 'edge cities,¨ oi exuibs,
aie moie subuiban in chaiactei than the classic, eaily-twentieth-centuiy Ameii-
can notion of the veitical metiopolis. See }oel Caiieau, LJge Cti,: Ltfe on ihe Ne:
Ironiter (New Yoik: Loubleday, 1991).
27. Coalinga community Web site,
2S. Chan and I discussed hei use of place-names in an inteiview conducted
Octobei 2uu1. Subsequent citations fiom that inteiview have been ieviewed and
appioved by Chan.
29. See Iong, Itrsi Suburban Chtnaio:n, 35÷54.
3u. Biekhus ciitiques these queei cosmopolitans in 'Cay Subuibanites,¨ in
Feacocls, Chaneleons, Ceniaurs, 5÷7. See also Leieka Rushbiook`s 'Cities, Queei
Space, and the Cosmopolitan ¯ouiist,¨ CLQ S (2uu2): 1S3÷2u6.
31. Rushbiook, 'Cities, Queei Space, and the Cosmopolitan ¯ouiist,¨ 1SS÷
32. Chan, inteiview by authoi.
21ó Karen 1ongson
33. See Nike Lavis, Cti, of Quari:: Lxca.aitng ihe Iuiure tn Los ¬ngeles (New
Yoik: Vintage, 199u), S4÷SS.
34. Chan, inteiview by authoi. Chan`s paients found woik in the softwaie
industiy and ielocated to Cupeitino (in Silicon Valley) in the 197us.
35. Ibid. Chan explains how the peisona of }} developed aftei a seiies of pho-
togiaphic expeiiments depicting Latino, 'cholo¨ veisions of iacialized masculin-
ity as pait of hei undeigiaduate woik at the Iniveisity of Califoinia, Lavis, and
ICLA. Chan subsequently began to think of ways to combine the iconically viiile
Asian masculinity of Biuce Lee with the stylistically andiogynous but hypeimas-
culine glam iock ethos of the same eia.
36. A helpful iesouice on the spiawling topogiaphy of gay and lesbian life in
Los Angeles is Noiia Rachel Kenney, Aajjtng Ca, L.¬.: The Inierseciton of Flace
anJ Foltitcs (Philadelphia: ¯emple Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1).
37. See especially Soja`s chapteis, 'An Intioduction to the Conuibation of
Cieatei Los Angeles¨ and 'Iiactal City: Netiopolaiities and the Restiuctuied
Social Nosaic,¨ in Fosineirojolts: Crtitcal SiuJtes of Ctites anJ Fegtons (Oxfoid:
Blackwell, 2uuu).
3S. Cayatii Copinath, 'Iunny Boys and Ciils: Notes on a South Asian
Queei Planet,¨ in ¬stan ¬nertcan Sexualtites, ed. Russell Leong (New Yoik: Rout-
ledge, 1996), 119÷25. Copinath`s extensive body of woik on 'queei diaspoia¨ has
eniiched this initially naiiow and noimative concept of Jtasjora while aleiting us
to the teim`s undeilying nationalist limitations. At the same time, Copinath points
the way foi a methodology that can inteipiet and make legible female queei desiies
subsumed by oithodox, diaspoiic imaginaiies. Ny own account of }} Chinois,
howevei, does not easily ft within the iubiic of queei diaspoia that Copinath
desciibes in Injosstble Subjecis: Queer Dtasjoras anJ Souih ¬stan Fubltc Culiures
(Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu5). I decided to use the neologism
J,leasjora to offei a naiiowei, moie locally situated notion of queei movements
and migiations.
39. See Halbeistam`s ciitique of metionoimativity in hei essay '¯elling ¯ales:
Biandon ¯eena, Billy ¯ipton, and ¯iansgendei Biogiaphy.¨ ¯eena`s self-stylization
as a chivalious middle-class Ameiican male not only accounts foi his tiouble÷his
dangei and iisk÷but also his pleasuie. Yet ¯eena`s failuie to ßee the Nebiaska
plains can only be iead by his metionoimative biogiapheis as a failuie iathei than
as a choice÷as a failuie to ßee dangeious ciicumstances iathei than as a stiategy
for suivival and styles of living that Halbeistam speculates might be 'shaied by
many Nidwestein queeis |as] a way of staying iathei than leaving.¨
4u. Ioi a local histoiy of the Skowhegan State Iaii, see www.skowheganstatefaii
41. Lynne Chan, e-mail inteiview by authoi, 15 Octobei 2uu4.
42. Ibid.
43. Chan, e-mail inteiview by authoi. }} has neveitheless consistently cited his
political piefeience as 'Republican,¨ both on his Web site and in the }} Chtnots
flm. Ioi anothei iefeience to }}`s Republicanism, see Oishi, 'Bad Asians, ¯he
Sequel,¨ 35.
44. ¯he Skowhegan State Iaii Web site offeis links to local news aiticles
about demolition deiby paiticipants iaising money oi offeiing tiibute to Ameiican
tioops in Iiaq (
45. Chan, e-mail inteiview by authoi.
Hov a Suburban Heartthrob Seouceo Reo Anerìca 217
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid.
4S. Ibid.
49. Ibid.
5u. Ibid.
51. Ibid.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
+VEJUI)BMCFSTUBN When I fist ieceived an invitation to speak at the Iniveisity of Nichigan`s
'Cay Shame¨ confeience, I felt immediately that this confeience was not
foi me. ¯he idea of gay shame felt anachionistic, even though I knew
about the activist gioups who oiganized undei this iubiic to ciitique the
consumeiism of gay piide festivals.
¯he moie I thought about the confei-
ence and its theme, the moie I became convinced that gay shame, if used
in an unciitical way, was foi, by, and about the white gay men who had
iejected feminism and a queei of coloi ciitique and foi whom, theiefoie,
shame was still an active iubiic of identifcation. A quick glance at the
list of paiticipants a few months befoie the confeience confimed this
notion, as at least seventeen white gay men weie scheduled to speak out
of a list of about foity-fve paiticipants and only a handful of people of
coloi weie listed foi the entiie event. I consideied sending an e-mail to
the confeience oiganizeis to ask about theii undeistanding of the place
of iace in queei studies today, but I thought bettei of it and piesumed
that the list of paiticipants was still undei constiuction and would look
veiy diffeient when the confeience began. As it tuined out, the list of
paiticipants did change slightly; one of the queei people of coloi invited,
Samuel Lelany, could not attend, and so Hiiam Peiez was one of two
people of coloi at the event who was speaking on a panel (as opposed to
modeiating a panel). At a confeience wheie disability studies was given
a panel all its own (and an excellent panel at that) and the scope of the
discussion was supposed to extend beyond the univeisity and into activist
and peifoimance communities, the omission of people of coloi, oi at the
veiy least of queeis explicitly woiking on iace, was ominous.
How do we explain the absence of both a panel on iace and sexuality
and queei people of coloi at a majoi queei studies confeience in the yeai
2uu3· Is it the case that gay shame is not a iubiic that ielates to iacializa-
tion· Has theie been no ielevant woik iecently on gay shame and iace·
Is queei studies white· Is queei activism white· Is iace somehow not an
impoitant iubiic foi queei studies· Obviously, the answei to each of these
questions is 'no¨: theie has been a huge amount of woik iecently that foie-
giounds iacial piocesses and indeed implicates shame in pioducing queei
22u 1uoìth Halberstan
identities. New books by Rod Ieiguson, Robeit Reid-Phaii, }uana Rodii-
guez, Licia Iiol-Natta, and Lavid Lng immediately come to mind, and
oldei woik by }ose Lsteban Nuñoz, Lavid Roman, and }acqui Alexandei
piovide the ciitical backdiop against which and fiom which this new woik
Queei woik on iace has become cential to the queei pioject in
academia, and queei studies has moved fai beyond ieadings of canonical
white gay male authois and aitists by tenuied white gay male piofessois.
So why, again, would a majoi national confeience on queei studies include
little to no woik on queei iace by published scholais in the feld· I want to
answei this question by pioviding heie an expanded veision of the papei
I gave at the confeience and then conclude with a biief summaiy of a
seiies of skiimishes that developed at the confeience aiound the topic of
white gay male hegemony. In the couise of this essay, some of my iemaiks,
paiticulaily those diiected at white gay men, actually take on the foim of
shaming itself. While I iealize that this peifoimance of shaming is not the
best way to dislodge its effects and inßuence, my aigument thioughout
is that we cannot completely do without shame and that shame can be a
poweiful tactic in the stiuggle to make piivilege (whiteness, masculinity,
wealth) visible.
Let me say at the outset that some (not all) of the white gay men
behaved as if they iepiesented a block inteiest; at times the discussion was
wholly dominated by white gay men discussing issues of inteiest to othei
white gay men, and the point was made, duiing one such discussion, that
while women and people of coloi aie willing to wiite and think about white-
ness and masculinity, white gay men show veiy little inteiest in wiiting and
thinking in iecipiocal ways about iace and gendei.
¯his kind of naiiow
inteiest in the self can only be teimed tJeniti, joltitcs. Ny hope heie is to
use the confeience to uniavel and make visible the deeply invested identity
politics of white gay men that have obscuied moie iadical agendas; this is
an identity politics moieovei that, like the identity politics of othei white
male scholaiship, hides behind the bannei of 'geneial inteiest¨ oi simply
'knowledge.¨ ¯he futuie of queei studies, I claim, depends absolutely on
moving away fiom white gay male identity politics and leaining fiom the
iadical ciitiques offeied by a youngei geneiation of queei scholais who
diaw theii intellectual inspiiation fiom feminism and ethnic studies iathei
than white queei studies.
In my piesentation at the Cay Shame confeience, I offeied some thoughts
on 'gay shame¨ intended to piovoke and encouiage discussion. I pie-
ve cannot
conpletely oo
snane . . .
snane can be
a poverrol tactic
in tne stroqqle
to nake privileqe
vealtn} visible.
Shane ano Vhìte Cay Masculìnìty 221
sented my iemaiks in thiee sections, each with its own polemical thiust,
each with a set of questions, and each intended to add to a geneial con-
cein about the iomanticization of gay shame, a iomanticization that,
I believe, glosses ovei both the paiticulaiity of this foimation and the
damage of its myopic iange.
Snane ls to Cnilonooo as Coeer ls to /ooltnooo . . .
If queei is a politically potent teim, which it is, that`s because, fai fiom
being capable of being detached fiom the childhood scene of shame, it
cleaves to that scene as a neai-inexhaustible souice of tiansfoimational
÷Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Shane anJ Ferfornait.ti,: Henr, }anes`s Ne:
Yorl LJtiton Frefaces
Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick,
and otheis who have wiitten so eloquently about
gay shame, posit an eaily childhood expeiience of sexual shame that has
to be ieclaimed, ieinteipieted, and iesituated by a queei adult who, aimed
with a theoietical language about his oi hei sexuality, can tiansfoim past
expeiiences with abjection, isolation, and iejection into legibility, com-
munity, and love. Cay shame, in this scenaiio, becomes the deep emo-
tional ieseivoii on which an adult queei sexuality diaws, foi bettei oi foi
woise. ¯he sexual and emotional sciipts that queei life diaws on, and that
oppose the sciipts of noimativity, aie indebted oddly to this eaily expeii-
ence with shame, denial, and misiecognition. When we seek to ieclaim
gay shame and we oppose the noimativity of a 'gay piide¨ agenda, we
embiace these awkwaid, undignifed, and giaceless childhoods, and we
choose to make them pait of oui political futuie.
¯he annexing of shame to queei within the tempoial space of 'anteii-
oiity¨ has been a huge pait of seveial inßuential piojects in queei studies:
Nichael Wainei`s ciitiques of 'noimal,¨ Sedgwick`s theoiy of 'shame,¨
and Leo Beisani`s woik on 'homos¨ all fnd iich aichives of sexual vaii-
ance in what Llizabeth Iieeman has called 'the tempoial lag between
homo and gay.¨
And in Louglas Ciimp`s new woik, 'Queei befoie Cay,¨
queei is veiy explicitly the piehistoiy of gay, a histoiy that must not be
left behind in the iush to gay piide but which must be excavated in all its
contiadiction, disoidei, and eios. While these piojects make some useful
disconnections between queei life and the seeming inevitability of homo-
noimativity, theie aie also some pioblems that attend to chaiacteiizing
shame as noimal`s 'othei¨ and then positioning it as a past that must be
ieclaimed. ¯he thiee most obvious pioblems have to do with gloiifying
222 1uoìth Halberstan
the pie-Stonewall past; idealizing youth itself, the teiiitoiy of gay shame
aftei all; and, as Lauien Beilant suggests in FegarJtng SeJg:tcl: Lssa,s on
Queer Culiure anJ Crtitcal Theor,, focusing peihaps too much on inteiioi-
ity. Beilant asks: 'Nust the pioject of queeiness stait 'inside` of the subject
and spiead out fiom theie·¨
Why aie these things pioblematic· Well, focusing excessively on
a mythic queei past oi oveiinvesting hope in a queei futuie oi build-
ing a queei pioject fiom the 'inside of the subject¨ actually pioduces a
iomanticized notion of a gay past (this is what Raymond Williams calls
and then neutializes the potency of ciitiques of that past that
emeige in the queei piesent; in a piesent-day context, foi example, we
may fnd that a contempoiaiy antihomonoimative queei politics emeiges
fiom iacialized gioups and immigiant communities specifcally as a cii-
tique of the mythologizing of the queei past that goes on in white gay
communities. Ioi example, Naitin Nanalansan has alieady made a veiy
diffeient ciitique of Noith Ameiican gay piide celebiations (diffeient fiom
those ciitiques made by 'gay shameis¨) and the tiaditions that they both
mobilize and consolidate. In an essay about the twenty-ffth anniveisaiy
celebiations in 1994 of the Stonewall Rebellion titled 'In the Shadows
of Stonewall: Lxamining Cay ¯iansnational Politics and the Liaspoia
Lilemma,¨ Nanalansan specifcally took aim at the inteinationalizing of
a I.S. gay movement: 'Who bestows legitimacy on the naiiation of Stone-
wall as the oiigin of gay and lesbian development· What does this naiiative
of oiigins engendei· What piactices and locations aie suboidinated by a
piivileging of Stonewall as oiigin·¨
His questioning of the 'globalizing
of gay identity¨ (5u2) ieminds us of the global fiamewoik within which
celebiations like gay piide take place, but it also ieveals the pioblem of
univeisalizing debates within which gay white men occupy all available
positions: aftei all, the ciitics of homonoimativity and piide aie, like the
homonoims themselves, white gay men.
Recently in gay and lesbian communities, we have witnessed a staitling
new focus on gay youth. Youth gioups have spiung up eveiywheie along
with gay schools and gay-stiaight encountei gioups in high schools. Youth
gioups, to be veiy geneial, iescue young queeis fiom the potential bullying
and isolation that awaits the adolescent with same-sex desiies oi alteina-
tive gendeiing, and they offei a safe space among peeis and counselois
within which to develop contiaiy sexualities. Infoitunately, some youth
gioups also install, peihaps piematuiely, both a sense of a fxed identity
and a context of huit and damage within which to undeistand that fxed
sexual identity. Nuch of the oiganizing aiound gay shame in activist ciicles
has come fiom queei youth who tuin theii iebellious instincts away fiom
stiaight cultuie and diiect many of theii most seaiing indictments at oldei
Shane ano Vhìte Cay Masculìnìty 223
gays and lesbians. ¯he geneiational conßict that gay youth gioups inad-
veitently inspiie woiks in tuin to noimalize the tempoial ihythms of queei
While in the past, queei inteigeneiational dating allowed oldei men
and women to pass on infoimation, sexual piactices, and histoiical infoi-
mation fiom one geneiation to the othei, now gay youth aie 'piotected¨
fiom the 'piedations¨ of oldei queeis. In the past, oedipal dynamics could
be avoided in queei communities because the divide between youth and
oldei people was undeiemphasized; now, gay youth veiy much want to sup-
plant an oldei geneiation`s models of identity, community, and activism.
Cay shame, again, with its emphasis on claiming the abject mateiiality
that 'piide¨ disiegaided, incieases these geneiational divides and enables
young gays to diiect theii political angei at the veiy gay and lesbian activ-
ists who made gay youth gioups possible in the fist place.
In othei woids, gay shame has a tendency both in its academic and in
its activist incainations to become a totalizing naiiative that balances out
the consumei focus of 'gay piide¨ with the faux-iadical chic of white gay
shame; because of its binaiy stiuctuie, shame/piide then seems to have
coveied the entiiety of gay expeiience. When we make gay piide into the
sum total of contempoiaiy queei politics, we simply aie not looking closely
enough at the alteinatives. Cay piide may well be a massive consumei
oppoitunity as its ciitics have astutely pointed out, but not eveiyone is
'buying.¨ Ioi some folks, gay piide is the only 'gay¨ thing they do all yeai;
foi otheis, the oppoitunity to maich within ethnic gioups that tend to be
maiginalized by white gay communities makes gay piide an impoitant site
foi the disiuption of a monolithic association of gay identity with white
gay masculinity. Cay gioups like SALCA, ¯RIKONL, and the Audie
Loide Pioject aie not meiely offeiing themselves as new taigets foi niche
maiketing at gay piide, noi aie they iounding out the diveisity pioclaimed
by the ubiquitous iainbow ßags; these gioups come to queei politics with
specifc iadical agendas, specifc foims of queei cultuie, specifc foims
of queei woild making, and in this iespect they aie fai iemoved fiom
the ßoats that adveitise a new gay bai oi a new gay chuich oi a new gay
haidwaie stoie.
So while gay shame stabilizes the piide/shame binaiy and makes white
gay politics the sum total of queei ciitique, gay shame also has a tendency
to univeisalize the self who emeiges out of a 'shame foimation¨: at the
miciolevel, the subject who emeiges as the subject of gay shame is often a
white and male self whose shame in pait emeiges fiom the expeiience of
being denied access to piivilege. As I discuss latei, shame foi women and
shame foi people of coloi plays out in diffeient ways and cieates diffeient
modes of abjection, maiginalization, and self-abnegation; it also leads to
veiy diffeient political stiategies. While female shame can be counteied by
Jne sobject vno
enerqes as tne
sobject or qay
snane is orten
a vnite ano
nale selr vnose
snane in part
enerqes rron
tne experience
or beinq oenieo
access to privileqe.
224 1uoìth Halberstan
feminism and iacialized shame can be counteied by what Rod Ieiguson
calls 'queei of coloi ciitique,¨ it is white gay male shame that has pioposed
'piide¨ as the appiopiiate iemedy and that focuses its libidinal and othei
eneigies on simply iebuilding the self that shame dismantled iathei than
taking apait the social piocesses that pioject shame onto queei subjects
in the fist place. ¯his is why, as Beilant states, we might want to question
the notion of a queei politics that begins 'inside the subject.¨ ¯he notion
that social change can come about thiough adjustments to the self, thiough
a focus on inteiioiity without a concomitant attention to social, political,
and economic ielations, can be a disastious tactic foi queei studies and
queei activism.
Iinally, discussions about gay shame, even those that want to countei a
politics of piide, betiay a kind of casualness about the effects of shame on
otheis÷Nichael Wainei wains about this when he wiites, 'What will we
do with oui shame· . . . the usual iesponse is to pin it on someone else.¨

Wainei is exactly iight in desciibing how shame is piojected away fiom
the self and onto otheis; what he is less piecise about is how the piojection
of gay shame elsewheie is neithei iandom noi unpiedictable. Ioi example,
in the infamous Waihol Screen Tesi =2 that Louglas Ciimp wiites about
in 'Naiio Nontez: Ioi Shame,¨ which was scieened at this confeience,
the body made to beai the visible maiks of gay shame (Waihol`s, the diag
queen`s, the viewei`s), foiced to squiim undei the cameia`s gaze and be
painfully vulneiable, belongs not to a white gay man like Waihol but to a
Pueito Rican diag queen. In this exciuciating scieen test, the diag queen
consents to be a kind of maiionette foi a 'casting diiectoi¨ (not Waihol
but Ronald ¯avel) who manipulates Nontez fiom behind the cameia and
only evei iegisteis in the flm as a disembodied voice. Ciimp gives us an
example of Nontez`s humiliation:
Pooi Naiio. Now begins his humiliation. ¯avel tells Naiio to iepeat aftei
him, 'Ioi many yeais I have heaid youi name, but nevei did it sound so
beautiful until I leained that you weie a movie pioducei, Liaiihea.¨ Naiio is
obliged to say 'diaiihea¨ again and again, with vaiious changes of inßection
and emphasis. ¯hen to lip synch, as ¯avel says it. 'Nouth 'diaiihea` exactly
as if it tasted of nectai,¨ ¯avel instiucts. Naiio obeys, blissfully unawaie of
wheie this game of pleasing a pioducei named Liaiihea will lead.
Ciimp only mentions the fact that Nontez was Pueito Rican in passing
to point out that some of the ieligious abjection to which ¯avel subjected
Nontez would have been veiy humiliating, but nowheie does Ciimp
addiess the iacialized dynamic of the biown body dancing to the tune
whistled by an invisible white diiectoi; and nowheie does he ciedit Nontez
with some agency in hei own peifoimance.
Ciimp`s inteiest in the Nontez scieen test, he says, has to do with the
Shane ano Vhìte Cay Masculìnìty 225
encountei it affoids between the viewei and 'the othei`s shame,¨ a shame,
nonetheless, that he claims: 'We accept as also ouis, but cuiiously also ouis
alone¨ (67). Cuiious indeed that this shame, the othei`s shame, so seam-
lessly becomes 'ouis¨; how does this happen· Is it that the white viewei
feels the iacial shame of whiteness by watching the biown body squiim· Is
it that the white gay viewei iecognizes that his piide depends on anothei`s
abjection· Not exactly. Ciimp implies instead that he (we·) accesses his
own sense of vulneiability by watching it couise thiough anothei body,
and he affims: 'I am thus not 'like` Naiio, but the distinctiveness that is
ievealed in Naiio invades me÷'ßoods me,` to use Sedgwick`s woid÷and
my own distinctiveness is ievealed simultaneously. I, too, feel exposed¨
(67). How peifect! ¯he white gay man, just like the white gay man in the
Asian poin flms desciibed in Richaid Iung`s classic essay 'Looking foi
Ny Penis: ¯he Lioticized Asian in Cay Nale Poin,¨ does not have to be
exposed because theie is a iacialized body well positioned to be exposed in
his place. In the flms that Iung desciibed, the white gay male fantasizes
his own vulneiability by imagining himself as an Asian man when he is
being fucked.
Lavid Lng has expanded on Iung`s ieading and piovided
us with a name foi this piocess: iacial castiation.
In the scene that Ciimp
desciibes, Nontez, the Pueito Rican diag queen, peifoims hei castiation
so that Waihol/¯avel/Ciimp can access the pleasuie of humiliation without
actually having to embody the shame himself. As Laiiy La Iountain-
Stokes iecently wiote to Louglas Ciimp in an open lettei: 'Ioi me the
shame of Naiio Nontez becomes that of Iiantz Ianon, faced by a child
who staies at him in hoiioi, the shame of Cloiia Anzaldua and Cheiiie
Noiaga and Audie Loide, of those Pueito Ricans and othei diaspoiic
people of coloi shamed eveiy day foi being a subjugated and iacialized
people, and paiticulaily, the shame of the Pueito Rican queei.¨
At the
confeience, when asked about the iacial dynamics of this scene, Ciimp
iefeiied the audience to excellent woik on Waihol and iace by a giaduate
student, ¯aio Nettleton; while it was impoitant foi Ciimp to iefei to this
woik, it also had the effect of assigning the task of ieally poiing ovei white
gay shame elsewheie . . . yet again.
Snane ls to lenininity as laqe ls to Mascolinity . . .
Obviously shame is multifaceted and can be biought on by psychic tiau-
mas as biutal as physical bullying and as seemingly benign as mute indif-
feience. But the physical expeiience of shame iecoids in diamatic fashion
(a blush, veitigo, oveiwhelming panic) a failuie to be poweiful, legiti-
mate, piopei÷it iecoids the exposuie, in psychoanalytic teims, of the
subject`s castiation, be it iacial, gendeied, class-based, oi sexual. Since
Jne pnysical
experience or
snane recoros
in oranatic
rasnion a railore
to be poverrol,
proper÷it recoros
tne exposore, in
terns, or
tne sobjects
castration, be it
racial, qenoereo,
or sexoal.
22ó 1uoìth Halberstan
gendei is the dominant fiamewoik in psychoanalysis, one would be tempted
to say that castiation as theoiized in psychoanalysis is cential to shame
and that shame is cential to femininity. If the cuiient social aiiangements
of powei ieseive and piotect ceitain foims of legitimacy foi white, phal-
lic subjects, then, inevitably, those bodies neithei white noi phallic will
fnd that theii matuiation piocesses and even theii adult lives must pass
thiough the teiiitoiy of shame. And, at the same time, white and phal-
lic subjects will fnd that theii only shame may lie in not claiming theii
histoiically mandated piivilege. And so, the shame expeiienced by white
gay men in childhood has to do with exposing theii femininity and dia-
matizing theii failuie to access the piivilege that has been symbolically
ieseived foi them. ¯he sissy boy is the incaination of shame, and so we
should not be suipiised to fnd that the centeipiece of today`s gay piide
movements has to do with ieclaiming gay masculinity.
It needs to be pointed out in any discussion of gay shame that foi the
butch lesbian, hei masculinity is not in and of itself shameful when she is
a child (hence tomboy toleiance). It is the butch`s failuie to become piop-
eily feminine at adolescence that piompts the shame, and so we should
say that some lesbian subjectivities have much less to do with shame than
most gay white male subjectivities, and indeed butch embodiment has
been theoiized by Butlei in ielation to 'melancholy,¨ and it is situated in
the two most famous novels of lesbian masculinity, The !ell of Loneltness
and Sione Euich Elues, as defant singulaiity in one and heioic isolation
in the othei.
Butchness gives iise to the blues, to iage, and fnally to a
political sensibility shaied by othei female subjects who expeiience them-
selves as disenfianchised÷namely, feminism. Shame is, I am claiming, a
gendeied foim of sexual abjection: it belongs to the feminine, and when
men fnd themselves 'ßooded¨ with shame, chances aie they aie being
feminized in some way and against theii will. Ieminists, ovei the yeais,
have used consciousness-iaising, suppoit gioups, political maiches, and
activist angei to countei the widespiead effects of the shame associated
with womanhood. Nost often, feminists have pioduced complex analyses
of the social stiuctuies that have insciibed ceitain foims of female and
feminine embodiment with shame: we have analyzed the compulsions to
feast and fast, to binge and puige, to fuck and be celibate, to haiboi maso-
chistic desiies, to enteitain thoughts of abuse. Ieminism has thoioughly
sciutinized shame because feminine subjects have so consistently lived in
shame. And so now, at an event geaied towaid examining the paiticulaii-
ties of gay shame, it becomes all too obvious that the only people ieally
lacking a politically uigent language with which to desciibe and countei
shame aie gay white men.
Shane ano Vhìte Cay Masculìnìty 227
Snane on Her¦
Iinally, while I see why people may want to hold on to shame, nouiish
and nuituie a close ielation to shame, build on the negative but deeply
eiotic natuie of shame, I want to close by offeiing a caution against any
deep investments in gay shame by quickly consideiing Pedio Almodovai`s
flm Tall io Her (2uu2). ¯his flm, which should have been given the sub-
title 'because she is in a coma and cannot talk back to you and she won`t
know oi mind what you do to hei even if you iape hei while seeming to
be basically a good guy if a little closeted,¨ bieaks its audiences down into
those who hate it and those who love it. I would even offei a gioss gen-
eialization and ventuie that lesbians hate it and gay men love it (stiaight
women seem to like it and stiaight men could not caie less, just foi the
iecoid). Ialling into the categoiy of those who hate this flm, who despise
its pathetic dependence on aesthetic masteiy to iepiesent the most tiite
and insulting naiiatives about women and men, I nonetheless undeistand
that Tall io Her has much to say about gay shame and its consequences.
Tall io Her opens with a goigeous dance peifoimance in which a
woman stumbles blindly about a stage as a man scuiiies to move objects out
of hei path. In the audience sit two men, Naico (Laiio Ciandinetti) and
Benigno (}aviei Camaio), who sepaiately watch this peifoimance unfold
and then leave the theatei to ieenact it in some foim oi anothei. Lach man
idolizes a woman who iemains unattainable, and each man haibois seciet
homoeiotic desiies that they iepiess out of some sense of shame. Benigno
woiships a balleiina, Alicia (Leonoi Watling), and stalks hei, and Naico
is obsessed with a female bullfghtei, Lydia (Rosaiio Iloies). When Alicia
is hit by a cai and falls into a coma, Benigno takes caie of hei at the hos-
pital, bathing hei, moistuiizing hei pione body, and talking to hei as she
lies mute and unconscious. Naico inseits himself into Lydia`s life aftei
she has a fght with hei boyfiiend, anothei bullfghtei. Naico clinches a
iomantic ielation to Lydia when she sees a snake in hei home, panics, and
he comes to hei iescue. When Lydia is goied in a bullfght and becomes
comatose, Naico attends hei bedside. He is befiiended by Benigno, and
the ielationship between the two men, the cential bond in the flm, unfolds
against the macabie backdiop of the two mute and comatose women. ¯he
silent women become the occasion foi male bonding, and theii piesence
piovides an alibi foi the enactment of desiies that would otheiwise be sup-
piessed within the shame mechanism that we call 'closeting.¨
Benigno`s gayness is both hinted at in the plot and discussed oveitly
by nuises at the hospital. Naico iegaids Benigno with both waiy skepti-
cism and obsessive iegaid as Benigno caies foi his dancei and chats away
22B 1uoìth Halberstan
to hei while encouiaging Naico to do the same. Lventually, Benigno
ciosses a line, and he iapes the ineit dancei. When Alicia is discoveied to
be piegnant, a shoit investigation by the police iesults in Benigno`s aiiest.
He is abandoned by eveiyone except Naico, who visits him, and eventually
Benigno kills himself. As even this biief plot summaiy ieveals, the plot
itself is a pueiile, aggiessive, and violent fantasy about the iole of women
in animating bonds between men. If theie was any doubt at all that this
was a iegiessive naiiative, one sad scene confims the viewei`s woist feais.
By way of hiding the sheei biutality of the iape scene, Almodovai piesents
Benigno`s assault on Alicia in the foim of an animated sequence in which
a tiny man clambeis on the slopes of a huge naked woman. He tiavels
down hei body and enteis hei pubic aiea wheie, aftei some delibeiation, he
pushes his way into hei gaping vagina. ¯his is high-school-level misogyny
in its miseiably unimaginative undeistanding of the ielations between men
and women, its deep-seated feai of the female body, and its slick camou-
ßage of ugly violence with seemingly benign caitoon iepiesentations.
A plot summaiy alone would not convince anyone that this was a flm
woith watching, contemplating, oi celebiating; yet the ciitics (outside
Spain) loved it, and Tall io Her was hailed as one of Almodovai`s best flms.
¯he iichness of Almodovai`s aesthetic sensibility appaiently makes up
foi the fact that the two lead women, women engaged in active and highly
aestheticized piofessions, baiely speak and in fact aie ineit thiough most
of the flm. ¯he flm`s stunning colois, the clevei use of cameia angles,
and the long pauses and moments of silence all gloss ovei the diamatic
silencing and stilling of two veiy active women. What Almodovai`s flm
does do well, howevei, is to diamatize the piecise mechanics of white gay
male shame. Indeed, Almodovai`s flm offeis us thiee solutions to the
discomfoit of white gay male shame.
vork lt Cot or Nornalize lt ¯he flm, and contempoiaiy gay piide poli-
tics, suggests that gay white men can woik thiough gay shame by pioduc-
ing noimative masculinities and piesenting themselves as uncastiated,
musculai, whole. ¯his occuis by cleaving to the oidinaiy and the quiet;
in the flm, this iole is fulflled by Naico, the seemingly stiaight man who
puisues the masculine woman, the bullfghtei, and whose desiie is tiian-
gulated thiough hei onto hei ex and Benigno. ¯o distance himself fiom
the shameful desiies he may have foi men, in othei woids, Naico fist
selects a masculine woman to stand in foi the ieal object of his desiie,
and then latei he uses hei comatose foim as a piop while he puisues his
ielationship with Benigno.
/lnooovars nln
ooes oo vell,
novever, is to
oranatize tne
precise necnanics
or vnite qay nale
Shane ano Vhìte Cay Masculìnìty 229
¦roject lt Llsevnere or /estneticize lt ¯he white gay male expeiience of
shame is often managed thiough the act of piojection, which Louglas
Ciimp desciibes so well in his essay on Naiio Nontez. ¯heie, Andy
Waihol, the oiiginal 'thin white duke,¨ piojects shame, castiation, and
vulneiability onto the feminized and iacialized body of a Pueito Rican
diag queen and in the piocess cieates an illusion of masteiy. In Tall io
Her, it is Benigno who piojects his shame elsewheie÷onto the body of a
mute woman, a dancei who lies in a coma aftei a cai accident. And Naico
pieseives his facade of heteiosexuality by lingeiing at the bedside of the
'goied¨ phallic woman who fought bulls but feaied . . . snakes (Symbol-
ism 1u1 anyone·). ¯he two women iepiesent two diffeient types of gay
male piojection diiected specifcally at women (as I have shown, white gay
male shame may also be piojected onto bodies of coloi). While the foimei
female bullfghtei is essentially the 'fag hag,¨ the castiated and unlucky
woman whose castiation stands in foi the fag`s own shame and who often
becomes a souice of humoi, the foimei dancei occupies the iole of the
diva÷Koestenbaum`s }ackie Onassis oi opeia singei, Waihol`s Naiilyn
Nonioe÷the idealized and phallic woman who often becomes an excuse
foi exquisite but dangeious investments in beauty and ait.
While the fag
hag is used and abused, the diva is caied foi and talked to; the fag hag is
an emblem, the diva a tiophy, the fag hag is openly despised and secietly
woishipped, the diva is openly woishipped and secietly despised. Both
aie summaiily massaged, admiied, and utteily destioyed.
leninist Cay Snane An option that neithei Almodovai noi Waihol
enteitain is that gay shame can be used, in all its gloiious negativity, in
ways that aie feminist and antiiacist. ¯he gloiy of the diag queen is that
she takes piide in hei shame: just the names alone÷Vaginal Lavis, foi
example÷step in wheie otheis feai to tiead.
¯he foim of subject foi-
mation that }ose Lsteban Nuñoz, in iefeience to Lavis`s woik, has called
'disidentifcation¨ also leads us to a place wheie shame can be tians-
foimed into something that is not piide but not simply damage eithei.
Nuñoz uses the woik of Lavis to ciitique the gay/antigay binaiy that,
like the piide/shame binaiy, ciitiques white homonoimativity without
ieally examining the iacial and sexual politics that the homonoims and
antihomonoims shaie. Nuñoz wiites: '¯he foims of 'anti-gay` think-
ing put foiwaid by Vaginal Lavis`s woik aie vastly diffeient in oiigin
and effect than (Naik) Simpson`s Anti-Cay. Lavis`s biand of anti-gay
ciitique offeis something moie than a listless complaint. ¯his additional
something is a sustained ciitique of white gay male noimativity and its
concomitant coipoiate ethos.¨
Nuñoz and Lavis (whose name is taken
23u 1uoìth Halberstan
as an homage to Angela Lavis) fnd supple and vital models foi identif-
cation in feminisms of coloi, and they cleave to an alliance with women
iathei than anxiously unyoking themselves fiom all things feminine, fiom
the contaminating mattei of feminine castiation.
As if to iemind us that the white gay male text, in all its aestheti-
cism, does not necessaiily have to detest and destioy women, Nichael
Cunningham`s novel The Hours offeis a countei to Almodovai`s Tall io
Her. ¯his novel helps us see how the sensibility of gay male shame can be
iouted thiough women without destioying them in the piocess. The Hours
pioduces compelling schemas of queei tempoialities as each woman÷Vii-
ginia Woolf, Lauia Biown, Claiissa Vaughn÷lives thiough the ciacks and
bioken moments in the lives of the otheis.
Lach woman expeiiences a kiss
with anothei woman, each takes caie of a man she does not love, and each
chooses whethei to continue living at odds with time, ait, life, and love.
The Hours shows us vividly the meaning of queei befoie and aftei gay, and
it depicts in unßinching detail the deaths of at least two of its main chai-
acteis; but at its conclusion both shame and the woman have suivived÷a
small tiiumph and a signpost to the next queei moment.
Lven though the Cay Shame confeience was quite enjoyable and had
some gieat moments (the disability panel comes to mind), the plot sum-
maiy of the confeience iesembled the sciipt of Tall io Her moie than the
sciipt of The Hours. In shoit, the confeience fulflled piedictions that gay
shame was a subject cultivated by white gay men but piojected elsewheie,
and this piecise dynamic was acted out in seveial sessions. ¯he implicit
identity politics exeicised by white gay men at the confeience became
explicit when Lllis Hansen chose to illustiate his talk about Plato`s S,n-
jostun and desiie between piofessois and students with images of his
favoiite Pueito Rican poin stai. ¯he images of the naked biown body
immediately iesonated with the exciuciating visibility of Naiio Nontez
that we had alieady witnessed and discussed, and it made cleai the func-
tion of the biown gay male body in the naiiative of white shame. Hansen
was asked a few pointed questions about his piesentation, but in geneial
confeience paiticipants tiied to foiget what they had seen. It was left to
Hiiam Peiez, one of the veiy few people of coloi piesenting woik at the
confeience, to addiess an angiy and impassioned ciitique at Hansen
when Peiez fnally had his tuin to speak on the last panel of the confei-
ence. Hansen iesponded defensively to Peiez, and shoitly theieaftei the
confeience disintegiated into the usual foimulaic exchanges at the open
Shane ano Vhìte Cay Masculìnìty 231
mike about who was and who was not iepiesented on the panels. ¯he
painful session only ended when Nichael Wainei giabbed the mike and
mimicked Nontez saying 'diaiihea.¨
¯he spectaculai dissolution of communication at Cay Shame was
piedictable and in a way inevitable. ¯he punctuation of the confeience by
the appaiently humoious but actually deeply offensive image of a white
gay man (Wainei) mimicking a diag queen of coloi (Nontez) who is lip-
synching to the voice of anothei white gay man (¯avel) captuies peifectly
the iacial dynamics of the confeience as a whole. Peiez found himself veiy
much in the position of Nontez: he could speak, but he would always be
iead as a queei of coloi peifoiming as a peison of coloi and leaving the
space of aiticulation open to the real gay subjects: white gay men. Han-
sen, Wainei, and otheis left the confeience unscathed, as the gay shame
that they so 'pioudly¨ wanted to claim had been successfully piojected
elsewheie. Cayle Rubin`s moving call eailiei in the day foi a little 'humil-
ity¨ and Lsthei Newton`s apology to Peiez foi leaving him with the task
of upbiaiding Hansen went unheaid by the white gay men to whom these
iemaiks weie diiected. And the stoiy of the confeience, soon aftei it was
ended, began to ciiculate as the tale of anothei scholaily pioject hijacked
by the identity politics of queeis of coloi! ¯he tiuth is, it is haid to fnd a
moie iigid identity politics than that aiticulated in Nichigan by white gay
men. If queei studies is to suivive gay shame, and it will, we all need to
move fai beyond the limited scope of white gay male conceins and intei-
ests. As Sedgwick heiself ieminds us in Eei:een Aen: Lngltsh Ltieraiure
anJ Aale Honosoctal Destre, theie is a thin line between homosociality and
homosexuality, and white men (gay oi stiaight) puisuing the inteiests of
white men (gay oi stiaight) always means a heap of tiouble foi eveiybody
1. I should add, howevei, that Lavid Halpeiin was veiy giacious in his invita-
tion to me and invited me to addiess my conceins about the iubiic of 'gay shame¨
at the confeience itself. Halpeiin has been a dignifed inteilocutoi foi my less than
coidial thoughts about this topic and the event it inspiied, and I thank both him
and Valeiie ¯iaub foi the oiiginal invitation and foi theii editoiial comments.
2. }acqui Alexandei and Chandia ¯alpade Nohanty, eds., Ientntsi Cenealo-
gtes, Colontal Legactes, Denocraitc Iuiures (New Yoik: Routledge, 1997); Lavid
Roman, ¬cis of Inier.eniton: Ferfornance, Ca, Culiure, anJ ¬IDS (Bloomington:
Indiana Iniveisity Piess, 199S); }ose Lsteban Nuñoz, DtstJenitfcaitons: Queers
of Color anJ ihe Ferfornance of Foltitcs (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota
Piess, 1999); Lavid Lng, Factal Casiraiton: Aanagtng Aascultnti, tn ¬stan ¬nertca
(Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1); Robeit Reid-Phaii, Elacl Ca, Aan
lr qoeer stooies
is to sorvive qay
snane, ano it vill,
ve all neeo to
nove rar beyono
tne liniteo scope
or vnite qay nale
concerns ano
232 1uoìth Halberstan
(New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1); Licia Iiol-Natta, ¬ Queer Aoiher
for ihe Naiton: The Siaie anJ Cabrtela Atsiral (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Nin-
nesota Piess, 2uu2); Rodeiick Ieiguson, ¬berraitons tn Elacl: To:arJ a Queer of
Color Crtitque (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity of Ninnesota Piess, 2uu3); }uana Naiia
Rodiiguez, Queer LaitntJaJ: IJeniti, Fracitces, Dtscurst.e Sjaces (New Yoik: New
Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3).
3. Not all of the white gay men at this confeience, obviously, felt loyal to white
gay male identity politics. Ceoige Chauncey, foi example, made some illuminat-
ing iemaiks about the inteiactions between men of coloi and white gay men in the
histoiy of gay New Yoik.
4. Sedgwick was cast as the confeience`s intellectual piogenitoi, and hei
absence was cast as the most notable and palpable absence at the confeience (as
opposed to, say, the absence of people of coloi). Indeed, a decision was made to
include an essay by Sedgwick in the confeience volume, but similai essays weie
not iequested fiom }ose Nuñoz, Lavid Lng, oi Robeit Reid-Phaii. I in no way
want to suggest that Sedgwick`s contiibution will not be valuable and ciucial, and
I agiee that hei woik, which I cite appiovingly, has piovided the most geneiative
and insightful models foi thinking about gay shame. Howevei, the casting of Sedg-
wick as the absent centei foi this confeience glossed ovei the moie outiageous
omissions of queei scholais woiking on iace.
5. See Leo Beisani, Honos (Cambiidge, NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess,
1996); Nichael Wainei, The Trouble :tih Nornal: Sex, Foltitcs, anJ ihe Lihtcs of
Queer Ltfe (New Yoik: Iiee Piess, 1999); and Llizabeth Iieeman, 'Packing His-
toiy, Count(ei)ing Ceneiations,¨ Ne: Ltierar, Htsior, 31, no. 4 ( 2uuu): 1÷1S.
6. Lauien Beilant, '¯wo Ciils, Iat and ¯hin,¨ in FegarJtng SeJg:tcl: Lssa,s
on Queer Culiure anJ Crtitcal Theor,, ed. Stephen N. Baibei and Lavid L. Claik
(New Yoik: Routledge, 2uu2), 74.
7. Williams insists that we iegaid 'tiadition¨ not in teims of ineit fiagments
that suivive fiom the past but as a naiiative that shapes the past that a cuiient
ideology iequiies. He wiites: 'What we have to see is not just 'a tiadition` but a
selecit.e iraJtiton: an intentionally selective veision of a shaping past and a pie-
shaped piesent¨ (Raymond Williams, '¯iaditions, Institutions, Ioimations,¨ in
Aarxtsn anJ Ltieraiure |Oxfoid: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 1977],115÷2u).
S. Naitin Nanalansan IV, 'In the Shadows of Stonewall: Lxamining Cay
¯iansnational Politics and the Liaspoiic Lilemma,¨ in The Foltitcs of Culiure
tn ihe ShaJo:s of Cajtial, ed. Lisa Lowe and Lavid Lloyd (Luiham, NC: Luke
Iniveisity Piess, 1997), 4S6.
9. I have wiitten about the pioblem, with an emphasis on youth in queei com-
munities, in a book of essays on queei space and time: }udith Halbeistam, In a
Queer Ttne anJ Flace: TransgenJer EoJtes, Subculiural (New Yoik: New Yoik
Iniveisity Piess, 2uu5).
1u. Wainei, Trouble :tih Nornal, 3.
11. Louglas Ciimp, 'Naiio Nontez: Ioi Shame,¨ in Baibei and Claik,
FegarJtng SeJg:tcl, 57÷7u.
12. Richaid Iung, 'Looking foi Ny Penis: ¯he Lioticized Asian in Cay
Nale Poin,¨ Qc¬: Queer tn ¬stan ¬nertca, ed. Lavid L. Lng and Alice Y. Hom
(Philadelphia: ¯emple Iniveisity Piess, 199S),115÷34.
13. Lng, Factal Casiraiton.
14. Lawience La Iountain-Stokes, 'An Open Lettei to Louglas Ciimp,¨ 22
Naich 2uu3.
Shane ano Vhìte Cay Masculìnìty 233
15. Radclyffe Hall, The !ell of Loneltness (New Yoik: Anchoi, 199u); Leslie
Ieinbeig, Sione Euich Elues: ¬ No.el (New Yoik: Iiiebiand, 1993); }udith Butlei,
'Nelancholy Cendei/Refused Identifcation,¨ in The Fs,chtc Ltfe of Fo:er: Theortes
tn Subjeciton (Palo Alto, CA: Stanfoid Iniveisity Piess, 1997),132÷66.
16. Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen`s Throai: Cjera, Honosexualti,, anJ ihe
A,sier, of Destre (New Yoik: Vintage, 1994); Koestenbaum, }aclte unJer A, Sltn:
Inierjreitng an Icon (New Yoik: Iaiiai, Stiauss and Ciioux, 1995).
17. Vaginal Lavis also sometimes goes by the name 'Vaginal Cieme Lavis,¨
the middle name having been given to him by a jouinalist. ¯he fabulous embel-
lishment of vaginal with cieme suggests a total disiegaid foi shame and its toitu-
ous pathways.
1S. Nuñoz, DtstJenitfcaitons, 111.
19. Nichael Cunningham, The Hours (New Yoik: Iaiiai, Stiauss and Ciioux,
2u. Sedgwick, Shane anJ Ferfornait.ti,.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
In effect, we live in a legal, social, and institutional woild wheie the only
ielations possible aie extiemely few, extiemely simplifed, and extiemely
÷Nichel Ioucault, '¯he Social ¯iiumph of the Sexual Will¨
It is almost as if, staiting fiom a ceitain point, eveiy decisive political
event weie double-sided: the spaces, the libeities, and the iights won by
individuals in theii conßicts with cential poweis always simultaneously
piepaied a tacit but incieasing insciiption of individuals` lives within the
state oidei, thus offeiing a new and moie dieadful foundation foi the veiy
soveieign powei fiom which they wanted to libeiate themselves.
÷Cioigio Agamben, Hono Sacer: So.eretgn Fo:er anJ Eare Ltfe
In 19S6 the Inited States Supieme Couit affimed the constitutionality
of a Ceoigia statute undei which Nichael Haidwick had been chaiged
with committing 'sodomy¨ in his home with anothei adult male. ¯he
Couit began its analysis by disavowing any concein with 'whethei laws
against sodomy between consenting adults in geneial, oi between homo-
sexuals in paiticulai, aie wise oi desiiable.¨ Rathei, the majoiity opinion
in Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl foimulated its judicial task in the following blunt
teims: to deteimine 'whethei the Iedeial Constitution confeis a funda-
mental iight upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy.¨
¯he answei to
ihai question could of couise only be negative. An aigument to the con-
tiaiy was, in the Couit`s notoiious phiase, 'at best, facetious.¨
Less than twenty yeais latei, in }une 2uu3, the Supieme Couit iecon-
sideied its eailiei holding. In ciicumstances similai to those in which
Nichael Haidwick had been chaiged by the state of Ceoigia, }ohn Law-
ience had been aiiested by the state of ¯exas foi engaging in 'deviate sex-
ual inteicouise with anothei individual of the same sex¨ in his own home.

In an impassioned endoisement of homosexual intimacies, the La:rence ..
Texas Couit pioclaimed bieathlessly, 'Eo:ers was not coiiect when it was
decided, and it is not coiiect today. It ought not to iemain binding piec-
edent. Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl should be and now is oveiiuled.¨
And by the
instantaneous magic of a judicial pionouncement fiom the nation`s highest
23ó 1eenu Ruskola
couit, homosexuals could no longei be tieated as piesumptive ciiminals.
Although Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl has not been liteially eiased÷it still iemains
on the pages of IntieJ Siaies Fejoris÷its mean-spiiited ihetoiic has been
depiived of constitutional foice. It has become a meie histoiical aitifact,
a witness to its own poweilessness.
¯his is an astonishing ieveisal, and one that took many by suipiise.

What made this judicial .olie face possible· In this essay, I iead the Couit`s
opinion in La:rence .. Texas ihetoiically to look foi answeis to that ques-
At the same time, I begin the ciitical evaluation of a post-HarJ:tcl
political landscape. With the fall of antisodomy legislation, have we fnally
been 'libeiated¨· And if so, to what· Iiom the peispective of queei theoiy,
how should we view this victoiy of gay iights· Indeed, to what extent aie
commitments to queeiness and libeial iights compatible· Oi stated even
moie shaiply, is 'queei iights¨ an oxymoion·
It is a commonplace of legal advocacy that the fiaming of a legal ques-
tion always alieady anticipates its answei. As }anet Halley obseives, it has
been 'the viitually ubiquitous conclusion¨ in the liteiatuie ciiticizing
Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl that 'the HarJ:tcl majoiity vitiated its ciedibility
when it fiamed the question of the case¨
÷viz., 'whethei the Iedeial
Constitution confeis a fundamental iight upon homosexuals to engage
in sodomy.¨
In his dissent in HarJ:tcl, }ustice Blackmun was the fist to
make that claim
and }ustice Kennedy, the authoi of the majoiity opinion
in La:rence, echoes Blackmun and likewise asseits that the HarJ:tcl
majoiity`s ieductive foimulation of the constitutional question manifests
theii 'failuie to appieciate the extent of the libeity at stake.¨
established that the issue is emphatically not one of sodomy stnjltctier, the
La:rence Couit iefiames the issue as follows: '¯he question befoie the
Couit is the validity of a ¯exas statute making it a ciime foi two peisons
of the same sex to engage in ceitain intimate sexual conduct.¨
¯hat is, the question is not one of 'sodomy¨ but of 'intimacy¨÷of
'ceitain intimate sexual conduct,¨ the piecise natuie of which the Couit
does not even specify foi the puiposes of stating the constitutional issue.

¯o paiaphiase only slightly, by indicting the ¯exas sodomy law foi intei-
feiing with same-sex loveis` 'intimacy,¨ the La:rence Couit effectively sets
out to decide whethei it is a ciime to love someone of the same sex÷and the
answei to ihts question is as much a foiegone conclusion as the HarJ:tcl
Couit`s futile seaich foi the woid soJon, in the Bill of Rights.
Civen the unapologetically homophobic ihetoiic of the HarJ:tcl opin-
Cay Rìghts versus Cueer 1heory 237
ion, it may seem self-evident that the La:rence Couit`s iefiaming of the
constitutional question as a mattei of inteipeisonal sexual intimacy iathei
than sodomy puts the nation`s constitutional juiispiudence on the piopei
tiack. Like eveiy iight-thinking peison of a piogiessive political oiienta-
tion, I too am elated that HarJ:tcl, so soon aftei its ugly appeaiance, has
ended up in the giaveyaid of disciedited constitutional piecedents÷in the
company of cases such as DreJ Scoii, Fless, .. Ierguson, Iorenaisu,and
How could one noi be stiiied by La:rence`s iighteous pioclama-
tion, 'Eo:ers was not coiiect when it was decided, and it is not coiiect
In these ciicumstances, it may appeai unseemly, not to mention politi-
cally unwise, to point to the ciitical limitations of La:rence`s logic. Accept-
ing that iisk, I neveitheless want to suggest that HarJ:tcl, aftei all, got the
constitutional quesiton iight (with some impoitant qualifcations I considei
below), even though the Couit`s answei to the question was obviously
disastiously wiong. Admittedly, having been labeled as 'sodomites¨ undei
the constitutional iegime ciowned by HarJ:tcl, it is diffcult to iesist the
La:rence Couit`s inteipellation of homosexuals as law-abiding subjects
who aie capable of intimacy and 'aie entitled to iespect foi theii piivate
We aie now invited to a new woild wheie homosexuals, too, can
embaik upon sexual ielationships 'in the confnes of theii homes and theii
own piivate lives, and still ietain theii dignity as fiee peisons.¨
But the 'iespect¨ and 'dignity¨ offeied by the Couit will likely not
come fiee. ¯hey will have to be eained, by leading iespectable sex lives.
Below, I fist examine the ihetoiical and political conditions attached to
La:rence`s offei of gay iespectability and then tuin to Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl
and the possibility of iedeeming its focus on 'sodomy.¨
Howevei, befoie examining ciitically the ihetoiic by which La:rence
ieaches its iesult, it is neveitheless appiopiiate to begin by comment-
ing on some of its achievements. ¯he opinion`s ievisionist account of
HarJ:tcl`s simplistic histoiy of sodomy laws and its acknowledgment÷
howevei hesitant÷of the histoiicity of sexual identity categoiies them-
selves aie notable, not at all the kinds of analyses one typically fnds in a
judicial opinion.
Noieovei, the La:rence Couit acknowledges not only
some of the contiibutions of the academic study of sexuality but also
the fact that viiulent homophobia is not necessaiily a global condition.
¯he majoiity opinion cites, among othei things, the decision by which the
Luiopean Couit of Human Rights stiuck down national laws similai to
23B 1eenu Ruskola
those upheld in HarJ:tcl. (¯o be suie, the Couit giatuitously takes this
as an oppoitunity to highlight the supeiioi achievements of 'our Westein
¯o tuin to La:rence`s limitations, what, then, is the pioblem with how
it fiames the constitutional issue÷namely, asking whethei it should be
peimissible to make it 'a ciime foi two peisons of the same sex to engage
in ceitain intimate sexual conduct¨· Of couise, it should not be a ciime
to love anothei peison of the same sex and to expiess that love sexually.
Rathei, the pioblem with the Couit`s ihetoiical foimulation is not what it
peimits÷intimate sexual association÷but what it leaves out, beyond the
spheie of sexual legitimacy. Being in an intimate peisonal ielationship
should not be a requtreneni foi having a constitutionally piotected sex life.

It should not be a ciime jusi to have homosexual sex÷anal oi banal, oial
oi ßoial, intimate oi not.
In teims of its handling of constitutional doctiine, the La:rence majoi-
ity is caieful not to say anything that might be seen as foimalizing the legal
status of same-sex ielationships: '|¯his case] does not involve whethei the
goveinment must give foimal iecognition to any ielationship that homo-
sexual peisons seek to entei.¨
}ustice Scalia is appiopiiately unmoved
by this disclaimei, to which he iesponds laconically, 'Lo not believe it.¨

Indeed, in teims of its ihetoiic and logic, the Couit iepeatedly and stienu-
ously analogizes homosexual ielationships to maiiiage. Scalia`s outiaged
dissent is absolutely coiiect in evaluating the logical, if not stiictly doctii-
nal, implications of the majoiity`s ieasoning. If homosexual 'intimacy¨ is
as deseiving of piotection as heteio sex, 'what justifcation could theie pos-
sibly be foi denying the benefts of maiiiage to homosexual couples¨·
But what exactly is at stake in gay sex, accoiding to the Couit·
Lmphatically not 'just¨ sex. ¯he Couit emphasizes that it was piecisely
in its ieduction of same-sex intimacy to sodomy that the HarJ:tcl Couit
'misappiehended¨ the object of its analysis.
Lspousing an unabashedly
positivist sexual ontology, the La:rence Couit is fully confdent of its ability
to appiehend coiiectly the natuie of homosexual sex. Insofai as HarJ:tcl
thus failed to undeistand the tiue signifcance of sodomy laws, La:rence
pioceeds to set the iecoid stiaight.
Civen that 'heteiosexual identity is the location fiom which the }us-
tices decide the case without appeaiing to,¨
it comes as no suipiise that
the Couit`s view of what homosexual sex is about (when piopeily appie-
hended) coiiesponds to noimative heteiosexual sex: 'Intimate conduct
with anothei peison |which] can be but one element in a peisonal bond
that is moie enduiing.¨
With (heteiosexual) solicitude foi misundeistood
homosexuals, the Couit announces, '¯o say that the issue in Eo:ers was
simply the iight to engage in ceitain sexual conduct Jeneans the claim the
Cay Rìghts versus Cueer 1heory 239
individual put foiwaid, jusi as ti :oulJ Jenean a narrteJ coujle weie it to be
said that maiiiage is simply about the iight to have sexual inteicouise.¨

¯he wiong of HarJ:tcl is ultimately its denial of dignity to homosexual
ielationships: sodomy laws 'seek to contiol a jersonal relaitonshtj that,
whethei oi not entitled to iecognition in the law, is within the libeity of
peisons to choose without being punished as ciiminals.¨
Indeed, ieading
the opinion, one would think that homosexuals exist onl, in ielationships,
and that ielationships aie the onl, context in which homosexuals might
conceivably engage in sex acts.
It is ceitainly ihetoiically satisfying when the Couit giounds its hold-
ing not only in homosexuals` 'spatial¨ libeity inteiest in being left alone
in theii homes but also in the 'moie tianscendent dimensions¨ of libeity,
which the Couit associates with sexual expiession. Yet this ihetoiic leaves
little oi no justifcation foi piotecting less-than-tianscendental sex that is
not pait of an ongoing ielationship. In the end, the ciucial ihetoiical limita-
tion of La:rence is piecisely its inability, oi iefusal, to imagine (legitimate)
homosexual sex that does not take place in a ielationship and does not
connote intimacy. ¯he implicit baigain the Couit pioposes is plain. ¯he
Couit, and the Constitution, will iespect oui sex lives, but on condition
that oui sex lives be iespectable.
¯his, one feais, is the new juiispiudential pioject inauguiated by
La:rence .. Texas: the noimalization of gay sex, oi as Katheiine Iianke
puts it, the 'domestication¨ of sexual libeity.
Libeial ihetoiic aside, iights do not connote unqualifed 'fieedom.¨ Like
eveiything else, they come at a piice. ¯hat piice is the disciplinaiy iegime
of political modeinity. But so long as we iecognize this, can we affoid to
tuin down 'dignity¨ and 'iespect¨ when they aie being offeied to us by
the I.S. Supieme Couit· Aftei all, lacking those qualities can be posi-
tively hazaidous to one`s health.
Obviously I am in no way endoising the HarJ:tcl Couit`s answei
to the question it posed. Sodomy laws shoulJ be unconstitutional, if foi
no othei ieason that÷fai beyond theii symbolic effects÷they have been
used to depiive people with nonnoimative sexual lives fiom theii jobs
and theii childien, foi example, to mention only some of the moie seveie
mateiial consequences.
Rathei, what I hope to iecovei fiom HarJ:tcl,
selectively, is a ielative emphasis on sexual acis. I do so although I am not
at all sanguine about the analytic distinction between acts and identities.
Notoiiously, the HarJ:tcl opinion itself exploited the unstable ielationship
24u 1eenu Ruskola
between the two, as it oppoitunistically at vaiious times both conßated and
disaggiegated 'sodomy¨ and 'sodomites.¨
Acts aie always peifoimed by
actois who have identities, and identities aie always consolidated in and
thiough acts.
Yet it is a peculiai achievement of the libeial legal imagina-
tion to sepaiate categoiically things that aie in fact indissolubly connected.
(Notoiiously, 'if you can think about a thing, inextiicably attached to
something else, without thinking of the thing it is attached to, then you
have a legal mind.¨
) Neveitheless, a ietuin to a ielative emphasis on acts
iathei than identities need not imply a metaphysical distinction between
the two. Rathei, an emphasis on acts can be a political tactic aimed at mak-
ing ceitain acts available to the laigest numbei of actois possible, iathei
than meiely the iespectable few.
Although it is useful to ieevaluate the possibilities implicit in the way
in which HarJ:tcl fiamed the constitutionality of sodomy legislation, the
Couit`s foimulation has some ciucial limitations as well. ¯he most obvious,
and most ciiticized, aspect of that foimulation was its iefusal to considei
sodomy in its heteiosexual aspect. ¯he Ceoigia sodomy law undei which
Nichael Haidwick was piosecuted defned sodomy capaciously as anal
oi oial sex between membeis of the same or opposite sex,
yet the Couit
giatuitously limited its analysis to 'homosexual sodomy.¨ ¯he appiopiiate
way to iephiase HarJ:tcl`s question would be, then, to ask whethei theie
is a constitutional iight to engage in sodomy ioui couri÷and a positive
answei to that question would in tuin affoid the iight to such sodomitical
acts to men and women of any, all, oi no sexual oiientation.
Beyond questioning how HarJ:tcl excluded heteiosexuals fiom sod-
omy`s embiace, one might also question the teim soJon, itself. As Kendall
¯homas obseives, '¯he fact that the |HarJ:tcl] Couit did not choose
an alteinative chaiacteiization of the statutoiily piosciibed conduct is a
textual iegistei of how deeply the social voice of homophobia is insciibed
in the institutional voice of the Constitution.¨
Insofai as 'sodomy¨ is 'an
anachionistic, ideologically loaded appellation¨ buidened with oveilap-
ping sexual, political, and ieligious oveitones,
one might iefoimulate the
HarJ:tcl Couit`s question moie neutially, as whethei theie is, oi ought to
be, a constitutional iight to engage in, say, anal and oial sex.
Admittedly, an exclusive focus on sex acts can be ihetoiically dehu-
manizing. Piecisely foi that ieason, it is diffcult to conceive the Supieme
Couit`s asking the HarJ:tcl question about heteiosexual sex acts at all.
Although the HarJ:tcl Couit was peifectly happy to analyze homosexuals`
iight to indulge in what it at one point called 'acts of consensual sodomy¨
(as opposed to a constitutional iight to male-on-male iape·),
it seems
unlikely that the Couit would evei fiame questions of opposite-sex sexual
acts in such a clinical mannei÷as, foi example, 'whethei theie is a fun-
Cay Rìghts versus Cueer 1heory 241
damental constitutional iight to inseit a condom-coveied (oi even just a
plain old) penis into a consenting vagina.¨ Instead, constitutionally such
questions aie fiamed in teims of peisonal decisions about 'piocieation¨
and 'family,¨ not 'vaginal inteicouise.¨
In the pie-La:rence woild, it made sense to iespond to the dehuman-
izing language of HarJ:tcl with a ceitain emphasis on the humanity of
queeis. Insofai as the HarJ:tcl justices asseited patently counteifactually
that theie is 'no connection between family, maiiiage, oi piocieation on
the one hand and homosexual activity on the othei,¨
it was ceitainly
impoitant to iemind the woild that gay people, too, have families. (Quelle
surjrtse.) Now, howevei, the Supieme Couit has caught on to the fact that
homosexuals too can, and do, exist in ielationships with otheis. ¯hat,
in itself, is a peifectly welcome obseivation. Howevei, what should give
us pause is the notion that the justices now puipoit to know the iruih of
homosexual intimacy: ti ts jusi ltle heierosexual tnitnac,, except between
peisons of the same sex. ¯his is 'compulsoiy heteiosexuality¨ in its new,
second-geneiation foim, Adiienne Rich updated foi the millennium.

Homosexuals aie no longei faced with the impossible demand to liteially
becone heteiosexuals but meiely to become jusi ltle heteiosexuals. Imita-
tion, aftei all, is the sinceiest foim of ßatteiy.
In Nan Huntei`s apt obseivation, '¯he Supieme Couit`s decision in La:-
rence .. Texas is easy to iead, but diffcult to pin down.¨
By no means
does the opinion requtre that noncoupled homosexuals ultimately be
tieated legally as second-class citizens. As fai as constitutional doctiine
as such is conceined, La:rence can indeed be iead as iemoving 'the last
obstacle to the paiadigm of consent, iathei than the institution of matii-
mony, contiolling the defnition of when sex is piesumptively legal.¨
Yet, iead moie ihetoiically, the ultimate juiispiudential pioject may
tuin out to be not that of destigmatizing all piivate consensual sex, but
only ceitain kinds of intimacies, as I have suggested. Limiting legitimate
sex to 'intimate¨ ielationships is admittedly not the same thing as state-
sanctioned maiiiage, but it is its sociological analogue: although actual
emotional intimacy is not a legal pieiequisite foi getting maiiied, a 'ieal¨
maiiiage is one wheie law ieigns ovei a couple joined in sexually expiessed
love. Hence, even as the Couit doctiinally delinks maiiiage and sex,
ihetoiically it iecouples them, so that not all sexual subjects seem to be
cieated equal, aftei all.
Neveitheless, and peihaps most stiikingly, the couple whose dignity
242 1eenu Ruskola
and iespect the La:rence Couit woiks so haid to iestoie ihetoiically is not
a 'couple¨ at all, but appaiently just a one-night stand that got inteiiupted
(as it weie) by the state of ¯exas. How do we make sense of this diamatic
disjunction between the Couit`s ihetoiic and the legal effect of its holding·
Why does the Couit so willfully ignoie the paities befoie it and insist on
constiucting an image of tianscendental gay intimacy·
At the same time, if by viitue of the Couit`s fantastic ieieading of
the facts all sodomites÷both the iespectable and the not-so-iespectable
ones÷aie allowed to get on with theii (sex) lives, why should we woiiy by
what ihetoiic the Couit accomplishes that goal· As Iianke emphasizes, in
the end 'the ¯exas sodomy statute was not found to violate a constitutional
iight to dignity, but iathei a iight to libeity,¨
foi the simple ieason that
in the Inited States 'dignity¨ is not a constitutional iight, only a social
piivilege, and teims such as 'iespect¨ and 'dignity¨ have no piecise legal
On the language of iespect in La:rence, }ames Whitman simi-
laily insists that foi bettei oi woise 'little of it can be said to count in any
ceitain way as la:.¨
Cay people`s iespectability oi lack theieof is thus
not a legally enfoiceable mattei anyway.
Yet theie aie at least two ieasons foi concein. Iiist, whethei appli-
cable to same- oi opposite-sex conduct, La:rence`s holding is neveithe-
less ultimately giounded in the piinciple of piivacy. Insofai as we iegaid
sex as an ultimately political and public issue, iathei than a piivate one,
La:rence foiecloses impoitant avenues foi political engagement. It pei-
mits the exclusion of nonnoimative sexualities fiom the 'woild of public
which may iemain ieseived foi manifestations of noimative
Second, although the Couit`s singulai insistence on making gay sex
iespectable does mean that one can in fact no longei be thiown in jail jusi
foi engaging in same-sex sexual conduct, that ihetoiic may well come back
to haunt us as homosexual sex, inevitably, becomes incieasingly iegulated
by the state. So long as the Constitution peimitted viewing all homosexual
sex as piesumptively ciiminal, theie was little need to diaw distinctions
between kinds of homosexual sex÷it was all bad (oi at least not good and
deseiving of piotection). But as Iianke obseives, aftei La:rence gay sex
takes place 'in the undeiiegulated space that lies between ciiminalization
and legitimization thiough maiiiage.¨
New distinctions aie likely to
emeige to claiify the status of diffeient sexual subjects in this ambiguous
space. ¯hose distinctions may not affect the inteipietation of sodomy
laws pei se÷undei La:rence, any unieconstiucted sodomy statute :tll
be unconstitutional÷but La:rence`s ihetoiic may be a haibingei of the
juiispiudence yet to come on the civil iegulation of homosexual sex, with
diffeient tieatment of 'good¨ and 'bad¨ homosexual sex.
Cay Rìghts versus Cueer 1heory 243
At the veiy latest, if and when same-sex maiiiage aiiives, we will know
whose sex is good and whose is bad.
Civen the piospect, embedded in La:rence .. Texas, of the Supieme
Couit`s defning the meaning of (noimal) homosexual sex, it seems
tactically wise to focus on libeiating acts themselves, sepaiating them
away fiom theii contexts and fiom the actois peifoiming them. Sodomy,
defned in the most expansive way, should be available to whoevei desiies
to engage in it, foi whatevei ieasons. Single people, especially single
women, have as gieat a stake as queeis in insisting on the legitimacy of
engaging in sex outside of intimate ielationships. As Halley insisted long
befoie La:rence oveiiuled HarJ:tcl, 'We can foim new alliances along
the iegistei of acts.¨
It beais iepeating, howevei, that whethei we choose to focus on acts
oi identities, that choice is always only tactical, in the sense in which
Nichel de Ceiteau uses the teim. Listinguishing tactics fiom stiategies,
de Ceiteau defnes a stiategy as a 'calculus of foice-ielationships¨ that
is peifoimed by a 'piopei¨ subject that occupies a defnite discuisive
location; it is in ielation to his oi hei own ielatively fxed location that a
'piopei¨ subject assesses otheis in the social feld. A tactic, in contiast, is
a calculus of those without such a location:
It has at its disposal no base wheie it can capitalize on its advantages, piepaie
its extensions, and secuie independence with iespect to its ciicumstances.
¯he 'piopei¨ is a victoiy of space ovei time÷it always depends on the watch
foi oppoitunities that must be seized 'on the wing.¨ Whatevei it wins, it
does not keep. It must constantly manipulate events in oidei to tuin them
into oppoitunities. ¯he weak must continually tuin to theii own ends foices
alien to them.
Queei sexual subjects aie obviously not 'piopei¨ subjects speak-
ing fiom a position of ielative powei and fxity. Indeed, it is the peculiai
discuisive piivilege of heteiosexuality that it can oppoitunistically defne
and iedefne homosexuality fiom moment to moment as eithei meiely a set
of acts oi an identity possessed by ceitain people. ¯heiefoie, as Halley`s
ieading of HarJ:tcl shows, those labeled 'homosexuals¨ continually face a
discuisive double bind that offeis no simple exit: 'You cannot win because
youi victoiious opponent is willing to be a hypociite and to 'damn if you
do and damn if you don`t.` ¨
Applying the act/identity fiamewoik to La:-
244 1eenu Ruskola
rence, it is evident that both decisions exploit this discuisive ambivalence,
stiategically tieating 'homosexuality¨ as a piactice and as an identity.
Howevei, in HarJ:tcl homosexuality as identity is a minoi ihetoii-
cal key and homosexuality as acts a majoi one, as the opinion ielentlessly
seeks to ieduce homosexuals to sodomy (nevei mind that, tautologically,
the stigma of sodomy ultimately deiives fiom the identity of the actois).

In La:rence, in contiast, identity is the majoi ihetoiical mode, as the
Couit seeks to justify sexual conduct by the actois` identities: capable of
intimacy and hence deseiving of iespect, homosexuals should be peimit-
ted to engage in the acts that defne them in the fist place. ¯actically,
then, theie weie ceitain oppoitunities in iesisting HarJ:tcl`s ieduction
of homosexuals to theii acts and insisting on queeis` humanity, as I have
suggested. Howevei, with the discuisive 1Su-degiee tuin of the La:rence
Couit and its celebiation of homosexual intimacy, we aie cleaily fai
beyond a 'love that daie not speak its name,¨ and a ihetoiic desciibing
simply the humanity of that love no longei has the tiaction it once did. ¯he
ciicumstances have shifted, and so has oui discuisive location. We ought
theiefoie to ieconsidei oui tactics as well, as we confiont a new judicial
landscape. It is time to focus not on the love but on the acts that daie not
speak theii names.
¯heie is no doubt that, in the political oidei of the Inited States, being
a iespectable subject of iights is piefeiable to being a sexual abject. Lven
if iights do not signify puie, unadulteiated 'fieedom,¨
and even if they
impose theii own noimalizing discipline on theii subjects,
in the contem-
poiaiy political woild they aie suiely piefeiable to a iegime of homophobic
violence sanctioned by sodomy laws. As Cayatii Spivak obseives with ait-
ful ambivalence, libeial iights aie something that 'we cannot not want¨:

without them one has no legal and political existence.
But as we emeige fiom the closet and oui sex lives begin to tuin
into entitlements iecoded as pait of univeisal human intimacy, we need
to considei the ways in which such new sexual iights institute theii own
iegime of noimalcy, theii own code of sexual behavioi. Civen homosexual
subjects`÷and abjects`÷still unceitain claims to humanity, we ought to
be aleit to the continuing exclusions of this humanist logic even as we (oi
at least those in qualifying 'intimate ielationships¨) aie embiaced by it.
It is in this context that it seems politically useful to insist on libeiating
sexual acis foi use by any individual÷without iegaid to his oi hei iela-
tionship status.
As always, theie aie costs to this tactic as well. Insofai as we insist
that the iight to 'sodomy,¨ in any one of its multiple defnitions, peitains
to individuals qua individuals, iathei than paitneis in an intimate iela-
tionship with anothei individual, we aie implicitly suppoiting the legal
Cay Rìghts versus Cueer 1heory 245
fction of a tianspaient, fieestanding subjectivity÷the legal subject of
libeial individualism that the law so piesumptuously calls the 'natuial
peison.¨ Iionically, in La:rence the Supieme Couit piomises to iehabilitate
homosexuals as soveieign subjects of law piecisely because it seems to have
fnally gained faith in oui ability to surrenJer oui individuality in intimate
ielationships with othei homosexuals, to become one in love.
Indeed, a libeial legal oidei tieats its subjects as atomistic individu-
als insofai as it iegulates theii political and economic lives: the abstiact
beaiei of political iights and the abstiact hono econontcus, iespectively.
¯he intimate spheie of the family, in contiast, is the one place wheie a
libeial society not only peimits but expects its citizens to shed theii indi-
viduality and connect with otheis. And the piivileged intimate bond in this
most piivate of spheies is the sexual one between a man and a woman÷a
featuie of the libeial oiganization of society that Naitha Iineman aptly
ciiticizes as the 'sexual family.¨
La:rence .. Texas is thus an instance of
the conceptually indissoluble and politically indispensable libeial contia-
diction between individuality and connectedness. It is only when the state
is able to imagine legitimate homosexual intimacies entitled to 'piivacy¨
that homosexuals become deseiving of 'dignity¨ and 'iespect¨ in the
public spheies of the libeial polity as well. Iltimately, it is this dichoto-
mized public/piivate schema that La:rence invites queeis to join÷with
the notewoithy, though incieasingly contested, iestiiction that two men
oi two women cannot be legally maiiied.
Although this humanizing gestuie is haid to iesist, we neveitheless
ought to insist on sepaiating sexual acts fiom identities as much as we
can, at least foi the puiposes of legal categoiization.
La:rence .. Texas
is a ihetoiical symptom of the iisk that the invitation to join the 'intimate
public spheie,¨ to use Lauien Beilant`s teim, is being ultimately offeied
'only foi membeis of families,¨
whethei gay oi stiaight.
Yet a family need not be built aiound a ielationship that is defned by
a sexual bond, and a sexual connection need not constitute an embiyonic
family. Aftei all, sex need not be about connection at all; sex can signify
intense alienation and sepaiation as much as connection.
I would like to thank Ritu Biila, Lavid Lng, Katheiine Iianke, Nan Huntei,
Aamei Numtaz, Nancy Polikoff, Llizabeth Schneidei, Hiniich Schuetze, Naic
Spindelman, Kendall ¯homas, }ames Whitman, and two anonymous ievieweis
foi theii comments.
24ó 1eenu Ruskola
1. Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl, 47S I.S. 1S6, 19u (19S6).
2. 47S I.S. 194.
3. La:rence .. Texas, 123 S. Ct. 2472, 2475 (2uu3).
4. 123 S. Ct. at 24S4.
5. ¯hat is, while many obseiveis did expect the ultimate outcome÷the
Couit`s stiiking the ¯exas statute÷few expected the sweeping ihetoiical and doc-
tiinal ieveisal by which the Couit achieved the iesult. As Nan Huntei obseives,
in ieveising itself the Couit oidinaiily piefeis to iely on bland and technical
ihetoiic, so as to minimize the disiuption of constitutional continuity. La:rence,
in contiast, is 'a ieveisal of moie than law,¨ as the majoiity sets out passionately
to ieconfguie not only the ielevant constitutional doctiine but also 'the social
meaning of homosexuality¨ (Nan L. Huntei, 'Living with La:rence,¨ Atnnesoia
La: Fe.te: SS |2uu4]: 1125).
6. In what follows, I diaw methodologically as well as substantively fiom
the classic ihetoiical ieadings of Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl by }anet Halley, 'Reasoning
about Sodomy: Act and Identity in and aftei Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl,¨ 1trgtnta La:
Fe.te: 79 (1993): 1721÷73; and Kendall ¯homas, 'Beyond the Piivacy Piin-
ciple,¨ Colunbta La: Fe.te: 92 (1992): 1431÷516.
7. Halley, 'Reasoning about Sodomy,¨ 1747.
S. 47S I.S. at 19u.
9. ¯he veiy fist sentence of Blackmun`s dissent is '¯his case is no moie
about a 'fundamental iight to engage in homosexual sodomy,` as the Couit pui-
poits to declaie, than Sianle, .. Ceorgta . . . was about a fundamental iight to
watch obscene movies, oi Iai: .. IntieJ Siaies . . . was about a fundamental iight
to place inteistate bets fiom a telephone booth¨ (ibid., 199).
1u. 123 S. Ct. at 247S.
11. Ibid., 2575.
12. ¯he opinion does eventually specify the ciiminal act in question÷'devi-
ate sexual inteicouise, namely anal sex, with a membei of the same sex (man)¨÷
but the veiy fist substantive section of the majoiity opinion that sets out the
constitutional question iefeis only to 'ceitain intimate sexual conduct.¨ In teims
of its ielative emphasis on sodomy, iathei than intimacy, the majoiity opinion
in HarJ:tcl fnds occasion to use the teim soJon, a total of thiity-thiee times,
wheieas it iesoits to the woid tnitnaie only once. In contiast, the La:rence majoi-
ity opinion uses the woids tnitnaie oi tnitnac, a total of twelve times.
13. DreJ Scoii .. SanJforJ, 6u I.S. 393 (1S56); Fless, .. Ierguson, 163 I.S.
(1S96); Iorenaisu .. IntieJ Siaies, 323 I.S. 214 (1944).
14. 123 S. Ct. at 24S4; emphasis added.
15. Ibid., emphasis added.
16. Ibid., 247S÷Su. Iiom the amicus biiefs of scholais fiom vaiious disci-
plines, the Couit culls iefeiences to Katz`s In.eniton of Heierosexualti, as well as
d`Lmilio and Iieedman`s Initnaie Aaiiers: ¬ Htsior, of Sexualti, tn ¬nertca÷
haidly conventional legal authoiities (ibid., 2479). Yet even as we welcome this
attention to scholaiship, its blessings may be mixed. ¯he law can undoubtedly
beneft fiom academic insights, yet theie is also something distuibing in seeing
scholaily positions tianslated into judicial pionouncements. Once embedded in a
chain of judicial citations, they may be used justify the exeicise of state authoiity
in unanticipated and wholly unqueei ways.
17. Ibid., 24S1, citing DuJgeon .. IntieJ ItngJon, 45 Lui. Ct. H.R. (19S1),
paiagiaph 52; emphasis added. ¯o be suie, as constitutional law scholais have
Cay Rìghts versus Cueer 1heory 247
obseived, the iefeience to the Luiopean Couit of Human Rights is piimaiily a
ihetoiical embellishment, not an acknowledgment of the binding natuie of human
iights law on the constitutional question at issue. As Ceiald Neuman puts it, '¯he
Supieme Couit`s invocation of human iights law in La:rence .. Texas iepiesents
a iathei modest use of inteinational law in aid of constitutional inteipietation¨
(Ceiald Neuman, '¯he Ises of Inteinational Law in Constitutional Inteipieta-
tion,¨ ¬nertcan }ournal of Iniernaitonal La: 9S |2uu4]: S9).
1S. Needless to say, the woids relaitonshtj and tnitnac, have multiple mean-
ings. Ioi example, theie aie suiely kinds of intimacies that aie possible even in a
one-night stand, and even the biiefest sexual encountei takes place in the context
of some kind of ielationship÷it is, aftei all, exceedingly diffcult to commit sod-
omy alone. Howevei, iathei then iesignifying the key teims, foi the puiposes of
this essay I take them in the mutually constitutive senses in which the Couit uses
them, with 'ielationship¨ connoting intimacy of long duiation and 'intimacy¨
connoting sexual activity occuiiing in the context of an ongoing ielationship.
19. I boiiow my foimulation fiom Coie Vidal`s iiiesistible iefeience to 'anal
and banal sex as well as oial and ßoial sex,¨ in 'Pink ¯iiangle and the Yellow
Stai,¨ in IntieJ Siaies: Lssa,s 1952÷1992 (New Yoik: Random House, 1993),
2u. 123 S. Ct. at 24S4.
21. Ibid., 2497 (Scalia, }., dissenting).
22. Ibid. As Scalia coiiectly points out, ' 'Pieseiving the tiaditional institu-
tion of maiiiage` is just a kindei way of desciibing the State`s noral of
same-sex couples¨ (ibid., 2496; Scalia, }., dissenting).
23. Ibid., 247S.
24. ¯his is Halley`s desciiption of the Eo:ers majoiity, but it is an apt desciip-
tion of the La:rence justices as well÷indeed, of all constitutional juiispiudence
('Reasoning about Sodomy,¨ 1767).
25. 123 S. Ct. at 247S.
26. Ibid.; emphasis added.
27. Ibid.; emphasis added.
2S. ¯ellingly, in desciibing the histoiy of sodomy legislation, the Couit
obseives that 'Ameiican laws taigeting same-sex coujles did not develop until the
last thiid of the 2uth centuiy¨ (ibid., 2479; emphasis added).
29. Katheiine N. Iianke, '¯he Lomesticated Libeity of La:rence .. Texas,¨
Colunbta La: Fe.te: 1u4 (2uu4): 1399÷426. Iianke`s comment on La:rence
makes an aigument paiallel to that of this essay. We both analyze the ways in
which the Couit ihetoiically naiiows the constitutionally piotected libeity that it
doctiinally upholds; Iianke emphasizes the Couit`s ihetoiic of 'piivatizing¨ and
'domesticating¨ that libeity, while I focus on the Couit`s demand foi 'iespect-
ability¨ as the piice at which the libeity has to be eained.
3u. See, foi example, Ryan Coodman, 'Beyond the Lnfoicement Piinciple:
Sodomy Laws, Social Noims, and Social Panoptics,¨ Caltfornta La: Fe.te: S9
(2uu1): 643÷74u; and Chiistophei R. Leslie, 'Cieating Ciiminals: ¯he Injuiies
Inßicted by 'Inenfoiced` Sodomy Laws,¨ Har.arJ÷
La: Fe.te: 35 (2uuu): 1u3÷S1. On the denial of custody to gay paients, see
also ¯eemu Ruskola, 'Ninoi Lisiegaid: ¯he Legal Constiuction of the Iantasy
¯hat Cay and Lesbian Youth Lo Not Lxist,¨ Yale }ournal of La: anJ Ientntsn
S (1996): 291÷96. On the widei implications of sodomy laws, such as the con-
stiuction of sodomy as a tax ciime, see, foi example, Anthony C. Infanti, '¯he
24B 1eenu Ruskola
Inteinal Revenue Code as Sodomy Statute,¨ Sania Clara La: Fe.te: 44 (2uu4):
31. See Halley, 'Reasoning about Sodomy.¨ As Halley demonstiates else-
wheie, the militaiy`s 'don`t ask, don`t tell¨ policy similaily exploits the instability
and incoheience of the homosexual status/conduct distinction. See }anet Halley,
Don`i: ¬ FeaJer`s CutJe io ihe Atltiar,`s ¬nit-Ca, Foltc, (Luiham, NC: Luke
Iniveisity Piess, 1999).
32. See, foi example, }udith Butlei, CenJer Trouble: Ientntsn anJ ihe
ston of IJeniti, (New Yoik: Routledge, 199u); and Butlei, EoJtes Thai Aaiier: Cn
ihe Dtscurst.e Ltntis of ´Sex" (New Yoik: Routledge, 1993).
33. ¯homas Reed Powell, quoted in Lon L. Iullei, The Aoralti, of La:, iev.
ed. (New Haven, C¯: Yale Iniveisity Piess, 1969), 4.
34. 47S I.S. at 1SS.
35. ¯homas, 'Beyond the Piivacy Piinciple,¨ 1434 n. 4.
36. Ibid., 1433 n. 4. Ioi a pioblematization of 'sodomy,¨ see also Katheiine
N. Iianke, 'Putting Sex to Woik,¨ in Lefi Legaltsn;Lefi Crtitque, ed. Wendy Biown
and }anet Halley (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2), 29u÷336.
37. 47S I.S. at 192; emphasis added.
3S. See, foi example, Crts:olJ .. Connecitcui, 3S1 I.S. 479 (1965); LtsensiaJi
.. EatrJ, 4u5 I.S. 43S (1972).
39. 47S I.S. 191.
4u. See Adiienne Rich, 'Compulsoiy Heteiosexuality and Lesbian Lxis-
tence,¨ Stgns5 (19Su): 631÷6u.
41. Huntei, 'Living with La:rence,¨ 11u3.
42. Ibid., 1112.
43. Iianke, 'Lomesticated Libeity of La:rence .. Texas,¨ 14u1.
44. On the iole of 'dignity¨ in the South Afiican Constitution, see Iianke,
'Lomesticated Libeity of La:rence .. Texas,¨ 14u4÷5; and Huntei, 'Living with
La:rence,¨ 1136.
45. }ames Q. Whitman, '¯he ¯wo Westein Cultuies of Piivacy: Lignity vei-
sus Libeity,¨ Yale La: }ournal 113 (2uu4): 1214. Robeit Post also notes that while
'themes of iespect and stigma aie at the moial centei of the La:rence opinion,¨
they aie 'entiiely new to substantive due piocess doctiine¨ in which the Couit
giounds its opinion doctiinally. Robeit C. Post, 'Ioiewoid: Iashioning the Legal
Constitution: Cultuie, Couits, and Law,¨ Har.arJ La: Fe.te: 117 (2uu3): 97.
46. ¯he phiase is fiom Lauien Beilant, The Queen of ¬nertca Coes io !ash-
tngion Cti,: Lssa,s on Sex anJ Ctit:enshtj (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess,
1997), 5.
47. Kendall ¯homas makes an expanded veision of this aigument in his
iemaiks at the Association of Ameiican Law Schools Panel on La:rence .. Texas
(San Iiancisco, CA, 4 }anuaiy 2uu4).
4S. Iianke, 'Lomesticated Libeity of La:rence .. Texas,¨ 1426.
49. Halley, 'Reasoning about Sodomy,¨ 1722.
5u. Nichel de Ceiteau, The Fracitce of,Ja, Ltfe, tians. Steven Rendall
(Beikeley: Iniveisity of Califoinia Piess, 19S4), xix.
51. See Halley, 'Reasoning about Sodomy,¨ 174S.
52. As Halley obseives, in most of the opinion (the fundamental iights hold-
ing) the Couit defnes homosexuality piimaiily as a set of acts and secondaiily as
an identity. In its biiefei discussion (the iational basis holding), the Couit switches
these piimaiy and secondaiy ihetoiics ('Reasoning about Sodomy,¨ 174S). Yet
Cay Rìghts versus Cueer 1heory 249
within the oveiall stiuctuie of the opinion, the ihetoiic of acts piedominates ovei
the ihetoiic of identity.
53. ¯his does not ießect a failuie of iights as a technology of fieedom, but
iathei the natuie of fieedom itself. As Iiis Nuidoch obseives, 'Iieedom is not an
isolated ability, like the ability to swim, which we can 'exeicise` in a puie foim. . . .
Iieedom is a mattei of degiee and a mode of being¨ (Iiis Nuidoch, Aeiajh,stcs
as a CutJe io Aorals |London: Penguin Books, 1992], 326).
54. I analyze law`s iole as a iitual of 'subjection,¨ in the Althusseiian sense, in
¯eemu Ruskola, 'Legal Oiientalism,¨ Atchtgan La: Fe.te:1u1 (2uu2): 179÷234.
On discipline and goveinmentality as hallmaiks of political modeinity, see Nichel
Ioucault, Dtsctjltne anJ Funtsh, tians. lan Sheiidan (New Yoik: Vintage Books,
1977); and Ciaham Buichell, Colin Coidon, and Petei Nillei, eds., The Ioucauli
Lffeci: SiuJtes tn Co.ernnenialti, (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago Piess, 1991).
55. Cayatii Chakiavoity Spivak, CuistJe tn ihe Teachtng Aachtne (New Yoik:
Routledge, 1993), 45. Ioi an extended discussion of the dilemma of libeial iights,
inspiied in pait by Spivak`s aphoiism, see Wendy Biown, 'Suffeiing the Paia-
doxes of Rights,¨ in Biown, Lefi Legaltsn;Lefi Crtitque, 42u.
56. Naitha Albeitson Iineman, The NeuiereJ Aoiher, ihe Sexual Iantl,, anJ
Ciher T:eniteih-Ceniur, TrageJtes (New Yoik: Routledge, 1995).
57. Nuch of the commentaiy on La:rence has iesponded enthusiastically
to its piomise to iehabilitate homosexuality as an identity. Lauience ¯iibe, foi
example, applauds the decision foi emphasizing 'not the sei of sjectfc acis that
have been found to meiit constitutional piotection, but iathei the relaitonshtjs and
self-go.erntng conntinenis out of which those acts aiise÷the netwoik of human
connection ovei time that makes genuine fieedom possible¨ (Lauience ¯iibe,
'La:rence .. Texas: ¯he 'Iundamental Right` ¯hat Laie Not Speak Its Name,¨
Har.arJ La: Fe.te: 117 |2uu4]: 1955 |emphasis in oiiginal]).
5S. Beilant, Queen of ¬nertca Coes io !ashtngion Cti,, 3.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
Something cuiious has happened ovei the past ffteen yeais. Ioi queeis,
in the woids of }ohn L`Lmilio, 'the woild tuined,¨ and now they aie a
cential focus of mainstieam politics and cultuie.
Because of this incieas-
ing familiaiity, queeis aie at once piesent and still despised. Cays÷pai-
ticulaily white, afßuent, steieotypical gays÷expeiience visibility in shows
such as !tll anJ Crace and Queer L,e for ihe Siratghi Cu,; homosexual
sodomy has been legalized in the Inited States by the I.S. Supieme
Couit decision in La:rence .. Texas; Nassachusetts`s highest couit has
iuled twice in favoi of same-sex maiiiage, not civil union, iights; and
ienegade counties, towns, and cities in Califoinia, Oiegon, New Nexico,
and New Yoik aie defantly maiiying same-sex couples. But if the ieelec-
tion of Ceoige W. Bush and the iise of values voteis should signal any-
thing, it is that we should hesitate to agiee with the optimistic woids of
Ceoige Chauncey, who exclaimed, in the Ne: Yorl Ttnes, that the battle
foi gay visibility has cleaily 'been won.¨
We aie visible, peihaps, but
defnitely not victoiious.
When queeis push foi civil iights such as maiiiage, they ioutinely
confiont that old symbolic and sentimental teiiain called the 'family.¨
¯hese confiontations aie citizenship contests, in which so much of the
Ameiican national spheie intimately, as the past Novembei ieminded us,
ieconsolidates its most conseivative tendencies.
¯he queei, especially
when she oi he asks to be let into politically legitimate, state-appioved
family making, discoveis that she oi he is still a suspicious and ciimi-
nalized citizen. Look at the woids of the conseivative Chiistian Iamily
Reseaich Council (IRC), which defends 'family, faith, and fieedom¨ as
the }udeo-Chiistian piinciples of a stiong and solid cultuie. It has a list
of coie piinciples that queeis jeopaidize:
Cod exists and is soveieign ovei all cieation. He cieated human beings in
His image. Human life is, theiefoie, sacied and the iight to life is the most
fundamental of political iights.
252 Mìchael Cobb
Life and love aie inextiicably linked and fnd theii natuial expiession in the
institutions of maiiiage and the family.
Coveinment has a duty to piomote and piotect maiiiage and family in law
and public policy.
¯he Ameiican system of law and justice was founded on the }udeo-Chiistian
Ameiican demociacy depends upon a vibiant civil society composed of
families, chuiches, schools, and voluntaiy associations.
¯his list is not just anothei example of an extieme ideology of an evan-
gelical ieligious fiinge. ¯he IRC has substantial clout in the COP (it was
staited duiing the Reagan yeais, with many piominent membeis of the
Republican Paity). It is also quite typical of the guiding piinciples of many
mainstieam ieligious Right oiganizations, in that it concisely explains why
the Right still opposes the legal enfianchisement of queeis in those insti-
tutions cast as most at iisk: families, chuiches, and schools. ¯he ieligious
ethic of the Ameiican system of law and justice, which ielies on viituous
families dienched in coiiect faith, cannot be violated by substantial policy
gains made by queeis. In iesponse, a massive fund-iaising and activist
initiative by the IRC, 'Iamily, Iaith, and Iieedom: ¯he Battle foi Nai-
iiage,¨ has been cieated to help in the puisuit of the Iedeial Naiiiage
Amendment. ¯he same-sex maiiiage issue, one of many issues deai to the
IRC and the ieligious Right (such as aboition, contiaception, stem-cell
ieseaich, Inteinet poinogiaphy, decency laws), is now ihe boutique issue,
successfully diawing on the ievulsion many still feel against queeis.
It is within the context of this confiontation that I want to ieasseit
something that should be obvious: queeis cuiiently function as one of the
majoi limits of the Ameiican nation-state and, as such, cannot evei fully be
¯he use-value of the sex panic that still occuis aiound homo-
sexuality and iights cannot be undeiestimated. Ioi the puiposes of this
essay, I want to focus on one genie of queeis` cieative engagements with
the nation-state, which occuis when queeis aie confionted with an emotion
they expeiience when they push the limits of libeial inclusion: ieligiously
aiticulated hate. Remembei, not long befoie !tll anJ Crace debuted,
when the Reveiend Iied Phelps, pastoi of the infamous Westboio Bap-
tist Chuich, gained notoiiety foi piotesting Natthew Shepaid`s funeial·
Phelps still maintains his Web site, Cod Hates Iags, which featuies the
'Peipetual Cospel Nemoiial to Natthew Shepaid,¨ in which an image of
Natthew scieams electionically and counts the numbei of days Natthew
has been in hell÷a biblically just punishment foi the 'Satanic lifestyle¨
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 253
Natthew lived as a 'homosexual.¨
Phelps`s chuich iadically asseits on
this site what lessei explicit, but fundamentally and evangelically inßu-
enced, Piotestants have long thought of queei sexuality: ''COL HA¯LS
IACS`÷though elliptical÷is a piofound theological statement. . . .
¯he thiee woids, fully expounded, show¨ that seveie punishments await
those who go against the sciiptuial and foundational laws of a holy society:
'¯he only lawful sexual connection is the maiiiage bed. All othei sexual
activity is whoiemongeiy and adulteiy, which will damn the soul foievei
in Hell.¨
Rathei than dismiss Phelps as an extiemist, I would like to ielate this
outiageous hypeibole to the kinds of public, doctiinal, fnancial, and politi-
cal gains the ihetoiical opposition to 'homosexuality¨ has piovided (and
will continue to piovide) foi poweiful Chiistian oiganizations such as the
IRC and less-explicitly Chiistian oiganizations (such as the I.S. govein-
ment) in the late twentieth and eaily twenty-fist centuiies.
¯he moial
panic ovei tiaditional values also satuiates the agenda of the mainstieam
Chiistian media giant, Iocus on the Iamily. Its Web site`s 'Hot ¯opics¨
section iaises a familiai and malicious question about homosexuality
and human iights: 'Homosexual activists claim theii lifestyle, which in
some cases includes thousands of sexual paitneis, should be sanctioned,
piotected, and gianted special iights by society. Would you ciitique this
¯he answei, of couise, is 'yes,¨ and one should make that
'yes¨ heaid by piotecting tiaditional, heteiosexual moiality, ieinfoicing
the explicit mission of Chiistian family values that makes Iocus on the
Iamily such a laige and cheiished media outlet foi all soits of conseivative
Chiistians thioughout the woild.
But queeis have also made similai gains fiom the same ihetoiic of hate.
Viiulent language often has a peculiai use-value in oppositional politics.
}udith Butlei`s Lxctiable Sjeech: ¬ Foltitcs of ihe Ferfornait.e is a subtle explo-
iation of hate speech and the ways that we must 'question foi a moment the
piesumption that hate speech always woiks, not to minimize the pain that
is suffeied as a consequence of hate speech, but to leave open the possibility
that its failuie is the condition of ciitical iesponse.¨
Piovoked by Butlei`s
insights, I want to suggest that antiqueei ieligious language, what often
amounts to queei hate speech, does not necessaiily huit queeis. Queeis have
long used such hateful expiessions as the condition foi a ciicumspect public-
ity in a I.S. ieligious public spheie, a spheie that necessaiily always shapes
the positions fiom wheie anyone, especially queeis, can speak in cultuie and
politics. But iathei than pioduce, as Butlei pioposes, a 'iesignifcation of
speech . . . |that] opens new contexts, speaking in ways that have nevei been
legitimated, and hence pioducing legitimation in new foims,¨
queeis mine
the hostility and politics of hate that does not iesignify as much as iepeat
l vant to soqqest
tnat antiqoeer
lanqoaqe, vnat
orten anoonts
to qoeer nate
speecn, ooes
not necessarily
nort qoeers.
254 Mìchael Cobb
the tiaditional foims of political spheie access, but to peiveise advantage,
using the limits of libeialism to achieve something moie. Queeis mine the
hate, thiough a ieligious language of hate, to piovoke impoitant feelings that
can undeistand and manipulate the limits of libeial inclusion in a seveiely
iestiicted I.S. public spheie.
In the following pages, I aigue that much of queei politics and iights,
which seem so mainstieamed,
also ciiculate at the limits of libeialism
and specifcally do so in a iecognizably scandalous spheie of ieligious
hatied. Hate speech eiupts at one libeial impasse that always seives as a
majoi factoi 'limiting¨ queeis fiom enteiing fully into citizenship÷oui
foiced association, thiough a ieligious language of hate, with pedophilia
and incest. Ioi it is thiough the connections to antifamily incestuous and
pedophilic leanings that many who want to piohibit queei inclusion aie
able to cast queeis as those who aie 'incompatible with peisonal and public
senses of the moial and the ciiminal.¨
I study the cieative manipulations
of the ieligious language of queei incest, which, quite suipiisingly, lin-
guistically affliates the scandals of queei kinship ciisis with the national
ciises of iace and iacial civil iights in an entiiely 'pioblematic¨ fashion,
and necessaiily so.
Such a link between iace and sexuality (and theie aie
many kinds of links between iace and sexuality) is notoiiously tioubling.
}anet Halley, among numeious otheis, has been helpful in the ciitique of
much minoiity modeling ('like iace¨ aiguments) in queei activism and
politics. I undeistand such ciitique as hope foi the emeigence of less lethal
and exclusive models of citizenship and politics, and I shaie such ciiticism
and desiie. But foi the puipose of this essay, and foi the uigency of oui
ultiaconseivative times, I am inteiested in how queeis cieate ihetoiical
foims of demociatic coping, of suivival, amid so much hate by using the
'like iace¨ analogy÷foims made possible by a ieligious veibal attack on
queeis that makes the hatied expeiienced by them not unlike the hatied
expeiienced by iacial minoiities. ¯his politics, moieovei, is veiy much a
ihetoiical politics that is not as ieliant on conventional and liteial concep-
tions of civil iights piedicated on the accuiate testimony of exclusion fiom
an unsatisfying and coeicive nation-state. Instead, the queei push foi civil
iights uses the hateful ieligious language to indicate the uncivil wiongs of
being maiked as queei, iecalling the diamas of political, social, and cul-
tuial exclusion. What I hope to show is that some civil iights discouises,
as they now opeiate within contempoiaiy minoiity politics, often function
as ihetoiics of suffeiing, pain, and minoiity emotion that can be used by
the politically and cultuially disenfianchised to announce and bothei
people, fiom inside and outside the queei community, into some kind of
tiansfoimative action, even if that action is simply feeling that something
is wiong and that something else should be done.
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 255
In 2uu3 }oseph Liuce muideied }ohn Ceoghan, a notoiious 'pedophile
piiest.¨ Liuce, a man whom the Woicestei, Nassachusetts, distiict attoi-
ney desciibed as being 'so consumed with hatied towaid homosexuals,¨
consideied Ceoghan a 'piize¨ woith killing.
Liuce was alieady seiving
time foi the stiangulation of a man he had believed was gay. Ceoghan`s
killing, which occuiied within the confnes of the Souza-Baianowski
Coiiectional Centei, was giuesome and has been iepoited in vivid detail,
but, cuiiously, little moial outiage occuiied. Aftei all, this was a pedo-
phile who was killed, a man convicted in }anuaiy 2uu2 foi gioping a ten-
yeai-old boy in 1991, just one incident among many. In Septembei 2uu1
the Aichdiocese of Boston paid a iepoited S1u million to settle a suit by
eighty-six plaintiffs, all chaiging Ceoghan with sexual assault. A Notie
Lame histoiian, Scott Appelby, told CNN that Ceoghan was 'cleaily a
tioubled soul,¨ a 'sick man and a piedatoi piiest. An icon foi the scandal
that has iocked the chuich.¨
¯he defiocked piiest was ceitainly no mai-
tyi, and so his violent end, at the hands of an uniepentant homophobe, is
not easily mouined. He is a 'sick¨ and 'peiveise¨ icon of the incieasingly
infamous Catholic Chuich.
Ceitainly it is haid to defend the actions and life of a pedophile, espe-
cially with all the haimful and tiagic stoiies of ieal abuse that compiise
Ceoghan`s histoiy as well as the many histoiies within dioceses woildwide.
Among numeious quaiteis and casual conveisations, howevei, a knee-jeik
iesponse to the outiage ovei pedophilia oveishadowed the fact that a man
had been killed, and by someone who has long hated homosexuals. Real
justice, I have been iepetitively told, was seived behind bais. Appelby
explained, 'While some may say, sadly, he got what`s coming to him. I
think the pievailing feeling is one of sadness foi what he did, foi the state
of his own soul.¨
Instead of being let to feel shock and angei ovei the
actions of Liuce, we aie diiected to the 'ieal¨ stoiy÷one with piiests who
piay and piey on little boys, piiests whose sicknesses must be lamented,
if not 'cuied¨ by death. What escapes oui attention is the fact that Liuce
made the mistake that many often make: that pedophilia is just anothei
example of homosexuality and that some kind of hatied towaid gays can
fnd an acceptable expiession in the violent punishment of the piedatoi,
pedophile piiests. ¯he lack of the child`s consent is an upsetting pait of
Ceoghan`s sex abuse and should not be diminished; noi should we be
unconceined with the afteieffects of any act of sexual violence. But that
kind of abuse cannot be so easily conßated with homosexuality, and the
hatied of homosexuality should not be peimitted, oi even celebiated, when
the homosexual victim is a pedophile. Instead, we should be woiiied about
/ knee-jerk
response to
tne ootraqe
over peoopnilia
tne ract tnat a
nan nao been
killeo, ano by
soneone vno
nas lonq nateo
25ó Mìchael Cobb
the public uses and abuses of pedophilia, and wondei why so much hatied
can be deemed justifable oi acceptable when questions of childien, of ieli-
gion, and of family seem thieatened. And usually thieatened by someone
consideied 'homosexual.¨
¯his muidei and the ieactions to it aie by no means isolated. ¯he
piolifeiation of chuich sex scandals, along with the iegimented outiage
that even peimits homophobic violence to occui within state institutions
such as the piison, aie not just accidental occuiiences, abeiiations in a
public that seems to be moie toleiant and accepting of gays. One should
look at the not-infamous-enough comments of I.S. Senatoi Rick Santo-
ium, who makes many of the links between homosexuality and pedophilia
that contempoiaiy queei politics needs to woiiy about. In a 7 Apiil 2uu3
inteiview with the Associated Piess, Santoium connected the decline of the
tiaditional, heteiosexual family with the 'moial ielativism¨ biought on by
'libeialism,¨ which is, accoiding to the senatoi, one of the ioot ieasons why
theie aie so many chuich sex scandals. With the acceptance of a vaiiety
of 'diffeient lifestyles,¨ Santoium explained, the dangeious case is made
that 'you can do whatevei you want to do, as long as it`s in the piivacy of
youi own home.¨ When he made these iemaiks, he was conceined about
the impending La:rence .. Texas iuling, with its specifc issues about who
has the iight to piivacy. Ioi Santoium, theie is the dangeious possibility
that piivacy gianted to all, twinned with consent, would allow foi any
type of behavioi: 'You`ie sending signals that as long as you do it piivately
and consensually, we don`t ieally caie what you do.¨ Bizaiiely, this feai
of piivate peimissiveness inspiied Santoium to chaiacteiize the Catholic
Chuich sex scandals as 'basic homosexual ielationships¨ between con-
senting, piivate adults because in these cases, 'we`ie not talking about
piiests with 3-yeai-olds, oi 5-yeai-olds.¨ If we think about this asseition,
suddenly, the pedophiles aie no longei pedophiles, they aie homosexuals,
and Santoium quickly makes the association Liuce makes: pedophilic
piiests engage in 'basic homosexual ielationships,¨ which aie ievolting
and woithy of oui disdain.
When questioned by the AP iepoitei about his bias against homosexu-
ality, Santoium paiioted a typical Chiistian iesponse that, as a Chiistian,
he 'has no pioblem with homosexuality¨ pei se. His pioblem is actually
with 'homosexual acts.¨ And homosexual acts done piivately and with
consent signal the descent of decent, Ameiican society:
We have laws in states, like the one at the Supieme Couit iight now, that
has sodomy laws and they weie theie foi a puipose. Because, again, I would
aigue, they undeimine the basic tenets of oui society and the family. And
if the Supieme Couit says that you have the iight to consensual sex in youi
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 257
home, then you have the iight |to] bigamy, you have the iight to polygamy,
you have the iight to incest, you have the iight to adulteiy. You have the
iight to anything. Loes that undeimine the fabiic of oui society· I would
aigue yes, it does. It all comes fiom, I would aigue, this iight to piivacy that
doesn`t exist in my opinion in the Inited States Constitution, this iight that
was cieated, it was cieated in Ciiswold |v. Connecticut]÷Ciiswold was the
contiaceptive case÷and aboition |stc]. And we`ie just extending it out. And
the fuithei you extend it out, the moie you÷this fieedom actually inteivenes
and affects the family. You say, well, it`s my individual fieedom. Yes, but it
destioys the basic unit of oui society because it condones behavioi that`s
antithetical to stiong, healthy families. Whethei it`s polygamy, whethei it`s
adulteiy, whethei it`s sodomy, all of those things, aie antithetical to a healthy,
stable, tiaditional family.
Lveiy society in the histoiy of man has upheld the institution of maiiiage
as a bond between a man and a woman. Why· Because society is based
on one thing: that society is based on the futuie of the society. And that`s
what· Childien. Nonogamous ielationships. In eveiy society, the defnition
of maiiiage has not evei to my knowledge included homosexuality. ¯hat`s not
to pick on homosexuality. It`s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, oi
whatevei the case may be. It`s one thing.
¯he peisistent and all-too-familiai connections between homosexuality
and the decline of the family seem inescapable. Ioi Santoium, as well as
many otheis, homosexuality is the family`s apocalypse; the basic founda-
tions of 'family¨ as monogamous, heteiosexual union will shake as we
become moie piivate and toleiant. Nost woiiisome is that childien might
be most at iisk. Of couise, childien aie not just childien, they aie the
futuie, and these childien should not be huit by the piogiessive move to
change the nation`s most cheiished institution÷maiiiage.
Peihaps this is one ieason, beyond the scandal of sexual abuse, that
pedophilia so quickly becomes the stoiy of homosexuality. Homosexual-
ity, in its illogical conßation, is always an affiont to childien÷it is pedo-
philic pieying on the nation`s futuie voting citizens, who might otheiwise
become so toleiant as to accept any social behavioi, who might allow foi
Cayle Rubin`s long-held wish foi 'benign vaiiation¨ of sexual identities
and behaviois.
Oi, these childien might simply not be 'theie¨ at all,
if we ignoie the iealities of queei paienting and iepioductive technolo-
gies and, instead, believe the conseivative Chiistian lie that homosexual
families aie nonpiocieative families. In any case, we aie led to woiiy, in
a sentimental way, about the futuie loss of childien; we aie told to woiiy
about the violent woild they will be foiced and coeiced into accepting if
homosexuals aie peimitted to thiive in piivacy, in consensual ielations, in
maiiiage, and, especially, in the chuich, which is incieasingly synonymous,
25B Mìchael Cobb
thiough the peivasive piesence of conseivative, evangelicals in the Inited
States, with 'the family.¨
Among his woiiies, Santoium confuses not only homosexuality with
pedophilia but also pedophile homosexuals with a demand foi incestu-
ous iights. He does so to fuithei ciicumsciibe the piecaiious 'natuie¨
of families in a too toleiant woild. Incest has ceitainly long been a vexing
issue, a constitutive taboo, which has touched most aienas engaged in
undeistanding the makeup and maintenance of family, if not all, social
stiuctuies. Nany fascinating woiks in psychoanalysis, anthiopology, and
feminist anthiopology, as well as liteiaiy ciiticism in the Ameiican context,
have alieady investigated the 'iight¨ of incest and its piecious placement
in the constitution of families, societies, nations, and individual psyches.

In a study of Cieek tiagedy and ¬nitgone, }udith Butlei, foi an example
that undeistands Santoium`s hysteiia, explains that 'alteinative kinship
aiiangements |such as same-sex kinship ielations] attempt to ievise psy-
chic stiuctuies in ways that lead to tiagedy again, fguied incessantly as
the tiagedy of and foi the child. No mattei what one ultimately thinks of
the political value of gay maiiiage . . . the public debate on its legitimacy
becomes the occasion foi a set of homophobic discouises that must be
iesisted on independent giounds.¨
I agiee with Butlei. Such iesistance,
howevei, is incieasingly diffcult to iesist on 'independent giounds.¨ ¯he
tiagedy of queei iights is the tiagedy foi the child, and this fguiation
of tiagedy engendeis the kinds of hateful ihetoiic so laboiiously used by
ieligious politicians such as Santoium. Chuich sex contioveisies quickly
tiansfoim into homosexual contioveisies, then into gay maiiiage con-
tioveisies, thieatening tiaditional, veiy national, and patiiotic kinship
systems, which aie 'incessantly,¨ oi 'incest-antly,¨ the child`s potential
We most ceitainly can desciibe this tiagedy as sentimental, pioviding
conseivative politicians with an emotive occasion to become quite hateful
towaid the pedophilic, if not incestuous, 'Iathei¨ of the child: the homo-
sexual. Butlei iightly states, 'Considei that the hoiioi of incest, the moial
ievulsion it compels in some, is not fai afeld fiom the same hoiioi and
ievulsion felt towaid lesbian and gay sex, and is not unielated to the intense
moial condemnation of voluntaiy single paienting, oi gay paienting, of
paienting aiiangements with moie than two adults involved. . . . ¯hese
vaiious modes in which the oedipal mandate fails to pioduce noimative
family all iisk enteiing into the metonymy of that moialized sexual hoiioi
that is peihaps most fundamentally associated with incest.¨
comments ceitainly expeiience and manipulate that sexual hoiioi. I would
push Butlei`s aigument even fuithei: that incest÷which is also so closely
aligned with pedophilia÷and homosexuality aie so fiequently thought
/nonq nis
conroses not only
vitn peoopnilia
bot also
nonosexoals vitn
a oenano ror
incestooos riqnts.
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 259
togethei that the hoiioi of incest is now also the hoiioi of homosexuality,
the hoiioi of what a peimissive, piivate, and queei fiiendly society might
peimit. In othei woids, the hoiioi of incest is the cuiient way to maik, to
fguie, the limits of what kinds of sexual toleiance towaid gays, lesbians,
and bisexuals the cuiient, extiemely conseivative political climate can
accommodate. It is thus peifectly acceptable foi a leading politician to
voice, in a national way, his hatied of homosexuality, in pait because the
spectei of homosexuality is not 'fai afeld¨ fiom the destiuction of the
family, the fabiic of a gieat nation, and the onslaught of a too peimissive
libeialism that believes 'anything goes.¨
It is also peifectly acceptable foi I.S. Supieme Couit }ustice Antonin
Scalia in his dissent in La:rence to fiet similaily ovei the foundations of
the Ameiican nation. Anxious that the Couit`s antisodomy iuling might
defoim I.S. maiiiage laws, Scalia believes that the 'homosexual agenda¨
now huits many Ameiicans who 'do not want peisons who openly engage
in homosexual conduct . . . as scoutmasteis foi theii childien, as teach-
eis in theii schools¨; indeed, these Ameiicans aie at peiil and will not
be able to piotect 'themselves and theii families fiom a lifestyle that
they believe immoial and destiuctive.¨
¯he new social toleiance of the
homosexual agenda, again and again, puts oui moial/ieligious countiy,
oui moial/ieligious families, and especially oui moial/ieligious childien
at destiuctive iisk. ¯he spectei of the pedophile, the spectei of incest, is
luiking peiniciously within this apocalyptic vision of the nation`s futuie.
And this position does not cause enoimous outiage because the hateful
connections between the homosexual as sexual piedatoi of childien aie
always so piesent, always so potently upsetting, that no amount of ßaii and
comedy fiom the 'Iab Iive¨ Queei Lyes can yet alleviate the countiy`s
ihetoiical convulsions ovei the possibility that homosexuals might come
into destiuctive contact with childien. So heie aie the questions I have,
given the incestuous and pedophilic affliation we have not chosen and can-
not avoid: how do we addiess the nation, fiom this pedophilic, incestuous
position that pieys on the nation`s innocent childien· How do we iespond
to this aigument, this veision of ieligious hate·
¯he most common iesponse I know, as I suggested above, is also full of
ieligious hate. But this genie of hate is twisted into a kind of sentimental-
ity that conjuies up anothei histoiy of national intoleiance. Chauncey,
in the Ne: Yorl Ttnes, is quoted as saying: 'What stiikes me . . . is how
closely the iesistance to same-sex maiiiage iesembles white people`s feais
2óu Mìchael Cobb
about inteiiacial maiiiage, which weie the emotional coie of theii feais
about integiation in geneial. Now, as in the 195us and 6us, much of the
objection to legally extending maiital iights takes the foim of ieligious
wainings about a declining 'moial oidei.`¨
Chauncey biings the cuiient
conceins ovei queei iights into alignment with the emotional coie of iace
ielations, which is by no means a novel tactic. Ceitainly we should be
cautious: the 'like iace¨ aigument has alieady been extensively ciitiqued
by the impoitant ciitical legal woik of }anet Halley.
Without diminish-
ing hei ciucial insights, I want to suggest a diffeient analytic ioute, one
that investigates the tenacity of why so many thinkeis and activists make
queeis 'like¨ iace. I must caution that by fxating on the analogy, I do not
mean to imply, as one ieadei of this piece woiiied, that iace and queei
sexuality aie not fully entangled concepts, and the explosion of sophisti-
cated woik by and about queeis of coloi ceitainly ieminds us as much.

Instead, I want to think of the identity categoiies as ihetoiical positions
in a limited giammai of body styles we must use iightly oi wiongly, with
vaiying degiees of success and failuie.
Race has an especially com-
plicated and poweiful status: foi iace, indeed, is an identity caiegor, oi
ihetoiical nane that the public spheie giudgingly acknowledges has had
a tiaumatic, painful, and hostile tieatment in the Inited States, a histoiy
that is seiious and in need of at least limited iepaiations, civil iights, and
iecognitions. We can take those iacial and ieligious woids of hate, those
public condemnations satuiated with ieligious moiality and family panic,
and use them foi oui advantage.
¯hink of, foi instance, queei moial outiage÷even my own peisonal
outiage÷ovei Santoium`s hating and Ceoghan`s killing. Ny ihetoiic must
also be inteiiogated as a stiategy pushing my own Left and piohomo-
sexual agenda. Cuiiously, the Cod Hates Iags Web site is coiiect when
it asseits, 'Iags shamelessly use the deaths of fags to piomote theii sod-
omite agenda,¨
foi I am using the moial panic, the manifest expiessions
of queei hatied (foi example, Natthew Shepaid`s muidei), to a peiveise,
queei advantage: it is the display of intoleiance, of such conseivative sen-
timental woiiy ovei iestiicted national notions of families and especially
childien, that peimits me to ieasseit what is still minoi about queeiness,
especially at a moment when 'gay visibility¨ has been heialded as winning
the battle. I am using the hoiioi of incest, but foi a diffeient puipose. By
diawing attention to the sentimental hysteiia of fguies such as Santoium,
by diawing attention to the peiveisity of ieligious commentaiy on national
futuiity and the nation`s impoitant childien, I stait to manipulate the
hateful feelings of the ieligious Right as a 'stiuctuie of feeling¨ that can
desciibe the position of queei in contempoiaiy I.S. politics and cultuie.

I can take on that foim of hate speech as a foim of self-expiession of the
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 2ó1
queei as a minoiity. I am asseiting something as stiange as: I am still a
minoiity because I am so quickly affliated with incest, pedophilia, and
the destiuction of functional, pioductive families. I am still a minoiity
because I have to fguie the apocalyptic vision of libeial iuin, and, as an
incestuous, pedophilic fguie, I can so ieadily and calmly be defled at the
lowest and highest levels of I.S. goveinment and cultuie÷on the ßooi of
the Senate oi the ßooi of a jail cell, as it weie, all while the conseivative and
ieligious public spheie gives such deiision its ieligious blessing. What is
moie, positioned at the nation`s limits, I have no choice in the mattei÷the
associations and anxieties aie theie, no mattei how much I wish they weie
not. So, in negative, in obveise, I am still using, and not ieally changing, the
teims set by the Right, if not the ieligious iighteous: my claims of iecogni-
tion also woiiy ovei the family, child loss, and the futuie of the nation÷a
nation so piedicated on the conseivative, Chiistian values.
Noieovei, these emotional, iiieveient conceins÷family, child loss,
and the futuie of the nation÷belong to a kind of iacialized sentimental
politics we have often seen in the histoiy of LCB¯Q politics. As many
otheis have aigued, the manipulation of emotion foi social movements
and political change in the Inited States since at least the nineteenth
centuiy has been conceined with the pioblem of iace as it was aiticulated
by the tiagedy of slaveiy and the stiuggles foi citizenship`s enfianchis-
ing possibilities foi those who weie once excluded÷especially Afiican
Ameiicans and women.
I might be oveistating the case, but this veision
of sentimental minoiity politics is piimaiily and peisistently iacial in tone,
which might account foi why so many stiuggles to defne the fiustiated
emotional claims of those who have not achieved full citizenship oi equal-
ity in the Inited States, fiequently evoke, as Lauien Beilant does, a quick
mention of the Iouiteenth Amendment to make aiticulate that the 'histoiy
of civil iights in the Inited States shows that gaining the fianchise is both
an event and a piocess, a zone of individualization that always ciackles
with contingency.¨
I would modify this claim a bit and desciibe that
the achievement of adequate iecognition of full citizenship in the Inited
States is also a feeling, a sentiment, that 'ciackles with contingency,¨ one
that usually uses the Afiican Ameiican iace, moie than gendei, as the
default 'font¨ oi foim of diffeience to make the uigency of diffeience
felt. Lespite its obvious and upsetting pitfalls (theie aie vastly diffeient
expeiiences of iacism and homophobia, even if they often oveilap), queeis
often take on the feelings of iace to desciibe social injustice, to asseit that
they aie still queei and in need of the limited, iestiicted, and noimative
piotections offeied by a public spheie. And they take on those stiuctuies
of iacial feelings not because they foiget the analogy and foiget that theie
is delibeiate, if not veiy fctitious play of ihetoiic, of language, but quite
2ó2 Mìchael Cobb
the opposite: theie is a useful stiategy that is not about a faithful utteiance,
the piecise naming of the minoiity situation in which they peisistently fnd
themselves; theie is use in being fctitious, imaginative, if not downiight
dishonest when it comes to one`s publicity in a coeicive and hostile nation.
Instead of a tiuthful and caieful queei stoiy, we often have the manipula-
tion of a hateful emotion that belongs to anothei minoiity categoiy÷'the
emotional coie¨ of iace.
It is no wondei that Butlei, soon aftei she aigues that the hoiioi ovei
incest is so often associated with the hoiioi of gay sex, iushes into a dis-
cussion of Oilando Patteison`s inßuential book,, anJ Soctal Deaih:
¬ Conjarait.e SiuJ,, and his useful concept of 'social death,¨ a 'status
of being a living being iadically depiived of all iights that aie supposed to
be accoided to any and all living beings.¨
¯he social death of slaveiy is
a social death that can be applied to the kinds of deaths queeis aie given
in the Inited States, especially when they aie so closely aligned with the
hoiiois of incest, also known as the hoiioi of the eioding tiadition of
the Ameiican family. In the cuiient queei political and cultuial climate,
the complicated ihetoiic of emotion piovokes us into politics; we aie stiug-
gling, as we long have, with social injustice in teims of loss, of slaveiy, of
incest, and stiong feelings that aggiegate the queei with iace. So let us
now chait that stiuggle with an instiuctive, queei instance.
Ann Cvetkovich desciibes Loiothy Allison`s EasiarJ oui of Caroltna
as a 'poweiful¨ examination of 'the intimate connections between sexual
tiauma and sexual pleasuie, and by implication the connections between
incest and, if not lesbianism explicitly, then, peiveise sexuality.¨
Ioi this
'lesbian¨ naiiative, and I will call it as much, does aiticulate some diffcult
connections that belong to this constellation of homosexuality, incest, hate,
and, quite poignantly, iace and ieligion that I have been desciibing in this
essay. ¯he cential chaiactei, Bone, a victim of incest and a failing and pooi
white family, stiuggles and embodies 'haidsciabble¨ existence. At key
moments in hei stoiy, moieovei, Bone is oveicome by the powei of gospel
music, by the powei of pieacheis` woids, wondeiing how she could pos-
sibly belong to these moments of public, collective expiession about what
is supposed to be piivate: one`s soul, one`s peisonal stoiy, oi one`s faith.
¯he woids she heais duiing one chuich gatheiing aie chaiacteiistically
ieligious in that they aie both obscuie and yet potent: 'Revivals aie funny.
People get pietty enthusiastic, but they sometimes foiget just which hymn
it is they`ie singing. I giinned at the sound of mumbled, unintelligible
Lespite the lack of specifc woids and message, and despite the
way that this mumbling occasions men close to the Revival tent to 'punch
each othei lightly and cuise in a fiiendly fashion,¨ Bone fnds the ieligious
utteiances deeply moving:
lnsteao or a
trotnrol ano
carerol qoeer
story, ve
orten nave tne
nanipolation or a
naterol enotion
tnat belonqs to
anotner ninority
enotional core`
or race.
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 2ó3
You basiarJ.
You son of a btich.
¯he pieachei said something I didn`t undeistand. ¯heie was a moment of
silence, and then a puie tenoi voice iose up in the night sky. ¯he spit souied
in my mouth. ¯hey had a ieal singei in theie, a ieal gospel choii.
S:tng lo:, s:eei chartoi . . . contng for io carr, ne hone . . . s:tng lo:, s:eei
chartoi . . . contng io carr, ne hone.
¯he night seemed to wiap aiound me like a blanket. Ny insides felt as if
they had melted, and I could taste the wind in my mouth. ¯he sweet gospel
music pouied thiough me in a pieicing young boy`s voice, and made all my
nastiness, all my jealousy and hatied, swell in my heait. . . . ¯he woild was
too big foi me, the music too stiong. I knew, I knew I was the most disgusting
peison on eaith. I didn`t deseive to live anothei day. I staited hiccupping and
ciying. (135÷36)
Initially, it might be haid foi a ieadei to see how on eaith the language
piovoking the feelings of being 'the most disgusting peison on eaith¨
might actually fostei a iadical politics. But suiely the iedeployment of the
woid queer demonstiates that negatives still might geneiate some unfoie-
seen and positive developments. Lmotionally chaiged language can be
twisted and wiestled in some veiy cuiious ways, especially ieligious lan-
¯hus Allison heie emphasizes thiough italics the song-quality of
gospel music, just as she also staits the quotation of meaningful ihetoiic
with cuises that call attention to Bone`s status as a 'bastaid,¨ as someone
outside legitimate kinship systems. With italics, Allison giants a signif-
cant status to the ieligious woids, which aie diawn into equivalence of the
'fiiendly cuises¨ to give impoitance to the foim and ihetoiic of gospel
iathei than to the message of the woids. Liiect ieligious woids fiom the
pieachei, theological messages, aie not undeistood; piecise meaning is not
as impoitant as the visceial, affective state the gospel woids piovoke in
Bone. She is wiapped up by the night, hei insides melt, hei spit souis, hei
nastiness and jealousy and hatied swell in hei heait. She has an extieme
emotional iesponse that is indexed by hei intense, coipoieal ieaction,
which calls foith all the feelings of shame, abuse, angei that make hei feel
at once full of giandiose self-disgust and empty of signifcance. Noie-
ovei, the gospel music leads hei thiough a seiies of images of hei family
into a iealization of the way the woild is 'too big¨: 'I iemembeied Aunt
Ruth`s fngeis ßutteiing biidlike in fiont of hei face, Incle Laile`s ßushed
cheeks and lank black haii as they`d ciied togethei on the poich, Nama`s
pinched, woiiied face and Laddy Clen`s cold, angiy, eyes¨ (135). It is
signifcant that the eyes that give Bone hei paiticulaily confusing insight
into hei own complicated disgust aie the eyes of hei incestuous abusei.
His eyes enable hei peispective, give hei eyes. ¯his victim of incest has
2ó4 Mìchael Cobb
a family that has quite simply made hei feel teiiibly wiong, out of place,
out of scale, not belonging to this laige, stiong woild.
But Bone`s iesponse to gospel is not simply witnessed by eithei the
ieadei of the novel oi Bone heiself. She outlines a linguistic stiuctuie of
these piovocative emotions. ¯he ieligious woids aie not meiely vehicles foi
the expiession of a paialyzing hatied and self-disgust. Ioi Bone astutely
tells us something impoitant at anothei point in the novel: 'Salvation was
complicated¨ (14S). And pait of that complication, Bone explains, aie
the ieligious woids, exemplifed by gospel, which aie theie to 'make you
hate and love youiself at the same time, make you ashamed and gloiifed¨
(136). It is a musical language of ambivalence, which piovides a paiticu-
laily impoitant foim in which to expiess extieme emotions. Listen to the
way Bone desciibes hei Incle Laile`s insistent need to blaspheme:
What I ieally liked was how he talked about }esus in a way I undeistood even
when I couldn`t put it togethei with all he said. He talked about }esus like a
man dying foi need of him, but too stubboin to sit down to the meal spiead
within his ieach. Laile talked the language of gospel music, with its ihythms
and intensity. I heaid in his diawled pionouncements the same swelling iough
iaw voices, the ied-faced men and pale sweating women moaning in the back
pews. 'Loid, Loid!¨ Noaning and waiting, waiting and piaying, 'to be
washed, LorJ }esus! washed in the blood of the Lamb!¨ ¯he hungei, the lust
and the yeaining was palpable. (14S)
Bone`s sense of woids that 'could not be put togethei¨ into a coheient
theological message is suboidinate to the fact that she undeistands the
'language of gospel music¨ to be a language of intensity, moaning, wait-
ing, lust, hungei, and yeaining÷emotional states somehow made 'pal-
pable¨ by the music. Bone needs this language of love and hate because it
helps hei to undeistand. Noie impoitant, this language of love and hate
helps hei to feel.
¯ellingly, the moment when Bone most feels the powei of gospel, what
she immediately desciibes as 'ieal gospel¨ (169), is when she encounteis
a clapboaid chuich in the woods. ¯his chuich piovides the occasion foi
Bone to heai wheie gospel comes fiom÷fiom the oveiwhelming sentiment
of Afiican Ameiicans. 'At that I fioze, iealizing that such a chuich off
such a diit ioad had to be . . . a coloied chuich¨ (17u). And this moment
also piovokes a diffcult moment of Bone encounteiing iacist hate speech.
Hei companion, Shannon, uses the slui 'Niggei.¨ In iesponse, Bone
acknowledges, 'Ny voice was shaking. ¯he way Shannon said 'niggei` toie
at me, the tone pitched exactly like the echoing sound of Aunt Nadeline
sneeiing 'tiash` when she thought I wasn`t close enough to heai¨ (17u).
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 2ó5
Bone`s white-tiash status÷a status most tiagically maiked by hei status
as a victim of incest÷has made hei vulneiable to the kinds of hate speech
attacks she so ieadily identifes as shaiing the same pitch as 'niggei¨;
both aie sluis that aie also expeiienced as the language of injuiy. But it
is the Afiican Ameiican slui in paiticulai that helps hei undeistand that
language can teai. ¯he language of slui is so closely associated with the
language of 'ieal gospel,¨ and Bone, heie, can feel and undeistand the
kind of hate she must also enduie as a subject systematically blocked fiom
full oi legitimate status in the hostile woild that hates its 'niggeis¨ and its
'tiash.¨ Hoitense Spilleis iegaids 'Afiican Ameiican seimons |and the
ieligious language they contain] as a paiadigm of the stiuctuie of ambiva-
lence that constitutes the black peison`s ielationship to Ameiican cultuie
and appienticeship in it.¨
Bone similaily iegaids seimons and gospels,
paiticulaily Afiican Ameiican gospels, as paiadigmatic of the ambivalence
she must confusingly negotiate as she ciiculates within a cultuie and soci-
ety in which she is not legitimate (she is a bastaid, an incest victim, a minoi
giil, and white 'tiash¨). ¯he agony of Afiican Ameiican expeiience so
deeply feels like Bone`s agony. ¯heie aie poweiful analogies, occasioned
by the penetiating feeling and powei of ieligion, between 'iace¨ and othei
foims of social exclusion that aie haid to aiticulate, especially if one is a
young giil without any status at all.
It is no wondei that theoiists and activists, and not just chaiacteis in a
book, excavate this emotive connection, this high pitch of hatied, feeling,
agony, hungei, and lust to communicate the 'tiagedies of a child.¨ Butlei,
as I mentioned above, suggestively manipulates childhood tiagedies, such
as incest, to piopose the pioductive qualities of an unexpected iesistance
we can and should call a iacialized politics. She concludes hei aiguments
with a lyiical appeal to the 'social death¨ and the 'shadowy iealm¨ of
those who fall outside the boundaiies of noimative, public spheie. 'Cioi-
gio Agamben has iemaiked that we live incieasingly in a time in which
populations without full citizenship exist within states; theii ontological
status as legal subjects is suspended,¨ wiites Butlei. '¯hese aie not lives
being genocidally destioyed, but neithei aie they being enteied into the
life of the legitimate community in which standaids of iecognition peimit
foi an attainment of humanness.¨ But iathei than see these populations as
helplessly moiibund, something about this status is pioductive, oi useful.
Butlei wondeis:
How aie we to undeistand this iealm, what Hannah Aiendt calls the 'shadowy
iealm,¨ which haunts the public spheie, which is piecluded fiom the public
constitution of the human, but which is human in an appaiently catachiestic
sense of that teim· Indeed, how aie we to giasp this dilemma of language
Bones vnite-
trasn statos÷a
statos nost
traqically narkeo
by ner statos
as a victin or
incest÷nas naoe
ner volnerable to
tne kinos or nate
speecn attacks
sne so reaoily
ioentines as
snarinq tne sane
pitcn as ¨niqqer.`
2óó Mìchael Cobb
that emeiges when 'human¨ takes on that doubled sense, the noimative one
based on iadical exclusion and the one that emeiges in the public spheie of
the excluded, not negated, not dead, peihaps slowly, yes, suiely dying fiom a
lack of iecognition, dying, indeed, fiom the piematuie ciicumspection of the
noims by which iecognition can be confeiied·
¯he shadowy iealm, the iealm of the haunting death of those who do not
belong to the public spheie, poses a 'dilemma of language,¨ a dilemma
summaiily desciibed as the 'melancholy of the public spheie.¨ Bone feels
this melancholy of hei own lack of positive iecognitions that aie moie
valuable of deiivative, palpable appellations of tiash, which aie akin to
niggei. But thiough love-hate gospel, hei existence in the shadowy iealm
of noncitizenship pioduces a melancholy language, full of the ambiva-
lence that cannot let go of the pain, that must love and hate, and that must
pioduce a iawness that is not as intelligible as much as it is felt.
Somehow this ieligious language÷which functions moie as a dilemma
of language iathei than cleai, theological messages÷pioduces defance
in Bone. She desciibes, in teims that could be the veiy defnition of mel-
what she likes about the way ieligion expiesses the incoheiency
of hei shadow existence. Bone iesponds to hei inability to be 'saved¨ in
vaiious Baptist congiegations; she knows theie was no magic oi guilt that
would be puiged fiom heiself. Neveitheless, ieligion piovides some kind
of comfoit, and it is a hostile comfoit:
I sneezed and coughed foi a solid week, lying limp in my bed and ciying
to eveiy gospel song that came ovei the iadio. It was as if I weie mouining
the loss of something I had nevei ieally had. I sang along with the music
and piayed foi all I was woith. }esus` blood and countiy music, theie had to
be something else, something moie I could hope foi. I bit my lip and went
back to ieading the Book of Revelation, taking comfoit in the hope of the
apocalypse, Cod`s ietiibution on the wicked. I liked Revelations, loved the
Whoie of Babylon and the piomised iiveis of blood and fie. It stiuck me like
gospel music, it piomised vindication. (152)
What Bone enjoys, heie, is that ieligious woids piovide a ieveisal of the
diie ciicumstances in which she fnds heiself, in which she expeiiences the
wicked as those aiound hei who teai into hei, much like Shannon`s disdain
foi 'niggei,¨ which is so much like the disdain thiown at Bone by othei
woids. Rathei than be 'saved,¨ Bone enjoys the powei and foice of the
woids that piomise some kind of intense opposition to those who oppiess
hei. In this way, she affliates heiself with something the shadowy iealm of
noncitizen often deeply evokes: a language of blackness. In an inquiiy into
Ralph Lllison`s In.tstble Aan, Spilleis aigues: 'By ievising and coiiect-
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 2ó7
ing 'blackness` into a crtitcal postuie, into a pieeminent site of the 'mul-
ticultuial,` long befoie the lattei defned a new politics and polemic . . .
Lllison hainessed 'blackness` to a symbolic piogiam of philosophical 'dis-
obedience.` . . . |his woiks] make 'blackness` a jrocess, a siraieg,, of cul-
tuial ciitique iathei than a condition of physiognomy and/oi the embodi-
ment of the auio-btos-grajhe.¨
In this piovocative foimulation, black-
ness is the symbolic, ciitical postuie that anyone, as Spilleis believes,
can inhabit as an intense and necessaiy foim oi fguie of opposition÷a
postuie that looks peihaps in utopian ways to anothei futuie, one full of
blood and vindication, when ceitain wiongs might be made iight. Black-
ness, foi Spilleis (and Lllison), should not be captuied and oveily infused
with naiiatives of authenticity and essentialism÷blackness should not
meiely be testimony oi autobiogiaphy. Blackness, instead, functions most
effectively as a poweiful language of ciitique. And Bone speaks as if she
is black in oidei to make a foiceful opposition to the public spheie, the
libeial nation-state, that despises and excludes hei.
Butlei`s own wiiting ieveals similai ihetoiical emphases, optimistic
about what the shadowy iealm of confusing language might peimit in
teims of its oppositional potential. In desciibing Antigone`s incestuous,
piomiscuous claim on the human, when she is supposed to be excluded,
we know that Antigone 'is not of the human but speaks its language. . . .
She speaks within the language of entitlement fiom which she is excluded,
paiticipating in the language of the claim with which no fnal identifca-
tion is possible.¨
Antigone, much like Bone, has no iight to speak in the
ways she does, but neveitheless, she does, and as she does, pioduces the
possibility of hei own daik, blackening opposition to that language the two
women aie foiced to inhabit. Antigone speaks the language of the state, and
Bone, we can aigue, does the same: the language of the Ameiican State,
despite claims to the contiaiy, is still veiy much a ieligious language. As
}anet R. }akobsen and Ann Pellegiini piovocatively and coiiectly asseit,
'¯o be tiaditionally Ameiican is to be tiaditionally Chiistian in a ceitain
so we can aigue that the public spheie is ceitainly also a ieligious
public spheie with an offcial ieligious language. Both female fguies of
incest speak authoiitative languages, but undeimine those languages, foic-
ing them 'into peipetual catachiesis, showing . . . how a teim can continue
to signify outside its conventional constiaints.¨
An outlaw fguie such
as Bone oi Antigone 'acts, she speaks, she becomes one foi whom the
speech act is a fatal ciime, but this fatality exceeds hei life and enteis the
discouise of intelligibility as its own piomising fatality, the social foim of
its abeiiant, unpiecedented futuie.¨
Bone speaks as
ir sne is black in
oroer to nake a
rorcerol opposition
to tne poblic
spnere, tne liberal
nation-state, tnat
oespises ano
exclooes ner.
2óB Mìchael Cobb
Ceitainly this is dangeious, fgurait.e teiiitoiy. But the fguiation, the
style of queei expiession, is often wheie much of contempoiaiy politics
about sexuality is and needs to engage as we move towaid the 'abeiiant,
unpiecedented futuie¨ when homosexuals pedophilically and incestu-
ously defle the Ameiican family with demands foi things like maiiiage
iights. Aftei all, a I.S. senatoi and othei fundamental Chiistians aie
making much of the homosexual, incestuous, pedophilic panic up in theii
heads; they aie being inventive and fctitious, ihetoiical, and effectively
so, with veiy ieal consequences. What I want to stiess is that queeis aie
similaily making themselves up, with similaily ieal consequences. All of
which makes sense, since the I.S. goveinment is a rejreseniait.e govein-
ment, ielying on the mannei in which people desciibe (oi aie desciibed)
and spin themselves (oi aie spun) into publicity as they push foi civil
iights and legal enfianchisements fiom the nation-state.
Whethei we like it oi not, the I.S. public spheie and its citizens still
woik, on a daily basis, with a iights-based model, which piesupposes
the Ameiican ievolutionaiy ideal that infoimed the complicated and
incomplete tiansfoimation of the Inited States by its Leclaiation of
Independence, Constitution, and its now, piecaiious, Bill of Rights: the
'ievolutionaiy claim that the subject of post-monaichism is the subject of
biith . . . the subject of univeisal, inalienable iights.¨
Iiom the vantage
point of the 'like iace¨ ihetoiical stiategy, the simile foi public spheie
access is not one of similitude, not a boin-that-way asseition, oi even a
claim of fxed minoiity status, but iathei a point of dangeiously, peihaps
haimfully pioductive affliation with the emotions of iacial distinction,
with an agieed-on minoiity status and its sentimental effects, with leg-
ibly noi-belonging to the public spheie, of being violently and painfully
excluded÷of being made oppositional oi 'iaced¨ by the malicious asso-
ciations between homosexuality and pedophilia, fguiing the iuin of tia-
ditional Ameiican civil, political, and cultuial society. Queeis aie hated.
Queeis, in a suggestive woid, aie 'iaced.¨ Ioi the iace claim made in the
Inited States is that shadowy iealm often inßected with legible language
pain and suffeiing÷a foim of sentimental language of an excluded and
factionalized gioup within the Inited States, conjuiing up memoiies of
slaveiy and segiegation that should no longei be toleiated in a countiy and
a public tiying to make amends and adjust to 'tiue¨ equality.
Beilant`s woik on citizenship helps us undeistand the 'sentimental
politics¨ that peisists as we make the public spheie iespond to diffei-
ence, an emotional politics 'by which mass subaltein |minoiity] pain
is advanced in the dominant public spheie, as the tiue coie of national
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 2ó9
¯he pain and suffeiing desciibed by the hateful plight of
those who feel oppiessed oi stiipped of basic citizenship iights incieas-
ingly takes absolute impoitance in a conßict ovei whethei one belongs
equally to the Inited States. 'National sentimentality is moie than a
cuiient of feeling that ciiculates in a political feld: the phiase desciibes a
longstanding contest between two models of I.S. citizenship,¨ instiucts
Beilant. 'In one, the classic model, each citizen`s value is secuied by an
equation between abstiactness and emancipation: a cell of national identity
piovides juiidically piotected peisonhood foi citizens iegaidless of any-
thing specifc about them¨ (12S÷29). And 'in the second model, which
was initially oiganized aiound laboi, feminist, and antiiacist stiuggles in
the Inited States in the nineteenth centuiy, anothei veision is imagined
as the index of collective life. ¯his nation is peopled by suffeiing citizens
and noncitizens whose stiuctuial exclusion fiom the utopian-Ameiican
dieamscape exposes the state`s claim of legitimacy and viitue to an acid
wash of tiuth-telling that makes hegemonic disavowal viitually impossible
at ceitain moments of political intensity¨ (129).
¯hese two veisions of citizenship÷the abstiact/utopian veisus the
suffeiing/loud÷leads to a foim of politics that ielies on the functional
citation of pain: 'Identifcation with pain, a univeisal tiue feeling, then
leads to stiuctuial and social change.¨ ¯his citation thus ieasseits the
value of the classic model of abstiact equality: 'In ietuin, subalteins
scaiied by the pain of failed demociacy will ieauthoiize univeisalist
notions of citizenship in the national utopia, which involves believing in
a iedemptive notion of law as the guaidian of public good. ¯he object of
the nation and the law in this light is to eiadicate systematic social pain,
the absence of which becomes the defnition of fieedom¨ (129). Queei
activism and minoiity complaint most ceitainly belong to the tiaumatic
model of the pain of citizenship; as victims of hate, as taiget membeis of
society, queeis use theii injuiies to maik, sentimentally, the failuies of the
classic citizenship`s piomise, with an eye on, but peihaps not yet a handle
on, eventually becoming 'classic¨ iathei than meiely a 'subject of tiue
|and painful] feeling.¨
Beilant has a whole host of ieseivations about these competing models
of citizenship, all of which make enoimous amounts of sense, especially if
one wanted to move beyond the hieiaichy and histoiies of violent exclu-
sion implied in these veisions of constitutional peisonhood, a hieiaichy
in which 'the counteihegemonic deployments of pain as the measuie of
stiuctuial injustice actually sustain the utopian image of a homogenous
national metacultuie, which can look like a healed oi healthy body in
contiast to the scaiied and exhausted ones¨ (129). ¯he cuiient system
of appeal and complaint is seiiously wiong, and Beilant and otheis aie
27u Mìchael Cobb
holding out foi othei 'demociatic possibilities,¨
ones that acknowledge
the complexity and diveisity of minoiity emotion and minoiity status.
Beilant hopes that the subaltein will iecognize 'that the signs of suboi-
dination they |minoiities] feel also tell a stoiy that they do not feel yet, oi
know, about how to constiuct the naiiative to come.¨
¯he futuie and the
utopian piomise of a bettei, less coeicive aiticulation of maiginalization
in the national cultuie fuels much queei, ciitical woik, to be suie. ¯heie
is an undeistandable mistiust, one I fiequently feel, in the deployment of
conventional and often abusive foims and ielationships of citizenship in
advancing any demand foi social and stiuctuial change. But while we aie
in the useful and necessaiy mood to hope and imagine and offei excellent
ciiticisms and theoiies about what could be otheiwise, it is also ciucial
to think about the less-detectable, even the less-desiiable, stiategies of
coping with the confnes of dominant cultuie, of the alieady established
nation-state that, as I have said, does not seem to be going anywheie else
anytime soon. Peihaps an even queeiei undeistanding of the fguiations
of iepiesentational politics will evacuate, at least foi a little while, the need
foi holding out foi sweeping, utopian tiansfoimation of the public spheie
and its neolibeial iuses.
When queeis iefeience, as I have thioughout this essay, the avaiice
of the ieligious iighteous who make queeis assume the buiden of being
incestuous and pedophilic, we demonstiate that the ieligious hate of
queeis is a position in ihetoiic as much as it is an immediate and upset-
ting emotion÷a position that affliates us with oppiession that is peihaps
moie legible within a neolibeial public spheie that is ieligious, not ieady
to tiansfoim and lend full, civil iights to queei people: a iaced position
that has at least captuied the emotive attention of a nation that did make
some÷but not neaily enough÷stiides to make iacial minoiities moie fully
membeis of society. It makes sense, then, that membeis of a foui-hundied-
something coalition of piogiessive cleigy called the Religious Coalition
foi the Iieedom to Naiiy has signed a declaiation that states, 'Iiom the
shameful histoiy of slaveiy in Ameiica, the injustice of foibidding people
to maiiy is evident as a denial of basic human iights.¨
¯he Supieme
Couit of Nassachusetts, in its second iuling on same-sex maiiiage on
4 Iebiuaiy 2uu4, ihetoiically and explicitly iefeiences the histoiy of seg-
iegation, iacial civil iights, and Ero:n .. EoarJ of LJucaiton: '¯his histoiy
of oui nation has demonstiated that sepaiate is seldom, if evei, equal.¨

Wheie would we be without this kind of language, this kind of sentimental
jabbing· It is an allusion, a iefeience, and not an explicit oi specifcally
aiticulated queei testimony.
I am hopeful that this kind of emotional, iacially inßected language
is the twist we need foi a political spheie that is hypeiemotional, full of
¦ernaps an
even qoeerer
onoerstanoinq or
tne nqorations or
politics vill
evacoate, at
least ror a little
vnile, tne neeo
ror noloinq oot
ror sveepinq,
transrornation or
tne poblic spnere
ano its neoliberal
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 271
suspicion and hate, and not willing to be iational. In the cuiient climate
wheie ieligious opinions about homosexuality`s dangeious connections to
incest, pedophilia, libeial iuin, and moial decline ßouiish, it is especially
impoitant to undeistand the ways that these woids can be meiely and only
woids, a liteiaiy 'dilemma of language,¨
and how those woids make
queeis hated in the most sentimental ways. It is ceitainly a civil wiong
to claim that ieligious hate speech makes us like a iacial minoiity. But
peihaps, by engaging civil iights in such an uncivil mannei, we can then
begin to give oui outiage back to ouiselves and push up against libeialism`s
impasses into undeistanding the cieative and iadical copings of queeis
who have to do something about the peisistent suboidination they aie
foiced to feel eveiyday. We might also get something as peculiai as twisted
enfianchisement, shoit-ciicuiting the libeial quandaiies that iequiie we
iemain foievei outside the libeial nation-state, in a public spheie that is
always ieady to despise and 'Iab Iive¨ us.
1. See }ohn L`Lmilio`s optimistic, but still veiy nuanced, aiguments about
LCB¯Q issues moving fiom maigin to centei in the Ameiican national conscious-
ness in his collection of essays, The !orlJ TurneJ: Lssa,s on Ca, Htsior,, Foltitcs,
anJ Culiure (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2).
2. Ceoige Chauncey, quoted in Iiank Rich, 'And Now, the Queei Lye foi
Stiaight Naiiiage,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 1u August 2uu3. Ioi a necessaiy ciitique
and deep investigation of the concept of visibility, especially lesbian visibility, see
Amy Villaiejo`s Lesbtan Fule: Culiural Crtitctsn anJ ihe 1alue of Destre (Luiham,
NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3). See also L`Lmilio, !orlJ TurneJ, and Iivashi
Vaid, The Aatnsireantng of Ca, anJ Lesbtan Ltberaiton (New Yoik: Anchoi/
Loubleday, 1996).
3. Ioi a iecent study of the complicated and commodifed tiansfoimation of
evangelical message and media, see Heathei Hendeishot, Shaltng ihe !orlJ for
}esus: AeJta anJ Conser.ait.e L.angeltcal Destre (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago
Piess, 2uu4). Ioi gieatei insight into the conseivative foices of the 'intimate
public spheie,¨ see Lauien Beilant, The Queen of ¬nertca Coes io !ashtngion Cti,:
Lssa,s on Sex anJ Ctit:enshtj (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1997).
4. Iamily Reseaich Council, www.fic.oig/get.cfm·c=ABOI¯_IRC
(accessed 6 }uly 2uu4).
5. Ioi a compelling and peihaps contiadictoiy ieading of queei politics and
ceitain foims of neolibeialism, see Lisa Luggan, The T:tltghi of Lqualti,. Neoltb-
eraltsn, Culiural Foltitcs, anJ ihe ¬iiacl on Denocrac, (Boston: Beacon, 2uu3).
6. See (accessed 15 Nay 2uu2).
7. In hei Eei:een }esus anJ ihe Aarlei: The Lnoitons Thai Aaiier tn Ftghi-
!tng ¬nertca, Linda Kintz peisuasively demonstiates the peisistent connections
between ieligious and iight-wing conseivative movements in the contempoiaiy
Inited States. Kintz aigues that 'the tenets familiai fiom ieligious conseivatism
272 Mìchael Cobb
help shape maiket fundamentalism by saciifcing ceitain gioups to the puiity of
the maiket while displacing attacks on woikeis, people of coloi, gays, and lesbians
into the abstiactions of economic theoiy¨ (Linda Kintz, Eei:een }esus anJ ihe
Aarlei: The Lnoitons Thai Aaiier tn Ftghi-!tng ¬nertca |Luiham, NC: Luke
Iniveisity Piess, 1997], 4). ¯his maiket focus is impoitant to keep in mind. Ny
study is moie involved in detailing the feiocity of the ihetoiic of }esus and should
be iead as a companion piece to Kintz`s woik.
S. See (accessed 9 Iebiuaiy
9. Ioi a fascinating study of vision and Chiistian thinking, see Lidi Heiman,
The ¬nitga, ¬genJa: CrihoJox 1tston anJ ihe Chrtsitan Ftghi (Chicago: Iniveisity
of Chicago Piess, 1997).
1u. }udith Butlei, Lxctiable Sjeech: ¬ Foltitcs of ihe Ferfornait.e (New Yoik:
Routledge, 1997), 19.
11. Ibid., 41.
12. Ioi well-discussed debates of queei mainstieaming, see Vaid, Aatn-
sireantng of Ca, anJ Lesbtan Ltberaiton; Andiew Sullivan, ¬n ¬rguneni aboui
Honosexualti, (New Yoik: Vintage, 1996); and Nichael Wainei, The Trouble :tih
Nornal: Sex, Foltitcs, anJ ihe Lihtcs of Queer Ltfe (Cambiidge, NA: Haivaid Ini-
veisity Piess, 2uuu).
13. Llizabeth Povinelli, The Cunntng of Fecogntiton: InJtgenous ¬liertites anJ
ihe Aaltng of ¬usiraltan Aulitculiuraltsn (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess,
2uu2), 4. Povinelli is inteiested in 'national subjects |who] fnd that no mattei
the heioic ihetoiic of enlightenment undeistanding, 'theii ways,` cannot cease
to make 'us` sick. And this sickness scatteis the self (I, us) acioss contiasting
obligations to public ieason and moial sensibility. It is this cauldion of competing
social impulses that inteiests me, because of the way it geneiates new ethics and
metaethics of national and inteinational life¨ (5).
14. }ust a quick note. It is with gieat ielief that stunning woik about iace
and ethnicity has taken a hold of queei studies in the most pioductive ways. I am
thinking of piojects such as Samuel Lelany, Ttnes Square FeJ, Ttnes Square Elue
(New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 1999); }ose Lsteban Nuñoz, DtstJenit-
fcaitons: Queers of Color anJ ihe Ferfornance of Foltitcs (Ninneapolis: Iniveisity
of Ninnesota Piess, 1999); Naiy Pat Biady, Lxitnci LanJs, Tenjoral Ceograjhtes:
Chtcana Ltieraiure anJ ihe Irgenc, of Sjace (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess,
2uu2); Robeit Reid-Phaii, Elacl Ca, Aan: Lssa,s (New Yoik: New Yoik Inivei-
sity Piess, 2uu1); Lavid Lng, Factal Casiraiton: Aanagtng Aascultnti, tn ¬stan
¬nertca (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1); and Philip Biian Haipei,
¬re !e Noi Aen. Aascultne ¬nxtei, anJ ihe Froblen of ¬frtcan ¬nertcan IJeniti,
(Oxfoid: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 199S), among othei gieat studies.
15. Nichael S. Rosenwald and Stephen Kuikjian, 'Nonthlong Plot to Kill
kill_geoghan/ (accessed 1u Octobei 2uu3; this site is no longei available).
16. 'Sex Abuse Piiest Killed in Piison,¨ 25 August 2uu3, edition.cnn
.com/2uu3/IS/ uS/24/geoghan/ (accessed 2u Octobei 2uu3).
17. Ibid.
1S. See·fle=/news/aichive/2uu3/ u4/22/
national1737LL¯u66S.L¯L (accessed 24 Octobei 2uu3).
19. Ibid.
Race, Relìgìon, Hate, ano lncest ìn Cueer Polìtìcs 273
2u. See the iconic essay by Cayle Rubin, '¯hinking Sex: Notes foi a Radi-
cal ¯heoiy of the Politics of Sexuality,¨ in The Lesbtan anJ Ca, SiuJtes FeaJer,
ed. Heniy Abelove, Nichele Aina Baiale, and Lavid N. Halpeiin (New Yoik:
Routledge, 1993), 3÷44.
21. Lllis Hanson is woiking on many of these connections, and he claims
that discouises aiound pedophilia and incest and 'child love¨ so quickly conjuie
up not-so-distant discouises aiound the homosexual. Some woik that helps him
make this point, as well as some woik that helps us undeistand the hysteiia aiound
childien, includes }ames Kincaid, ChtlJ-Lo.tng: The Lroitc ChtlJ anJ 1tciortan
Culiure (New Yoik: Routledge, 1992); Lve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 'How to Biing
Youi Kids Ip Cay: ¯he Wai on Lffeminate Boys,¨ in TenJenctes (Luiham, NC:
Luke Iniveisity Piess, 1993); Pat Califa, '¯he Age of Consent: ¯he Cieat
Kiddy-Poin Panic of `77¨ and '¯he Afteimath of the Cieat Kiddy-Poin Panic
of `77,¨ in Fubltc Sex (Pittsbuigh: Cleis, 1994), 39÷7u; Lela B. Costin, Howaid
}acob Kaigei, and Lavid Stoesz, The Foltitcs of ChtlJ ¬buse tn ¬nertca (New
Yoik: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 1996); and Llaine Showaltei, H,siortes (New Yoik:
Columbia Iniveisity Piess, 1997).
22. I am paiticulaily indebted to debates of kinship theoiists, especially
dynamic feminist anthiopologists. See, of couise, Cayle Rubin, '¯he ¯iaffc in
Women: Notes on the 'Political Lconomy` of Sex,¨ in To:arJ an ¬nihrojolog, of
!onen, ed. Rayna R. Reitei (New Yoik: Nonthly Review, 1975). But see also
FejroJuctng ihe Iuiure: Lssa,s on ¬nihrojolog,, Itnshtj, anJ ihe Ne: FejroJucit.e
Technologtes (New Yoik: Routledge, 1992); and }ane Iishbuine Colliei and Syl-
via }unko Yanagisako, eds., CenJer anJ Itnshtj: Lssa,s io:arJ a IntfeJ ¬nal,sts
(Stanfoid, CA: Stanfoid Iniveisity Piess, 19S7).
23. }udith Butlei, ¬nitgone`s Clatn: Itnshtj bei:een Ltfe anJ Deaih (New Yoik:
Columbia Iniveisity Piess, 2uuu), 7u÷71.
24. Ibid., 71.
25. La:rence .. Texas 539 I.S. 55S,6u6 (sec. 3).
26. Chauncey, quoted in Rich, 'And Now, the Queei Lye foi Stiaight Nai-
iiage,¨ 16.
27. See }anet Halley, ''Like Race` Aiguments,¨ in !hai`s Lefi of Theor,: Ne:
!orl on ihe Foltitcs of Ltierar, Theor, (New Yoik: Routledge, 2uuu).
2S. See note 21.
29. See thioughout Spillei`s volume foi this point, which is stubboinly ignoied
by so many ciitics. See especially '¯he Ciisis of the Negio Intellectual: A Post-
Late¨ and 'Inteistices: A Small Liama of Woids,¨ in Spillei, Elacl, !htie, anJ tn
Color: Lssa,s on ¬nertcan Ltieraiure anJ Culiure (Chicago: Iniveisity of Chicago
Piess, 2uu3).
3u. See (accessed 1u }anuaiy 2uu4).
31. Of couise, I am iefeiiing to Raymond Williams`s oft-quoted concept.
32. See Shiiley Samuels`s useful edited collection, The Culiure of Senitneni:
Face, CenJer, anJ Senitnenialti, tn Ntneieenih-Ceniur, ¬nertca (New Yoik: Oxfoid
Iniveisity Piess, 1992). Lauien Beilant has been ciitical in hei woik on the
afteilife of sentimentality as it has tiaveised the centuiies and made its indelible
maik on many contempoiaiy, pain-inßected minoiity political gestuies. Among
many essays of heis, see 'Incle Sam Needs a Wife: Citizenship and Lenegation,¨
in Aaiertalt:tng Denocrac,: To:arJ a Fe.tialt:eJ Culiural Foltitcs, ed. Russ Cas-
tionovo and Lana L. Nelson (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2).
274 Mìchael Cobb
33. Beilant, 'Incle Sam Needs a Wife,¨ 149.
34. Butlei, ¬nitgone`s Clatn, 73.
35. Ann Cvetkovich, ¬n ¬rcht.e of Ieeltng: Trauna, Sexualti,, anJ Lesbtan
Fubltc Culiures (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3), 1u1.
36. Loiothy Allison, EasiarJ oui of Caroltna (New Yoik: Plume, 1992), 135,
heieaftei cited in text.
37. See my 'Pulpitic Publicity: }ames Baldwin and the Queei Ises of Reli-
gious Woids,¨ CLQ 7 (2uu1): 2S5÷312. See also }udith Butlei`s 'Ciitically
Queei,¨ in EoJtes Thai Aaiier: Cn ihe Dtscurst.e Ltntis of Sex (New Yoik: Rout-
ledge, 1993).
3S. Spilleis, Elacl, !htie, anJ tn Color, 254.
39. Butlei, ¬nitgone`s Clatn, S1.
4u. Slavoj Zizek wiites, 'In shoit, what melancholy obfuscates is the fact that
the object is lacking fiom the beginning, that its emeigence coincides with its lack,
that this object is noihtng bui the positivization of a void/lack, a puiely anamoiphic
entity which does not exist 'in itself`¨ (Slavoj Zizek, DtJ SoneboJ, Sa, Toialtiart-
antsn. |New Yoik: Veiso, 2uu1], 143).
41. Spilleis, Elacl, !htie, anJ tn Color, 5.
42. Butlei, ¬nitgone`s Clatn, S2.
43. }anet R. }akobsen and Ann Pellegiini, Lo.e ihe Stn: Sexual Fegulaiton anJ
ihe Ltntis of Feltgtous Tolerance (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3),
44. Butlei, ¬nitgone`s Clatn, 7S.
45. Ibid., S2. I am also ieminded heie of Shaion Holland`s woik on iepie-
sentations of iace and death, Fatstng ihe DeaJ: Deaih anJ ´Elacl" Subjecit.ti, tn
T:eniteih-Ceniur, Ltieraiure anJ Culiure (Luiham, NC: Luke Iniveisity Piess,
46. Paul Lownes, Denocrac,, Fe.oluiton, anJ Aonarchtsn tn Larl, ¬nertcan
Ltieraiure (Cambiidge: Cambiidge Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2), S÷9.
47. Lauien Beilant, '¯he Subject of ¯iue Ieeling: Pain, Piivacy, and Poli-
tics,¨ in Ientntsi Consequences: Theor, for ihe Ne: Ceniur,, ed. Llisabeth Bionfen
and Nisha Kavka (New Yoik: Columbia Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1), 129, heieaftei
cited in the text.
4S. }akobsen and Pellegiini, Lo.e ihe Stn, 17.
49. Beilant, 'Subject of ¯iue Ieeling,¨ 154.
5u. Quoted in }ane Lapman, 'Cay Naiiiage: Cleigy Ceai foi Amendment
Battle,¨ Chrtsitan Sctence Aontior, online edition,
p13su1÷liie.html (accessed 9 Iebiuaiy 2uu4).
51. ¯ext of majoiity opinion of question piesented by the Nassachusetts
Senate, (accessed 5
Iebiuaiy 2uu4).
52. Butlei, ¬nitgone`s Clatn, S1.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
/BZBO4IBI In }une 2uu3 the I.S. Supieme Couit deliveied a landmaik iuling that
deciiminalized consensual sodomy. La:rence anJ Carner .. Texas pio-
tected the libeity to engage in 'ceitain intimate conduct¨ as a dimen-
sion of a peison`s piivacy and autonomy. }ustice Kennedy, wiiting foi
the 6÷3 majoiity, expounds on the constitutional meaning of libeity. He
begins with the tenets of classical libeialism, that the state iecognizes
and makes visible the 'dwelling,¨ the 'home,¨ and 'othei piivate places¨
to piotect 'peisons¨ fiom the state`s own intiusive policing. And then
Kennedy aigues that this libeity and fieedom 'extends beyond spatial
bounds. Libeity piesumes an autonomy of self that includes fieedom of
thought, belief, expiession, and ceitain intimate conduct. ¯he instant case
involves libeity of the peison both in its spatial and moie tianscendent
¯he La:rence decision iepudiated the 19S6 Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl iuling
and explicitly extended the iights of piivacy and sexual fieedom to adult
consenting homosexuals. }ustice Kennedy`s decision diew on ovei thiity
yeais of Supieme Couit decisions that limited goveinment inteivention
in the iepioductive choices of women (in teims of both contiaception and
In La:rence anJ Carner .. Texas, the teiiain of piivacy and
sexual fieedom shifted fiom heteiosexual iepioduction to adult sexual
intimacy moie bioadly:
Adults may choose to entei upon this ielationship in the confnes of theii
homes and theii own piivate lives and still ietain theii dignity as fiee peisons.
When sexuality fnds oveit expiession in intimate conduct with anothei
peison, the conduct can be but one element in a peisonal bond that is moie
enduiing. ¯he libeity piotected by the Constitution allows homosexual
peisons the iight to make this choice.
Signifcantly, Kennedy`s decision bioadened the constitutional piotections
of piivacy beyond the maiiied heteiosexual couple and theii bedioom,
which had dominated the iepioductive fieedom cases of the 196us to eaily
199us, to encompass the homosexual couple in theii home, and peihaps
beyond. ¯he paiameteis foi exeicising libeity and piivacy fiom govein-
27ó Nayan Shah
ment inteifeience iequiied that the ielationship be between consenting
¯he Supieme Couit iuling in La:rence pioduced a piivacy shield foi
homosexual couples. Kennedy`s opinion focused on iediessing the inequal-
ity between heteiosexuals and homosexuals. Yet the histoiical dynamics
of inequitable policing and piosecution feasted on distinctions of iace,
nationality, and class. As both the histoiian`s amici biief and Kennedy`s
decision explain that sodomy piosecution in the twentieth centuiy has
intensifed to taiget homosexuals, oui own histoiical and legal analysis
must iecognize the social inequities and piejudices, and the dynamics of
social space, that shaped the policing of sodomy.
La:rence anJ Carner ..
Texas offeis an impoitant oppoitunity to considei wheie and foi whom
does piivateness apply histoiically and legally. Indei what ciicumstances
does a peison have piivacy, mobility, and fieedom of intimate contact
unfetteied by goveinment policing·
¯he specifc ciicumstances of the aiiest of }ohn Ceddes Lawience
and ¯yion Cainei explicates the Supieme Couit`s focus on individual
autonomy and piivacy of homosexual conduct in the home. On the night
of 17 Septembei 199S, }ohn Lawience, a ffty-fve-yeai-old white medical
technician; ¯yion Cainei, a thiity-one-yeai-old black unemployed man;
and Robeit Royce Lubanks, a foity-one-yeai-old white neighboi, weie
socializing in Lawience`s apaitment in the subuibs of Houston, ¯exas.
Latei that evening Lubanks called the police and iepoited that a man was
behaving eiiatically with a gun. ¯he police met Lubanks in the paiking
lot, and Lubanks diiected them to Lawience`s eighth-ßooi apaitment.
¯he police baiged into the unlocked apaitment and discoveied Lawience
having anal inteicouise with Cainei. ¯he police aiiested Lawience and
Cainei foi 'homosexual conduct,¨ handcuffed them, and hauled them off
to jail. Lubanks latei seived ffteen days in jail foi making a false police
iepoit. Lawience and Cainei weie convicted of 'deviate sexual intei-
couise¨ in Haiiis County }ustice Couit, and fve yeais latei they success-
fully appealed theii conviction in the I.S. Supieme Couit.
¯he location of the aiiest÷}ohn Lawience`s apaitment÷and the
¯exas statute that explicitly ciiminalized homosexual sodomy have much
to do with the legal and political tension of how the piesumed piivacy of the
home is at odds with homosexual sodomy. ¯exas had in 1973 iepealed sex
laws that ciiminalized all anal sodomy and oial sex and adopted a homo-
sexual conduct statute that piohibited oial and anal sex when peifoimed by
peisons of the same sex. At the time of the 199S conviction, nineteen states
had sodomy statutes that baiied consensual anal oi oial sex, but ¯exas was
only one of fve states that had laws taigeting same-sex paitneis.
Polìcìng Prìvacy, Mìgrants, ano the Lìnìts of Freeoon 277
In the actual case of La:rence anJ Carner .. Texas, inteiiacial ielations
may be impoitant, yet uniemaiked, ciicumstances in the details of the
police action that led to the legal case. Histoiically, conceins about intei-
iacial sodomy aggiavated feais of sexual and social dangei and catalyzed
anxieties about the undeimining of the social oidei.
¯he powei of a I.S. Supieme Couit iuling is the ability to abstiact
the specifc ciicumstances into fai-ianging iules of law, doctiine, and
juiidical goveinance, and yet much of the textuie and tensions of social life
aie lost when we lose sight of the histoiical context. Ny own ieseaich of
eaily-twentieth-centuiy sodomy couit cases in the westein Inited States
and Canada shows that sexual identity is not the deteimining factoi in
piosecuting sodomy, but, iathei, diffeientials of class, age, and iace shape
the policing that leads to sodomy and public moials aiiests. Puisuing these
social and spatial dynamics illuminates the social and spatial dimensions of
diffeience that iegulate sexual ielations and piivilege individual autonomy
and sexual libeity in public, semipublic, and piivate spaces.
Luiing the fist decades of the twentieth centuiy, thousands of men
and boys fiom all ovei the woild conveiged on small towns and new cities
in westein Noith Ameiica. ¯hese male migiant laboieis took on seasonal
woik in sawmills, faims, and canneiies fiom Biitish Columbia to Cali-
foinia. Nigiants fiom India, Poland, China, Aimenia, Nexico, and the
midwestein Inited States lived togethei in boaidinghouses, bunkhouses,
and woik camps. Nale migiant sociability was entangled into the cultuie
and mobility of the stieets. ¯he geogiaphy of the iapidly uibanizing town
and city piovided the settings and spaces foi casual, foituitous, and dan-
geious encounteis between men and boys of diffeient ethnicities, classes,
and ages. Nigiant males encounteied each othei on the stieets, alleys, and
paiks, at the tiain and stage depots and othei public spaces wheie men
congiegated. ¯hey socialized and diank in saloons and biothels as well as
the bunkhouses and hotels iooms they iented foi a day oi weeks.
Police walking theii neighboihood beats obseived public activity and
the social ielations of the stieet. ¯he policing of potential ciiminal activ-
ity included the iegulation of impiopei social and sexual activity such as
vagiancy, soliciting piostitution, loiteiing, public diunkenness, and lewd
and lascivious conduct. Nany of the couit cases that I have ieseaiched weie
biought foiwaid thiough the policing of migiant sociability. Ioi example,
in Naiysville, Califoinia, in the eaily moining of 4 Iebiuaiy 192S, two
police offceis diove by a Ioid coupe paiked in a secluded spot, about a
block fiom iesidences faithei down the stieet. ¯he offceis` suspicions
weie aioused by someone inside the cai, leaning against the passengei
window, asleep, who 'looked like a Nexican.¨ ¯hey pulled Rola Singh
27B Nayan Shah
out and discoveied Haivey Caistenbiook, a 'young man |who] was lying
in the seat with his head undei the wheel, his pants . . . down to his knees,
his union suit undeiweai split . . . open, his coat . . . tuined up and his
iectum . . . exposed.¨
¯he offceis giabbed Caistenbiook and ioused him
fiom a deep sleep; Caistenbiook staited thiowing punches as they jeiked
him out of the cai.
What had begun as police cuiiosity on a ioutine patiol became ampli-
fed by iacial suspicion. Appaiently, the piesence of a daik man in a paiked
cai at night was enough cause foi suspicion. Although one offcei had
initially mistaken Singh foi a 'Nexican¨ and latei testifed that he was
a 'Hindu,¨ the offcei tieated his initial confusion about Singh`s iacial
identity as iiielevant.
¯he police piesumed that neithei a Nexican noi a
Hindu, both of whom weie typically migiant laboieis, would own an auto-
mobile. Racial suspicion quickly tuined into police investigation when they
discoveied a white male paitially undiessed and unconscious in Singh`s
company. ¯he police offceis aiiested both men and hauled them to the
police station foi obseivation and medical examination. Lventually, Singh
was chaiged with a 'ciime against natuie.¨
In couit, Singh testifed that he had met Caistenbiook neai the stage
depot on Second Stieet. Caistenbiook was sitting in his cai and asked
if Singh wanted a iide. Singh iesponded that he 'wanted to go to Yuba
City.¨ ¯hey diove to the secluded spot wheie the offceis had found them.
Caistenbiook claimed that he was too diunk to diive home.
When he
was called to the stand, Caistenbiook could not iemembei anything of
the evening until he had been biought to the police station. He did not
iemembei picking up Singh and denied that anything happened between
them. All he could iecall was that he was diunk.
Caistenbiook`s denial of sexual assault did not hindei the piosecution`s
case, noi did it impede the juiy`s conviction. In the appeal, the defense
attoiney ieasoned that 'had Caistenbiook`s peison been subjected to such
an assault, it is ieasonable to say he would have expeiienced theiefoie some
uncomfoitable oi unusual injuiy, and would have been eagei to testify to
such injuiy. ¯heie is no ieason why he should be inclined to piotect a stiange
Hindu, with whom he had no pievious acquaintance. On the contiaiy, had
he even suspected such an assault, he would have felt himself humiliated
and outiaged.¨
(One could well aigue that Caistenbiook would have suf-
feied moie humiliation by public acknowledgment of sexual ielations with
Singh.) Luiing the tiial, he was iepeatedly iefeiied to as the 'Caisten-
biook boy,¨ tieated as the undeiage victim of sexual assault, and theieby
piotected fiom any public inteiiogation of his solicitation of Singh.
¯heie aie seveial puzzling elements that emeiged in the tiial testimony
but occasioned little comment by the attoineys oi judges. Iiist, theie was
Polìcìng Prìvacy, Mìgrants, ano the Lìnìts of Freeoon 279
no iefeience made to the owneiship of the cai; second, duiing the lunch
bieak of the tiial, the piosecutoi uiged Caistenbiook not to tuin up as a
defense witness; and thiid, his paients oi guaidians weie conspicuously
absent. As it tuins out, Caistenbiook was a membei of a piominent small-
business family in Naiysville that had lived in the iegion since the late
nineteenth centuiy. Haivey`s fathei and uncle weie landowneis and had
a histoiy of contiacting seivice woik fiom the city. Piobate iecoids ieveal
that in Nay 1927, nine months piioi to the sodomy aiiest, Caistenbiook`s
fathei died. Caistenbiook, twenty-seven at the time, was named executoi
of the will.
Voting iecoids, piobate iecoids, and the biogiaphical detail
in the testimony all point to Caistenbiook as a twenty-eight-yeai-old foi-
mei lineman foi PC&L who lived in Naiysville in 192S duiing the tiial
In many ways, the veiy possibility of having a piivate spheie was pie-
caiious foi migiant male laboieis. Bodily autonomy was questionable, and
piivacy did not obtain in the goveinment`s undeistanding of the inteiiacial
and inteiclass male migiant woild. How can we iethink the spaces, piac-
tices, and cultuies of public sex and the puisuit foi contact uninhibited by
state suiveillance and inteivention· Queei studies scholais of the public
have iaised an aiiay of theoietical questions and pioblems that iesonate
with this eaily-twentieth-centuiy histoiy of sodomy cases. Piioi to the
La:rence decision, the late-twentieth-centuiy Supieme Couit iulings
about piivacy naiiowly piomoted heteiosexual domesticity and sexual
expiession. ¯he 'zone of piivacy¨ aigument applied fiom the Crts:olJ
.. Connecitcui decision to Eo:ers .. HarJ:tcl limited what spaces could
be consideied constitutionally piotected. Accoiding to the queei studies
scholai Nichael Wainei, '¯he 'zone of piivacy` was iecognized not foi
intimate associations, oi contiol ovei one`s body oi foi sexuality in geneial
but only foi the domestic space of heteiosexuals. ¯he legal tiadition tends
to piotect sexual fieedom by piivatizing it, and now it ieseives piivacy
piotections foi those whose sexuality is alieady noimative.¨
Wainei fui-
thei aigued that 'youi zone of piivacy iequiies the suppoit of an elaboiate
netwoik of state iegulations, judicial iulings, and police poweis, and if it is
based on the piejudicial exclusion of otheis fiom the iights of association oi
bodily autonomy you take foi gianted, then youi piivacy is anothei name
foi aimed national sex public to which you so luckily belong.¨
Richaid Nohi in Ca,s;}usitce: ¬ SiuJ, of Soctei,, Lihtcs, La: chal-
lenges the ieasoning in Boweis by aiguing that sex is 'inheiently piivate¨
and should be piotected no mattei wheie it occuis. Instead, scholais
like Wainei and William Leap aigue that the piactices of public sexual
cultuie involve 'not only a woild-excluding piivacy but a woild-making
¯his public sexual cultuie has its 'own knowledges, places,
2Bu Nayan Shah
piactices, languages, and leained modes of feeling.¨ One leains the codes
of subcultuie, its iituals, typologies, and 'impiovisational natuie of unpie-
dicted situations.¨ Public sexual cultuie is a counteipublic to the noims
of public moiality, which offei public status exclusively to piivatized
heteiosexuality. Its publicness is constituted in tiansmitting and ciiculat-
ing sexual knowledges that aie made cumulative. ¯he eiotics and bodily
sensations aie both public and extiemely intimate.

¯he migiant sociability of the eaily twentieth centuiy that I have
desciibed÷with its public meeting, offeiing, diinking, conveising, and
sexual tiysts÷may have its coiollaiy in the late-twentieth-centuiy piac-
tices of ciuising. ¯he kind of belonging that ciuising cieates (accoiding
to Wainei) is 'diiectly eioticizing paiticipation in the public woild of
the intimate.¨ He explains that, 'contiaiy to myth, what one ielishes in
loving stiangeis is not meie anonymity, noi meaningless ielease. It is the
pleasuie of belonging to a sexual woild, in which one`s sexuality fnds an
answeiing iesonance not just in one anothei, but in the woild of otheis.
Stiangeis have the ability to iepiesent a woild of otheis in a way that one
sustained intimacy cannot.¨
¯he gay male subject Wainei assumes has both fiee access to paitici-
pate in the public woild of the intimate and may also ietieat to a piivate
iealm of intimacy. ¯he class and iace piivileges of this undiffeientiated
subject do not anticipate any inequality oi diffeience in the iappoit, sub-
jectivity, and oppoitunities foi this male subject`s 'woild making public-
ness¨ among othei males. In his analysis, Wainei ignoies the diveisity of
social ielations, the ielative diffeiences and piivileges, status, oppoituni-
ties, and constiaints. ¯he axis of disenfianchisement is piominently and
signifcantly sexual in Wainei`s analysis. Class and iace diffeiences, the
diffeiences of access and oppoitunity, the diffeiential ielation to public
spaces and how that might impact the dynamics of sociability, eiotics, and
subjectivity aie not discussed.
Samuel Lelany`s queei ethnogiaphy and memoii of the iadical tians-
foimation of ¯imes Squaie, howevei, situates inequality and inteiclass and
inteiethnic contact at the centei of his analysis of public sex and sexual
publics. Lelany valoiizes cioss-class contacts in public space that encom-
pass a iange of iandom, inteiclass, and inteiethnic social encounteis in
uiban public spaces, which he heuiistically distinguishes fiom the pio-
fessional, motive-diiven, intiaclass piactices of netwoiking. He contiasts
bai going and othei institutional social piactices of netwoiking fiom the
bioadly social, iandom piactices of contact, which, he aigues, include the
endless vaiiety of casual sex and public sexual ielations. As an 'outdooi
spoit,¨ contact is 'contouied, if not oiganized by eailiei decisions, desiies,
commeicial inteiests, zoning laws, and immigiation patteins.¨
Polìcìng Prìvacy, Mìgrants, ano the Lìnìts of Freeoon 2B1
Lelany obseives that the 199us campaign to 'clean up¨ and 'gentiify¨
¯imes Squaie is diastically naiiowing the 'vaiieties of eiotic life,¨ 'damp-
ening inteiclass contact, and foieclosing the piomise and necessities of a
demociatic city.¨ He pioclaims that in a 'demociatic city it is impeiative
that we speak to stiangeis, live next to them and leain how to ielate to them
on many levels, including the sexual.¨ Lelany fuithei emphasizes that the
vitality of queei public life and sexuality has thiived on the abundance of
'inteiclass contact¨ despite decades of maiginalization and policing by
dominant heteiosexually noimative society.
¯he intimate contact of migiant men inteifeied with the boundaiies
of a iace- and class-segiegated society. ¯he vision of fiee movement and
association, the mingling of the iaces, that some may have piesumed was
the piomise of demociatic citizenship and civic belonging, howevei, was
undei the conspicuous suspicion and suiveillance of the middle-class
distiict attoineys and police magistiates and woiking-class police offceis.
¯hey inteipieted the activity as enhancing and leading to immoiality that
iequiied suiveillance, paiticulaily at any moment when the migiant males
attempted to iemove theii social activities fiom public visibility into the
muiky aiena of the semipiivate.
In the eaily twentieth centuiy it was impossible foi migiant men to
puisue 'piivacy¨ oi to enjoy fieedom fiom state suiveillance of those
spaces iemoved fiom public view, such as automobiles, boaidinghouses,
bais, and gambling houses. ¯hese counteisites and landscapes of queei
contact and communities weie shaped by both the activities of migiant
men and policing. ¯hese queei sexual publics exposed the contiadictions
of noimative expectations and ßuidity at the boideis of public spaces.
¯he queei and homoeiotic piesence can unsettle the veiy demaications of
public and piivate.
In this context what does public space mean· Is the
middle-class fiaming of public space, as the site of safe public spectacle
of middle-class citizens` domestic status, being challenged and iesisted
by the many ways that squaies, stieets, alleys aie cieating a spectacle of
migiant social life· A piomenade of foituitous encounteis and juxtaposi-
tions allows masculinity, class status, and physicality to be displayed and
to test sensibilities and expectations of the migiant males and the woiking-
class and middle-class women, childien, and men who also tiavel and use
the same locations. Queei studies scholais have vigoiously questioned how
modein nationalist citizenship, entitlement, and valued public expeiience
is contingent on the public peifoimance of iespectable domesticity and
coupled, heteiosexual intimacy.
In the twenty-fist centuiy, the Supieme Couit`s La:rence iuling
has potentially accoided fieedom foi piivacy within the paiameteis of a
homosexual domestic identity. ¯he decision has been widely hailed as a
2B2 Nayan Shah
victoiy foi gay iights. And yet some sexual ielations and social contact
iemain unpiivileged and unpiotected. Scholais of ethnic studies, colo-
nial studies, gendei studies, and queei studies have questioned how the
usage of minoiity 'identity¨ and 'community¨ tends to ignoie social
vaiiety and ßatten diffeiences. Incommensuiate lives, acts, politics, and
ways of knowing aie fiequently subsumed into a unitaiy categoiy, such
as 'lesbian,¨ 'gay,¨ 'homosexual,¨ and 'tiansgendei.¨ Legible identities
and social taxonomies÷those of iace, class, ieligion, sexual oiientation,
and gendei÷have shaped much of what we think of as minoiity histoiy
within the nation-state. As histoiians, much of oui pieoccupation has had
to be the documentation of 'deviance,¨ 'diffeience,¨ 'queeiness,¨ and
'aleiity¨ that is both piohibited and incited in law, policing, maikets, local
embodiments, and cultuial expiession.
'Cay¨ identity and community
as an uiban I.S. and Westein Luiopean foimation has undeiwiitten the
epistemology and knowledge pioduction of the queei past. ¯hioughout
the twentieth centuiy, social movements of piotest and subcultuial com-
munities have demanded, ieshaped, and expanded the scale and scope
of this civic cultuie of sexual libeity, association, and expiession. ¯he
heteiogeneity and contiadictoiy teiiain of sexual dissidence has been
impossible to contain in a unitaiy gay identity and community. Yet gov-
einment and civil society÷the police, the couits, inteiest gioups, and the
media÷have fiamed the debate as a contest between heteiosexual noims
and homosexual iesistance, one that the Supieme Couit in the La:rence
decision seeks to iesolve.
In shaip contiast to Eo:ers, which denied any iights of piivacy and
any iespected public status to gay men, the La:rence decision piovides iec-
ognition to 'homosexuals¨ in coupled ielationships as visible subjects that
can be managed, goveined, and affoided the libeity of 'ceitain intimate
conduct.¨ Howevei, this only embiaces a segment of the peisons, gioups,
and communities that have been vigoiously policed. ¯he immense het-
eiogeneity of how peisons live÷in social ielations, locales, piactices, and
cultuies÷counteis, confounds, and queeis the noims of coupled house-
holds. ¯he decision keeps intact the public spheie idealization that piotects
the libeities of those who possess a iecognizable home and theii public
communicative expiession. Homelessness oi tempoiaiy habitations such
as bunkhouses, SROs, and vehicles may oi may not be piivacy piotected.
Queei knowledge piojects and politics must continue to destabilize the
assumptions that peisonhood and citizenship emanate fiom the 'domestic
piivate¨ and coupled intimacy, eithei heteiosexual oi homosexual. Ioi
those who do not possess such attiibutes, the 'tianscendent¨ possibilities
of libeity in intimate conduct, expiession, and civic life aie all cuitailed.
In the eaily twentieth centuiy 'foieign¨ and iacialized migiants, tiamps,
Polìcìng Prìvacy, Mìgrants, ano the Lìnìts of Freeoon 2B3
and hoboes weie subject to heightened police suiveillance and aiiests of
vagiancy and sodomy. In the eaily twenty-fist centuiy 'illegal¨ migiants,
homeless, 'enemy combatants,¨ and iefugees awaiting asylum pioceedings
may be the most visible and vulneiable subjects of state powei. Ioi those
identifed outside noims and noimativity, the libeities to puisue 'ceitain
intimate conduct¨ iemains unfathomable in a libeial ethos that links pii-
vate intimacy with iespected and piotected public status.
1. La:rence anJ Carner .. Texas, 539 I.S. 1 (2uu3).
2. Ibid., 3÷4, 13÷14. ¯he Supieme Couit decisions on iepioductive fieedom
include Crts:olJ .. Connecitcui 3S1 I.S. 479 (1965); LtsensiaJi .. EartJ 4u5 I.S.
43S (1972); Foe .. !aJe 41u I.S. 113 (1973); FlanneJ FarenihooJ of Souiheasiern
Fa. .. Case,, 5u5 I.S. S33 (1992).
3. La:rence .. Texas, 6.
4. Ceoige Chauncey, Nancy I. Cott, }ohn L`Lmilio, Lstelle B. Iieedman,
¯homas C. Holt, }ohn Howaid, Lynn Hunt, Naik L. }oidan, Llizabeth Lapovsky
Kennedy, and Linda P. Keibei, 'Histoiians` Case against Cay Lisciimination,¨
amicus biief, 1÷3.
5. '¯wo Nen Chaiged undei State`s Sodomy Law,¨ Housion Chrontcle, 5
Novembei 199S; 'Houston Case Nay ¯est Sodomy Law: Lawyei Says His Clients`
Piivacy Invaded,¨ Dallas Aorntng Ne:s, 7 Novembei 199S; Steve Biewei, '¯exas
Nen Post Bonds, Challenge State`s Sodomy Law,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 2u Novem-
bei 199S; 'Aiiests Will Put Sodomy Law on ¯iial,¨ San Iranctsco Chrontcle, 2
Lecembei 199S. ¯he context of the case has been imaginatively ieconstiucted
in Lale Caipentei, 'Colloquium: ¯he Boundaiies of Libeity aftei La:rence ..
Texas: ¯he Inknown Past of La:rence .. Texas,¨ Atchtgan La: Fe.te: 1u2 (2uu4:
6. La:rence .. Texas, 7÷S, 12; Chauncey, 'Histoiians` Case against Cay
Lisciimination,¨ 1÷3.
7. Feojle .. Follo |stc] Stngh, ¯hiid Couit of Appeals, ¯iansciipt of ¯esti-
mony, Listiict Couit, Yuba County, 5, 6, 7, 1u, 12, 13, Califoinia State Aichives,
Saciamento, APWA 4359 (}une 192S).
S. 'Hindu¨ was both the foimal and infoimal iacial categoiy used to desciibe
migiants fiom colonial India. Nost eaily-twentieth-centuiy migiants weie Pun-
jabi Sikhs; howevei, 'Hindu¨ less explicitly designated ieligious identity and moie
fiequently was shoit foi 'Hindustani,¨ a geogiaphic oi national identity.
9. Feojle .. Follo |stc] Stngh, 43÷44.
1u. Ibid., 4S÷5u.
11. Feojle .. Follo |stc] Stngh, Appelent`s Opening Biief, 7, Califoinia State
Aichives, Saciamento.
12. Haiiy }. Caistenbiook Piobate Case 43226, Yuba County Supeiioi
Couit, Naiysville, Califoinia, fled 1S Nay 1927.
13. Cieat Registei of Yuba County, Ceneial Llection, 192S Naiysville
Libiaiy; Feojle .. Follo |stc] Stngh, Cleik`s ¯iansciipt of ¯estimony, 4S, Califoi-
nia State Aichives, Saciamento.
2B4 Nayan Shah
14. Nichael Wainei, The Trouble :tih Nornal: Sex, Foltitcs, anJ ihe Lihtcs of
Queer Ltfe (Cambiidge, NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess, 1999), 174.
15. Ibid., 175.
16. Richaid Nohi, Ca,s;}usitce: ¬ SiuJ, of Lihtcs, Soctei,, La: (New Yoik:
Columbia Iniveisity Piess, 19SS), 11u÷116; Wainei, Trouble :tih Nornal, 177;
William Leap, ed., Fubltc Sex;Ca, Sjace (New Yoik: Columbia Iniveisity Piess,
17. Wainei, Trouble :tih Nornal, 177÷79.
1S. Ibid., 179.
19. Samuel R. Lelany, Ttnes Square FeJ, Ttnes Square Elue (New Yoik: New
Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 1999), esp. 126÷42.
2u. Ibid., 1S6÷92.
21. Lavid Bell, 'Sexual Citizenship,¨ in Aajjtng Destre: Ceograjhtes of Sexu-
altites, ed. Lavid Bell and Cill Valentine (London: Routledge, 1995), 3u6; Law-
ience Knopp, 'Sexuality and Iiban Space: A Iiamewoik foi Analysis,¨ in Bell
and Valentine, Aajjtng Destre, 149÷61.
22. Lauien Beilant, 'Intimacy: A Special Issue,¨ Crtitcal Inqutr, 24 (199S):
2S1÷S6; Lauien Beilant and Nichael Wainei, 'Sex in Public,¨ Crtitcal Inqutr,
24 (199S): 547÷5S; Llizabeth A. Povinelli, 'Notes on Ciidlock: Cenealogy, Inti-
macy, Sexuality,¨ Fubltc Culiure 14 (2uu2): 215÷31; Lisa Luggan, The T:tltghi
of Lqualti,. Neoltberaltsn, Culiural Foltitcs, anJ ihe ¬iiacl on Denocrac, (Boston:
Beacon, 2uu3).
23. }ennifei ¯eiiy, '¯heoiizing Leviant Histoiiogiaphy,¨ Dtfferences 3, no.
2 (1991): 55÷74; Lavid Halpeiin, 'Ioigetting Ioucault: Acts, Identities, and the
Histoiy of Sexuality,¨ Fejreseniaitons 63 (199S): 93÷12u.
24. }anet R. }akobsen, 'Queei Is· Queei Loes: Noimativity and the Pioblem
of Resistance,¨ CLQ 4 (199S): 511÷36.
Soctal Texi S4÷S5, Vol. 23, Nos. 3÷4, Iall÷Wintei 2uu5. © 2uu5 by Luke Iniveisity Piess.
Sex + Freedom = ReguIation
Janet R. Jakobsen
Sexual iegulation has played a ciucial iole in Ameiican politics ovei
the last seveial decades. Heie aie a few snapshots of sexual politics in
action: (1) in the summei of 1996, to establish his ciedentials foi ieelec-
tion, Piesident Bill Clinton signed the Lefense of Naiiiage Act, a diaco-
nian 'welfaie iefoim¨ bill, along with a stiingent 'immigiation iefoim¨
bill, legislation that placed sexual iegulation at the centei of a connected
neolibeial agenda;
(2) the impeachment of Piesident Clinton based on
chaiges of lying undei oath about a sexual affaii with Nonica Lewinsky;

(3) the iemaking of the Republican Paity ovei the last twenty yeais as
an alliance between fscal conseivatives and social conseivatives who do
not shaie the same economic inteiests, yet aie nonetheless willing to vote
foi the same candidate based on a mutual conseivatism aiound gendei,
sexuality, and iace;
(4) the iecent contioveisies ovei the iole of moial
values÷values that the Ne: Yorl Ttnes desciibed only in teims of gendei
and sexuality÷in the 2uu4 election.
In shoit, sex is not just a piivate mattei; it matteis÷a gieat deal, in
fact÷in Ameiican public life. Sex is neithei the tiuth of ouiselves noi a
fiivolous concein of the piivileged. It is iathei a social ielation constituted
by and constitutive of the vaiious social ielations that have made this his-
toiical moment possible.
But why· Why is sexuality÷and sexual iegulation in paiticulai÷such
a ciucial pait of the fabiic of Ameiican politics· Why isn`t the vaunted
Ameiican value of fieedom one of the 'moial values¨ that applies in the
iealm of sexuality· And why is the stoiy of ieligiously based sexual iegulation
so natuialized that both the Lemociats and the mainstieam piess accepted
the 'moial values¨ explanation of Ceoige Bush`s victoiy in the 2uu4 elec-
tion despite the fact that this explanation was based on dubious evidence·
ReIigion, SecuIarism, and Oueer PossibiIity
¯he commonsensical notion as to why sexual iegulation is so cential
in I.S. public life is that it has something to do with ieligion and with
2Bó 1anet R. 1akobsen
the specifc ieligious heiitage of the Inited States. 'Puiitanical¨ is the
name not just foi the ieligious tiadition that has histoiically dominated
I.S. politics; it is, at least in the populai imagination, also a synonym foi
sexual iepiession.
While I agiee in pait with the idea that ieligion is at
the base of sexual iegulation in the Inited States, I think the tiaditional
stoiy misleads us as to how this iegulation woiks.

In the tiaditional view, ieligious iepiession is the ioot of sexual iegula-
tion and hence fieedom fiom ieligion is the answei to the pioblem. ¯his
tiaditional view plays into the laigei Lnlightenment naiiative in which
fieedom fiom ieligion biings about human libeiation. In contiast to this
view, howevei, I aigue that oui pioblem is as much seculai fieedom as it
is ieligious iegulation.
In fact, sexual iegulation is such a passion in I.S. politics because
sexual iegulation is constitutive of (seculai) Ameiican fieedom. It is not
that ieligious iegulation and seculai fieedom aie the same, but they aie
mutually constitutive. I make this aigument because modein fieedom,
even the Lnlightenment fieedom that is fist and foiemost supposed to
be libeiated fiom ieligion, has its own ieligious ioots. ¯hose ioots can
be found in the Piotestant Refoimation, and they infoim the specifcally
Chiistian seculaiism that maiks I.S. cultuie and politics.
We know fiom Nax Webei`s 193u book The Froiesiani Lihtc anJ ihe
Sjtrti of Cajtialtsn that the fieedom that dominates life in the Inited
States is dependent on the iegulated activity that makes the maiket pos-
sible, activity that Webei names 'woildly asceticism.¨ As Webei notes, this
foim of fieedom iequiies both immense self-discipline÷the disciplines
that Ioucault chionicles as indicative of modeinity÷and iegulation÷what
Webei documents as 'eainest enfoicement.¨
Iieedom in this sense÷and
this maiket-based sense of fieedom becomes dominant in modeinity÷is
not the iepiession of activity, but it is the iegulated enactment of activity
along paiticulai lines.
While the disciplinaiy natuie and even ieligious ioots of maiket-based
fieedom may be familiai, less commented on is the fact that the Refoima-
tion also maiked a majoi change in sexual ielations, one that instituted a
paiticulai foim of sexual fieedom. As I show in detail below, this sexual
fieedom is inteitwined with the maiket and is constituted thiough its own
foims of iegulated activity. Specifcally, the Refoimation ties the idea of
individual fieedom to the institution of maiiiage. ¯he fiee individual is
the individual whose sexual activity is iegulated in maiiiage÷a ielation
eainestly enfoiced by the iefoimeis.
¯his connection between fieedom
and sexual iegulation is maintained in the shift to a modeinity that iemains
maiked by the Piotestant ethic. Regulation, then, is inteinal to the mean-
ing of modein fieedom, including the meaning of sexual fieedom. Nost
ln ract, sexoal
reqolation is socn
a passion in U.S.
politics becaose
sexoal reqolation
is constitotive or
¦secolar} /nerican
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 2B7
impoitant, in a Inited States dominated by Chiistian seculaiism, ieligion
is not just iesponsible foi oui ideas of sexual iepiession; it has also ciucially
foimed oui undeistanding of sexual libeiation.
What, then, of oui politics· Lo we give up on fieedom, oi the moie
movement-oiiented teim of libeiation, as a possible site foi oiganizing and
political action· Lo we move, foi example, fiom gay libeiation to queei
iesistance· While queei politics initially piomised an alteinative to the
pioblematics of gay libeiation, as a numbei of scholais and activists have
now concluded, and as the editois of this special issue make cleai, queei
politics has often failed to live up to that eaily piomise.
Queei iesistance
has all too iaiely embodied the possibility of connections acioss multiple
identities that the shift fiom gay to queei hoped to pioduce. And iesistance
has pioven to be a teim too thin to oiganize diveise and wide-ianging
Lven the piogenitoi of the concept of iesistance, Nichel Iou-
cault, tuined at the end of his caieei towaid questions of ethics to exploie
alteinative possibilities that could not be subsumed undei the impeiative
to iesist.
¯his 'tuin to ethics,¨ which has been taken up in a numbei of felds of
ciitical theoiy, suggests a need to ieengage with a set of questions that the
queei ciitique had at one time hoped to bypass.
In paiticulai, if fieedom
is at least pait of the answei to the question, 'why sex·¨ then we need
to iethink oui ielationship to fieedom. Noieovei, this iethinking of the
value of fieedom may also allow us to iejoin the alteinative affnities that
constituted pait of what was supposed to distinguish queei politics. In the
hope of exploiing this possibility of what is queei about queei theoiy now,
I fist tuin back to the genealogy of fieedom`s iole in the sexual obsessions
of Ameiican politics.
Tne PoIitics of Sex
¯hese aie not just theoietical questions. Accepting ieligious iepiession
as the answei to the question 'why sex·¨ and failing to engage oui impli-
cation in fieedom sets up a numbei of piagmatic pioblems. ¯he tia-
ditional view of ieligious iepiession undeiwiites a foim of gay politics
that appeais to be necessaiily seculaiizing, an appeaiance that has been
extensively exploited by the political Right, whethei by }eiiy Ialwell when
lumping gays and seculaiists togethei in the blame foi the Septembei
11 attacks oi by Bill O`Reilly claiming that the Nassachusetts Supieme
}udicial Couit decision on gay maiiiage is anothei victoiy foi the seculai-
ists. ¯his association between gay iights and seculaiism was used by the
Republicans in the effoit to biing out conseivative votes in the 2uu4 elec-
2BB 1anet R. 1akobsen
tion, even though }ohn Keiiy also opposed legalizing gay maiiiage and
tiied to espouse faith.
It seems one cannot be both gay and ieligious, a
disjunction that is belied by the lives of many gay peisons and that splits
gay iights movements fiom piogiessive ieligious movements that might
piovide ciucial alliances.
Yet gay politics has all too often bought into the idea that because
the pioblem of sexual iegulation seems based in ieligion, the answei is
to defend seculai fieedom. Iollowing the path laid out by modein ideas
of fieedom can claiify why whatevei gains made thiough this appioach
have been accompanied by an incieasingly poweiful and ieligiously iden-
tifed iight wing. }ohn L`Lmilio fist identifed the impoit of these issues
in his now-classic essay 'Capitalism and Cay Identity,¨ aiguing that gay
libeiation paiticipates in a dialectic between iepiession and libeiation
such that libeiation, as exhilaiating as it is, also leads to fuithei iepies-
sion. L`Lmilio`s essay, fist published in 19S3 in Fo:ers of Destre: The
Foltitcs of Sexualti,, edited by Ann Snitow, Chiistine Stansell, and Shaion
¯hompson, was piescient in its piediction of an incieasingly conseiva-
tive politics oiganized aiound the ideology of 'family,¨ which did indeed
develop thioughout the 19Sus and 199us alongside a vibiant movement
foi gay libeiation.
L`Lmilio is specifcally conceined with a dialectic between gay visibil-
ity and political iepiession. L`Lmilio`s stated ieason foi wiiting the essay
was a political one. He aigues that undeistanding the dialectic of visibility
and iepiession will allow us to see that the politics of visibility÷specif-
cally of coming out÷is not in and of itself adequate, noi is a gay identity
politics. Such a political focus, he wains, will only peipetuate the dialectic,
cieating a iight-wing backlash oiganized aiound the ideology of 'fam-
ily.¨ He aigues instead foi a bioad coalitional politics to connect all those
with 'shaied inteiests¨ in expanding the social space foi lives outside the
bounds of the heteiosexual nucleai family. ¯hese inteiests include a set of
issues he names as 'the availability of aboition and iatifcation of the Lqual
Rights Amendment, affimative action foi people of coloi and foi women,
publicly funded daycaie and othei essential social seivices, decent welfaie
payments, full employment, |and] the iights of young people¨ (11u). Yet
those political lessons weie not heeded, and I, foi one, am soiiy foi it.
L`Lmilio could not, it seems, have been moie peiceptive. ¯he 19Sus
and 199us saw massive leaps foiwaid in teims of gay visibility, along with
the extension and eventual solidifcation of iight-wing politics, most of
it undei the sign of 'family values.¨ With the Bush administiation we
have found Republicans in contiol of both houses of Congiess and the
executive bianch foi the fist time in decades. Iamilial conseivatism also
appeaied in vaiious gay iights movements duiing the 19Sus and 199us,
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 2B9
as asseiting that 'we have families, too¨ became moie and moie a pait of
mainstieam politics.
Why would Ameiican politics develop in this way÷why would a
movement in the 19Sus that was gieatly fueled by pio-sex iesponses to
the AILS ciisis, a ciisis that iadicalized many pio-sex advocates to make
connections acioss issues like access to health caie, poveity, and housing,
pioduce a vision that has culminated twenty yeais latei in the most naiiow
veision of 'gay iights¨· Why have we, despite L`Lmilio`s wainings in a
widely iead, indeed foundational, essay and countless othei inteiventions,
including those of queei politics, moved so fai ovei the last twenty yeais
down the path of gay visibility and single-issue politics·
¯o ieinvigoiate the type of politics that L`Lmilio iecommends, I think
we must also ieconsidei oui analysis. We need a shaipei analysis of what
connects the issues that L`Lmilio names, and we also need a cleai sense
of how to foim movements that addiess these inteiconnected issues. I
suggest that the idea of 'shaied inteiests¨ is an insuffcient basis foi these
connections. While inteiests may be shaied acioss identities, they may
also conßict, and oveicoming these conßicts has pioven to be paiticulaily
diffcult. Iinally, we need a moie extended analysis of why the dialectic
between the politics of gay visibility and the politics of family values seems
to be so poweiful, suppoiting not only the conseivative politics of the last
twenty yeais but also inducing so much gay political activity along its
path. Civen the evident appeal and supposed effectiveness of single-issue
politics, we need a bettei vision of what we aie fghting foi. If not fieedom
fiom iepiession, then what· Heie, a bettei undeistanding of the iole that
ieligion plays on both sides of the dialectic÷in sexual iegulation anJ in
oui undeistanding of fieedom÷would help us iefoimulate contempoiaiy
politics outside the giasp of the dynamics that have diiven both the suc-
cesses and failuies of iecent decades.
Retninking tne DiaIectic of Freedom
Because it is both so cleai and so piescient, L`Lmilio`s essay piovides a
ciucial staiting point. L`Lmilio aigues that the pioblem lies in the dia-
lectic between mateiial life and ideology. In a stoiy that is now familiai
to us because of the wide inßuence of this essay, he aigues that mateii-
ally, capitalism cieates the conditions that allow 'individuals to suivive
beyond the confnes of the family¨ (1u5) and, thus, to oiganize theii
lives aiound eiotic inteiests not accommodated by the nucleai family
stiuctuie. Noie than that, in a point that will become ciucial foi his latei
aigument, capitalism actually cieates conditions that undeimine the fam-
/ better
or tne role tnat
reliqion plays
on botn sioes or
tne oialectic÷in
sexoal reqolation
ano in oor
or rreeoon÷
voolo nelp os
29u 1anet R. 1akobsen
ily. When it comes to gay identity, because the 'fieedom¨ of wage laboi
allows people to make a living outside the stiuctuie of the family, people
who might have engaged in homosexual piactices oi meiely had same-sex
inclinations oi inteiests can now puisue these inteiests as a cential pait
of theii lives. Hence capitalism cieates the mateiial conditions not foi
homosexual piactice, but foi gay identity. ¯he identity and community
foimation that ßouiished immediately aftei Woild Wai II also cieated the
conditions foi a gay libeiation movement: 'A massive, giass-ioots libeia-
tion movement could foim almost oveinight |aftei the Stonewall iiots]
because communities of lesbians and gay men existed¨ (1u7).
¯he pait of the aigument that is less familiai has to do with the dia-
lectical iepiession that accompanies this ßoweiing of gay identity and
eventual libeiation movement. L`Lmilio begins with a dialectic between
visibility and iepiession that was paiticulaily evident in the politically
iepiessive 195us:
Although gay community was a piecondition foi a mass movement, the
oppiession of lesbians and gay men was the foice that piopelled movement
into existence. As the subcultuie expanded and giew moie visible in the post-
Woild Wai II eia, oppiession by the state intensifed. ¯he Right scapegoated
'sexual peiveits¨ duiing the NcCaithy eia. . . . ¯he dangei involved in being
gay iose even as the possibilities of being gay weie enhanced. Cay libeiation
was a iesponse to this contiadiction. (1u7÷S)
But this back-and-foith between social action that cieates gay visibility and
iepiession that leads to fuithei social action in the foim of a social move-
ment is not a suffcient explanation foi iepiession. Aftei all, if capitalism
cieates the conditions foi the 'fieedom¨ of gay identity, why does it not
establish a laissez-faiie attitude towaid sexuality· Why isn`t fieedom sim-
ply 'fiee¨· L`Lmilio locates the answei in 'the contiadictoiy ielationship
of capitalism to the family.¨ On the one hand, capitalism undeicuts the
'economic functions that cieated ties between family membeis.¨ On the
othei hand, 'the ideology of capitalist society has enshiined the family as
the souice of love, affection, emotional secuiity, the place wheie oui need
foi stable, intimate ielationships is satisfed¨ (1uS).
¯his still does not tell us why capitalist ideology should enshiine the
family in this mannei. Why should the capitalist ideology of peisonal sat-
isfaction be a familial one· ¯his is a piofound question, given the shaip
and incieasing disjunction between the way that Ameiicans live theii lives
and this ideology. If the nucleai family fails so many Ameiicans, why is it
so enshiined and ideologically enduiing· Aftei all, as a numbei of histoiies
iecognize, paiticulaily feminist histoiies like Stephanie Coontz`s 1992
The !a, !e !ere: ¬nertcan Iantltes anJ ihe Nosialgta Traj and
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 291
Llaine ¯ylei Nay`s 19SS Hone:arJ EounJ: ¬nertcan Iantltes tn ihe ColJ
!ar Lra, even the 195us, the supposed time of familial bliss, weie not as
dominant ideologies have imagined them. ¯oday, moie than half of mai-
iiages (including those of many iight-wing pundits and policymakeis who
piomote family values) end in divoice. If many, in fact most, people do not
get fiom families the type of emotional sustenance that allows them to get
up and go to woik each day, why does capitalist ideology not suppoit, and
even enshiine, the vaiious types of ielationships that allow foi peisonal
satisfaction despite the exploitation and alienation of wage laboi·
I aigue that while 'family,¨ and the dominations of iace, gendei, and
sexuality that it entails, may not be diiectly necessaiy to the exploitation
of laboi, they aie necessaiy to the complex whole that is capitalist social
ielations. When we think of mateiial life, we should think not just of iela-
tions of pioduction but also of the mateiial embodiments of social ielations.
Aftei the Ioucauldian ievolution in sexuality studies, we know that sexu-
ality and family values aie not the ideology of capitalist mateiiality; they
aie the discouises thiough which capitalist social ielations aie embodied.
¯hus pioduction and iepioduction aie not two sepaiate spheies that mii-
ioi each othei; iathei, both aie the mateiiality of capitalist social ielations.
What we need to explain, then, is not the ielation between mateiiality and
ideology, between what L`Lmilio has named as the ielatively fiee mateiial
ielations of peisonal life and the ideological constiaints of the family. We
need to explain the ielation between the exploitation of wage laboi and
the domination of social ielations. ¯he question is not, why is the family
ideologically enshiined when many people live theii peisonal lives outside
its bounds· but iathei, why do some foims of sexual ielation dominate ovei
otheis· And why must those foims, as L`Lmilio points out, also entail
gendei and iacial domination·
In thinking thiough the pioblem that L`Lmilio puts foi us÷why is
the sexual fieedom induced by capitalism accompanied by sexual iegu-
lation÷we need to considei the possibility that we aie not facing a dia-
lectic between capitalist fieedom and dominative iegulation, but iathei
iegulation is inteinal to the capitalist notion of fieedom itself. Iiom this
peispective, sexual iegulation is not the antithesis of modein fieedom; it
is constitutive of fieedom as we know it.
Nost impoitant foi oui puiposes, insofai as oui ideas of gay libeiation
aie piedicated on capitalism and gay identity, this libeiation may contain
dominative ielations within it. ¯he veiy idea of gay libeiation÷that which
we aie fghting foi÷contains within it the domination that we aie fghting
against, because the fieedom enabled thiough the exploitation of wage
laboi is itself enabled by the dominative disciplines of sexual iegulation.
Lxploitation and domination aie not in this sense two sepaiable pioblems,
292 1anet R. 1akobsen
noi is one the ideological constiaint of the othei. ¯hey aie both mateiially
and ideologically inteitwined.
Freedom and tne Protestant WorId Order
¯o undeistand how modein fieedom comes to entail a concomitant iegu-
lation, specifcally sexual iegulation, I have tuined to the initial moment
in developing the economic maiket as a site of fieedom: the Piotestant
Refoimation. Ny aigument is not that sexual attitudes have not changed
since the Piotestant Refoimation. Rathei, if the Inited States as a nation
is an 'imagined community¨ in Benedict Andeison`s teims,
then the
dominant imagination of that community is Piotestant and, in fact, spe-
cifcally Calvinist. ¯he consolidation of that national imagination has
also entailed the consolidation of a paiticulai sexual imagination, so
that piactices, like maiiiage, that may have been diffuse and scatteied,
obseived unevenly and less fiequently than is cuiiently imagined, weie
biought into the centei of national life.
¯his imagination is found not
just in the explicitly Chiistian discouise of Ameiica but also in dominant
seculai discouise, including those institutions, like the I.S. Supieme
Couit, that aie chaiged with maintaining the putative 'sepaiation of
chuich and state.¨
¯he iole of Piotestantism in modeinity is an impoitant piece in the
puzzle of sexual fieedom because it shows that the ieligious heiitage of the
Inited States does not just piovide foi sexual iegulation; it also piovides a
paiticulai imagination of fieedom fiom that iegulation. In paiticulai, the
fieedom fiom the family offeied by the maiket that L`Lmilio makes so
much of iemains fundamentally Piotestant. It is this, ieligiously deiived,
but now seculaiized, notion of fieedom that diives libeiation, including
sexual libeiation, to pioduce fuithei iegulation. It is this notion of fieedom
that diives capitalist ambivalence about the family.
One of the majoi changes instituted thiough the Refoimation was a
shift in the ethical ideal foi sexual life. Iiom the twelfth centuiy onwaid,
the sexual ideal foi ieligious life in Chiistendom was the celibate life of the
cleigy and those with ieligious vocations÷monks and nuns. ¯he Refoim-
eis, most notably Luthei and Calvin, denounced celibacy as pait of what
they depicted as the Chuich`s peiveision of the Cospel and encouiaged
maiiiage as the ideal of even the most ieligious life. While today`s discouise
of Chiistian family values makes it haid to iecognize, this was a majoi shift
in Chiistian undeistandings of the ideal of sexual ielations.
Both Luthei
and Calvin took the position that eveiyone should entei a maiiied state,
and Luthei, who had himself been pait of a ieligious oidei, was especially
Jne role or
¦rotestantisn in
nooernity is an
inportant piece
in tne pozzle or
sexoal rreeoon.
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 293
adamant that cleigy should maiiy. Naiiiage, then, like the maiket, is pait
of the fieedom fiom the chuich that maiks the beginning of modeinity.
Like the discipline of the maiket, the elevation of maiiiage as the
ideal÷and fiee÷oiganization of sexual life also invokes disciplines. In
paiticulai, this change highlights what Ioucault tells us is a new foim of
moial discouise in which the moial ideal and what we now call the statis-
tical noim conveige. When it comes to sex, maiiiage was long the noim
in teims that we would now defne statistically, but it was not the ideal of
sexual moiality within the Chiistian societies. Ioucault is so inteiested
in this conveigence because it sets up a paiticulai type of moial pioblem.
Noimative discipline÷iathei than, foi example, the cultivation of vii-
tue÷becomes the centeipiece of moial life. ¯he noimative iegulation of
sex is not a iemnant of piemodein peiiods that is piogiessively iemoved
by modeinity but is, if not new, signifcantly iefoimed in the modein
¯he move towaid ideal as noim/noim as ideal is also a move towaid
the paiticulai undeistanding of individual fieedom that ieaches full ßowei
in the Lnlightenment, paiticulaily in the Kantian undeistanding of the
individual who gives the law to himself. Ioi Ioucault, this fieedom as
autonomy iequiies self-discipline in which÷to put it ciudely÷the ideal of
fieedom induces us to pioduce ouiselves thiough the noims of the human
sciences. ¯hose aie the noims of autonomous individualism, including the
discouise of sexuality. We become autonomous individuals by fieeing oui-
selves fiom the imposition of the law, but we also give the law to ouiselves.
¯hus self-discipline becomes the hallmaik of the modein individual and,
impoitantly, of modein fieedom.
In Luthei and Calvin we can see veisions of fieedom that stand in
between juiidical law and self-discipline. Luthei, in the pieface to his
tianslation (into Ceiman) of Paul`s Lettei to the Romans states that the
fieedom fiom the law offeied to Chiistians does not mean that Chiistians
do not follow the law: 'Oui fieedom is not a ciude, physical fieedom by
viitue of which we can do anything at all. Rathei this fieedom is a spiii-
tual fieedom; it supplies and fuinishes what law lacks, namely willingness
and love.¨
Chiistians follow the law, but they do so because they want
Ioi Luthei, spiiitual fieedom is wanting to do the iight thing. It is a
discouise of desiie.
¯he disciplines of this foim of fieedom become appaient in Luthei`s
next paiagiaph, which is a ieading of an analogy in Romans between the
position÷and fieedom÷of a wife aftei the death of hei husband and the
position of Chiistians who have 'died to the law.¨ ¯his is a stiange anal-
ogy in many ways. Iiist, if Chiistians aie in the position of the wife, the
law would have died to them, not they to the law. But Luthei`s gloss adds
294 1anet R. 1akobsen
anothei twist: '¯he point is that |the wife] is quite at libeity foi the fist
time to please heiself about taking anothei husband.¨
It is an inteiesting
moment because the Pauline authoi is not at all conceined about the wife
pleasing heiself.
¯he only concein that the biblical text expiesses is that
the wife would be called an adulteiess if she lived with anothei man while
hei husband was alive, and now she is fiee to maiiy again and live with
a second man without feai of adulteiy. Luthei, howevei, nowheie states
whethei the woman will oi will not take anothei husband. In fact, he explic-
itly states, '¯he woman is not obliged, noi even meiely peimitted to take
a husband,¨ but iathei she is at libeity to please heiself. Yet, in Luthei`s
conclusion to the analogy, Chiistians aie fiee to 'ieally cling to Chiist as
a second husband and biing foith the fiuit of life.¨
¯he analogy only
makes sense if it is obvious to Luthei that in hei fieedom to please heiself,
the woman will not only choose the conjugal ielation of matiimony foi a
second time, but she will also piocieate with this new husband, biinging
foith the fiuit of life.
In othei woids, Piotestant fieedom is an incitement to sexuality ovei
against the celibacy of piiestly and monastic life, and it is an incitement
specifcally to matiimonial and iepioductive sexuality. Cleigy and those
with ieligious vocations aie now fiee to maiiy, but theie aie losses in this
fieedom. ¯heie is a loss of alteinatives to maiiiage, a loss that has paiticu-
lai implications foi how women might please themselves. As a numbei of
feminist histoiians have noted, the Piotestant destiuction of monastic life
meant an end to a majoi alteinative to maiiiage foi women.
It is not that
maiiiage is bad÷that people, including women, in theii fieedom would
nevei choose maiiiage÷but that maiiiage becomes the only expiession
of sexual fieedom. ¯he choice between maiiiage and monastic celibacy
is not necessaiily a wide iange of options, but monastic celibacy was an
alteinative way of life, one that allowed some women access to education
and empoweiment within the Chuich. And theie might have been othei
options. Nodein fieedom might have offeied moie.
¯he shift to maiiiage is also a shift fiom communalism to individual-
ism. Nonastic celibacy was itself a communal way of life and was also pait
of bioadei netwoiks of communities. In the iefoimed woild, howevei, the
Chiistian who clings to Chiist and the widow who chooses a new husband
aie fist and foiemost individuals. But, as with modein fieedom, individu-
alism need not have been the only possible answei to the stiictuies of the
Chuich`s communalism. Vaiious foims of affnity÷neithei communal in
the Chuich`s sense, noi individualistic in the modein sense÷aie possible,
but these possibilities aie lost in the naiiative of piogiess and fieedom.
¯he switch to maiiiage as both noim and ideal, then, is pait of the
pioduction of the modein individual, and of that individual as fiee. A
ln otner voros,
rreeoon is an
incitenent to
sexoality over
aqainst tne
celibacy or
priestly ano
nonastic lire, ano
it is an incitenent
specincally to
natrinonial ano
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 295
'fiee¨ countiy like the Inited States might tout its own sexual libeiation,
but ambivalence and iegulation will iemain because a specifc sexual iela-
tion÷maiiiage÷is ciucial to iight social ielation in the foim of individu-
alism. ¯his is one ieason that the path of gay identity, which staits with
fieedom fiom the family, has led us so inexoiably back towaid gay mai-
iiage. It is thiough maiiiage÷by being able to say who we fieely choose
to maiiy÷that gay people fully become individuals.
Calvin takes the fuithei step of connecting this fieedom to economic
ielations. Piotestant maiital life indicates that the individual will not be
excessive in eithei his ielation to Cod oi to woildly goods. In enumeiating
his 'consideiations against ancient monasticism,¨ Calvin makes cleai that
monasticism is a pioblem not because of its self-denial, but because it is
spiiitually and mateiially excessive.
Calvin fnds 'ancient monastics¨ to
be somewhat bettei than his contempoiaiies, whom he accuses of 'supei-
stition¨ in theii way of life, meaning that they follow the iitual and edicts
of the Chuich without appiopiiate iefeience to what the Cospel actually
says. ¯hey follow the community, iathei than ieading the Cospel foi them-
selves. ¯he eaily monastics, those eaily Chiistians who piacticed celibacy
befoie the edifce of the Chuich was constiucted, cannot be accused of
supeistition: 'Yet, I say that |ancient monastics] weie not without immod-
eiate affectation and peiveise zeal. It was a beautiful thing to foisake all
theii possessions and be without eaithly caie. But Cod piefeis devoted
caie in iuling a household, wheie the devout householdei, cleai and fiee
of all gieed, ambition, and othei lusts of the ßesh, keeps befoie him the
puipose of seiving Cod in a defnite calling¨ (125S, 4.12.4). ¯he ideal
of the modeiate householdei is, of couise, the connecting point between
sexual life and economic life, showing the inteidependence of the two.
Naiiiage, devotion to a family and to a calling, allows this individual to
be fiee÷fiee fiom gieed, ambition, and othei lusts of the ßesh.
¯his ideal, of the maiiied householdei, condenses in the single indi-
vidual the woild of Refoimed social ielations, allowing Calvin to use his
ciitique of the vow of chastity to stand in foi a ciitique of all monastic vows.
He chooses not to discuss his objections to the othei two vows÷of poveity
and obedience÷but, iathei, fnds such ciitique unnecessaiy aftei the eiioi
of celibacy has been demonstiated. Having completed his long ciitique of
celibacy, he concludes: 'I shall not stop to assail the two iemaining vows. I
say only this: besides being, as conditions aie today, entangled with many
supeistitions, these vows seem to have been composed in oidei that those
who have taken them may mock Cod and men. But lest we seem to ciiti-
cize eveiy little point too spitefully, we shall be content with the geneial
iefutation that has been given above¨ (1274, 4.13.19). ¯he claim÷'lest we
seem to ciiticize eveiy little point too spitefully¨÷is made in a text that in
29ó 1anet R. 1akobsen
its Lnglish tianslation is ovei ffteen hundied pages long. It is no accident
that Calvin chooses this point on which to iestiain himself. In the end
he does not need to ciiticize the othei two vows÷of poveity and obedi-
ence÷because sex comes to stand in foi iight ielation to the mateiial woild
and iight ielation between Cod and community. ¯he Piotestant can fnd
piospeiity in iuling a household iathei than poveity in communal living,
and the Piotestant ielation to Cod is defned by the individual fieedom to
maiiy iathei than by obedience to the community.
In the newly foimed Piotestant social ielations, the iight ielation to
the (immateiial) spiiitual woild is no longei guaianteed by the (mateiial)
institution of the Chuich. Rathei, the individual stands alone befoie Cod,
and his (a woid I use advisedly) iight ielation to the spiiitual woild is guai-
anteed by the immateiial substance of faith alone. ¯his shift is paiticulaily
acute in Calvinism`s system of piedestination in which the iule of Cod is so
complete that one`s salvation is alieady deteimined by Cod`s will. One can
nevei know foi ceitain whethei one will be among the saved oi the damned.
A good life that is mateiially iewaided is an indicatoi of salvation, but it is
no way a guaiantee. We have two majoi shifts heie: the mateiialization of
Cod in the woild is now accomplished piimaiily thiough the individual
iathei than the community, and this mateiialization is itself spiiitualized.
¯iansubstantiation no longei occuis, and faith alone embodies Cod in the
woild. At the same time, this new ielation also caiiies the spiiitual moie
into the mateiial woild. As Webei points out, because good woiks in the
woild no longei diiectly pioduce salvation, woik and the discipline of woik
pioduce goods that aie piimaiily mateiial iathei than spiiitual.
¯his iewoiking of the ielation between the immateiial and the mate-
iial÷a iefoimation symbolized and embodied thiough sex and maiiiage÷
allows foi the foimation of capitalism. Capitalism is itself a iewoiking of
the ielationship between the mateiial and the immateiial. Capitalism, we
must iemembei, is moie than a set of mateiial ielations, it is fundamentally
dependent on abstiaction, the abstiaction of laboi into laboi powei. It is
not that people did not laboi befoie capitalism, it is that theii laboi, when
not abstiacted into laboi powei, did not pioduce suiplus value and, hence,
did not pioduce capital. ¯he shift to Piotestantism allowed foi the shift to
capitalism not because of a moial supeiioiity inheient in Piotestant self-
discipline as contempoiaiy moialists on the political Right would have it,
but because the Refoimation was a moment that allowed foi the iewoik-
ing of both symbolic and mateiial ielations. ¯he Refoimation pioduced
a symbolism that allowed capitalism to make sense. It is not that mateiial
and immateiial ielations aie not piesent befoie the Refoimation, it is that
this inteiielation woiked diffeiently aftei the Refoimation÷the way that
the immateiial is made manifest in the woild is diffeient.
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 297
¯hus sexual ielations, and maiiiage in paiticulai, come to epitomize
the Piotestant oideiing of the woild. Sex embodies the iemaking of the
ielation between mateiial and immateiial woilds, and sexual ielations aie
key to pioducing the individual, iathei than a community, as the piimaiy
site of ielation to Cod. Sex, like the commodity, is fetishized in modeinity;
it ieplaces food as the sin extiaoidinaiie, the sign of gluttony and dissolu-
tion, and it also ieplaces the vows of poveity and obedience as the sign of
iight ielation to both Cod and community. Sex becomes the piemiei site
of moiality.
Sex is not a iealm analogous to the iealm of pioduction, but
iathei a necessaiy pait of pioductive ielations. And what sex pioduces is
the individual, specifcally the autonomous and fiee individual.
Ioi L`Lmilio individualism is the souice of the fieedom that makes
gay identity possible. Capitalism cieates the conditions foi gay identity
because it allows 'individuals to suivive beyond the confnes of the fam-
¯his same individualism is the basis foi the fieedom piomised by
Piotestantism. ¯he individual stands alone befoie Cod. And the individ-
ual`s ieligious vocation is fieed fiom the confnes of the community÷of
poveity, chastity, and obedience. Civen Webei`s connection between the
Piotestant ethic and the spiiit of capitalism, this coincidence should not
suipiise us, but the connection between fieedom and sex is a piofound
one. ¯his Piotestant fieedom is accomplished in pait thiough the elevation
of maiiiage to the noimative ideal. Luthei and Calvin do not encouiage
those with a ieligious vocation to leave the monasteiy and convent and live
alone in theii faith, as puie autonomous individuals. Luthei and Calvin
encouiage them to get maiiied, and this is because, as feminists have long
pointed out, autonomous individuals do not actually exist autonomously.

Rathei they depend on the laboi of otheis, and in what is now called the
tiaditional family, they depend on the laboi of wives and seivants. Capi-
talist exploitation depends on domination, not just to piovide a ieseive
pool of laboi, but because the fiee and autonomous individual depends
on domination. ¯he piogiess that modeinity is supposed to piovide by
which moie and moie people can become autonomous individuals, until
eventually all aie equal, will always be a contiadictoiy movement, because
theie is no such thing as an autonomous individual, a peison who is fiee
fiom all dependence on otheis. ¯he same fieedom that encouiages the
foimation of gay identity also encouiages sexual iegulation. It specifcally
encouiages the disciplines of maiiiage.
¯his analysis helps explain why sex has dominated I.S. public dis-
couise. ¯he paiticulai conceptualization of fieedom in the Piotestant
imagination combines the idea of individual libeiation with a paiticulai
emphasis on sexual iegulation. ¯his analysis also suggests that the way out
of this conundium, out of the cycle that L`Lmilio so piesciently desciibed,
Jnos sexoal
relations, ano
narriaqe in
particolar, cone
to epitonize
tne ¦rotestant
oroerinq or
tne vorlo. Sex
becones tne
prenier site or
29B 1anet R. 1akobsen
is to focus not on gay libeiation but on iemaking social ielations in ways
that undeicut the individualism that enables capitalist exploitation and
iequiies sexual iegulation. ¯he point at which gay libeiation and sexual
iegulation meet is in individualism. It is individualism that sustains both
libeiatoiy and iegulatoiy discouises, and it is individualism that sustains
the ielation between them. ¯hus it is this modein individualism that we
must iesist if we hope to slip the constiaints of fieedom.
AIternative PossibiIities
¯he fieedom of individualism need not be the only fieedom that we seek.
It is not the case that individualism does not allow foi change. In the
modein peiiod it is bettei to be an individual than not, just as it is bettei
to have iights than not. ¯he types of changes allowed by gay libeiation
and chionicled by L`Lmilio aie veiy ieal, and they aie impoitantly bet-
tei than iepiession. But the type of change that leads to gay iights also
tiaps us in the discouise that also calls out incieased iegulation. ¯his is
because change, including libeiatoiy change, when within the discouise
of autonomous individualism woiks foi capitalism. Capitalist exploitation
allows foi individual fieedom, but the value of that fieedom is defned by
iegulation, including sexual iegulation, that makes the individual open to
both exploitation and domination. ¯he dangei to capitalism is that exploi-
tation will not be expeiienced as fieedom oi, peihaps moie accuiately,
that when people seek ielief fiom the alienation of capitalism they will
seaich foi something othei than an inciease in individual autonomy.
Iieedom need not be defned only by an inciease in individualism;
fieedom could also be constituted thiough alteinative social foimations.
We can, foi example, imagine diffeient foims of fieedom, foims based not
in individualism oi communalism but in vaiious affnities, and foims that
challenge the Chiistian seculaiism, of the Inited States. While the ioot of
Ameiican sexual iegulation may be ieligious, salvation is not to be found
in simply seeking fieedom fiom that ieligion. Such a seaich is based on
the imagination of fieedom fiom the Chuich sought by the Refoimeis, the
veiy imagination that fuels the unspoken assumptions of Chiistian secu-
laiism. ¯he pioblem is not a failuie to be seculai enough, but the fact that
oui public imagination of a cential value like fieedom is dominated by one
paiticulai tiadition. While fieedom is a contested teim, piogiessive social
movements still fiequently play into the dominant imagination, oftentimes
appaiently without iealizing that they aie doing so.
We can, howevei,
develop alteinative values that can enable a subjectivity based in and
thiough affnities that aie neithei those of individualism oi community.
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 299
From Snared lnterests to AIternative Afhnities
But how aie we to build these new social foimations· How do we build the
type of politics that L`Lmilio iecommends· L`Lmilio`s answei is to biing
togethei all those who shaie an inteiest in living outside the bounds of the
heteiosexual nucleai family. Ioi him, shaied inteiests, iathei than shaied
identity, aie the basis of iadical politics. Inteiest is supposed to piovide
a means of tianscending identity; yet this aigument did not biing into
being the alliances that it called foi, noi have the many similai aiguments
that weie aiticulated thioughout the 19Sus and 199us actually pioduced
widespiead alliance politics. ¯his suggests that shaied inteiests may not
be an adequate means of conceptualizing how to build alliances.
We have not consideied fully, noi adequately addiessed, the ways
in which inteiests among those vaiious peisons and communities who
might not live within the bounds of the nucleai family aie not necessaiily
shaied. If inteiests aie socially constituted, the wide-ianging iepiession
of the 195us on which L`Lmilio focuses gives us a piime example of how
inteiests that might have become bioadly shaied aie instead constituted
as opposing.
¯he 195us weie a time of massive social change that involved the iewoik-
ing of ielations among gioups. As the Inited States emeiged fiom Woild
Wai II a supeipowei, the question of how this new powei would be used was
a fundamental one. ¯he answei, as we all know, was to spiead capitalism.
¯his was accomplished thiough the foimulation of the Cold Wai, a
wai with both inteinational and intianational implications that allowed
the iewoiking of ielations within the Inited States as well as acioss the
globe. I.S. national identity was ieconstituted and ieconsolidated in
ielation to a new woild oidei, and the iepiession of sexuality was cential
to this piocess. It was used as the 'sin extiaoidinaiie¨ that could taint
othei stiuggles, as civil iights oi laboi leadeis weie tainished thiough
sexual accusation. It was also a pait of a netwoik of 'evils.¨ Invocation
of this netwoik÷whethei in the tioika of 'godlessness, communism, and
homosexuality,¨ oi in suspicious paiis like 'communists and integiation-
ists¨÷mutually constituted gendei, iace, class, and sexual ielations in the
context of I.S. nationalism.
¯he mutual constitution of identities is often diawn on in feminist
and queei theoiy as a ieason foi connecting identities and issues, but,
as the histoiy of the 195us shows, mutual constitution can also be used
quite effectively in iepiessive discouise to cieate conßicting inteiests.
¯hese conßicts have fiequently taken piecedence ovei the shaied inteiests
named by L`Lmilio, and they have blocked the iealization of alteinative
3uu 1anet R. 1akobsen
¯he netwoik as a whole helps ensuie that alienation will be expeiienced
as a pioblem of gendei, iace, and/oi sexuality, iathei than as a pioblem
in the ielations of pioduction. ¯he Ameiican political fetishization of sex
within such a netwoik helps manage the ielations between mateiiality and
immateiiality that both constitute and buiden the autonomous individual.
Ioi capitalism to woik, the alienation caused by the abstiaction of laboi
into laboi powei must be expeiienced as fieedom. In fact, alienation does
pioduce the foim of fieedom that enables the modein self. It is the maiket
that offeis oppoitunities foi the development of the self, including the
development of gay identity. But the maiket also demands discipline and
iegulation, and this buidensome aspect of fieedom is obscuied by the veiy
stiuctuie of autonomy. If the self is undeistood only as autonomous, then
'otheis¨ thieaten the self. ¯he undeistanding induced by this discouise is
that I would ieap the benefts of capitalism without suffeiing the alienation
I expeiience weie it not foi those otheis.
Impoitantly, the sense that otheis aie a thieat is not meiely a dis-
placement of the feeling of alienation of capitalism, it is a ießection of the
individual`s status as pioduced thiough capitalism. ¯he independence of
the autonomous individual is pioduced thiough a hieiaichal÷a domi-
native÷dependence on otheis. ¯hus these otheis can thieaten the self,
not just by actively attacking the self but simply by asseiting theii own
autonomy. If this sense of thieat fiom otheis weie only displacement, it
would be easiei to expose. Like commodity fetishism, these attiibutions
aie so poweiful, because they aie not meiely illusions: they hook into ieal
Reieading the naiiative of the 195us piovides a peifect example of
how such ielations pioduce sepaiated iathei than shaied inteiests. In this
light, to undeistand fully the peiiod`s iepiession of sexuality, we cannot
focus only on the dialectic between gay identity and its iepiession. We
have to place gay identity in ielation to the netwoik of iepiessions that
weie instigated duiing the decade, and we have to place the pioduction
of gay identity and subsequent libeiation in ielation to the nascent social
movements of the immediate postwai peiiod.
We can see these dynamics at woik by looking at examples fiom the
aiticles appeaiing in the Ne: Yorl Ttnes in the 195us that mention homo-
sexuality. ¯he netwoik of thieats to the 'Ameiican public¨ is ieiteiated so
as to show these thieats as mutually constituting when the Ttnes iepoits
on a confeience of the Association foi Cioup Psychology. ¯he Ttnes
focuses on a papei by Li. Coinelius Beukenkamp }i., which claims that
women`s libeiation pioduces 'a piimitive situation¨ that iesults in both
homosexuality and violence:
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 3u1
|In the case of women`s libeiation] the son is piesented with a mothei who
is the absolute authoiity in the home, who dominates wheie the fathei once
did. . . . In this position, the youngstei is placed on a see-saw, swinging
between physical violence against one oi both paients, and oveit
homosexuality, which Li. Beukenkamp thinks this ambivalent situation
pioduces. . . . Li. Beukenkamp saw this situation in the family as iesembling
piimitive society. ¯he youngsteis, too, who incieasingly paiticipate in tiibal
waifaie (gang activities) and acts of violence, aie piimitive.
In this scenaiio pioblematic gendei ielations aie negatively associated
with both pathological sexuality and ethnically tinged violence, as the
piimitivist tiope of tiibal waifaie piovides an ethnic spectei to modein-
day gang activities.
¯his potential foi guilt by association is one ieason that contempoiaiy
theoiists have focused on the need foi and possibility of alliance acioss
identities, issues, and inteiests. But the associations built by such conseiva-
tive discouises aie often moie effective in sepaiating than in connecting
Ioi instance, in anothei aiticle fiom 1959 the potential foi guilt by
association is used to piomote the idea that segiegation is in the inteiests
of eveiyone, especially those segiegated. In the example above, homo-
sexuality is deployed as a cause of ethnic violence, but in a desciiption of
'tension¨ in Cieenwich Village also fiom 1959 the Ttnes poitiays homo-
sexuals as potentially innocent (and also potentially guilty) bystandeis to
violence ovei 'iacial mixing.¨
In this faiily long aiticle, the histoiy of immigiation into the Village
aiea is desciibed in gieat detail fiom the fist half of the nineteenth centuiy,
when the aiea 'thiived as the home of the well-to-do and iespectable,¨
thiough waves of Iiish and Afiican Ameiicans moving into the neighboi-
hood until fnally we ieach the peiiod of Italian Ameiican piominence.
¯his histoiy establishes the cuiient pioblems as the iesult of 'newcom-
eis¨ enteiing the neighboihood. Specifcally, the aiticle is conceined with
the aiiival of the 'beat geneiation¨; 'at the same time the fieedom that
the Village offeied began to attiact a new type of Negio fiom Hailem.
In contiast to the Negio aitists and wiiteis alieady in the Village, the
newcomeis had no liteiaiy oi aitistic aspiiations.¨ ¯hese newcomeis
paiticipated in sexualized iacial mixing, which the aiticle poitiays as
the tiiggeiing mechanism foi much of the violence, including beatings of
Afiican Ameiican men and violence against businesses that aie open to
both Afiican Ameiican and white pations.
¯he desciiption of iacial mixing pits Afiican Ameiicans against Ital-
ian Ameiicans, who in this situation aie iepiesentative of 'whiteness¨
3u2 1anet R. 1akobsen
and yet aie also diffeientiated fiom the eailiei peiiod of 'iespectable¨
Iinally, the spectei of homosexuality is biought into this mix,
which I quote in its entiiety:
Anothei cause of fiiction in the neighboihood is the homosexual. As a iule
the homosexuals piactice theii own kind of segiegation. ¯hey had theii own
section of Washington Squaie Paik until the police evicted them iecently.
¯hey pationize paiticulai bais and paiticulai stieet coineis, and usually
keep to themselves. Sometimes, howevei, they put on a moie ßamboyant
show of theii homosexuality. At times stieet biawls iesult, but homosexuality
at piesent is much less an immediate cause of iowdiness than is the mattei
of iacial mixing.
¯he incentive to counteiidentify is moie than appaient in this paiticulai
desciiption. Peace is best maintained when both iacial and sexual ielations
aie oiganized thiough segiegation. ¯his aiiangement means that theie aie
'good¨ Afiican Ameiicans, those with liteiaiy aspiiations who mingle only
with othei outsideis (the 'beats¨), and 'bad¨ Afiican Ameiicans, those
who mingle sexually with white women. ¯heie aie also good homosexu-
als and bad homosexuals: those who keep to themselves (even appaiently
aftei they have been evicted fiom theii sepaiate space by the police) and
those who ßagiantly display theii sexuality to otheis. ¯he cleai message
of the aiticle is to cieate a set of 'inteiests¨ foi homosexuals to keep to
themselves; specifcally, they should not mingle with othei sexual outsid-
eis÷those whose sexuality ciosses iacial boundaiies.
¯he system is aiiayed aiound a centei, and yet no one who iesides
in the cential space is named as an actoi, noi aie theii inteiests evei
¯he issues as piesented aie only the ielations among otheis,
and the violence that may ensue is poitiayed as depending only on the
behavioi of these otheis. Noieovei, homosexuals aie heie constiucted as
a gioup entiiely sepaiate fiom Afiican Ameiicans, Italians, and even the
iacially mixed beats. ¯he iacial mixing of homosexual life in the Village
duiing this peiiod is eiased as homosexuals aie constituted as putatively
white. Sexuality and iace aie, thus, simultaneously inteiconnected and
utteily distinct issues. Nost impoitant, the way that the inteiconnection
is foimulated÷as sexualized iacial mixing that leads to violence÷tends
to disaggiegate iathei than connect sexualized and iacialized otheis in
the system.
nonosexoals are
nere constrocteo
as a qroop
entirely separate
rron /rrican
ltalians, ano even
tne racially nixeo
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 3u3
AIternative Afhnities and Reconhgured vaIues
Shaied inteiests, while ieal, aie not enough to oveicome the simultaneous
division of those inteiests. ¯heie weie majoi effects fiom the iepiession
of the 195us, effects that aie iaiely counted in the ielief biought on by the
social movements of the decades that followed. Building on iesponses to
the Cieat Lepiession and Woild Wai II, the 194us iepiesented a time of
social openings on a numbei of issues÷gendei, iace, class, sexuality÷
and these openings weie sometimes addiessed by movements that ciossed
the boundaiies of identities. ¯he iepiessions of the 195us undeicut these
nascent alliances. ¯he histoiians Cathaiine Iosl, Patiicia Sullivan, and
}ohn Lgeiton have all aigued, foi example, that as Iosl put it, 'the Red
Scaie of the post-WWII yeais thiottled the black-white alliances that had
budded duiing the depiession.¨
What was destioyed in the 195us is not the emeigence of gay identity
pei se, but the possibility of allied social movement of which gay identity
is a pait. ¯he ßoweiing of possibility in the last half centuiy is a piofound
testament to the possibilities that weie sustained even thiough this iepies-
sive peiiod. As L`Lmilio points out, the ieason that gay libeiation could
buist on the scene aftei the Stonewall iiots was because gay communities
had been foiming and giowing thiough the 195us. ¯hese gay communi-
ties weie not necessaiily oiganized aiound familial foims oi even aiound
couples. Some of these communities included cioss-iacial oi cioss-class
alliances. Queei communities at moments oveicame the iace and class
segiegation of the dominant cultuie, and 194us and 195us social move-
ments foi iacial justice also included cioss-iacial oi cioss-class alliances
that weie latei destioyed. ¯hese nascent alliances and the glimmeiings of
openness might have been stiengthened ovei time. What the iepiession of
the 195us accomplished was the channeling of the possibilities embodied
in these foimations towaid single-issue identity-based movements that
weie sepaiate fiom each othei and that could coexist with familial foims,
so that even in the iesuigence of social movements in the 196us, these
alliances could not be fully iealized.
Although late 196us and eaily 197us gioups like the Cay Libeiation
Iiont undeistood themselves as connected to woildwide libeiation stiug-
gles÷hence the name 'libeiation fiont,¨ all too soon these connections
bioke down in favoi of the single-issue politics that L`Lmilio ciiticizes
in 19S3. Cay iights gioups have been led to puisue this path because the
fieedom that they most often seek is ultimately oiganized aiound individu-
alism and individuals` iights. It is not that we aie tiapped in a dialectic
between libeiation and oppiession, but that we have been induced to seek
a libeiation that contains the discouise of constiaint within itself. Because
3u4 1anet R. 1akobsen
of this fact, the shaied inteiests of multiple gioups in libeiation have been
coconstiucted with a set of divided inteiests that have blocked alliances.
¯o iecognize these divisions is not simply a mispeiception; the divisions
aie ieal and need to be addiessed. But we do not necessaiily have to iemain
tiapped in them.
A shift is needed, but not just fiom identity politics to shaied inteiests.
Rathei, oui movements need to shift fiom identities and inteiests to altei-
native affnities, diffeient values, and ieconstiucted inteiests. ¯his does
not mean doing away with eithei mateiialist politics oi identity politics.
Alteinative affnities do not do away with identity politics, because goods
and inteiests, punishments and disciplines aie divided along identity-based
lines. Nateiialist politics continue to be ciucial because capitalism contin-
ues to foim the context of political possibility. But, if capital depends on
values like fieedom to pioduce value÷if the mateiial is inteitwined with
and embodied thiough (im)mateiial values÷mateiialist politics needs to
iewoik values as well as inteiests.
}ust as it is not enough to shift fiom identities to inteiests, a shift fiom
gay identity to queei iesistance is also insuffcient to pioduce the type of
new politics that the tuin to queei initially piomised. ¯he gieat hope of
queei politics was to pioduce alteinative affnities and complex political
commitments that weie not tiapped in singulai identities. But, as with the
failuie to pioduce alliances, this hope was not iealized. Leployed against
us weie not just the noims of noimative identity foimation but also the
values of a supposedly value-fiee maiket. ¯he value of fieedom is piecisely
that it is pioductive of both economic value and a paiticulai set of moial
values÷values that include both the idea of human libeiation and of the
need foi discipline, iegulation, and domination.
We cannot develop a successful queei politics if we just iesist the dis-
cipline and iegulation. We need to change values as well as iesist noims.
Changing values also piovides possible sites foi building alteinative affni-
ties. Rathei than simply iesisting fieedom, queei politics might connect
to those alteinative genealogies of fieedom, like the ones desciibed by
Robin Kelley in IreeJon Dreans: The Elacl FaJtcal Inagtnaiton, that aie
not tiapped in discouises of modein individualism, the maiket, and Chiis-
tian seculaiism.
If, in modeinity, sex plus fieedom equals iegulation,
then one of the jobs of queei theoiy now is to change the aiithmetic of
oui politics.
lr, in nooernity,
sex plos rreeoon
eqoals reqolation,
tnen one or tne
jobs or qoeer
tneory nov is
to cnanqe tne
aritnnetic or oor
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 3u5
1. Lisa Luggan, The T:tltghi of Lqualti,. Neoltberaltsn, Culiural Foltitcs, anJ
ihe ¬iiacl on Denocrac, (Boston: Beacon, 2uu3), has documented the iole of
sexuality in neolibeialism. Clinton saw sexual iegulation as vital to his own ieelec-
tion and hence signed both the Lefense of Naiiiage Act and the welfaie iefoim
act in the summei befoie the 1996 elections. Impoitantly, welfaie iefoim was a
fundamental change in I.S. economic policy, but it was accomplished not thiough
a discussion of economics but thiough a discouise that focused on young women
and theii sexuality, who weie always piesumed to be women of coloi (even though
statistically moie white women than women of coloi have diawn welfaie benefts).
Ioi an analysis of how welfaie iefoim woiked in a netwoik of social ielations that
included economics, sexuality, and iacial politics, see }anet R. }akobsen, 'Iamily
Values and Woiking Alliances: ¯he Question of Hatied and Public Policy,¨ in
!elfare Foltc,: Ientntsi Crtitques (Cleveland: Pilgiim, 1999).
2. Ioi an in-depth analysis of Clinton`s impeachment and its iamifcations,
see Lisa Luggan and Lauien Beilant, eds., Cur Aontca, The Cltnion
¬ffatr anJ ihe Naitonal Inieresi (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu1).
3. Ioi a full analysis of the alliance between fscal and social conseivatives,
see }akobsen, 'Iamily Values and Woiking Alliances.¨
4. In desciibing these 'moial values¨ the Ne: Yorl Ttnes mentions only two
issues: opposition to aboition and to 'iecognition of gay and lesbian couples¨
(Kate Zeinike and }ohn N. Biodei, 'Wai· }obs· No, Chaiactei Counted Nost to
Voteis,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 4 Novembei 2uu4).
5. ¯he peicentage of voteis claiming 'moial values¨ as theii piimaiy con-
cein was actually 'down fiom 2uuu (35 peicent) and 1996 (4u peicent),¨ so the
'moial values¨ voteis weie not the factoi that ensuied that Ceoige Bush won this
time (Iiank Rich, '¯he Cieat Indecency Hoax,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 2S Novembei
6. Histoiians have long iesisted this populai steieotype when documenting
the sexual piactices of the Puiitans. Ioi example, }ohn L`Lmilio and Lstelle B.
Iieedman in theii histoiy of sexuality in Ameiica state, 'Lven among the Puii-
tans and theii Yankee descendants, sexuality exhibited moie complexity than
modein assumptions about theii iepiessiveness suggest¨ (L`Lmilio and Iieed-
man, Initnaie Aaiiers: ¬ Htsior, of Sexualti, tn ¬nertca |New Yoik: Haipei and
Row, 19SS], 15). And, in a point which is impoitant foi my latei aigument, they
continue, 'Laily Ameiicans did indeed pay close attention to the sexual behavioi
of individuals. . . . ¯hey did so, howevei, not in oidei to squelch sexual expies-
sion, but iathei to channel it into what they consideied to be its piopei setting and
puipose: as a duty and a joy within maiiiage, and foi the puipose of piocieation¨
7. Ann Pellegiini and I demonstiate the ieligious, and specifcally Piotes-
tant, basis of sexual iegulation in I.S. law in }akobsen and Pellegiini, Lo.e ihe
Stn: Sexual Fegulaiton anJ ihe Ltntis of Feltgtous Tolerance (New Yoik: New Yoik
Iniveisity Piess, 2uu3).
S. Ioi a full explanation of the Chiistian natuie of I.S. seculaiism, see }anet
R. }akobsen and Ann Pellegiini, 'Intioduction to Woild Seculaiisms at the Nil-
lennium,¨ Soctal Texi, no. 64 (2uuu): 1÷2S.
9. Nax Webei, The Froiesiani Lihtc anJ ihe Sjtrti of Cajtialtsn, tians. ¯alcott
Paison (New Yoik: Chailes Sciibnei`s Sons, 193u), 36.
3uó 1anet R. 1akobsen
1u. On these enfoicements, see Neiiy L. Wiesnei, 'Nuns, Wives, and Noth-
eis: Women and the Refoimation in Ceimany,¨ in !onen tn Fefornaiton anJ
Counier-Fefornaiton Luroje, ed. Sheiiin Naishall (Bloomington: Indiana Ini-
veisity Piess, 19S9), S÷2S.
11. See the intioduction to this special issue by Lavid Lng, }udith Halbeis-
tam, and }ose Lsteban Nuñoz. Ioi a diffeient set of pioblems with the develop-
ment of queei politics, see Lavid Halpeiin, Satni Ioucauli: To:arJs a Ca, Hagtog-
rajh, (New Yoik: Oxfoid Iniveisity Piess, 1995), 64÷65.
12. Ioi a desciiption of some of the inadequacies of ciitical theoiies that iely
solely on 'the ciitique and exposuie of dominant ideologies,¨ see Lve Kosofsky
Sedgwick, 'A Response to C. }acob Hale,¨ Soctal Texi, nos. 52÷53 (1997): 237.
13. See, foi example, Ioucault`s thiid volume of The Htsior, of Sexualti,, The
Care of ihe Self (tians. Robeit Huiley |New Yoik: Vintage Books, 19S6]), and the
wiitings and inteiviews collected in the volume Lihtcs: Subjecit.ti, anJ Truih (ed.
Paul Rabinow, tians. Robeit Huiley et al. |New Yoik: New Piess, 1997]), which
was inteiestingly the fist volume of the Lssential Woiks of Ioucault seiies.
14. On the tuin to ethics in ciitical theoiy, see Naijoiie Caibei, Beinice Hans-
sen, and Rebecca Walkowitz, The Turn io Lihtcs (New Yoik: Routledge, 2uuu).
15. Keiiy was the fist to iaise the issue of faith in the thiid piesidential
debate and then latei in the debate pointed out that he had done so. Ioi the debate
tiansciipt, see www.npi.oig/templates/stoiy/stoiy.php·stoiyId=41uS59u (accessed
3u Novembei 2uu4).
16. ¯he ultimate culmination of this 'family values¨ idea of gay iights was
summaiized when Llizabeth Biich, then head of the Human Rights Campaign,
claimed, shoitly aftei adopting childien, that the ieal dividing line in Ameiican
life was not between heteio- and homosexuals but between 'people who aie pai-
ents, and people who aien`t¨ (¯im Weinei, 'Public Lives; Cay-Rights Leadei
Sees Shift ¯owaid Public Acceptance,¨ Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 24 Apiil 2uuu).
17. L`Lmilio iejects functionalism, and his answei depends on an analogy
between pioduction and iepioduction: '¯he elevation of the nucleai family to pie-
eminence in the spheie of peisonal life is not accidental. . . . ¯he piivatized family
fts well with capitalist ielations of pioduction. Capitalism has socialized pioduc-
tion while maintaining that the pioducts of socialized laboi belong to the owneis
of piivate piopeity. In many ways, childbeaiing has been piogiessively socialized
ovei the last two centuiies with schools, the media, peei gioups, and employeis
taking ovei functions that once belonged to paients. Neveitheless, capitalist soci-
ety maintains that iepioduction and childieaiing aie piivate tasks, that childien
'belong¨ to paients, who exeicise iights of owneiship.¨ L`Lmilio can haidly
be blamed foi appealing to such an analogy in 19S3, but it nevei quite woiked.
Attempts to biing togethei Naixism and feminism in this analogical mannei
always seem to make iepioduction a miiioi image of the pioduction piocess. Once
again the conceins of women weie ießections of the ieal conceins of the woild
(and of men), in this case pioduction. ¯his type of analogy also could not explain
the ways in which gendei oppiession opeiates with 'ielative autonomy¨ fiom
capitalist functionalism, as Coinel West has said of iace ('Naixist ¯heoiy and
the Specifcity of Afio-Ameiican Oppiession,¨ in Aarxtsn anJ ihe Inierjreiaiton of
Culiure, ed. Caiy Nelson and Lawience Ciossbeig |Iibana: Iniveisity of Illinois
Piess, 19SS], 17÷3u). Cendei oppiession, like iacial oppiession, seems to ßouiish
even when it is not in the best inteiests of capitalism. While iacism and sexism
Sex + Freeoon = Regulatìon 3u7
often woik foi capitalism, they also have lives of theii own. Neithei functionalism
noi analogy will ultimately seive as explanation. Ioi a ciitique of analogy that
includes a tienchant ciitique of L`Lmilio, see Niianda }oseph, 'Iamily Affaiis:
¯he Liscouise of Clobal/Localization,¨ in Queer Clobalt:aitons: Ctit:enshtj anJ
ihe ¬fierltfe of Colontaltsn, ed. Ainaldo Ciuz-Nalave and Naitin I. Nanalansan
IV (New Yoik: New Yoik Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2).
1S. ¯his analysis of the inteitwining of exploitation and domination is based
on a ieading of Cayatii Chakiavoity Spivak`s 'Scatteied Speculations on the
Question of Value,¨ in In Ciher !orlJs: Lssa,s tn Culiural Foltitcs (New Yoik:
Routledge, 19SS), 154÷75, which I piovide in }anet R. }akobsen, 'Can Homosexu-
als Lnd Westein Civilization as We Know It·¨ in Ciuz-Nalave and Nanalansan,
Queer Clobalt:aitons.
19. Benedict Andeison, InagtneJ Connuntites: Fe}ecitons on ihe Crtgtn anJ
SjreaJ of Naitonaltsn (London: Veiso, 19S3).
2u. Nancy I. Cott, Fubltc 1o:s: ¬ Htsior, of Aarrtage anJ ihe Naiton (Cam-
biidge, NA: Haivaid Iniveisity Piess, 2uu2). Cott, howevei, assumes maiiiage
is cential to national life, iathei than seeing the consolidation of maiiiage at the
centei of Ameiicanness as pait of the jrocess of consolidating the nation.
21. }akobsen and Pellegiini, Lo.e ihe Stn.
22. Some would aigue (although you would not know it fiom today`s Chiis-
tian Right) that maiiiage is not a biblically based ideal. By example, }esus was not
a family man and the Pauline epistles piefei celibacy to maiiiage. ¯he Pauline
authoi suggests that maiiiage is meiely necessaiy: most people cannot iesist sex,
and so maiiiage is the best alteinative to foinication. ¯he Refoimation`s intensi-
fed focus on the sinful natuie of humans allows foi a slippage in inteipietation
wheie eveiyone is now seen as best off in maiiiage.
23. Naitin Luthei, Aaritn Luiher: Selecitons fron Hts !rtitngs, ed. }ohn Lil-
lenbeigei (New Yoik: Loubleday), 3u.
24. ¯his is the piecuisoi to Kant`s good will (and we cannot foiget that
Kant is deeply inßuenced by Ceiman pietism. He should not simply be iead as a
'seculai¨ philosophei).
25. Luthei, Aaritn Luiher: Selecitons, 3u.
26. Biblical scholaiship has shown that the canonical letteis wiitten undei
the name 'Paul¨ weie not all wiitten by a single individual. See Llizabeth Cas-
telli, Intiaitng Faul: ¬ Dtscours of Fo:er (Louisville, KY: }ohn Knox/Westminstei,
27. Luthei, Aaritn Luiher: Selecitons, 3u.
2S. See, foi example, Neiiy Wiesnei`s account in 'Nuns, Wives, and Noth-
eis¨ of how stiictly the Refoimeis enfoiced the idea that maiiiage iepiesents
women`s calling. While some women voluntaiily left theii convents to become
Piotestants and maiiy, otheis in aieas contiolled by Refoimeis fought to keep
theii ieligious communities togethei even when cut off fiom the Catholic Chuich.
Wiesnei also iepoits that the Countei-Refoimation Chuich moved to iestiict some
of the fieedoms that women in ieligious oideis had expeiienced, thus fuithei nai-
iowing women`s possibilities.
29. Calvin elaboiates a moiality that iuns countei to both the specifc vows
of the Catholic ieligious life and the piocess of taking vows itself. Ioi him, the
inteiioi intention of the individual, iathei than vows taken befoie the community,
is the ciucial indicatoi of moiality. Calvin, foi example, piecedes Kant in aiguing
3uB 1anet R. 1akobsen
that the moial value of an action depends not on one`s ielation to the community
but on intention: 'Ioi, because the Loid looks up on the heait, not the outwaid
appeaiance, the same thing (as the puipose in mind changes) may sometimes
please and be acceptable to him, sometimes stiongly displease him¨ (}ohn Cal-
vin, The Insitiuies of ihe Chrtsitan Feltgton, ed. }ohn ¯. NcNeill, tians. Ioid Lewis
Battles, 2 vols. |Philadelphia: Westminstei, 196u], 125S, 4.12.4, heieaftei cited
in the text).
3u. I am not aiguing that sex is simply analogous to the commodity, but
iathei that sex, too, goes thiough the piocess of fetishization. It is impoitant to
note that in Naix fetishism is a piocess of which the commodity is the elementaiy
foim, but fetishism is not necessaiily iestiicted to the commodity.
31. }ohn L`Lmilio, 'Capitalism and Cay Identity,¨ in Fo:ers of Destre: The
Foltitcs of Sexualti,, ed. Ann Snitow, Chiistine Stansell, and Shaion ¯hompson
(New Yoik: Nonthly Review, 19S3), 1u5.
32. Caiole Pateman, The Sexual Coniraci (Stanfoid, CA: Stanfoid Iniveisity
Piess, 19SS), makes this point in hei ciitique of libeial political theoiy.
33. ¯his does not iequiie giving up the fieedoms that have been so haid
won in modeinity. It does not iequiie denying the value and the powei of modein
accomplishments, but it does iequiie iemaking these fieedoms, because the fact
that fieedom is accompanied not just by exploitation but also domination is not
an accident oi a mistake that will simply be iemedied by piogiess. Lomination is
inteinal to both exploitation and modeinity.
34. Ioi a histoiy of contests ovei the teim freeJon, see Liic Ionei, The Sior,
of ¬nertcan IreeJon (New Yoik: Noiton, 199S); foi an in-depth exploiation of
alteinative visions of fieedom that have fueled iadical politics, see Robin L. C.
Kelley, IreeJon Dreans: The Elacl FaJtcal Inagtnaiton (Boston: Beacon, 2uu2).
35. In fact, one of the subject headings within the aiticle is 'A Piimitive Situ-
ation¨ (Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 22 Iebiuaiy 1959).
36. Ne: Yorl Ttnes, 29 Septembei 1959.
37. ¯he Ttnes desciibes the peiiod of Italian Ameiican piominence befoie
the aiiival of 'the beats¨ as a time when 'the neighboihood was a closed com-
munity with a village eldei piesiding. He administeied neighboihood justice, and
little outside inteifeience, even by the police, was toleiated.¨ ¯his desciiption
effectively locates Italian Ameiicans as immigiants who contiol the neighboihood
beyond the bounds of the police and outside the limits of the law.
3S. ¯he Ttnes names the dominant gioup÷'the well-to-do and iespectable¨
(and piesumably white and stiaight)÷only in iefeience to the past.
39. Catheiine Iosl, Sub.erst.e Souiherner: ¬nne EraJen anJ ihe Siruggle for
Factal }usitce tn ihe ColJ !ar Souih (New Yoik: Palgiave Nacmillan, 2uu2), 2uu.
See also Patiicia Sullivan, Da,s of Hoje: Face anJ Denocrac, tn ihe Ne: Deal Lra
(Chapel Hill: Iniveisity of Noith Caiolina Piess, 1996); and }ohn Lgeiton, Sjeal
No: agatnsi ihe Da,: The Ceneraiton before ihe Ftghis Ao.eneni (New Yoik:
Knopf, 1994).
4u. On possibilities foi connecting alteinative genealogies, see }anet R. }akob-
sen and Llizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, 'Sex and Iieedom,¨ in Fegulaitng Sex:
The Foltitcs of Initnac, anJ IJeniti,, ed. Llizabeth Beinstein and Lauiie Schaffnei
(New Yoik: Routledge, 2uu4).


What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now? Special Issue Editors David L. Eng, Judith Halberstam, José Esteban Muñoz
Introduction: What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now? David L. Eng with Judith Halberstam and José Esteban Muñoz 1 Punk’d Theory Tavia Nyong’o 19 Joon Oluchi Lee 35 Elizabeth Freeman 57

The Joy of the Castrated Boy

Time Binds, or, Erotohistoriography

Tarrying with the Normative: Queer Theory and Black History Amy Villarejo 69 Of Our Normative Strivings: African American Studies and the Histories of Sexuality Roderick A. Ferguson 85 Asian Diasporas, Neoliberalism, and Family: Reviewing the Case for Homosexual Asylum in the Context of Family Rights Chandan Reddy 101 Queer Times, Queer Assemblages Jasbir K. Puar 121

Race, Violence, and Neoliberal Spatial Politics in the Global City Martin F. Manalansan IV 141 Bollywood Spectacles: Queer Diasporic Critique in the Aftermath of 9/11 Gayatri Gopinath 157 You Can Have My Brown Body and Eat It, Too! Hiram Perez 171

JJ Chinois’s Oriental Express, or, How a Suburban Heartthrob Seduced Red America Karen Tongson 193

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Shame and White Gay Masculinity

Judith Halberstam 219

Gay Rights versus Queer Theory: What Is Left of Sodomy after Lawrence v. Texas? Teemu Ruskola 235 Uncivil Wrongs: Race, Religion, Hate, and Incest in Queer Politics Michael Cobb 251 Policing Privacy, Migrants, and the Limits of Freedom Nayan Shah 275 Sex + Freedom = Regulation: Why? Janet R. Jakobsen 285

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Michael Cobb is an assistant professor of English at the University of Toronto. His essays have appeared, or soon will appear, in Callaloo, GLQ, University of Toronto Quarterly, Criticism, and boundary 2. His book God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence is forthcoming from New York University Press. David L. Eng is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (Duke University Press, 2001). In addition, he is coeditor with David Kazanjian of Loss: The Politics of Mourning (University of California Press, 2003) and coeditor with Alice Y. Hom of Q & A: Queer in Asian America (Temple University Press, 1998), which was the winner of a 1998 Lambda Literary Award and the 1998 Cultural Studies Book Award of the Association for Asian American Studies. He is completing a book titled “Queer Diasporas/Psychic Diasporas,” which explores the impact of Asian transnational and queer social movements on family and kinship in the late twentieth century. Roderick A. Ferguson is an associate professor of race and critical theory in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is the author of Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). Elizabeth Freeman is an associate professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture (Duke University Press, 2002) and is working on a second book tentatively titled “Time Binds: Essays in Queer Temporality.” She has also published or copublished articles in nineteenth-century American literature and queer studies in journals including American Literary History, American Literature, boundary 2, New Literary History, Radical Teacher, and Women and Performance. Gayatri Gopinath is an associate professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures (Duke University Press, 2005). Her work on diasporic sexualities has appeared in journals such as GLQ, positions, Diaspora, Amerasia, and Gender and History.

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Judith Halberstam is a professor of English and director of the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke University Press, 1995) and Female Masculinity (Duke University Press, 1998) and has a new book of essays titled In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York University Press, 2005). Halberstam is working on a book titled “Dude, Where’s My Theory? The Politics of Knowledge in an Age of Stupidity.” Janet R. Jakobsen is director of the Center for Research on Women at Barnard College. She is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference (Indiana University Press, 1998), coauthor (with Ann Pellegrini) of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (New York University Press, 2003), and coeditor (with Elizabeth A. Castelli) of Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2004). Joon Oluchi Lee is assistant professor of gender studies and English at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is working on a book about gay male effeminacy and black femininity titled “rainbowbaby-woman: poethics of racial-sexual cross-identification.” Martin F. Manalansan IV is an associate professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2003). In addition to essays in journals and anthologies, he has edited two volumes of essays: Cultural Compass: Ethnographic Explorations of Asian America (Temple University Press, 2001) and (with Arnaldo Cruz-Malave) Queer Globalizations: Citizenship and the Afterlife of Colonialism (New York University Press, 2002).

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José Esteban Muñoz is an associate professor in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University. He is the author of Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 1999). He is also the coeditor (with Celeste Delgado) of Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latin/o America (Duke University Press, 1997) and (with Jennifer Doyle and Jonathan Flatley) of Pop Out: Queer Warhol (Duke University Press, 1996). Tavia Nyong’o is an assistant professor of performance studies at New York University. He has written on racial kitsch in cinema and collecting, on the cyber-performance artist Pamela Z, and on the performance of blackness in U.S. politics. His work has appeared in the Yale Journal of Criticism, 3x3, and Women and Performance. Hiram Perez is an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University, where he also teaches courses in women’s studies and African American studies. He is completing a manuscript that explores the relationship between shame and racial embodiment. Jasbir K. Puar is an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University. She works on queer globalizations, South Asian diasporas, gay and lesbian tourism, and sexual scripts of terrorism. Her articles have appeared in GLQ, Signs, Society and Space, Feminist Review, Radical History Review, Antipode, and Gender, Place and Culture. Chandan Reddy is an assistant professor of English at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is completing a manuscript on the rise of postemancipation black publics in the age of U.S. wars in Asia, 1898– 1952. The essay published here is part of a second project on queer of color cultural formations and U.S. neoliberalism. Teemu Ruskola is a professor of law at American University. His writings on the cultural study of law have appeared, among other places, in Michigan Law Review, Stanford Law Review, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, and Yale Law Journal.

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He is the author of Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (University of California Press. and another on contemporary queer of color suburban subcultures.indd 6 10/19/05 2:37:15 PM . She is represented by the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York City. she had solo exhibitions at Galleria In Arco in Turin. She has published various articles on queer theory and aesthetics from the nineteenth century to the present and is working on two book projects: one on Victorian aesthetics and homonormativity. Karen Tongson is an assistant professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California. where she is an associate professor. San Diego. ST84-85-00-FM. 2001). Most recently. Mie Yim was born in South Korea in 1963 and currently lives and works in New York City.Nayan Shah is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of California. Her most recent book is Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire (Duke University Press. Her work has been displayed in numerous international solo and group exhibitions. and Sexuality Studies Program at Cornell University. in 2004 and at Metaphor Contemporary Art in New York City in 2003. Amy Villarejo teaches film and directs the Feminist. 2003). Gender. Italy.