Queer Migrations: Transnational Sexualities in Theory and Practice

27 November 2020

SG1/2, CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

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Geoffrey Maguire (University of Cambridge)

Leila Mukhida (University of Cambridge)

Tiffany Page (University of Cambridge)


Keynote speaker

Gayatri Gopinath (Director, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; NYU)



Critical debates in migration and diaspora studies have long ignored issues of sexuality and queerness. The figures of the migrant and the refugee have become normalised as cis-gender and heterosexual through cultural, political and media narratives, as well as in academic discourse. Mainstream references to LGBTQ+ migrants are exceptional and tend towards placing these subjects within a problematic Western-centric narrative of global mobility as ‘the movement from repression to freedom’ (Grewal and Kaplan 2001). The objective of this conference is twofold: firstly, to restore visibility to the queer migrant in cultural, sociological, political, theoretical and methodological debates on globality and migration; and secondly, to challenge the socio-political and racialised narrativization of the queer migrant experience as a journey from the ‘backward’ global South to the ‘progressive’ global North. In so doing, this interdisciplinary conference will itself perform a kind of ‘queering’, rupturing stable, linear and Western conceptions of migration, and rethinking the ways in which queer bodies are perceived, represented and choose to move and travel through space. 

Given that the visibility of LGBTQ+ communities has increased more broadly over the last decade in legal and societal terms, this conference will examine the relative invisibility of such minorities within contemporary discourses of (im)migration. Where queer migrant experiences are rendered visible – in queer transnational scholarship, for example, or in visual culture and literary works – our goal is to identify those counter-narratives that challenge the above mentioned fantasy of global mobility, and to consider the impact of these counter-narratives on migration and diaspora studies more broadly. To this end, the conference will bring together scholars in the fields of cultural studies, sociology, postcolonial studies, politics and ethnic studies, migration, transnational and queer studies in an attempt to better understand, in both theory and practice, the politics of crossing geographic, linguistic, cultural and heteronormative boundaries. In particular, the conference will focus on the migration of the term ‘queer’ itself; as a number of critics have pointed out, the Anglocentrism of the term’s history may be considered as ‘a postcolonial affront’ (Sifuentes-Jáuregui 2014) within regions of the world that have developed along distinct economic, political and historical axes. In this way, the conference responds to recent calls to ‘queer the transnational turn’ (Chiang and Wong 2016), fomenting research across and between disciplines that critically examines the power dynamics of queer migration and provides the theoretical tools to discuss such concepts in a rigorous, inclusive manner. 


Registration is £5.00. A number of free places are available for people who are unwaged or on low incomes. To apply for a free place please email conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk. Please let us know if you have any access requirements that you would like to discuss with us.






Supported by:

Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)



If you have any specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Conference assistance: conferences@crassh.cam.ac.uk

13 March 2020




Welcome and Introduction


Panel 1: Arts and Culture

Nadia Atia (Queen Mary University of London)

‘The Figure of the Migrant in Anglophone Queer Arab Writing’


Nicholas De Villiers (University of North Florida)

‘Queer Diaspora in Tsai Ming-liang’s French and Malaysian Films’


J. Daniel Luther (London School of Economics and Political Science)

‘Curating Queer and Asia: The Film Festival as a Critical Public Sphere’




Keynote: Professor Gayatri Gopinath (New York University),

‘Unruly Visions: The Queer Regional Imaginaries of Agha Shahid Ali and Sunil Gupta’




Panel 2: Law and Activism 

Maryna Shevtsova (University of Lund)

'Queer Mobilisation and Search for Belonging: Political Activism among LGBTQ Migrants in Sweden and the USA’


Asia Stewart (Independent Scholar)

‘(In)visibly Queer: Assessing Disparities in the Adjudication of U.S. LGBTQ Asylum Cases’


Katharina Kehl (University of Gothenburg) 

‘The “Right” Kind of Queer – Racialised Grids of Intelligibility in the Context of Swedish Gender Exceptionalism’




Panel 3: Sexual Health and Reproduction 

Marcin Smietana (University of Cambridge)

‘LGBTQ Reproductive Migrations and Queer Reproductive Justice’


Arthur Davis (University of Cambridge)

‘Geographies of Sexual Risk: Rethinking the Ontology of Migration through a Case Study of Sexual Health Policy’


Concluding comments


Wine Reception