Queering Authoritarianisms: Conflict, Resistance, and Coloniality

22 March 2021 - 23 March 2021

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Convenors

Hakan Sandal-Wilson (he/him)
Marcin Smietana (he/him)
 

Keynote speaker

Jasbir Puar, Rutgers University
 

Summary

Authoritarianisms and a right-wing populist resurgence across the globe are once again responsible for a sweeping range of violations. While some groups have been exposed to the cold face of oppression only recently, other groups have long been subjected to similar abuses, ranging from discrimination to direct physical harm. In Turkey under the Erdoğan regime, for example, academics in 2016 calling on the government to end its human rights violations against the Kurds in its southeast and demanding a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue were subjected to exhausting administrative and legal sanctions. Anti-Muslim sentiment and practices are being constantly provoked by the Modi Regime in India. In Russia, Putin is relying on fuelling nationalism to ever expand his powers. Trump, like Putin and Bolsonaro, harnesses nationalist discourses that work along racial, ethnic, and religious lines and frequently this is built off of dis/misinformation. Therefore, while racial, ethnic and religious identity formations and mobilisations are readily apparent in the context of authoritarianism and conflict, this conference seeks to move beyond this focus and complicate our understanding by bringing non-normative sexualities into the picture.

In countries where nationalisms are resurging, the very term ‘queer’ as well as queer and LGBTIQ+ politics have been framed and rejected by dominant narratives as 'Western' and 'colonial', both in much of the scholarship as well as by authoritarian nationalists (Kulpa & Mizielinska 2012). But LGBTIQ+ people in these countries do not necessarily agree with such analyses, which they see as simplified narratives, and instead see their activism as vital to political resistance, and much more complex. (Luther & Ung Loh 2018; Slany, Kowalska & Smietana 2005; Popa & Sandal 2019). Dynamics of this kind occur in locations as distinct as, for example, South Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. However, in reality, situations can be even more complex: e.g. in Kashmir, the colonial narratives are seen to be coming from the Indian state rather than only from ‘the West’ (Anand, 2019). On the other hand, emergent nationalisms in some other places are framed as gay-friendly, to the extent of being critiqued as ‘homonationalist’ (Puar 2013). Stigmatisation of geographies, ethnicities, and religions, in some instances, in the name of LGBTIQ+ rights, perpetuate and justify Islamophobia, for example, in the United Kingdom (Ahmed 2011). Conversations such as the one we are proposing with this conference are crucial at this current time of a resurgence of right-wing nationalisms, and their frequent ‘anti-gender’ and anti-LGBTIQ+ framing (Patternotte & Kuhar 2018).

This two-day interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars and activists working on and campaigning against authoritarianisms and right-wing attacks on democracy through a queer perspective. By queering authoritarianisms, we mean making visible LGBTIQ+ lives and politics which resist authoritarian and undemocratic politics. However, we also rest on the ambiguity and potential that ‘queer’ has to offer. With Professor Jasbir Puar giving the keynote speech, there will be four academic sessions on themes such as ‘queer and conflict’, ‘queering anti-gender ideologies’, and ‘decolonising sexualities’ in addition to workshops including ‘writing amidst conflict’ and ‘LGBTIQ+ activism in conflict.’ We intend for this conference to initiate fruitful conversations and intersectional solidarities among academics, activists, and academic activists.
 

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