What is Homonationalism?

What is Homonationalism?


Hi I’m Shon Faye and this is ‘Shon This
Way’. And in this instalment I am going to be asking “what is homonationalism?’ ‘Homonationalism’ is a term that was coined
by academic Jasbir Puar in her landmark text ‘Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism
in Queer Times’ which marks it tenth anniversary this year. And if you’re unsure how to celebrate
the tenth birthday of a landmark text in queer theory and Foucauldian biopolitics – then
look no further, because I’ve already thrown the party! At times, especially in activist circles,
the concept has become somewhat simplified to just mean any time that LGBT liberation politics could be
co-opted by the nationalisms of the far right. For example, the National Front’s appeal
to white gay people in France based on racist fearmongering about Muslim homophobia or,
in the US, the rise of pro-right LGBT slogans and groups and slogans including, among others, ‘Twinks
4 Trump’… While this phenomenon – of fascism or white
supremacy co-opting LGBT politics for its own ends – is real and alarming it is not
exactly what homonationalism is. Homonationalism, as Puar intends it, is an
analysis or organising principle of global politics – not a personal ideology you can
choose or disavow as an individual. This isn’t about ‘good’ gays or ‘bad’ gays. ‘Terrorist Assemblages’ was a rejection of
the idea sometimes found in feminist and queer theory of the 90s that the nation state is
always heteronormative and the queer citizen is always an alien or outlaw within it. Instead
Puar instead argues that homonationalism is So what does this mean? Well, in other words,
it means that it’s not about when LGBT people and racism visibly join forces but a critique.
A critique which basically argues that ALL liberal lesbian and gay rights movements uphold certain
ideas of social progress and modernity. In particular, LGBT equality movements rest
on the basic assumption that the Western nation state is capable of expanding to include all
marginalised populations and capable of being a benefactor to all its subjects. Puar argues that these assumptions and discourses
cannot be true as they always afford some populations full legal and cultural citizenship
at the expense of others – specifically racialised Others both at home and internationally. A simple example would be the progress towards
equal marriage equality. Marriage has been considered the pinnacle of gay and lesbian
participation in civic life. And marriage does provide equality with straight citizens.
But it also upholds an institution which – for example, entrenches Western sexual and family
norms as supreme and exceptional in comparison to those of other cultures. Marriage also upholds the nation state as
the supreme aribiter of sexuality in the way that it sometimes allows those inside the
institution right to remain or citizenship while those outside of it can be deported. A more modern example ten years on could be
transgender rights. So, for example, as part of the social and legal process of ‘transitioning’
within a nation state a trans woman – like me – may apply to obtain a female passport. While this can be considered a success of a modern trans rights movement and an example of the excellence of a liberal nation
state which allows its trans citizens full participation in national life, the very
existence of passports still upholds the sovereignty of the state to police its borders, to arrest,
detain and deport those who do not have documentation, and its role in using the passport system
for surveillance and monitoring of racialised minorities as part of its counter terrorism
efforts, as well as all of the capitalist exclusions that come with non-citizenship. Does that mean I am not going to apply for
a passport? Of course not – and this is what’s meant by homonationalism being more
of a lens to view queer politics through than a bad political philosophy you can simply
disavow. However, ten years on from the release of
‘Terrorist Assemblages’, which was largely considered the leading queer analysis after
9/11 and the War on Terror we find ourselves in a rather different political landscape. How, for example, do queer communities alive
to the critique of homonationalism respond to President Trump’s attempt to ban transgender
people from serving in the US military this year? Trump’s intention was not merely to
signify that trans people are a burden to the health and vitality of the nation state
but to use the publicly funded healthcare of trans service personnel as a wider testing
ground for policies around publicly funded healthcare and whose bodies are disposable. However, in order to contradict the symbolism
of the move it’s difficult not to recreate homonationalist discourses – namely, that
US trans citizens are fully entitled to participate in their country’s military industrial complex.
Or, to put it more bluntly, that American trans people are just as good at killing brown
people overseas as cis people. When LGBT rights for the white and/or citizened
become actively forced into reverse, homonationalist discourses entrench themselves in response.
So what is the solution? Well perhaps it’s to look at the point of
universal healthcare instead of the military and to fight Trump on the position that some
bodies are entitled to public healthcare while others are not? Applying the lens of homonationalism
should be a call to greater debate and critique of what liberation looks like – its shape,
its form and its limitations. Homonationalism is a huge, complex and expansive
subject which I can only begin to touch on in social media sharable but if there’s one
thing I’d like you to take away from this video, it’s that it is not a political position
designed to separate good politics from bad politics but, rather, bet thought of as a
structrure through which queer politics and liberation are formed. Rather than providing us with answers
on the right way to struggle – if only things were that easy – homonationalism invites us
to harshly critique our own role in global politics even as we gather under the banner
of queer liberation or antiracist politics. I want to know absolutely anything you think
about anything I’ve discussed in the video today – whether that’s homonationalism, whether
it’s Jasbir Puar’s book, whether it’s passports, whether it’s Trump and trans military personnel.
Any of it! Hit me up in the comments below. Tweet me
@shonfaye. Use the hashtag #shonthisway. And dont forget to follow Novara Media. Thank
you so much for watching. Bye!

41 thoughts on “What is Homonationalism?

  1. I'm not sure it's helpful to suggest that Islam isn't homophobic. Surveys show that most Muslims oppose gay marriage, and prefer traditional gender norms. I have a lot of Muslim friends on Facebook, some of who I love dearly – but they were far more outspoken about the recent Lewis Hamilton / princess dress controversy than anyone else. I really don't think it's helpful to ignore this stuff.

  2. Really interesting video. It has made me think though that maybe the assumption that Queer politics can subverse the racialising nature of the nation state in the first place was a false one. So yes, we can ask ourselves if there are ways to stop the Trump administration from carrying out their bio-politics through healthcare laws, without queer-washing the military-industrial complex, but maybe we also simply need to come to terms with the reality that queer "liberation" under liberal terms will have to be carried out despite all its negative side effects and that we can try to connect common experience from racialised and queer minorities, but that queerness is never "naturally" going to be subversive when it comes to racialisation; meaning that we can't count on Queer liberation doing that, we'll have to get up and do that independently.
    All in all, very interesting, but a bit too much Foucault for me. I think I shall have to get myself a drink and my Engels/Marx-Reader.

  3. Thanks for an interesting vid. My take is that changes within the state can play a role in dismantling anti-LGBT prejudice. Less than most people think though. There used to be blatantly prejudicial laws like section 28 in the UK which people could identify as state-endorsement of the stigma they faced. When marriage equality arrived it was the last landmark LGB legislative reform; but social inequality still existed and there were no homophobic laws left to reform. Perhaps natural to want the state to be your friend rather than your enemy. Certainly nice not to be persecuted by them (trans people clearly still are). Just unsure how much positive impact state bodies can make on peoples lives.

  4. Is it surprising if gay people turn to Right, when the Left refuse to consistently oppose homophobia in all it's forms, but instead apply considerable double standards (as far as I can tell, on the basis of race)? According to a Channel 4 survey, 52% of UK Muslims think that homosexuality should NOT be legal, compared to only 5% of the general population, that's more than a factor of 10 increase in homophobia related to the influence of Islam (Source: https://goo.gl/AqPXp9); and while the Left seem to slander all critics of Islam with the term 'racist', let's just imagine that these statistics were for a white group of conservative Christians, what would the response of the Left be then, in comparison? So, perhaps if the Left were more even-handed and less 'racist' when challenging homophobia, they would be able to undermine what is described here as Homonationalism.

  5. I just wish in the U.K. we had a more sophisticated answer to the evidence of systemic homophobia in Islam than "you're racist".

  6. This video is a word salad. I listened with interest but I cannot find a definition of homonationalism or any other claims. I honestly don't know what this video is about.

  7. Lots of people saying something along the lines of "but what about Islam?" Instead of peddling the usual far-right garbage, how about acknowledge that LGBTQIA+ muslims exist, and check out their organisations/chairities/groups to see what they are doing? A quick google-search:
    https://imaanlondon.wordpress.com/ + https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07cAj-pRjfY
    www.facebook.com/Al-Jannah-LGBT-Muslim-Organisation-UK-75201783254/
    http://www.mpvusa.org/lgbtqi-resources/

  8. I think this could be something for you to address if you want to think about our interaction with robots/A.I./machines (along with increasing automation) – whether it means we'll value humanoid 'objects' over 'people' I don't know? A significant problem all communities have is what to do with the 'out casts'? – this could be the Socrates types, or, like for example the poor individual who got attacked by that shark in the Danny Boyle film "The Beach" who was denied professional medical help in order to keep the communities location a secret. (having travelled myself, I got pretty fed up with quite a lot of backpackers who just wanted to one-up other people's travel experiences – I just wanted to get out of the crappy UK for a while, that was my excuse). Does social media benefit those who need it the least (and harm those who need it the most)? Do we put reward/leisure ahead of work/(whatever the opposite word for 'leisure' is?)? – as in does it really matter what social construct you fall under (philosopher or blogger or lawyer or shop worker) as long as you are a sexy beast with a lucid mind? I guess I am not a believer in utopias. I just don't think – in my experience – that we value someone who struggles to do something for us as much as someone who finds it easy… As in, the more effort it takes someone to do a particular agreed universal task for example (that it is taken for granted that everyone does) – even if they could do this consistently – the less the struggling person is valued…. So in this respect, I don't think we value the subjective over the objective – even for tasks that on the face of it have a purely subjective value… For they are just a means to an objective. The subject is object dependant (the subject cannot exist without the object). I guess this is how we can become blind to curruption, because we tend to think that someone who has an easier ride (in a rigged system) has more value (more natural ability).

    Edit; such that when politicians talk about 'hard workers' it might as well as have the same meaning of 'disabled' or 'lgbt' in terms of corporate access (like corporate gay pride) when in reality the discrimination hasn't actually been delt with (much like if the hole in the ozone layer not appearing on the news means that it must have gone away?). 'Hard Workers' is just a shallow meaningless gesture of kindness as much as David Cameron going to a factory floor and removing his £1000 suit jacket and rolling up his also mega expensive shirt sleaves.

  9. Also, randomly; I'm a layperson, so I'll keep this very short – otherwise it might require a strong sedative to read anymore from me. I don't come from the right background to have been considering the philosophy of consciousness (or philosophy itself) as a reasonable use of thought (or indeed actually thinking in the first place). I was however a prolific artist, musician and writer when I was younger and (perhaps naturally) was considering things such as colour, pain, relativeness while I was just a little kid (basically I had something akin to 'Alice in Wonderland' syndrome). I ended up choosing the pragmatic (which I now no is a philosophical branch) route of engineering. I have however, lately (after a long illness and with the challenges of the world) drifting it this area of the philosophy of consciousness. I'm wondering whether it is worth my time? I don't know? I struggle with the concept of a 'philosophical zombie'. I am here really from exploring gender identity ('identity' being a philosophical term) – having gotten into the neuroscience and sociology of it… getting to the bottom of it basically ('attack helicopters' aside) As well as thoughts on A.I. I'd also taught myself mathematical concepts such as the Reimann Hypothesis. Information theory concepts ect (the entropy demon). I'm a compatibalist and whilst I agree with Daniel Dennet on free will, I am uneasy about his attitude to consciousness. One thing that intrigues me about a possible difference between the mechanism of information exchange in A.I. versus information in humans (perhaps relating to sounds or words) is the problem of quantum physics when it comes to accelerating reference frames (general relativity – gravity)… so (without being qualified to say so I guess) I don't think quantum physics as we understand it would be useful to look at in terms of consciousness (the micro world essentially) as maybe cosciousness can't even exist at that scale? Perhaps consciousness is an emergent phenomena (I use that loosely) that exists on the scale between the micro world of quantum mechanics and the macro world of Einsteins relativity (gravity)? Maybe even consciousness (thinking of chaos theory) is something that can only exist between the ordered world of atoms (if they are truly ordered?) and the disorder (thinking of entropy) of larger structures. Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that us – as creatures in the middle of the cosmic scale (using a log scale) – are conscious? Anyway. Enough of my ramblings and I'll see if I can get more informed maybe. What say you Schopenhauer?…

  10. Check out the book by the same name by Anna-Maria Sörberg. It’s a very good read.

    I’d like to add that the eurocentric element of royalism in gay culture is a major contributor to todays homonationalism, as it depends on a classist perception of camp not reachable by working class LGBTQ+ people, regardless of colour.

  11. God I wish the "No More Woof" was real – a product that you can apparently buy that is supposed to be able to translate a dogs thoughts into english! – Hence "No More Woof"!. It apparently works by fitting a head set with EEG sensors onto your dogs head (like a pair of headphones) – the EEG sensors supposedly pick up the dogs mental state, which an onboard microchip then converts into voice prompts for the dog's owner such as "I'm hungry" or "I'm tired" or "fully automated gay space luxury communism" etc. LOL. I mean, there is science behind it I guess – people have been hooked up to EEG sensors and their thoughts used to guide machines and so on. Imagine it – it could change gender dysphoria diagnosis… You'd just get an EEG reading and your done.

  12. (thinking of Tony Blair interview with BBC on Brexit recently.. as well this) I thought it might be worth leaving a comment I left on someone else's Channel regarding a video on sophistry (sophistication). I mean, what is your solution to Zeno's Paradox of the Tortoise and the Hare? – physics has the same problem and so does social media.

    I'd argue that, phenomenologically, that Ben Shapiro doesn't exist – in the same way a politician's word is only valid in the instant it was said – not before or after… To do otherwise is to fool yourself into thinking it does (and to subject yourself to false promises… Politicians make no promise – even though it is true what they said in the instant they said it, it is still not a promise).

    I think the content of what Ben Shapiro talks about only works because of how he says it. I'm currently learning about hypnosis and default mode networks and brain waves and all the rest of it. Essentially Ben Shapiro (whether consciously or unconsciously) wishes all exchanges in conversation to be Salient (literally only engaging the Salient Network in the Brain – like for example focusing our attention outwards to swat a wasp that is trying to sting us) – always being based on just what we can see in the external (the noumena) and being physicalist in approach. Rather than internal (phenomena) and being spiritualist and mindfull (engaging the default mode network in the brain which we use for introspection – actually uses more energy than our external attention). Ben Shapiro is literally Mindless Q.E.D. – i.e. because of how he says it in the context of a fast paced environment (like the media) his version of telling it will always be in context. The Format is the problem.

    But going back to the Tortoise and the Hare: I cannot promise unless I introspect… I cannot promise I see Ben Shapiro unless I introspect on having seen him. Introspection takes more effort than outrospection (default mode network versus salient network). Therefore, by Ben Shaprio's own methodology, he cannot allow us to promise that he even exists.

  13. More post-modern obscurantism and wordsmithing that undergraduates will confuse for actual 'knowledge'. Conflate the whole political right with fascism and white supremacy, yadda, yadda, yadda. Ok, so you don't like that gays can vote for parties on the right of the spectrum – we get it.

  14. I wrote a dissertation on homonationalism in 2016 and I think this video does an amazing job at explaining it (much better than what I did hahah). It was a really great starting point for me in perceiving LGBT politics differently. I think there's a lot of work to be done in reshaping the way the LGBT mainstream perceives liberation, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later because the consequences of liberal LGBT politics has been quite detrimental to people who aren't white and heteronormative. Have you considered a video on Lisa Duggan's homonormativity? I think the concepts of homonationalism, pinkwashing, and homonormativity are really important to contemporary LGBT politics.

  15. You did an amazing job of compacting down such a complex, nuanced subject into a quick and shareable video. I was unaware of the book prior to this, but it'll definitely be added to my reading list now. Thank you!

  16. I would also like to address some people in the comments by saying this: The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    This is when people of low understanding believe they are actually smarter than the opposition, because they are unable to recognize that they can't comprehend something. For everyone in the comments saying that this video is useless jargon- just because you don't understand it, does not mean it's stupid or useless.

  17. The thing is that authoritarianism , appreciation of male aesthetic, and brotherly camaraderie have always been parts of nationalism and macho gay men share those characteristics. I am not a homosexual, I would never allow myself to be sodomized but I can sympathise with homoeroticism and parts of gay lifestyle like true mostly non-sexual love with a female, most straight men are no longer capable of keeping a pure husbandly love but bisexual/gay men with wives are more than capable, they can separate sex from spousal loyalty, ie many cannot be untrue to their wives.

  18. The reason the right can take the lead on Muslim homophobia is because the left simply to refuse it exists (like the Pakistani rape gangs), let alone tackle it when they clearly should – then the far right capitalise on it instead. So instead of blaming gay people for supporting far right causes how about tackling these issues and you kill two birds with one stone.

    The idea that as a gay man, I shouldn't support the enforcement of national borders is so stupid I cannot quite comprehend it. This would open our borders to literally millions from highly homophobic countries and as has been shown by the Muslim community in the UK, these attitudes would be largely maintained. People don't become accepting of gays just becase they've seen the white cliffs of Dover. What would then happen is the wonderful equality we have reached, would be gone within a generation. Well done.

  19. On first listen it strikes me that this is a collection of non sequiturs, though of course this may well be simply because it's an introduction and the detail is missing. The war on terror and associated 'racism' is the messy consequence of a strategic effort by the corporatocracy to seize natural resources that happen to be situated outside the borders of the aggressor's jurisdictions. It's true that the excuse 'they hate our freedoms' was and continues to be the only bullshit line available to politicians but that's because it explains away events like 9/11 in a way that legitimizes foreign invasions. None of this is to do with upholding liberal values, and if the population can be convinced that it is that's not primarily because they believe that marriage is the optimal pair-bonding/family/procreational arrangement. The liberal view is that marriage is merely optional for those who choose it. The fear of the islamic dude is based on a notion that he's crazy and intends to blow shit up. And on a deeper level the notion that there should be some sort of equality where there are no power relations makes no sense as there has to be some sort of organizing principle that aims to discern healthy behaviour and healthy culture; it's problematic but unavoidable, the notion of 'oppression' doesn't capture this.

  20. Some Russian nationalist (not prominent, though) said that "It so historically occurred that straight people, even 100% Russians, cannot be full patriots of their country". Food for thought

  21. Absolutely blown away at the the sheer informative and rhetorical discourse. Thoroughly researched and concise explaination of homonationalism. Thanks for sharing Shon~

  22. Thank you so much, Shon Faye!! I am going to use this clip in my undergraduate course next week, when we discuss Scott Lauria Morgensen's "Settler Homonationalism: Theorizing Settler Colonialism within Queer Modernities" (GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 16, Number 1-2, 2010,pp. 105-131). This is such a brilliant intro to Puar's concept!

  23. I think it is helpful in developing a wider perspective, but you are right in saying it is not a movement because if we become say "anti homonationalism" we risk being paralyzed.

    I personally don't care about marriage, I think it is an outdated concept that is clearly in conflict with how we organise society today. It is clearly not working when one observes the divorce rates.

    The objectives it was designed for were met when women had no or very little autonomy, and common individuals had authoritative figures like elders in the family/society/royalty/clergy making life long decisions for them. We now live in a society that is about being an agent of and accountable for, one's self. This gets in conflict with certain traditional ideas of marriage, particularly the role of the man in the marriage.

    He is the provider and the protector, and for providing he receives various forms of submission from his wife (or wives) and eventually the children. Most women want to keep the provider part even if they are now able to take care of themselves and perhaps take care of him.

    They still want a provider, but What is there to reciprocate when the state does not force her to essentially become a subordinate to her husband? and then how does patriarchal hetero normative standard then apply in a relationship of two men, none of whom may self identify as "the soft one"? And in a society of self agents, why should spousal support after divorces still take place? And marriage was essentially an economic and genetic arrangement between families, so what is the point of it as a structure, if the couple is not planning to reproduce or adopt children?

    And for men in particular, when you consider the risk of blows to the balance sheet and the status of parental rights after a divorce, you find that marriage is not a good deal anymore. But that's another discussion.

    My point is, I don't support the core ideals of marriage and I think ideally, the governments of today should resign from governing romantic relationships. I also think it is generally an irrational decision, to get married.

    However, in an equal society, citizens are all entitled to make irrational decisions and that's why I'll always march for marriage equality. It's similar to religion, I am atheist and I'm anti-theocratic government… But I'll March for someone to say grace to their spaghetti monster, as long as they are not hurting anyone else.

    Marriage equality is an important milestone to fighting homophobia even though I really don't care much about the concept of marriage itself.

  24. Excellent, bravo! Great rethoric, chapeaux! I'm from South America please stop supporting dictatorships and sending your troops to our countries, maybe we have not all the lgbt rights but we are not just lgbt, we are latinamericans as well, as latinos we are never allowed to have a good quality of life as North America and Europe and our life is ruined by genocide and dictators supported by your government with people like Obama, Trump, Hillary, Friedman, Nixon, Reagan, Kissinger because in the XX century and even now they've been hunting communism all these years, if some of our raciallized countries choose to have a marxist or a populist revolution or just a socialdemocrat gov you are not helping us with mass media war, embargo, international boycott, debt, please leave us alone, we just need to have our own way of life, dignity, our aboriginal and mestizo folclore, our religions and ideologies, we don't ocuppy other countries, we just want to live in peace.

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