The role of a queer decolonial analytic is to put scholars of ethnic decoloniality in conversation with queer studies scholarship. In exploring not only the impact of the Ottoman Empire on the region but also of a larger global colonial gender/sex system, decolonial scholars analyze the intersection of imperial hierarchies with the coloniality of gender. This is why Romania and Turkey serve as a focus to think about repositioning ethnic and gender identities in the context of global capitalist and imperial hegemonies. Queer activists in collectives such as Macaz in Romania and Hêvî LGBTI in Turkey show that decolonial politics needs an alliance with queer studies. Refusing single-issue activism, decolonial queer politics in Turkey and Romania seeks a radical transformation of society by drawing on the success of intersectional analyses as well as by addressing growing concerns about global inequality. Moreover, a queer decolonial analytic interrogates mainstream LGBTI+ terms such as “visibility” and “the closet” and calls for a different political imaginary on the basis of José Esteban Muñoz’s assertion that the future is the domain of queerness. Since the language of the closet and visibility in LGBTI+ activism has significant limitations in wider political and societal contexts, a new analytic proposes the transformation of current activist vocabularies. In Turkey, the historical oppression of the Kurds and their ongoing political struggle have given a unique position to Kurdish LGBTI+ organizational efforts and queer activists. Kurdish LGBTI+ activism raises critical questions about ethnic and class hierarchies both within Turkey and within a global queer movement. This sort of activism deemphasizes “the closet” or “gay marriage,” or a mere “visibility,” which traditionally have been a key component of the 2000s LGBTI+ organizations and Western non-governmental organizations’ agendas. Like in Turkey, new forms of queer activism in Romania seek to develop spaces and locations that create safe spaces, advocate sexual experimentation, and promote radical social interventions.
Bogdan Popa and Hakan Sandal
Research on LGBT politics in Russia is a growing but still relatively small field. The current conditions of LGBT politics in Russia have been shaped by various historical processes. A key event was the 1933–1934 Stalinist anti-homosexual campaign and the recriminalization of sodomy; during this period a discursive frame was established that, to a large extent, continues to structure public perceptions of homosexuality: according to this framework, it is a political as well as a national transgression, associated with imagined attempts to undermine Russia by Western states. A near-total silence about homosexuality in the post-Stalin Soviet Union—where same-sex relations were regulated by criminal (in the case of men) and psychiatric (in the case of women) institutions—was broken during late 1980s perestroika, leading up to the 1993 decriminalization of sodomy. The Putin years have seen the gradual rise of a nationalist conservative ideology that opposes LGBT rights and stresses the importance of “traditional values.” The latter concept became state ideology after Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, as manifested in the 2013 ban on “propaganda for nontraditional sexual relations” and the foreign policy profiling of Russia as an international guardian of conservatism. In neighboring Eurasian countries—the post-Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus—the rise of “traditional-values” discourses and proposed propaganda bans in the 2010s indicate the extent to which LGBT politics have become entangled in geopolitical contestations over identity and regional influence. In Russia, a first wave of gay activism in the early 1990s failed to develop into a vital and lasting political movement but established a queer infrastructure in larger cities. It was followed by a second generation of activists in the mid-2000s, for some of whom the organization of Pride marches have been the main strategy, leading to controversies that have increased the public visibility and politicization of LGBT issues. In scholarship on LGBT politics in Russia and Eurasia, two important subjects of discussion have been visibility and geopoliticization. The first includes a critique of identity-based visibility politics and how it has structured perceptions of queer life in Russia as well as LGBT activism itself. Researchers have examined the multiple and contradictory effects and meanings of public visibility in the Russian context and have pointed at alternative forms of activism and organizing. Second, researchers have explored the geopolitical underpinnings of sexual politics, mapping how LGBT issues are interwoven in complex negotiations over national and civilizational identity, sovereignty and regional domination, security, progress, and modernity.
An emerging critical theoretical framework, queer liberation theory attempts to understand the relationship between queerness and capitalism, and more specifically, anti-capitalist movements. It seeks to update and reinvigorate the structural analysis of the earlier gay/queer liberation movement (1960s and 1970s) with the benefit of the insights of queer theory and empirical queer experiences of neoliberal capitalism. Queer liberation theory recognizes and celebrates diverse sexual orientations and gender identities or expression, including essentialist identities such as gay, lesbian, and trans. Within a realist, structural framework, queer liberation theory is interested in how social movements can move beyond identity formation to produce progressive, structural change. To date, three main tenets of the theory have been noted: anti-assimilationism, solidarity across social movements, and the political economy of queerness. The use of the word “queer” signals a progressive, critical, sex-positive, anti-assimilationist, liberationist perspective as opposed to an assimilationist perspective that strives for respectability, acceptance, prestige, and monetary success on capitalism’s terms. The second tenet, solidarity across movements, is an attempt to transcend to the divisiveness of single-issue politics without sacrificing intersectionality. For example, queer liberation theory seeks to recognize, expose, and dismantle social structures that oppress all communities, albeit in different ways. The political economy of queerness refers to a class analysis of structural inequalities. A genealogy of queer liberation theory’s development shows where it reflects, incorporates, or rejects aspects of various theories including a social constructionist perspective, with its debates about essentialism and identities; social movement theory, with its political tensions between recognition and redistribution; queer theory, with its focus on fluidity and ambiguity; materialism, with the strengths and shortcomings of its class analysis; and intersectionality with its focus on a matrix worldview of interlocking systems of oppression; and feminist political economy, with its focus on social reproduction, but adequate recognition of queer sexuality. Indeed, feminist political economy offers something of a pink road map to discover what aspects of the economy will be important for queer liberation theory to explore. Feminist political economy is helpful in the development of queer liberation theory because it has long claimed sexuality and identity as legitimate, as opposed to frivolous, sites of scholarship and political struggle. Feminist political economy, like queer liberation theory, seeks to understand oppression based on sexuality in everyday life. However, the feminist political economy road map takes us only so far, because the focus of the analysis can be seen as gendered, and often cisgendered, lives. Queer liberation theory attempts to draw from these theories to better understand the relationship between queerness and capitalism and provide a basis for political action.
In recent decades, the efflorescence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) movements has created powerful inroads for sexual rights in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. While conditions for LGBTI people vary considerably between and within countries, activists across the region are reshaping political, legal, and social understandings of gender and sexuality through their advocacy, both by seizing opportunities and navigating periods of backlash and repression. Over the years, activists have established domestic movements and have expanded their reach to articulate demands in regional and international forums. Their work has challenged the universality of models developed in other parts of the globe and has generated new tactics to respond to religious, familial, and state-sponsored prejudice. At the same time, questions of representativeness, accountability, and strategy have been raised by constituencies and longtime activists alike, inviting critical assessments of movement politics in the region.
Melanie Richter-Montpetit and Cynthia Weber
Queer International Relations (IR) is not a new field. For more than 20 years, Queer IR scholarship has focused on how normativities and/or non-normativities associated with categories of sex, gender, and sexuality sustain and contest international formations of power in relation to institutions like heteronormativity, homonormativity, and cisnormativity as well as through queer logics of statecraft. Recently, Queer IR has gained unprecedented traction in IR, as IR scholars have come to recognize how Queer IR theory, methods, and research further IR’s core agenda of analyzing and informing the policies and politics around state and nation formation, war and peace, and international political economy. Specific Queer IR research contributions include work on sovereignty, intervention, security and securitization, torture, terrorism and counter-insurgency, militaries and militarism, human rights and LGBT activism, immigration, regional and international integration, global health, transphobia, homophobia, development and International Financial Institutions, financial crises, homocolonialism, settler colonialism and anti-Blackness, homocapitalism, political/cultural formations, norms diffusion, political protest, and time and temporalities
The question of “norm” is central to queer theory. As this reading of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990), regarded as one of the pioneering texts in queer theory, shows, queer theory has consistently discussed the actual power of the norm, how it works, and how it is appropriate for minority movements to position themselves in relation to norms to abolish them. As many writings and discussions on this subject suggest, the reflection on the norm is based on an internal feminist discussion of identity. Just as there is no naturalness of sex, there is also no natural, preexisting identity. Denaturalizing identity by asserting that identities do not preexist when they are invoked calls for strategic use of identity while at the same time conducting a critique of how identities are produced. More fundamentally, the discussion of norms is linked to a reflection on “priority.” By asserting that there is no being or ontology that precedes socialization and the application of social norms, Butler denies any relevance to the project of reconnecting with practices and identities that have not been shaped by these norms and are thus considered free, escaping power. Postulating that there is no state prior to law, norm, and power calls for strategies of resistance and subversion. There is a need to place oneself within the normative devices and structures produced by power to subvert them. The notion of “performativity” condenses this conclusion by describing the possibility of producing acts that, within the normative system, displace normative meanings. Resistance and subversion lie in the parodic game, in the displacement of gender norms within the structure that produces them. The assertion that “there is no political position purified of power, and perhaps that impurity is what produces agency as the potential interruption and reversal of regulatory regimes” leads to a radical redefinition of politics. All subversive politics thus remain dependent on prevailing norms and structures, within which it acts to contest them. Subversion can only ever be local and never total, as much temporally as geographically. It can only intervene in a place, at a given moment, with reference to a given normative apparatus. Insofar as it remains necessary always to draw on a norm in order to challenge and resignify it, it will never be possible to contest all social norms definitively; it will only be possible to weaken certain ones from time to time. It then remains to identify, at some point, the power with which one wishes to fight, and the most effective strategies to weaken it.