sabato 17 ottobre 2009

Gay Imperialism: a proposito della censura di Out of Place al tempo della guerra al terrore

Di Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, aveva già parlato Barbara De Vivo nel suo Relazioni Pericolose. Movimenti femministi e Lgbtiq al tempo delle guerra al terrore, pubblicato nell'ultimo numero di ControStorie, numero che contiene anche la traduzione di un articolo di Jinan Coulter, sull'"imperialismo" (e razzismo) presente anche in una parte dei movimenti femministi e lgbtiq. L'articolo che segue, pubblicato originariamente nel sito x:talk e girato sulla lista del network femminista transnazionale NextGENDERation, fa il punto sulla pesante censura che ha investito Out of Place, libro collettivo di una "straordinaria potenza politica", come giustamente scrive Barbara De Vivo, perché riesce - nello stesso tempo - a mettere in crisi la politica dell'identità, assumere come elemento necessario la questione dell'intersezionalità delle diverse forme di oppressione, e infine condannare senza appello le politiche razziste postcoloniali, securitarie e islamofobe. In particolare uno degli articoli contenuti nel volume - Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the 'War on Terror ' di Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir e Esra Erdem - , analizza impietosamente ma rigorosamente, l'uso del discorso sui diritti dei/delle omosessuali per giustificare politiche neoimperialiste, anti-migranti e islamofobe. Vi lascio quindi alla lettura dell'interessante documento di x: talk, per intanto nella versione originale inglese, sperando che si attivi presto un altro gruppo di infaticabili traduttrici militanti ...


We have recently witnessed the umpteenth attempt to silence voices that denounce paternalistic, neo-imperialist politics and argue against Islamophobic positions and homonationalist activism. On 7th September 2009, the book Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality (2008) edited by Adi Kunstman & Esperanza Miyake, was declared out of print by its publisher, Raw Nerve. The collection, which was the first academic volume on queerness and raciality in Britain, contained an important article which exposed the use of gay rights discourse as an instrument to justify neo-imperialist, anti-migrant and Islamophobic policies, namely ‘Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the “War on Terror”‘ by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem. In ‘Gay Imperialism’ the authors - themselves academics and activists writing from different trans/queer of colour, queer Muslim and migrant feminist positions - pointed out how the equation of ‘Muslim’ with ‘homophobic’ (as well as sexist) has contributed to the tightening of borders, there construction of the West as the champion of civilisation and modernity, and the victimisation and patronising of Muslim queers. In Germany, migrants from ‘Muslim countries’ applying for nationality are required to pass a discriminatory ‘Muslim Test’ which asks questions such as: What would you do if your son was gay? In the Netherlands, applicants are asked to react to a video showing two men kissing. Drawing on the work of Chandra Talpade Mohanty (1991) and of Jasbir Puar (2007) the article shows how it is not incidental that the attention drawn to non-Western and Muslim gender and sexual regimes comes at the same time as the ‘War on Terror’, the increase in restrictive migration policies and the general upsurge in Islamophobia. The authors point out how, ‘gay rights’ and gender equality, even though they were achieved very recently and not at all exhaustively, have become symbols of the civilisation and modernity of Western countries. While the importance of these (even if limited) rights and equality is not disputed, the authors warn against a white Western single-issue emancipatory politics that claims universality and patronises non-white non-Western Muslim women and queers, while serving neo-imperialistic, racist discourses. It seems rather obvious to draw a parallel with how Western feminist abolitionists feed into security laws that criminalise migrant sex workers and effectively lead to deportation and further marginalisation in the name of combating gender violence. The same societies that demonise and discriminate against Muslims are increasingly criminalising sex workers, using ideas about both homophobia and gender violence as their tools to deport and detain migrants, sex workers and people of colour. There are further parallels between the abolitionist and the Islamophobic discourse: Instead of working with Muslim or non-white non-Western queer organisations (or even simply listening to what they are saying), the tendency for majority white, western gay rights and queer groups is to talk for them, to “save them”- ignoring and re-enforcing the multiple oppressions at stake. Likewise, Western abolitionist feminists do not listen to migrant sex workers’ voices, and by so doing they relegate them to the duped status of victims that need rescuing by the enlightened and modern Western feminist, or, even, by the border police that will ‘assist them home’. Migrant sex workers are equated with trafficked victims and trafficked victims with passive, naive women with no agency or no migratory project of their own. The ‘Gay Imperialism’ article made just such an informed, valuable critique. It drew on acute textual analysis and provided thorough references and links to the texts critiqued. Yet the authors made the “mistake” of naming examples of white queer/gay rights politics that re-produced Islamophobia and patronised queer Muslims, one of which included the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell in the UK. In response to this, the publisher Raw Nerve has issued an apology to PeterTatchell on its web-site and declared the whole book out of print. The apology deems the article as falsely accusing Peter Tatchell of being Islamophobic and racist and enlists a long series of ‘untruths’ contained in it, which are quoted out of context and misrepresented as personal accusations. Ironically, the authors had warned about the difficulty of raising a critical voice against Peter Tatchell. The censorship stands in stark contrast to the radical defence of freedom of speech which Tatchell has made a name for himself. In 2006, this went as far as leading him to participate in the March for Free Expression, which was also attended by various racist and fascist groups. Once again, marginalised voices are being threatened and silenced, but this time, this silencing is instituted by the very champions of free speech themselves. Peter Tatchell’s political campaigns are illustrative of a post-political trend towards celebrity activism where the needs of the many are sacrificed to the empowerment of the few. This is reflected in his tendency to name his campaigns after himself (as in, the Peter Tatchell Human Right Fund). ‘Peter Tatchell’, even more than OutRage!, is one of the most quoted names in Western media representations of gay rights activism. The Raw Nerv apology repeats this personalisation of activism by making Haritaworn’s, Tauqir’s and Erdem’s critique and its subsequent suppression look like a personal problem between the authors and Peter Tatchell. This nevertheless misses the point. No-one has anything personal
against Peter Tatchell. No-one, further, disputes that he genuinely thinks of himself as anti-racist, anti-imperialist or anti-Islamophobic. However, part of doing allied work is being accountable when one’s statements or actions reproduce oppressive structures. Part of being a public person, further, is being open to public critique, rather than shutting it down with force. Sadly, this is not the first time that queers of colour and queers from the Global South have critiqued Peter Tatchell and been punished for it. Tatchell’s and Outrage!’s campaigning in Africa has been strongly criticised for not having listened to African LGBTI activists’ repeated warnings that their actions were in fact harmful. In an open letter quoted by the authors of ‘Gay Imperialism’, activists described how Tatchell and Outrage! had “repeatedly disrespected the lives, damaged the struggle, and endangered the safety of African Human Rights Defenders”. They identify this as neo-colonialism, which is an interpretation we share. While this statement is thankfully still to be found on the net, it has been met with a similarly punitive response, which the Raw Nerve ‘apology’ repeats. We condemn this attempt to quell the voices of queers of colour and queers from the Global South, and express our support to both the African Human Rights defenders and the ‘Gay Imperialism’ authors for resisting racist and imperialist statements and actions made in the name of a white Western ‘gay rights’ agenda. It is undoubtably within a neo-imperialist logic that a white Western Gay man can obtain the role of the saviour of victimised Muslim and non-Western queers, while re-enforcing Islamophobic discourses that construct the West as morally superior. And it is also within aneo-imperialistic logic that one sees white Western feminist abolitionists joining forces with anti-migrant state institutions in the name of women’s rights. As we know from our work, for migrant sex workers this often means the ‘right’ to be ’saved’ and deported, not the right to decide upon one’s work and lives. X:talk was born out the necessity for marginalised voices to be heard, against paternalising and criminalising discourses that deny us the right to speak for ourselves. We therefore condemn the censorship of ‘Out of Place’ as an act of force, that if anything confirms the article’s political validity and necessity. The censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’ and the Out of Place collection points us in a worrying new direction. Many of us may had thought that a degree of freedom of expression for marginalised voices had been reached. Yet here we go - it has become clearer than ever what the price of anti-racist critique is, and who is paying it. An important document has been lost to us, and those who would like to form their own opinion on the matter can’t. Let us hope that the censorship will have the opposite effect, and lead us to raise our voices even louder. Let us hope that it will provide the impetus for new alliances across activist and academic movements, that join to fight oppression in all its faces, including the ones that wear the cloaks of feminism and gay rights.

1 commento:

Rosetta ha detto...

Marginalia è fantastico/a!!!