Gay imperialism: Postcolonial particularity
Date Written:  2016-05-15
Publisher:  The Charnel-House
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22182

Since her refusal to accept the Berlin Pride Civil Courage Award, Judith Butler has been a leading critic of "homonationalism" and the closely related phenomenon of so-called "pinkwashing." Homonationalism is understood here as an ideology which uses a nation's liberal attitudes toward homosexuality as a means of encouraging racist attitudes toward other nations, on the grounds that they are supposedly less enlightened. Butler stated in a May 2010 address on "Queer Alliance and Antiwar Politics" in Ankara, Turkey that "in some parts of Europe and surely in Israel as well, the rights of homosexuals are defended in the name of nationalism."



Postcolonial particularity

Usually at this point some sort of "irreducible particularity" is invoked, which is supposed to prevent a universal judgment from being formed. Radical otherness [l’altérité radicale] demands that the object of critique be treated on its own terms, rather than subsumed under familiar categories. (Nine times out of ten, the particularity in question is cultural. See, in this connection, Butler's 1997 article "Merely Cultural," defending particularism against its universalist detractors). Claims to universality, it is objected, in reality fact reflect the experience of a very particular culture -- namely that of Europe, or "the West" -- which has been surreptitiously elevated to the status of a normative ideal. Expecting everyone to conform to Euro­centric norms of gay rights or gender equality places an unfair burden on non-Western cultures, to which these concepts do not apply. Joseph Massad's post­colonial reading of what he calls "the Gay International" is at times almost akin to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's flip reply to students at Columbia University, where he was visiting in 2007 (and where Massad continues to teach). Asked whether homosexuals in his country have rights, the Iranian president answered: "We don't have homosexuals in Iran."

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