The concept of homocolonialism is at the interface between theoretical and empirical research into sexuality in international relations (IR). This includes the theoretical contributions by Cynthia Weber Queer International Relations (2016), which builds on cultural studies claims that relate to the epistemological and intellectually disruptive project of queering;; careful explanation of its relevance and importance to IR. This also includes the growing empirical focus on LGBTQ + identities in world politics, which – most recently – culminates in the EU Oxford Handbook of Global LGBT and Sexual Diversity Politics edited by Michael J. Bosia, Sandra M. McEvoy and Momin Rahman (2020). The Oxford Handbook, which reflects the diversity of this steadily growing sub-area in the IR, deals with questions about business, human rights, conflict and the western-oriented production of sexual categories of homosexuals / heterosexuals and lesbians, gays and bisexuals, trans * and queer (LGBTQ + ). At this interface, the concept of homocolonialism enables researchers to analyze the norms, politics and rights related to sex and especially homosexuality, to question its intellectual foundations, to understand its global imperialist mobilizations and to examine its various consequences.
In this post I try to provide an overview and understanding of the history of homocolonialism. Examination of its conceptual development and practical implementation. Although there are several points of view from which the history of the concept can be understood, I relate it to the issue of statehood and social reproduction. Beginning with a section on understanding homocolonialism, this article views homocolonialism as linked to the history of housekeeping, statehood, and part of a broader history of the Western Empire and colonialism. It will trace its history back to the production of heterocoloniality, its gender-specific dynamics and overlaps with racist-civilizational ideas regarding statehood.
What is homocolonialism?
The concept defines homocolonialism as the imperialist export of specific norms, politics and rights in connection with homosexuality and illustrates the sustained surge of the Western state of emergency in world politics (Rahman 2014a, b). Homocolonialism thus triangulates homonormativity (Duggan 2002), homonationalism (Puar 2007; 2013) and homocapitalism (Rao 2020) in its global political export. While this seems like a convoluted way of theorizing power in relation to sexual policy and governance, and specifically understanding how homosexuality and LGBTQ + rights are linked to Western-focused imperial and colonial mobilizations, each of these terms has proven helpful for that Thought proved about the relationship between sexuality and statehood, culture and empire.
Homonormativity, as discussed by Lisa Duggan (2002), refers to the homosexual confrontation with the norms closely related to heterosexuality. These include marriage, family life that mimics the structure of the “traditional” family, military service and productive work. Dealing with these norms is seen as the basis for accepting and granting rights to homosexuals, which ultimately limits the strange disorders that homosexuality has been associated with in the past. Building on this concept, the homonationalism discussed by Jasbir Puar (2007; 2013) refers to the inclusion of homosexuals in nationalist narratives, often through the recognition of legal rights in connection with statehood. These rights, including gay marriage, gay patriotism (through military service), and gay labor, mean that the state recognizes LGBTQ + by identifying individuals as full and productive citizens whose participation in the state is not only an important one, rather, their visibility when participating contributes to the “civilized” character of the nation and the state (Delatolla 2020; 2021).
In the context of homonormativity and homonationalism, productive work and engagement in state economies are recurring themes. The homosexual’s commitment to capital production and accumulation was seen as an important cornerstone in the development of LGBTQ + rights. John d’Emilio (1983) links the LGBTQ + liberation in the United States to the evolving free labor systems, where LGBTQ + liberation has been facilitated through the engagement and accumulation of capital. Similarly, Dennis Altman (2001) argues that contemporary capitalism and its expansionist qualities have redrawn “traditional gender / gender orders”, facilitating the differentiation and acceptance of LGBTQ + identifiers. Rahul Rao (2020) urges the discussion of the relationship between capitalism and LGBTQ + liberation or homocapitalism to take into account its global manifestations embedded in homocolonial relationships. For example, Rao (2020) examines how LGBTQ + rights are supported by the World Bank and discusses the provision or suspension of aid – as in the case of Uganda – but also the reports of organizations promoting LGBTQ + rights to economic development tie. Here Rao notices the homocolonialist inclination of the World Bank, which combines economic development and development aid with LGBTQ + rights in its western-oriented framework.
This western-oriented elaboration of LGBTQ + rights contains assumptions about progress and civilization that reproduce historical notions of a western state of emergency. Based on these assumptions, the normative and nationalist configurations of homosexuality are then exported globally in order to measure social progress and political development, and are often incorporated into human rights discourses. This creates homocolonialist dynamics (Rahman 2014a, b). These rights, which emanate from and are mobilized by Western states, are not harmless and often turn LGBTQ + -identifying persons into a cultural-political battlefield (Dalacoura 2014). Here, attempts to export LGBTQ + rights can and have led to setbacks among governments in the majority world, which have pointed to and framed the discourses and categories associated with homosexuality as alien and a product of neo-imperialism (Cooper 2007; Cottet and Picq 2019; Savci 2021). As a result of being entangled in political maneuvers, the proliferation of LGBTQ + legal discourse has also resulted in the eviction, erasure and direct attack of local activists in the majority world by drawing negative attention to their movements (Fayed 2020).
Historicization of homocolonialism in the context of statehood
In particular, the concepts discussed above are part of a contemporary lexicon and are widely used in research that focuses on contemporary politics. However, the global politics of sexuality and homosexuality are far from new or timely. Scientists have written about the history of sexual politics in relation to medicine and medical developments in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Gadelrab 2017), the empire (Hyam 1991), and the social history of same-sex intimacy and relationships before homosexuality was understood worldwide as a binary opposite on heterosexuality (el-Rouayheb 2005). By looking at these stories, we can question the historical significance of homocolonialism.
If we want to understand homocolonialism as the expansion of a western-centered and exceptionalist understanding and orientation of homosexuality, which manifests itself in the promotion of LGBTQ + rights and triangulates homonormativity and homonationalism, then the imperial sexual politics of modernity in the use of cannot adequately understand this concept. This does not mean that homosexuals did not exist before the 20th century, but that the politics of sexuality focused on heteronormative production that was tied to social reproduction and statehood and gave way to heteronationalism that gave way to the binary gender roles of the household within the House strengthened the state. As such, we can argue that what existed from the 17th to the early 20th centuries was not homocoloniality, but rather a distinct heterocoloniality; one that laid the foundations and future boundaries for acceptable practices of homonormativity and homonationalism.
The acceptable practices associated with homonormativity and homonationalism reflect the (hetero) socially reproductive practices, including, for example, marriage, service and economic engagement. The homonormative and homonationalist equivalents are gay marriage, gay service (patriotism), and gay capitalism (homocapitalism). These “gay” equivalents, however, are tied to a western / euro-centered heteronormative and heteronationalist structure of society, politics and economy that is caught by the logic of statehood and anticipates homocolonial impulses.
Here, the state’s heteronormative production depended on gender-specific divisions in household management. Under the structural conditions of “traditional” Western housekeeping, norms of hegemonic masculinity developed and created gender-specific archetypes. On the one hand, these norms and archetypes justified the gender-specific conditions of housekeeping and, on the other hand, they lasted in time and expanded geographically with the empire and colonialism. Primarily, rationality, progress, and strength have been ascribed to masculinity. The characteristics of masculinity contrasted with the irrational, backward, and weak “nature” of women, which upheld a gendered division of labor and legal inequalities. Second, while the dynamics of housekeeping in relation to their male production have been challenged over time by a variety of feminist movements, the gender relations of housekeeping have been drawn into the colonization and civilization project. Indeed, as Ann Towns (2009) argues, the status of women has historically been used as a measure of civilized development and progress. In a broader sense, and as argued by Charlotte Hooper (2001), masculinity in its relationship to femininity was also an important measure to determine the degree of civilized development and progress of a society.
In the opinion of the European imperial and colonial administrators, the gender-specific relations of household management were not only a measure of civilized engagement, but also important for the development of the state. As Patricia Owens (2015) and Friederick Engels (1946) argue, housekeeping, the gender-specific division of labor and relational hierarchies were extended to the state. While Engels links this social and political change in Europe with the internal processes of industrialization and capitalism, Owens sees the counterinsurgency as a process of redesigning the budget. If one examines the history of the European empire and colonialism, one can make an argument similar to Owens, which takes into account the reformulation of the budget into civilized and easily governed units. Here, as in counterinsurgency, the local transformations that were deemed necessary for the civilization project of imperial and colonial governance did not stop at the budget. They continued through modernization with architecture, urban planning (Mitchell 1988) and governance. As such, European imperial and colonial governance restructured society and statehood towards an orientation that mimicked the European nation-state (Delatolla 2021).
The strengthening of gender-specific relations in the West through imperial and colonial restructuring of household management and society, combined with assumptions of politeness, anchored a hegemonic heteronormativity that was expanded into the state through modernization reforms (Hatem 1999). This is particularly evident when one considers the role of the women’s movements in Egyptian, Syrian, Palestinian and Iranian nationalist struggles of the early 20th century. While these movements were important for political change and transformation, the role of women in these movements was tied to “acceptable female behavior” that required “women to articulate their gender interests within the framework of the set of set forth [masculine] nationalist discourse ”(Kandiyoti 1991, 433). Here the heterocolonial aspects of the nation-state were reinforced by its heteronationalistic gender relations.
By historizing heterocolonialism in this way, the gender-specific and gender-specific dynamics of social engineering become clear, as is also the case with homocolonialism. Within this dynamic, and as noted above, heterocolonialism and homocolonialism actively use civilizational measurements, hierarchies, and classifications that intersect with race. It would be a mistake to discuss empire and colonialism, its general histories, as well as its more specific gender and gender dimensions, without considering how the race is branded white related to ideas of civilization. Discussed by Sara Ahmed (2007), white is an orientation that guides and is the ultimate goal of the civilization project. It is not always explicit and is often shrouded in the language of civilized engagement, development, and progress (Hobson 2004). In fact, when discussing heterocolonial and homocolonial policies and practices, it is not just a reproduction of the closely framed structures and institutions that regulate gender-specific and gender-specific bodies, but a white orientation that localizes these frameworks in the white-western world and develops them as civilized and made progress.
Heterocolonialism and homocolonialism as orientations of white actively try to civilize and develop racial societies. Often this is discussed in the context of the global export of norms, structures and institutions trying to order society and governance along gender and gender frameworks, but hetero- and homocolonial iterations can highlight racial and class exclusions at home in the West. This can be seen in processes for LGBTQ + identification of asylum seekers in Canada, the USA, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium and other western countries (Shuman and Hesford 2014; McDonald-Norman 2017; Dhoest 2019). Otherwise, otherwise well-intentioned asylum policies reinforce a specific form of governance related to sexuality that excludes and limits the recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity to a prescribed set of norms.
Regarding LGBTQ + asylum seekers, the state uses certain homosexual norms and practices to test the applicant’s sincerity and legitimacy. This often includes the assumption that once the asylum seeker lives in the western country, he “comes out”; engage in promiscuous behavior; forge romantic and sexual relationships for which there is documented evidence. Here homonormative assumptions are made from pre-existing stereotypes that are used to understand whether the asylum seeker can be “seen” as LGBTQ + and inserted into existing homonationalist structures. In the context of LGBTQ + asylum, the homocolonial framework, which is often viewed as a controversial global export, is applied to classified and racist institutions seeking protection in western states that recognize LGBTQ + rights.
Policies that can be analyzed as homocolonial, particularly with regard to promoting LGBTQ + rights, are suggested as liberating. However, these guidelines continue to direct individuals on government engagement and social reproduction, orient individuals to “civilized” practices, and result in a number of racist and class exclusions. This policy becomes a process through which the state continues to manifest itself in terms of the principles of financial management and export it in a civilizational way. Homocolonial politics is often defended as a route to legal LGBTQ + inclusion, narrowly limited to civilized and orderly heteronormativity and heteronationalism. In this way, homocolonialism can displace, wipe out, and directly target local activists in the majority world. The consequence of this can hinder the radical queer politics that have challenged the oppressive and restrictive forces of gender-specific and heterosexual nation-state and household management.
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