Direct Engagement- Puar and Homonationalism


In this article, Puar elaborates on the term homonationalism. Homonationalism seems to be historically and geographically specific to the US in the post- 9/11 context. Puar argues that the inclusion of glbt peoples in the US nation is contingent on the Muslim/ terrorist other as sexually deviant. I think this also can relate to our class discussions about pragmatic political gains because Puar forces us to consider what the "others" are that make that possible and how are those gains still within the structures of nation and normativity. Specifically DADT comes to mind here as well as marriage.

The Image of the Terrorist
Puar opens this discussion with the example of the poster depicting Osama bin Laden being anally penetrated by the Empire State Building. This example illustrates the post- 9/11 investment in creating the terrorist as a queer other to the nation. This image of the terrorist is integral to the production of both the War on Terror and the US nationalist, white gay and lesbian subjects.
The terrorist after 9/11 was viewed as a threat to white civilization and the preservation of heteronormative white families. Media images focused on the grieving white families specifically. The terrorist was a threat, and necessarily outside of heteronormativity and this queer. Obama bin Laden specifically was associated with sexual excess and femininity (71).

"Sexual deviancy is linked to the process of discerning, othering, and quarantining terrorist bodies, but these racially and sexually perverse ļ¬gures also labor in the service of disciplining and normalizing subjects away from these bodies; in other words, to signal and enforce the mandatory terms of patriotism. In this double deployment, the emasculated terrorist is not merely an other, but also a barometer of ab/normality involved in disciplinary apparatuses." (68)

Puar's term to describe the process by which US national citizenship is extended to some lesbians, gays, and queers. This term draws heavily upon Lisa Duggan's homonormativity, which we have already discussed in this class as a means of envisioning queer possibilities on the terms of heteronormativity. These strategies are inevitably built on exclusion in the name of a new ideal glbt figure. Homonationalism works to theorize the point of "collusion" between homosexuality and US patriotism, aligned against the terrorist.
Gay people began to perform nationalism in a certain way after 9/11. The symbolism of the flag appeared at gay bars and parades while other prominent gays favored US intervention in the region (70). Homosexual aligned themselves with an us vs them mentality and argued for inclusion based on the exclusion of terrorists and Arabs. They are complicit in racist construction (71).
Puar is also concerned, as is Duggan, about the role of consumption in offering admittance to the nation. She specifically looks to the gay tourism industry that is fueled by white, middle to upper class gays and lesbians who are able to access those services and fit within the national myth of consumption. Inclusion within the nation is based on patterns of consumption (77).

"What I aim to demonstrate in this article is that through this normativizing apparatus the war on terror has rehabilitated some-- clearly not all or most--lesbians, gays, and queers1 to US national citizenship within a spatial-temporal domain I am invoking as 'homo-nationalism', short for 'homonormative nationalism'."

"I argue that the Orientalist invocation of the 'terrorist' is one discursive tactic that disaggregates US national gays and queers from racial and sexual 'others', foregrounding a collusion between homosexuality and American nationalism that is generated both by national rhetorics of patriotic inclusion and by gay and queer subjects themselves: homo-nationalism." (68)

"As national identity is reoriented towards excellence in consumption rather than public civic political participation, gay tourists are representative of a form of US exceptionalism expressed through patriotic consumption designed to recover the American nation's psychic and economic health." (77)

Myth of the US Nation
Puar describes nationality as performative. Similar to Butler and other theorists that discuss the performative, Puar is interested in ways that nationality and nation myths are produced and reproduced. These forces work to create "imaginative geographies" that conceal their own contradictions and create their own truths. For Puar this is especially important in terms of the US nation as both heteronormative and gay-friendly and liberated. The existence of liberal mantras that make up the US myth conceals the contradictions within it.
For example, Puar discusses how the US simultaneously attempted to regulate sex and sexuality post 9/11 while portraying the nation as modernist and feminist. The War on Terror was built on the US as a modern, rights-bearing country freeing other peoples from oppressive rule. Discourses around veils and feminists advocating for war to free Afghani women from the Taliban are relevant here.

South Park
Puar looks at an episode of South Park entitled, "Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants" originally called "Osama bin Laden Has a Small Penis" (80). The episode features the characters stuck in a cave with bin Laden where his pants get pulled down to reveal a tiny penis and Cartman says, "So that's what this is all about?" (80) The episode goes on to focus on bin Laden's masculine, heterosexual shortcomings when he is more attracted to a camel than a beautiful Muslim woman.
Bin Laden is viewed as the "lack." He lacks a large penis and interacts with the world accordingly. He is emasculated in popular culture. He fails at being properly heterosexual.
In another episode called "The Death Camp of Tolerance" a character is perceived as a "leather man" and is not only queer but also perverse (82). One of his students remarks, "I think that Mr. Slave guy might be a Pakistani" (82). His students are unable to recognize the leather man figure and instead associate his perversion with that of the Muslim. Puar then goes on to discuss the position of Pakistan in the War on Terror and how it is caught in a complex liminal position to terrorism and the US.

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