Perverse Politics? Feminism, Anti-Imperialism, Multiplicity: Volume 30
Table of contents(15 chapters)
List of Contributors
Senior Editorial Board
Student Editorial Board
Perverse Humanitarianism and the Business of Rescue: What’s Wrong with NGOs and What’s Right about the “Johns”?
Drawing on ethnographic field research on female sex workers and male clients in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s global sex industry, this paper complicates our understanding of human trafficking in two ways. First, introducing the term perverse humanitarianism, the paper extends work on carceral feminism by offering concrete examples of interagency commitments between NGOs and the police. Second, my ethnography reveals that women framed their relationships with male clients as mutually beneficial because the men provided them with alternate pathways to economic mobility outside of sex work. Drawing on the same tropes of victimhood employed by the NGOs, sex workers elicited sympathy from male clients that they leveraged into gifts of money. Using men’s charitable gifts, many women became small entrepreneurs who opened local businesses and empowered other sex workers far beyond what NGOs were able to provide.
Redemptive Capitalism and Sexual Investability
In recent years, the issue of human trafficking has become a key component of a growing number of corporate social responsibility initiatives, in which multinational corporations have furthered the pursuit of “market based solutions” to contemporary social concerns. This essay draws upon in-depth interviews with and ethnographic observations of corporate actors involved in contemporary anti-trafficking campaigns to describe a new domain of sexual politics that feminist social theorists have barely begun to consider. Using trafficking as a case study, I argue that these new forms of sexual politics have served to bind together unlikely sets of social actors – including secular feminists, evangelical Christians, bipartisan state officials, and multinational corporations – who have historically subscribed to very different ideals about the beneficence of markets, criminal justice, and the role of the state.
Drawing on interviews with men and women gun carriers, this paper considers the intersection of femininity and guns. It argues that two sets of expectations shape the normative relationship between women and guns: First, armed women are a blind spot in feminist discourse, which tends to reproduce the “pacifist presumption” that women are nonviolent caretakers and peacemakers. Second, contemporary pro-gun discourse often bases women’s gun carry within their duties and obligations as mothers in a form of “martial maternalism.” Inflected with a post-feminist appropriation of rights and equality, this pro-gun discourse reproduces gender binaries through a discourse of gender inclusivity. Following previous analyses that emphasize the contradictory politics of gender in conservative spaces, my analysis emphasizes how the gendered politics of guns is sustained by multiple, though not necessarily shared, understandings of women’s guns by men and women within American gun culture.
In recent decades, it is possible to point to a new and evolving debate among analysts of sexuality, political economy, and culture, focused on the implications of feminism’s changing relations to institutions of state power and law in the United States. According to these analysts, to whom we refer as the critics of feminism in power, the alliances formed between some feminists and neoliberal and conservative elites, coupled with the installation of feminist ideas in law and state institutions problematize the once commonly held assumption, shared by second-wave feminists, that all women, regardless of differences in social location, face certain kinds of exclusions. With women entering formal positions of power from states to NGOs to corporations, this assumption cannot stand. Critical analysts of feminists in power insist that we consider the implications of advancing a feminist politics not from the margins of society but from within the precincts of power. They shine a light on a change in feminism’s relation to institutions of state power and law as reflected in new political alliances forming between feminists and neoliberal and conservative elites, and the political and discursive uses to which feminist ideas and ideals have been put. Building on work on inequalities and hierarchies among women, these critics take up specifically political questions concerning the kind of feminist politics to be promoted in today’s changed gendered landscape. Perhaps most notably, they make explicit a concern shared by radical political movements more generally: what does it mean when the ideas of those who were once considered political outsiders become institutionalized within core sites of state power and law? At the same time, the very broad-brush narratives concerning the cooptation of feminism by neoliberalism put forth by some of these analysts could be complemented with historical and empirical research on specific instances of feminism’s reciprocal, though still unequal, relationship with neoliberalism and state power.
The paper uses archival materials, interviews, and secondary scholarship to examine debates among Indian coalitional activists on legal argumentation against India’s national sodomy law in Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT of Delhi in particular, and in their mobilization activities in general. At the heart of activists’ debates was whether “rights to privacy” was the appropriate legal justification with which to argue the unconstitutionality of the sodomy law. Activists warned against uncritically advancing the notion that the sodomy law was an unlawful intrusion into an individual’s privacy, understood in spatial terms as existing within the bounds of a physical home or area, instead highlighting how gender and class shaped queer citizens’ engagements with private space. The paper argues that activists’ critical examinations of private and public space in the Indian context problematize canonical foundations of queer theory and sociological approaches to sexual citizenship, much of which assumes that all queer life moves from an inner sanctum of private secrecy, experienced as shameful, to an outer realm of equality vis-à-vis the state, the public, and the economy through declarative acts of embodiment. Drawing on critical queer studies scholarship, the paper argues that the legal debates in Naz and Indian queer activism reveal the unstated Western liberalism in prevailing scholarship on the promise of law for queer communities in contexts where core differences exist in material and social realities, and, consequently, in the meanings that individuals attach to space, privacy, embodiment, and visibility.
Subjects of Rights and Subjects of Cruelty: The Production of an Islamic Backlash against Homosexuality in Turkey
Departing from Turkish national debates around Islam, national belonging, and homosexuality during 2008–2011, this paper shows how “LGBT rights” discourses ultimately worked to position Muslim headscarf activists as against LGBT activists by rendering complex positions that do not follow easy “for vs. against” LGBT rights political formulas as “homophobic.” In return, this foreclosed potential solidarities differently injured citizens could have formed against increasing neoliberal state violence. I show that the multitude of Muslim women’s positions on the issue of LGBT rights complicates easy religious/secular binaries and illuminates how it is not only human rights discourses but also their “Western” critiques that travel transnationally. This story also contributes to current debates on postsecularism by illustrating how the same national context can house both liberal rights frameworks that can be used against pious Muslim subjects, and a monopolization of a definition of Islam for state power. Finally, I offer “politics of cruelty” and “right to sin” as alternative frameworks for imagining social justice outside of liberal rights-based politics.
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- Political Power and Social Theory
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- Emerald Publishing Limited
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