April 13, 2021

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Insane academic paper of the week: "Palestine and the Will to Theorise Decolonial Queering"


If you can make heads or tails out of this abstract, my hat’s off to you:

Palestine and the Will to Theorise Decolonial QueeringWalaa Alqaisiya

AbstractThis article posits a theorisation of decolonisation in relation to queer as it emerges from the settler-colonial context of Palestine, what I call decolonial queering. The first part provides a new reading of Zionist settler-colonialism, which I define as hetero-conquest. Its novelty lies in refocusing the question of colonialism in native grounded knowledge of queering, while showing the limitations of those existing studies whose frames emanate mainly from American and/or global north contexts of racism and homo-nationalism. By tracing the contemporary continuity of hetero-conquest in Palestine, the second part unpacks the need for a radical theory of liberation that weaves decolonization into queer. Bringing Sara Ahmed and Frantz Fanon into dialogue, such a theory emanates from the amalgam of histories, geographies and bodies, whose restoration beyond the strictures of hetero-conquest opens the way for a radical multi-scalar politics of liberation.

The paper itself isn’t much more understandable, but one part that was almost in English was interesting.

In May 2016, Israel held its first ever beauty pageant for transgender people and the winner was Talleen Abu Hanna, an ‘Arab citizen of Israel,’ who became Israel’s transgender beauty queen. Abu Hanna’s victory marked a significant historic moment, signalling the undeniable progressiveness of Israel as an LGBT haven. The circulating facts about Israel as a beacon of LGBT emancipation, however, are part of a very carefully engineered array of narratives that aim to frame and sponsor the country as a liberal democracy via its record on gender and sexuality rights. In so doing, those narratives also are engrained into a chrono-geographical scheme that is reminiscent of what has been presented so far. Israel’s record of LGBT tolerance, in fact, is measured in relation to its Arab neighbours, who happen to lack such values….

The success story of Israel’s Arab transgender queen is not simply a historic moment showcasing Israel’s progress on transgender rights, but it sits within the discursive economies of Zionist rightful [settler-colonial] presence over Palestine by virtue of emancipating the ‘oriental’ ‘woman-land.’ Being a woman and Arab, in fact, are constituting elements in this victory, as they permit readers to zoom on the necessity of her ‘triumph’ over her Arab closed-minded background, which rejected her and did not accept her transitioning….

Abu Hannah’s case and the narratives mobilised around her allows us to map the historical continuity of Zionist hetero-conquest. Similar to the oriental woman-land, whose emancipation awaited halutz desiring project -fusing Zionist spatio-temporal constitutive (modern ploughing techniques birthing a Zionist geography)- Abu Hanna’s ability to transition successfully as a woman owes to Israel’s presence as a place of modern sexual values. Read within the sphere of Halutz desiring logic, Abu Hanna is the perfect embodiment of a sexed and gendered other, whose racialised [oriental] essence makes it possible to demarcate the necessity of Zionist conquest, with its moral modern and civilizational attributes. Through Abu Hanna, Israel’s unprecedented celebration of transgender rights can be fathomed only in relation to its antithesis: a Palestine to which Abu Hanna is grateful not to belong to. The latter lacks in cultural and moral values that Israel has – [Palestine] would have killed Abu Hanna- while Israel is the one that nurtures and permits the unfolding of her True sexed/gendered self. With this triumph, Abu Hanna is not only said to reveal and fulfil her true gendered self, but is also caught within the discursive promotion of Israel: As a place of peace and a culture of sexual tolerance as opposed to Palestine and rest of the Arab region. The birthing of an Arab transgender queen of Israel, therefore, corresponds to a Zionist settler colonial teleology, generating – once again – the legitimizing grounds for de-legitimising Arabness/Palestine.

Alqaisiya cannot deny that Israel is a liberal state. She cannot deny that transgender rights exist in Israel and are non-existent in the Palestinian areas. She cannot deny that Talleen Abu Hanna is a proud Israeli who would be killed if she lived under Palestinian rule.

But pointing out those facts is immoral, because it helps legitimate Israel and it delegitimizes Palestine.

In other words, pointing out that Israel is a more moral and a more liberal society than any in the Arab world is worse than the gay-bashing, misogynist Arab culture itself. There is no greater crime than legitimizing Israel, and its liberalism and morality do exactly that, so they must not be discussed.  And when Israel shows pride in its own accomplishments and its humanity, that is all a means to legitimize itself, and therefore immoral.

The next paragraph of gibberish mostly confirms what I wrote, but it ends with an astonishing statement for a supposed liberal to make:

Conceptual frames approaching queerness as a liberal critique would interpret the case of Israel’s first Arab beauty queen as the emergence of (queer) homo-normative/ nationalist subjectivity, thus serving a liberal/nationalist status quo that is nevertheless racist. Drawing on decolonial queering, however, I capture the historical continuity of hetero-conquest and the embedded violence on a native self from without and from within. This lens invites the reader to reflect on the case of Abu Hannah – and the narratives around her – as part and parcel of the history of Zionist conquest, whose constitutive gendering and racializing elements cohere with a structural settler-colonial politics of Time, Space and Desire. More importantly, decolonial queering situates queerness in relation to hetero-conquest generated from within Arab-native self-struggle and adopted taxonomies for emancipation. In other words, the story of the first Arab transgender queen in Israel is not simply a moment of queer liberal time, where the racialized Arab emerges as ‘the most salient and dangerous other at the moment the homosexual, once the nation’s sexual other, gains increasing acceptability.’ This would be a reductive analysis that divorces the event from a wider historical continuity of settler-colonial conquest and its generative production of the conquerable other. This triumph explains how those same dynamics of hetero-conquest – mapped above – perpetuate, whereby the colonising saviour self-legitimises its presence over the woman/land by virtue of extending those progressive values and tools the native is presumed to lack. What is important in Abu Hannah’s case is that she as an Arab who  is said to reify this narrative of Israel’s legitimate presence by virtue of promoting herself as Israeli and mobilising international support for Israel. She, therefore, confirms the Zionist colonial fantasy of having to endow conquest, as Neumann would perceive it in its moral liberating terms vis-a-vis the woman-native who is yearning for her conqueror.

The Arab winner of a beauty contest is a person to be loathed because she said nice things about Israel. According to Alqaisiya, this cannot possibly be because she actually likes her country. No, she is “yearning for her conqueror” and is therefore worthy of contempt.

The only possible way that a leftist can insult a trans woman without the risk of being labeled “transphobic,” is if that trans woman praises Israel, the ultimate evil. 

This is academia in the social sciences today – pseudo-academic texts with multi-syllabic (and invented) words all meant to justify the basest of hatreds.

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