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 Planetary Sightings? Negotiating Sexual Differences in Globalization’s Shadow E L L E N T. A R M O U R In The Death of a Discipline, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak critically evaluates her discipline, comparative literature, exposing through the mundane (the book opens with a set of academic memos) and the sublime (Spivak’s usual combination of literary analysis and theoretical counterpunch) this discipline ’s imbrication in not only academic but global politics. Born in response to an emergent postcolonial sensibility and emblematic of that movement’s own political aims of attending to ‘‘the other’’ on ‘‘the other’s’’ own terms, it nonetheless finds itself caught in the gravitational pull of nationalisms evident in its mapping of literary traditions according to nation-states and in its own Americanism: privileging ‘‘America’’ as a haven for the multicultural . As a mechanism for the circulation of cultural capital, comp lit participates—unwittingly and perhaps unwillingly—in the dynamics of globalization , which Spivak describes as a grid-like mapping of the world as nothing more or less than a network for the circulation of capital (of all kinds, including cultural). She hopes that planetarity will broaden comp lit’s perspective beyond its capitulation to these dynamics. Specifically, she calls for continued attention to those populations whose literary traditions launched postcolonial studies (Africans, Asians, Hispanics) but also to newer postcolonial locales (the former Soviet bloc, for example) and to Islam’s emergent importance on the world scene. As an alternative (though not a direct opposite) to globalization, Spivak proposes planetarity. If the globe is exhaustively mapped via an economy of sameness subject to the desire for ownership, the planet is an (im)possible alterity that we inhabit on loan, she says. Thus, it renders our home, the PAGE 209 ................. 17764$ CH12 10-28-10 12:07:37 PS 210 兩 e l le n t . a r m ou r Earth, unheimlich—literally, unhomelike (though usually translated as ‘‘uncanny’’). Behind the place we take for granted lies a (non)place that gives place: a planet that both makes possible and undoes our mappings of its surface into a globe.1 Thus, planetarity offers no secure and well-known terrain across which we can stride confidently, but an unstable landscape of shifting ground, at once familiar and unfamiliar, with fissures opening beneath our feet as we attempt to navigate it. This evocative and troubling landscape seems an apt backdrop for an inquiry into the global reach of what we call in the United States the ‘‘culture wars’’ currently being fought over the status of sexual minorities, primarily gay and lesbian people. The battle lines are drawn right through Christian denominations and communities—locally, nationally, and globally. Nowhere is the global dimension of this war more clearly and painfully visible than in the threatened schism of the worldwide Anglican communion . The 2003 consecration by the American Episcopal Church of the Reverend R. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man living in a committed partnership, as bishop of New Hampshire has become a central catalyst for the conflict.2 In its aftermath, rifts have appeared within local parishes, between parishes and their home dioceses, and between and among the provincial churches.3 The controversy is fracturing the map of the worldwide Anglican communion, which, at eighty million members distributed among forty-four provincial churches across the globe, is the third largest Protestant body in the world.4 Often portrayed as a conflict between the (generally more liberal) ‘‘global North ’’ and the (generally more conservative ) ‘‘global South,’’ the controversy within the Communion has spawned powerful alliances between Episcopalians opposed to Robinson’s consecration and African Anglicans that suggest this map—itself redolent of colonialism—is on its way toward obsolescence. Though largely operating under the radar screen of mainstream media, at least, alliances between Northern and Southern sexual minorities have also taken shape. How far these kinds of remapping will go remains to be seen. In this essay, I want to use Spivak’s concept of planetarity to analyze some of the central features of this controversy. I begin at home with a critical look at the tendency in the United States to seek a resolution by locating ‘‘the cause’’ of homosexuality. This route is problematic in a number of ways, I suggest, for a progressive Christian sexual politics. In particular, it fails to contest or even acknowledge the racist underpinnings and colonialist legacies of our current sexual economy—necessary vectors PAGE 210 ................. 17764$ CH12 10-28-10 12:07:37...


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