- Decolonial PraxisEnabling Intranational and Queer Coalition Building
Can we start from the beginning? Where are you from? And I ask that in the most respectful and intersubjective way possible, not in the migra or border patrol way—“where were you born?”—but as a way of situating knowledge, the way that Anzaldúa speaks of the importance of naming yourself, both for the agency of the speaker and for the possibility of coalition work.
Thank you, Marcelle. I was born in New York into a heterosexual family that was mixed nationally, culturally, and in terms of its racialization and morphologies. My grandparents converged out of Italy, Venezuela, and farther back Turkey, and even farther back northeastern Africa. I’ve lived most of my life in Paris, in India, and in Italy, before settling in the U.S. again in adulthood. These spaces, various languages, the forms of hybridity of which I am comprised and in which I’m immersed, my specific morphology and how it is perceived in the contexts in which I live, the sometimes conflicting and sometimes overlapping grids of intelligibility in which I’ve been formed, through which I have been framed, but also through which and in relation to which I inevitably make sense of the world, my specific type of accumulation of knowledge, my sense of critique, the way theory [End Page 147] and practice get linked in my life—perhaps these sites and frames help to locate me for you?
But, may I add? I think it’s important to point out that elsewhere, beyond the U.S., questions of where “the beginning” is, of “situating” oneself, of what constitutes the basis for “coalitional work,” might be posed quite differently. There are questions that in one context might, variably, open, define, limit, or close discussion in another. I won’t elaborate now. We are in this context, and I respect that.
What was it that led you to academia, and in particular to academia in France? And how did this relate to your early activist work?
Academia was not something I planned since childhood. There were no models for it in my childhood. I think it’s the effect of a convergence of many factors: family issues, my early intellectual curiosity, how reading was connected to my survival, my early concern with social justice and activism. I was a bookish kid: nerdy, attached to the library. Poetry, religious, and reflective texts including Third World philosophies, history, sociology, anthropology: these were my great loves, along with music and animals. There was no one in my family or milieu who was an academic. I simply loved reading, knowledge, writing, playing, and writing music.
I was concerned about social justice early on; I’ve been politically active since junior high school. After high school I ended up in Philadelphia living in a lesbian collective house where I continued my activism. I worked in a feminist bookstore collective, Alexandria Books, with a feminist newspaper, Hera, and was a founding member of DYKETACTICS!, a group composed largely of lesbians of color and a few white women. Recently I’ve started writing about the group.1 DYKETACTICS! was the first lesbian collective to pursue the police in court for brutality. We were beaten up by the Philadelphia Civil Defense Squad in a demonstration for gay and lesbian rights and brought them to court for it. Early on we wrote and published specifically lesbian analyses of imperialism, racism, class, gender, sexuality. It was a sort of intersectional analytics. I’d later rethink it many times, most recently through what I call coformations and coproductions.2 [End Page 148]
I also had a second trial. I was arrested and jailed on trumped-up charges while working in a solidarity group in support of Assata Shakur (from the Black Liberation Army, who had been falsely accused of killing a police officer). Eventually all my charges were dropped. But had I remained in the U.S. I would have risked being re-served with papers on other charges. On the advice of one of our lawyers I left the...