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Reviewed by:
  • Queer Theory: Law, Culture, Empire
  • Sasha Cocarla, PhD Candidate
Kim Brooks and Robert Leckey , eds. Queer Theory: Law, Culture, Empire. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2010, 222 p.

Robert Leckey and Kim Brooks' edited volume Queer Theory: Law, Culture, Empire is a timely and theoretically valuable collection that challenges readers to reconsider queer theory in light of its relationship to Western hegemony. Grounded in a decidedly interdisciplinary foundation, this collection highlights the critical usefulness of linking queer theory, material conditions, and socio-legal applications. However, in an interesting turn away from complacent understandings of queer theory's always-already innocence, the book's introduction exposes historical power structures found within this movement while establishing the importance of linking theory with practice. More specifically, the editors insist that we must recognize the ways in which queer theory has become (at times) a neo-liberal/neo-colonialist project that effectively reproduces and privileges certain queered-subject identities, thereby creating its own set of sexual others within a Western, queer frame. The remaining essays continue this line of interrogation from four thematic vantage points: Constitution, Representation, Regulation, and Exclusion.

Part 1, "Constitution," highlights the ways in which Western understandings of both "queer" and "queer theory" have been imposed uniformly on all non-normative sexualities, regardless of material, historical, and geographical differences. In "Queer Theory, Neoliberalism and Urban Governance," Jon Binnie questions the role of economic and political material conditions in the production of sexualities, asking us to consider whether subscription to Western, neo-liberal models of economic prosperity allow for (or create?) certain queered-sexualities while occluding others. In conjunction with the editors' critique of queer theory's hegemonic influence, Ratna Kapur closes Part 1 by de-centring queer theory through a postcolonial reading of sexuality. In doing so, Kapur makes room for the "sexual subaltern subject" to emerge in postcolonial India while also demonstrating how engagements with the law have sometimes mitigated the sexual subaltern's radical impact.

"Representation" focuses on performativity and empire; here the contributors carefully situate their arguments in specific contexts while still recognizing the wide-reaching influence of colonialism's past and present. Shohini Ghosh discusses the archive of sexualities present in Bollywood cinema, specifically addressing how the implied eroticism of ordinary interactions allows for a re-reading of queer potentiality. Providing Queer Theory: Law, Culture, Empire's cover image, Jaco Barnard-Naudé reads the art installation "Butcher Boys" by Jane Alexander as an illustration of apartheid's negative impact. Theorizing this piece in conjunction with Jacques Derrida's discussion of politics as founded in friendship and fraternity, Barnard-Naudé works toward directly implicating the sexual with the formation of Western-style politics and thought. Closing this section, Leslie Moran analyses how sexuality is both visible and invisible in Australia's judiciary system, specifically looking at swearing-in ceremony speeches. [End Page 161]

Part 3, "Regulation," makes the clearest case for interrogating the use of queer theory and questioning its widespread application with respect to understandings of transparency, imperialist projects, and homo-nationalist subscriptions. Jenni Millbank's chapter begins Part 3 with an attempt to reconcile the divisions between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships through a discussion of reproductive rights and freedoms. In this unlikely alliance (in which both groups are envisioned as "reproductive outsiders"—same-sex couples because they do not subscribe to heternormative ideals; opposite-sex couples because of the heteronormative "failure" that is read through their use of reproductive technologies) there emerges the possibility of countering dominant narratives around sexual relationships, families, and reproduction. Jeffrey A. Redding finds "queerness" and alliance in perhaps one of the least likely groups—the religious opposition in the contemporary same-sex marriage debates. Calling for recognition of the legislative attempts by various religious groups in advocating for "alternatives to majoritarian marriage" (p. 124)—specifically, religious movements campaigning for the recognition of plural marriages—Redding proposes a radical re-visioning of the current same-sex marriage debates in the United States, one that moves away from hegemonic understandings of partnership. Finally, Margaret Denike articulates a queer-potentiality within North American polygamy debates, deeply implicating anti-polygamy/anti-queer sentiments within a larger understanding of racist and colonial...


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pp. 161-163
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