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  • Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities by Karma R. Chávez
  • Stacey K. Sowards
Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities. By Karma R. Chávez. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013; pp. xi + 214, $95.00 cloth; $27.00 paper.

Queer Migration Politics by Karma Chávez, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offers extensive insight into the intersectional aspects and coalitions of queer migrants. As analyzed in the book, queer migrant activist rhetoric in the United States is a rich source for better understanding intersectionalities (related to identity, politics, and activism), particularly through alternative narratives and discourses on not just queerness and national belonging, but also the roles of religion, class, gender, work, whiteness, race, and other aspects of coalitional identities and politics. Chávez defines queer migration politics as “activism that seeks to challenge normative, inclusionary perspectives at the intersection of queer rights and justice and immigration rights and justice” (6). In short, this book provides a nuanced analysis and exploration of new theoretical concepts, including utopia, differential visions, and radical interactionality, that significantly improve our understanding of intersectionalities and rhetorical activism in coalitions and political calls for greater human rights for both GLBT communities and migrants. Scholars of rhetoric, queer theory, social movements, immigration, migrants’ rights, and Latina/o studies will appreciate the book’s critiques of more mainstream (but leftist/liberal) approaches to immigration and queer rights, whereas students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels will benefit from the theoretical expositions and development of new concepts as well as critical analyses of these movements and activist rhetorics. For students and scholars interested in methodology, this book also offers excellent examples of rhetorical criticism and qualitative research methods in each chapter.

Chávez uses these methodological approaches to interrogate how coalitions, radical activists, and immigrant and queer rights’ groups function within the larger framework of immigration and queer rights debates as well as exploring the new theoretical concepts that emerge from this methodological approach. [End Page 178] The first three chapters shape the theoretical framework and contributions of this book, through explorations of how manifestos and coalitions move beyond normative thinking and activism to challenge hegemonic frameworks. Given that Chávez analyzes queer migrant rhetoric outside of mainstream GLBT and migrant rights groups, the focus is on how to end binaries, divisions, and oppositions that are counterproductive to the pursuit of human rights and justice. Drawing from queer theory, Chicana/o theory, rhetorical theory, and social movement theory, she advances new theoretical concepts that will be useful to queer theorists, rhetorical theorists, and activists. For instance, Chávez discusses the role of utopia, which “enables us to see and experience potentialities, often ephemeral, that offer imaginations of something otherwise. The turn to futurity through utopia is equally limited in the possibilities it enables for activist politics” (6; emphasis in original). Envisioning utopia, therefore, is a way to see possible transformations through activism, coalitions, and social movements.

Another key contribution of this book is Chávez’s focus on differential visions (chapter 1), which “turns back to political activism and social movement, and it requires conjoining orientation with belonging,” moving beyond the individual and group level to the social movement level and building from the notion of utopian politics (28). The concept of differential visions is derived from the work of Chela Sandoval’s differential consciousness, or a personal and strategic maneuvering to resist hegemony, and Aime Carrillo Rowe’s differential belonging, which involves the pursuit of interpersonal alliances. In the analysis of four manifestos from centers, organizations, and groups including the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color center (New York Audre Lorde Project), Queers for Economic Justice in New York, Wingspan in Tucson, and the San Francisco Chapter of Pride at Work or the Horizontal Alliance of Very [or Vaguely or Voraciously] Organized Queers, Chávez finds that such manifestos promulgate “gray” politics that emphasize ending divisions and binaries. As Chávez notes, “[g]ray politics refuse divide-and-conquer strategies and insist on building critique and change from the complex interstices among nation-states, groups of people, and issues...


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pp. 178-181
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