- Queering Necropolitics Across Borders
Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, and Silvia Posocco, editors.
New York: Routledge, 2014. xviii + 216 pp.
Over the last two decades, LGBTIQ activism, and particularly gay and lesbian identity politics in the global North, has increasingly achieved inclusion within institutions like marriage and the military. A prominent body of scholarship in queer and feminist studies has interrogated the costs of this inclusion, deploying concepts such as homonormativity and homonationalism that critique the ascendance of privileged queer subjects within late liberal regimes of rights and representation and attendant investments in nationalism, militarization, and imperialism.1 In this context, this anthology, edited by Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, and Silvia Posocco, brings together scholars from diverse scholarly and activist backgrounds who use the analytical framework of necropolitics to demonstrate how the ascendance of some queer subjects becomes tied to the continuing or renewed forms of disposability, death, and abandonment for others, and thus to illuminate the symbiotic relations between fostering life and the (re)distribution of death that characterize late liberalism (20).
Departing from the “distinction between queers folded into life, and those destined for death” (7), the editors draw on Achille Mbembe’s influential theorization of necropolitics as a “concept-metaphor” to illuminate varying and unequal distributions of life and death (3). Necropolitics supplements the Foucauldian notion of biopolitics to describe how contemporary forms of power are not just concerned with the management and distribution of life but with subjugating life to the power of death, particularly the production of “death worlds” that affect not just individuals but entire populations, relegated to the status of the “living dead” (6). The anthology draws on Jasbir Puar’s formulation of “queer necropolitics” to elaborate some specifically queer aspects of the necropolitical (2), including convergences between US militarism and queer kinship, the criminalization of people living with HIV and transgender sex workers, relations between precariously situated adoptees and normalized gay and lesbian parents in transnational adoption [End Page 670] circuits, LGBT complicity in the prison-industrial complex, and queer investments in US and Israeli imperialism.
The anthology claims to distinguish itself within the growing literature on queer necropolitics through its focus on everyday forms of slow death rather than just “grand moments or processes” (2). While a lot of the scholarship on homonationalism has focused on queer involvement in US imperialism, Islamophobia, and the “war on terror,” the anthology’s attention to more routinized and quotidian processes of death making, such as the regulation of trans feminine bodies and exploitation of people of color in the prison system, serves to broaden the post-9/11 locus of much critical discourse on homonationalism and to consider queer implications with longer legacies of antiblackness and settler colonialism (12). Further, its attention to connections between “spectacular and mundane forms of killing and of letting die” (4) enables the anthology to bridge transnational queer and feminist scholarship on the expanding deathscapes of imperialism and war and US-and UK-based critiques of incarceration and exploitation of racialized and queer/ trans bodies drawing from the legacies of black activism and critical race studies.
“Death worlds,” the first section, interweaves Che Gossett’s abolitionist critique of the criminalization of people with HIV (31–50), Michelle Martin-Baron’s analysis of US military funerals that simultaneously utilize and disavow male homosocial kinship (51–71), and Silvia Posocco’s examination of the shifting bio/necropolitical regimes of transnational adoption where Guatemalan adoptees are sought to be interpellated into a normative vision of US familial life (in which privileged queers increasingly participate) or relegated to social abandonment (72–89). The second section, “Wars and borderzones,” juxtaposes Jason Ritchie’s critique of queer complicity in Israeli nationalism/colonialism (111–28), Sima Shakhsari’s examination of the precarious status of Iranian trans migrants within the liberal teleologies governing queer migration to the west (93–110), and Aren Aizura’s analyses of the shifting value and disposability of Filipino/a drag performers in Israel (129–47). The third section, “Incarceration,” returns to critiques of carceral regimes, moving from Sarah Lamble’s exposition of queer complicity in the prison industrial complex (151–71) to Elijah Adiv Edelman’s critique of...