- The International Resource Network:A Hard-Won Success, an Uncertain Future
The call for proposals for this issue of WSQ states that “queer studies . . . stakes its claims by working at once within, against, across, and beyond disciplinary boundaries” (2015). While this is true, both women’s studies and queer studies are more likely to cross disciplinary boundaries than geographical ones. The subjects of queer studies are still overwhelmingly located in the global North and, similarly, queer theory still rarely seriously engages experiences from the global South. The International Resource Network (IRN) is an ambitious project designed to connect people who share an interest in the lives of sexual minorities in specific regions of the world across national and geographic boundaries. This reflection will consider the successes and challenges of the entire IRN project, with a focus on the Caribbean, the region with which I have the most experience.
The IRN is an Internet-based project created by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the City University of New York in 2002. The purpose of the IRN is to link researchers, activists, artists, and teachers from both academic and community bases related to diverse sexualities. It strives to be a central Internet location for people interested in surveying research on particular sexual minority issues around the globe. The IRN regions are Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America.
Along with the creation of separate regions managed by relevant experts, one of the most important early decisions made regarding the IRN was not to include the words sexuality, queer, or even lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in the project’s title. This deliberate decision not only makes it more likely that IRN content will evade censors, it also destabilizes the hegemonic language of the global North in relationship to sexual [End Page 296] minorities and sexuality studies. The absence of terms that some find ethnocentric, biased, or simply inaccurate creates space for more locally relevant language.
The potential benefits and pitfalls of the Internet as a whole also apply to the IRN. We know that the use of technology depends on literacy, as well as access to hardware, an Internet connection, bandwidth and electronic capacity, and freedom from government censorship. Still, the Internet remains for many around the world an easier way to access information than print materials published abroad, and it is increasingly useful for sexual minority networking, organizing, and community building.
When the International Resource Network began, the Caribbean was not a separate entity but was part of a larger “Latin American and Caribbean” region, as I discovered when I joined the CLAGS board of directors in 2007 to work on the project. While this part of the IRN had created the successful trilingual journal Sexualidades, almost no attention had been paid to the Caribbean. I argued successfully for creating a separate Caribbean region in 2008. Since then, I have led the Caribbean IRN, and for most of this time I have been cochair with Angelique V. Nixon. The Caribbean IRN’s mission is to connect academic and community-based researchers, artists, and activists around the Caribbean and in the diaspora in areas related to diverse sexualities and genders. The Caribbean IRN works to be a clearinghouse to connect individuals involved in the increasing scholarship and activism—inside and outside the region—focused on issues related to sexual minorities in the Caribbean. We highlight and promote activism and creative work, as well as different kinds of engaged scholarship which seek to question, provoke, and illuminate various ways of thinking about Caribbean same-sex desire and sexual minorities.
Our first major endeavor was hosting and organizing a Caribbean Sexualities Gathering in 2009 to determine our goals and priorities. In Kingston, Jamaica, we gathered over thirty scholars, artists, writers, and activists representing more than ten Caribbean countries, as well as several of the local and regional Caribbean sexual minority advocacy organizations—including the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation, the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays, and Fundashon Orguyo Kòrsou (the FOKO Curaçao Pride Foundation). Our other major accomplishments...