- Queer Lovers and Hateful Others: Regenerating Violent Times and Places by Jin Haritaworn
In 2010 Judith Butler refused to accept Berlin Pride's Zivilcouragepreis, citing the explicit anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by the [End Page 543] organizers of the Berlin Pride event Christopher Street Day and their racist and exclusionary tactics. Butler's refusal speech called attention to the instrumentalization of LGBTQ rights for nationalist and militarist projects and the complicity of LGBTQ groups and citizens in Germany and Europe—in the name of protecting those rights—with Islamophobia and other forms of racist hatred. In refusing the prize, Butler instead named several queer of colour groups in Berlin as especially worthy of attention for their pronounced civil courage in pursuing intersectional activist work against racism, sexism, and homo- and transphobia. Butler's speech has been credited with making homonationalism into a household word. Initially coined by queer of colour theorist Jasbir Puar in her book Terrorist Assemblages (2007), the term homonationalism draws on Lisa Duggan's influential conceptualization of homonormativity, which describes the privatization and depoliticization of gay life and culture, now anchored in domesticity and consumption, in the context of neoliberalism (see The Twilight of Equality, 2004). In Puar's terms, homonationalism refers to how the pronounced tolerance towards certain "properly homo" (homonormative) patriotic citizens in securitized, neoliberal societies serves to constitute—in order to profile and exclude—groups of racialized and sexualized subjects as "perverse," especially Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs.
Building on the work of Duggan and Puar, as well as a range of theorists working in the European context, Haritaworn's important study trains the lens of queer-of-colour critique on the local context of Berlin, a context that—as reflected by Butler's speech—holds particular significance for understanding the rise of homonationalism. This significance derives from Berlin's historical status as, on the one hand, a home to migrants and LGBTQ people and a centre of queer and antiracist organizing, and, on the other, a locus of racist and antigay persecution—not least during the Nazi period but also, crucially, along a range of other moments—as a tactic for consolidating national sovereignty. The focus on Berlin makes Haritaworn's analysis especially significant for German studies scholars; by complementing approaches that have more often emerged in the context of North American culture and politics, the specific situation of Berlin also facilitates the intervention that Queer Lovers and Hateful Others makes into queer-of-colour critique. The unique socio-economic and political context of postunification Berlin allows the intertwined phenomena of gentrification, changing citizenship laws, the rise of hate-crime discourse, escalating Islamophobia, and queer nostalgia to stand out in sharp relief, facilitating Haritaworn's analysis of their implication in the emergence of homonationalism.
As both the capital of the Third Reich and the epicentre of neoliberalization in Germany, Berlin provides a unique crucible for the "placing side by side of past and present, objects and bodies, racism and homophobia" (152), in ways that articulate how, in contemporary German discourse, "Muslim homophobia" has become synonymous with the evils of National Socialism. In a horrible irony that is, Haritaworn underscores, often lost, the "hate crimes" of the Nazi past are now projected onto the racial/religious others of the present, so that the policing, [End Page 544] incarceration, and deportation of today's oppressed minorities are justified by the claim of preventing a recurrence of the Holocaust in Germany and Europe.
It is when identifying ironies such as these that Haritaworn's consideration of the intersections of racism, sexism, classism, and homo- and transphobia in Berlin is most trenchant. For instance, an examination of gentrification in both the "gaybourhood" of Schöneberg and the districts of Kreuzberg and Neukölln, the latter home to many Berliners with migration histories, demonstrates how queer gentrifiers refigure formerly disenfranchised neighbourhoods as "colourful" even as, in practice, their settlement of these areas ultimately entails the exclusion of the people of colour who...