- Diasporas' Queer Archives:Honing the Mundane, the Personal, and the Sensorial Toward Unruly Methodological Visions
I was talking to a colleague recently about our shared craving for texts that change our relationship to experience and to life—texts that make us see and thus live and experience differently. This is a feminist craving, a critical craving—a desire to locate, and perhaps get a glimpse of the elsewhere, the otherwise—something beyond the "deadening strictures of the here and now" (Gopinath 2018, 94). Gayatri Gopinath's Unruly Visions (2018), which at the time of that conversation I had not yet read, is precisely one of these texts. Gopinath not only offers us new visions, but seeks to help us traverse—challenge and perhaps get over—traditional, conventional, and straightforward ways of seeing things. Investigating what she calls the "aesthetic practices of queer diaspora," Gopinath puts into conversation seemingly disparate makers and creators—those, she tells us, who are diasporic and who queer the process of diaspora. She gleans from these conversations new possibilities of understanding histories, oppressions, connections, and subjectivities that might not have been visible from traditional modes of seeing and doing history with a "capital H" (8).
The aesthetic practices of queer diaspora point to alternative sensorial regimes—to touch, smell, sound and taste. These practices are sensitive to the visual field, sometimes demanding that it expand its scope through other senses or with text. Often, these practices persuade (or perhaps seduce) us toward other ways of knowing. They point away from the visual to the affective, sensorial, and the experiential in order to allow an understanding of intertwined histories, cartographic imaginaries, and connections across colonial borders. These connections, Gopinath argues, might not have been visible through conventional sight. The aesthetic practices of queer diaspora that she unravels throughout the book reflect on the need for regimes of sight to be disordered, amended, or appendaged to other senses and modes in order to make visible that which is not visible purely through sight. That which urgently needs to be known differently—dislocation, displacement, incarceration, containment, violence, and erasure—demands seeing differently. Queer aesthetic practices call for differentially organized cartographies—disorienting regions and national boundaries. They call for queer mappings and queer temporalities that can unearth those connections, experiences, and trajectories that have become buried, or silenced, in conventional epistemologies. This includes material archives and their failures to see and know [End Page 87] that which is really there, prompting the need for queer archives, archives of failures, archives of feelings (Cvetkovich 2003), the production of archives of those objects and memories that have been discarded. Queer aesthetic practices locate the mundane, the quotidian, the intimate, and the "antimonumental" in order to see what is otherwise not seen from patriarchal visions of history, nationalism, and conventional notions of revolutionary struggle. The book has lofty aspirations—to offer possibilities of queering these formations and, thus, to challenge how we can know colonial legacies, carceral logics of states, the partitioning of land and place, and the relationship between diaspora and settlement. The queerness of these legacies is revealed through their intimate, affective, and sensorial realities. Through this queerness, other ways of knowing these pasts, presents, and possible futures emerge.
What is at the heart of the method of the aesthetic practices of queer diaspora that Gopinath formulates in Unruly Visions is the archive that is both the object of examination in the book as well as the very thing that the book itself produces by placing together objects, writings, and creators. In other words, Gopinath herself produces what she calls a queer diasporic archive. Gopinath discusses, analyzes and places into conversation works that seem disparate—as if having little to no connection. What emerges through the in-depth analysis, however, is not only the reality in which these texts and objects are connected but that their conversations are quite revealing of how we might understand colonialism, diaspora, queerness, affect, and archives. Gopinath tells us that the objects of analysis in the book were culled together through personal and political networks...