Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Culture (Warmington)

In the introduction to Impossible Desires:  Queer Diasporas and South Asian Culture, Gayatri Gopinath argues that the “queer racialized body becomes a historical archive for both individuals and communities, one that is excavated through the very act of desiring the racial Other” (3).  Gopinath provides an example through an analysis of a scene from the film My Beautiful Laundrette (3). The scene between Omar, who is Pakistani, and Johnny, who is British, demonstrates how “desiring the racial “Other” reconstitutes historical moments that may otherwise remain buried in the subconscious.  Gopinath explains that this occurs because Omar “reverses the historical availability of brown bodies to a white imperial gaze by turning that gaze back onto Johnny’s own racist past (4).  While this film is an important exploration of “queer racialized desire and its relation to memory and history”, it also displays how “discourses of sexuality are inextricable from prior and continuing histories of colonialism, nationalism, racism, and migration” (4).  Gopinath sates that My Beautiful Laundrette and some of the other the texts examined in Impossible Desires adapt the “backward-looking gaze of diaspora” in order to utilize queer desire to examine queer diasporas (4).  The connections that exist between diasporas and nationalism to colonialism and racism creates a history where the female diasporic identity is subjective and is often absent from the reconstituted queer diasporic archive (5).  Gopinath explains that the female diasporic character in My Beautiful Laundrette acts as a “conduit and foil to the desire of Johnny and Omar” (4).  Her disappearance at the end of the film symbolizes the ability of Johnny and Omar to resume their relationship.  The issue that Gopinath has with My Beautiful Laundrette as well as other texts that are examined it the fact that “all too often diasporas are narrativized through the bonds of relationality between men” (5).

This occurs because women are associated with home not just in the domestic sphere but literally the home the diasporas are looking back to reach.  Unfortunately, the archive of the diaspora has been corrupted by capitalism and globalization which utilizes a patriarchal structure for situating national identities.  This structure produces cultural forms that are both “gendered and sexualized” (7).  This system also “institutes heterosexuality as a key disciplinary regime” (7).  This is caused by a denial of alternative female sexualities because this admittance of these alternatives sexualities would threaten the patriarchal order (7).  Gopinath argues that there has not been enough scholarship that examines female alternative sexualities and that queer critiques that examine female queer diasporas will “begin to unsettle the ways in which the diaspora shores up the gender and sexual ideologies of dominant nationalism on one hand, and the processes of globalization on the other” (8).  In addition, Gopinath also examines texts where the female is present and how their presence disrupts the patriarchal system that exists within diasporas.


1. In relation to remakes and adaptations of texts, Gopinath argues:

Reading diasporic texts as translation may seem to run the risk of reifying the binary between copy and original; it risks stabilizing the “nation” as the original locus that diaspora merely attempts to replicate. Just as the nation and the diaspora are mutually constitutive categories, by extension  so too do the “original” national text and its diasporic translation gain meaning only in relation to one another.  (10).

Later Gopinath states that “in the junxtaposition of texts that I engage in, the queerness of either text can only be made intelligible when read against the other” (10)

Is Gopinath arguing that neither the original or remake/adaptation is a complete text, that to analyze one without the other is not possible or that the analysis of one without the other would be flawed?




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