English 985/Dr. Lothian
Summary #4-“Settler Nationalism”, Scott Lauria Morgensen
In this text, Morgensen connects Jasbir Puar’s argument about terrorist assemblages and homonationalism to a decidedly relevant context: Sexual colonialism on our own American soil in the regulation of native queer bodies and native peoples in general. By first summarizing Puar’s definition of homonationalism as “when they [queer subjects] try to join an imperial biopolitics as liberal subjects of life, they become what Puar calls ‘queer as regulatory’ over other, queered populations in relation to which they also exert terrorizing control”(105), he astutely applies the concept to settler homonationalism. According to this argument, Morgenson asserts, “settler homonationalism as the product of a biopolitical relationship between the sexual colonization of Native peoples and the normative settler formation of modern queer projects in the United States” (107).
Thus, in addressing biopolitcs, I again return to my first summary on Foucualt: Morgensen concludes that the regulatory function of the Imperialist State is to impose death on particular subjects and hold life-giving and sustaining as the apparatus of control over sexual bodies, queer, native, or otherwise. He uses examples from several Native peoples to demonstrate how “the terrorizing sexual colonization of Native peoples produced the colonial biopolitcs of modern sexuality that conditioned queer formations past and present” (108). Taken with Foucault’s axiomatics on biopolitics, we can perceive how “linking a theory of biopolitics to colonialism shifted trajectories of queer theories that read Foucault’s history of sexuality as a ‘history of western desire’”(109). Certainly, when examining Morgensen’s telling examples of the hegemonic colonial stripping of Natives’ agency and sexual freedom, this link is most apparent.
Beginning with de Balboa’s 1513 expedition to Panama, Morgenson traces the violent history of the West’s marking of Native peoples who deviated from heterosexual norms as berdache, “kept boys” or “boy-slaves” (111). Feminists critique this history as enforcing the “central condemnation of Native male embodiment in colonial accounts of berdache established the masculinist and heteropatriarchal terms of colonial power” (112). Morgensen then extends her analysis of settler homonationalism to include the life of Osh-Tisch, a member of the crow society who assumed the role of bote, “a Crow woman…who was neither man nor woman” (113). Quoting Robert Lowie, “former agents have repeatedly tried to make him [sic] don male clothes, but the other Indians themselves protested against this, saying that it was against his nature” (114). Here, the American sexual Imaginary assumes biopolitical control, in Foucualt’s terms. Regulating Native sexual norms, in this case queer performativity, becomes the assumed praxis of the settler who viewed these practices as deviant from the heteronormative. Morgensen notes that even if the regulatory practices did not cause death per se, they did cause a displacement and “absence or disappearance”: “Stories of Native absence or disappearance thus precisely do not erase Native people but produce particular forms of knowledge about Native people, as already or inevitably gone” (118). By rendering these subjects “gone,” they have been “queered as the primitive margins of whiteness” (118). An interesting dynamic to consider is whether or not the type of queer assemblages Puar defines can be applied to Morgensen’s concept of settler homonationalism.
He begins to link these concepts when he shifts focus to modern white queers in the U.S.in the early twentieth century. He states that “as degenerates, modern queers appeared as failed subjects, incapable of representing either white civilization or authentic primitivity. Yet this framing also naturalized them across racial differences as non-Native, in that it presumed that authentic Native people had already disappeared from modern and settled spaces where queer degenerates would be found” (119). Despite this displacement, white American men were taught through “modern sexuality discourse” to “tap and control their primitive roots” (119). Thus, as Native sexuality was regulated, oppressed, and displaced, yet “White U.S. sexual minorities thus organized in a political culture that already validated a journey to personhood and citizenship that translated primitive roots into settler modernity” (119). At the end of the article, Morgensen called readers to consider settler nationalism as a relevant inquiry and discourse, calling queers to challenge this colonialism, not assuming that the legacy of colonialism and displacement on our own soil is not absent from their own marginalized history. In this way, he attempts to assemble a dialectic to allow for greater solidarity among Native and Non-Native queers alike.
1. What are the rhetorical intersections and applications between Puar’s and Morgensen’s arguments and discourse?
2. On p. 110, Morgensen explores the concept of Foucault’s panopticon of surveillance. Discuss the connections of this erudite theory with the author’s exploration of settler homonationalism.
Thanks for bringing us full circle with your emphasis on how Morgensen uses Foucault via Puar! Does incorporating the presence of settler colonialism suggest that we ought to look differently at any of the work we have read this semester, do you think?
One thing I was wondering about today and did not mention in class was/is, does Tongson’s work on queer suburban imaginaries relate to settler colonialism? Or Scott Herring? I’m really not sure in what ways, but it is an interesting point of analysis in which to explore.