Puar, Assemblage (Powers)

In the conclusion to Jasbir K. Puar’s Terrorist Assemblages, the author ties together all of her thoughts regarding the concept of assemblage in relation to queer and terroristic bodies. To borrow a worn writing trick often employed by my freshmen composition writers, I can first cite Dictionary.com’s definition of assemblage: 1. a group of persons or things gathered or collected; an assembly; collection; aggregate. 2. the act of assembling; state of being assembled. In Puar’s complicated application of the term, the boundaries between identity, sexuality, and nationalism become blurred as they coalesce into a whole serving the needs of the nation state.

She propose that “assemblage is a pertinent political and theoretical frame within societies of control” (205).  In addition, regarding the suicide bomber as an assemblage, she claims it resists “resists queerness-as-sexual-identity” and favors “spatial, temporal, and corporeal convergences, and rearrangements” (205).  As for queerness as an assemblage, it “deprivileges a binary opposition between queer and not-queer subjects” and, in contrast to centering these subjects as a resistant force, it “underscores contingency and complicity with dominant functions” (205).

To be honest, I am still finding my ways with these terms. Yet, often in interpreting a concept, I find it best to try to explain it to myself. Earlier this morning, on a notepad (old school, I know), I wrote, “In my understanding, assemblage involves the subsuming of the individual’s identity. With identity politics, an individual’s unique experiences are emphasized. Conversely, assemblage combines all individuals into a greater whole, that, in many cases, drives a state-sanctioned purpose. For queer assemblages, the state folds queer interests (i.e., right to marriage, desire for full citizenship) into its national identity. This process, in turn, forms a nation state that purportedly stands united against terrorist states.  However, an intersection point occurs between queer assemblages and terrorist assemblages. For the latter, the individual terrorist body, regardless of its sex or queerness, is combined with technology to form a weapon, that when denoted, obliterates all identity markers.”

Nonetheless, I am still trying to understand the following statement that Puar makes: “As a queer assemblage, distinct from the queering of an entity or identity – race and sexuality are denaturalized through the impermanence, the transience of the suicide bomber, the fleeting identity replayed backward through its dissolution” (218).  The author goes on to say that this dissolution challenges the “entire order of Manichean rationality that organizes the rubric of good versus evil” (218).  Thinking about the exploded terrorist as a message – or, in my view, a tragic dupe of his or her respective nation and adding the idea of the queer body that is elided to conform to the interests of the militarized nation state standing in opposition to these aggressive acts, I feel as if all bodies – queer (or not) and terrorists as queered – are victims of destructive state-identity-formations. In other words, Puar has helped me to believe that the binaries of “victor/vanquished” “good/evil” “queer/straight” “hero/villain” are no longer truly oppositional in the wake of her identifying these all-inclusive yet homogenizing forces of assemblage.



  1. Does the act of assemblage yield positive results for understanding how queer bodies relate to nation states in Queer Studies?
  2. Does everyone agree that the term queer can be applied to terrorists?

One thought on “Puar, Assemblage (Powers)

  1. alexislothian

    Puar’s description of the terrorist body as queer is a challenge to our understanding of what queer can mean, a radical move away from the idea that it is a term we would apply in the first person. She uses the term “assemblage” to index that. The terrorist’s queerness is not an identity but rather an insistence that queerness can no longer mean identity if we are to take it seriously as a term of disruption in the age of homonationalism.

    Assemblage as she uses it comes from Deleuze and Guattari; p211 explains it as “a series of dispersed but mutually implicated and messy networks,” and I think that would be a good place to look in class for the answers to your questions!


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