In Jaspir Puar’s text, Terrorist Assemblages, she focuses on the term “assemblages.” For me, my understanding of Puar’s use of the word was “the fitting together of parts” and “a sculptural composition.” In this way, we can see how her argument constructs two assemblages, the primary one being that of the terrorist.
The first, and minor one, but necessary to pose in opposition to the second and primary one, is that of the “homonationalist” homosexual. Through the “re-vision” of the American homosexual through the use of the Supreme Court Case Lawrence and Garner v. Texas case which made private sodomy legal and the use of “homosexual” torture in Abu Ghraib, it created a contrast of “deviance” which positions the Islamic body as more deviant and the “codes” of Islam as more oppressive (towards homosexuals). In this way, by passing the Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, it made it appear that the US was much more liberal towards the civil rights of its citizens than the Islamic governments (despite the fact that up until that ruling, sodomy was illegal regardless of its location and placement. This is a bit of a play on words because sodomy has such a tricky and unclear definition depending on what you put where.). This construct of the homonationalist creates of further disparity in the difference between the US citizen and the Islamic “terrorist.” It creates a racial and sexual othering compared to the image of the Islamic terrorist as a repressed/hypo-masculinized sexual deviant. Puar uses this, and other “parts” to construct a terrorist assemblage.
The second “part” is the use of the turban and how the turban has become synonymous with the costume of the “terrorist.” This costume further removes the Islamic “other” from similarities to the US citizen. Much like the white hat/black hat trope of the old westerns. The hero wears a cowboy hat, not a turban. The turban becomes tied to the “terrorist” and a part of it, much in the way the bomb is tied to the suicide bomber. It signifies a threat.
It is through these “building blocks” of “othering,” Puar argues, that we construct or assemble the terrorist.
For me, Puar’s points of the use of Abu Ghraib as a building block to the other was the hardest for me to follow. How does the “performance” of the sexual acts by the soldiers on the prisoners make the “queer” acts non-authentic and thereby non-queer while for the prisoners it is authentic?
Considering the two articles of clothing representing Islamic “othering”, the hajib and the turban, how would this argument operate if we replace the turban with the hajib, and make the suicide bomber a woman?
Puar actually talks about female suicide bombers in her conclusion; page 220 if we want to talk about it in class!
Regarding queerness and Abu Ghraib, the key to understanding that is that Puar wants the “assemblage” of queerness to go beyond just acts and identities. The prisoners are produced as queer because of their abjection, their placement beyond the pale of the national and perhaps even the human. This is not a kind of queerness that we are expected to want to embrace; rather it is a way to think differently and to challenge ourselves to recognize our own complicity in the construction of the terrorist body as dangerously queer while many homosexual bodies and acts are now comfortably on the inside of the nation.