Puar’s Homonationalism (Jacoby)

In Jasbir K. Puar’s book, Terrorist Assemblages, we are introduced to the term “homonationalism.”  Puar explains the creation and development of this term by utilizing the term “homonormative.”  She argues that since 9/11 (and the War on Terror) three apparent “lineages” have emerged as a result of homonationalism (and she traces them):

            A. analyses of terrorist corporealities by feminist, queer, and other scholars

            B. the consumer habits of the gay and lesbian tourism industry

            C. the liberal multicultural discourses of tolerance and diversity portrayed in the

                 cable television cartoon, South Park.  (40)

As humorous as these three “lineages” appear, Puar’s description of the employment of the term “homonationalism” is not only convincing, but it also forces us to view the world in a way that leaves us unsettled.  She illustrates the immediate changes that occur in our post 9/11 world: right wingers blame gays and lesbians, feminists, and abortionists for the attack because ideologically these terms conflict with the Middle-Eastern mentality(Geez).  Former President, George W. Bush saw this as an opportunity to push his agenda for healthy marriage.  However, I don’t think anyone could have predicted what ensued:

The American flag appeared everywhere in gay spaces, in

            gay bars and gay gyms, and gay pride parades became

            loaded with national performatives and symbolism: the pledge

            of allegiance, the singing of the national anthem, and floats

            dedicated to national unity. (43)

Judith Butler would call this a citation act.  Puar is attempting to demonstrate that nationality/patriotism is performed.  Some lawmakers even spoke, momentarily, of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but that soon fell by the wayside.  Also, she challenges the reader’s pop culture awareness when she asks a question that forces us to consider who the most prominent queer members of society are, in order to create a foundational perspective on which queers are allowed into the homonationalist sphere.  In theory, homonationalism sets the queer and U.S. patriotism against the Arab (terrorist).

The rupture of the heteronormative by 9/11 and the homosexuality created homonationalism.  In turn, homonationalism created American Exceptionalism which is to say, rewrites the image of the nation.  It also creates the other.  These others include the Arab, or what Americans now perceive as the terrorist, and those who defend those marginalized by the hegemonic power.  Those who fall underneath the umbrella of homonationalism have aligned themselves by using and “us” versus “them” mentality.  Puar then transitions,

Thus, my interest in theorizing U.S. National homosexuality,

            or homonationalism, is to map out the intersections, confluences,

             and divergences, between homosexuality and the nation,

            national identity, and nationalism– the convivial, rather than

             antagonistic, relations between presumably nonnormative

             sexualities and the nation. (49)

Puar also laments a bit when she says that homonationalism hasn’t done much for the wave of LGBT rights.  She outlines three catastrophic outcomes: the first identifies the reinforcement of heterosexuality as the norm, the second “indebts” those liberated  in order to “police” all those who fall outside of the norm, and third it creates a sexist and racialized national identity, known as American Exceptionalism,  that envelops us all (51).    

Discussion Question:

1. What happens to the other within the framework of American Exceptionalism?

One thought on “Puar’s Homonationalism (Jacoby)

  1. alexislothian

    Great summary of Puar’s analysis of the discourse of terrorism in the US. I wonder whether you see her analysis of homonationalism as a criticism of queer theory as well as LGBT politics; how does it intersect with her identification of something she calls “queer exceptionalism”?


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