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Our intervention engages with Queer People of Color (QpoC) positionalities as a valuable lens through which to rethink the racial and colonial imaginaries of subjects and space in Europe. We bring together race, gender, class, colonialism and sexuality, inseparably, in a shared analytic. We address multiple erasures: of genders, sexualities and race from discussions of space; of QPoC in Europe from discussions of European subjects, race and space; and from US-centric QPoC studies. Europeans are generally presumed to be homogeneously white, while racialized subjects are generally presumed to be uniformly straight and cis. Rarely is space understood as a formation that is co-constituted through sexualities with other relations of power. Our intervention radically rethinks urban environments in their relation to race, subjects and agencies. It also puts QPoC in Europe on the map.
We recognize that the categories "queer" and "of color" are contingent, contested and unfinished. They can reinforce US-centricity and erase differences among gender and sexually non-conforming collectivities anywhere. When the term "people of color" travels to Europe it sometimes keeps Europe white and the US hegemonic, and dismisses local antiracist and anti-imperialist struggles as inauthentic and derivative. Similarly, "queer" often circulates in ways that universalize white colonial genders and sexualities, while erasing all others. Yet “queer” entered the academy and transnational flows as an alternative to homonormative identifyers largely via working-class dykes of color in the U.S. (Anzaldúa, 2007; Bacchetta, Falquet, and Alarcon, 2012; Bacchetta, 2002). The assimilation of "queer" (and often "queer of color") into white-dominated academic formations in Europe often leaves representations of racialized people as deficient, inferior and disentitled to life chances due to their failed genders and heterosexualities, in place (El-Tayeb, 2003; Haritaworn, 2005).
For this project, despite these indisputable problems, we mobilize both “queer” and “people of color” to describe radical interventions of QPoC in a Europe from which they remain violently excluded. While identities and allegiances are multilayered and shifting, today the notion of “queer people of color” allows European QPoC activists, and allows us as scholars coming out of this context, to trace connections that are more complex than dominant US- and Eurocentric narratives imply.
We initially focus our intervention on Northwest Europe, which has been the main site of our earlier work. Today, the violent, murderous refugee situation in southern Europe is spectacularized. Yet, long before this, daily violence against PoC was the largely ignored not-so-new normal in these and other parts of Europe.
QPoC and Space
Racial and colonial violence is now often legitimized as protecting LGBT spaces from dangerous, hateful Others. A growing body of writings highlights how current gender and sexual normativities interpellate white and racialized populations unevenly. These “murderous inclusions” are conceptualized through various frameworks, including: queer necropolitics (Haritaworn, Kuntsman, and Posocco, 2014); homonationalism (Puar, 2007); gay imperialism (Haritaworn, Tauqir, and Erdem, 2008); homotransnationalism (Bacchetta and Haritaworn, 2011); queer of color critique (El-Tayeb, 2003, 2011); and affect (Kuntsman, 2009). While writers often examine gender, sexuality and the “war on terror,” the “proper” genders and sexualities (including LGBT ones) that this conjuncture enables have their genealogy in anti-Black racism and settler colonialism (Ferguson, 2004; Ferguson and Hong, 2011; Maikey, 2012).
Many of these writings implicitly or explicitly address various scales such as the nation, “Europe” and the “west.” Our intervention adds to this an explicit spatial lens, and a focus on city-space as a crucial site of power and multiple modalities of resistance. We ask: what happens when we consider QPoC as geographic subjects who can advance “alternative geographic formulations” and tell new “geographic stories” (McKittrick, 2006: xix)? How do QPoC disturb the nation’s dominant temporality? Hegemonic nation-time is conceptualized as past-present-future, along Enlightenment logics of historical linear movement towards “civilization” in which the white global north is positioned in “progress” and the global south in “backwardness” (Fabian, 1983). This schema freezes QPoC and other PoC permanently in the moment of arrival as eternal migrants.
This newcomer interpellation is repeated in queer space debates, which have discovered intersectionality belatedly and through an overwhelmingly white archive (Haritaworn, 2015). Writers have done little to contest carceral and neoliberal discourses of gays and lesbians as vulnerable yet creative "classers" who settle hitherto ungentrifiable inner cities run down by degenerate PoC (Castells, 1983; Florida, 2002). In contrast, the effects of gentrification, white gayborhoods and policing on low-income QTPoC and other PoC remains underresearched (Hanhardt, 2013). We build on existing queer critiques of homonormativity and the neoliberal city but go beyond a binary of "assimilated gays" vs. "transgressive queers" that is not grounded in an analysis of racism and colonialism. We further rethink "translocality" by centralizing queer people of color’s complex relationship to space and time, and as shaped by coloniality and intersectionality.
We invite our allies, siblings and comrades to address the following thematics:
We shift prior lenses on racialized space to consider how race and class privileged queer subjects are constructed as innocent victims who deserve protection in areas undergoing gentrification, touristification and racialized displacement (Haritaworn, 2015).
We ask: how does this coincide with a new onslaught of representations of racialized bodies and spaces as dangerous, and intensified policing by or for (white) queers (Bacchetta and Haritaworn, 2011; El-Tayeb, 2012)? What queerphobic and queerphilic logics are at play in the continued pathologization of subalternly racialized space? (Bacchetta, 2009, forthcoming)? How are QPoC affected?
Travels and Translation
Movement – of people, ideas, practices, objects – is key for QPoC in Europe. While neoliberal economies fetishize the mobile worker, Eurocentric discourses demonize the movement of racialized bodies.
We ask: How do colonial technologies of spatial control, containment and repression, and anti-colonial resistance, travel between Europe and (neo)colonized spaces? How does the living memory of colonialism embodied in PoC interact with the colonizer’s repressed memory in Europe? How do QPoC create translocal (physical and virtual) community? How far can concepts like “queer people of color,” “intersectionality” and “decoloniality” induce common identifications and enable collective action?
We are interested in the city as a racial, sexual and colonial archive in which some subjects, objects, conduct, events and histories are inscribed and remembered, while others are dismissed or erased. QPoC are either imagined as absent or as newcomers to spaces they have long invested in. What are the effects of racist techniques such as spatial segregation, white-washing and pinkwashing of urban space on QPoC subjects? What kinds of QPoC agencies are formed in relation to them? How do QPoC create space as place?
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