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Title:Queer Checkpoints: Sexuality, Survival, and the Paradoxes of Sovereignty in Israel-Palestine
Author(s):Ritchie, Jason T.
Director of Research:Bunzl, Matti
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bunzl, Matti
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Manalansan, Martin F.; Moodie, Ellen; Orta, Andrew
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
queer theory
Abstract:Based on eighteen months of field research in Israel-Palestine, this dissertation is an ethnography of the experiences of queer Palestinians. Simultaneously embraced (as victimized homosexuals) and rejected (as dangerous Palestinians) in the discourses of Israeli nationalism, queer Palestinians embody a set of paradoxes that exposes the constructedness of the nation and its categories of belonging. But in the corporeal spaces of everyday life, they navigate a geographical and discursive terrain structured by the very real practices of the Israeli state, which regulates populations on the basis of rigidly defined categories. The dissertation begins with an analysis of representations of queer Palestinian suffering in the queer Western and Israeli imaginations. I argue that such representations -- of the suffering and "death" of the racialized/non-national queer other -- are central to the constitution of a properly national queer subject, whose biopolitical incorporation into the life of the nation depends on the abjection of racialized queer others. By offering up grotesque, often exaggerated stories of queer Palestinian suffering, queer Israelis articulate a properly national/properly liberal queer subject against the improperly queer (non-national/illiberal) Palestinian and, at the same time, provide moral and philosophical justification for the violence of the state by conjuring the specter of the intolerant terrorist, who is always understood as the source of queer Palestinian suffering. The remainder of the dissertation draws on ethnographic fieldwork with queer Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Israel to explore how contradictory discourses of queerness, Israeliness, and Palestinianness coalesce in the experiences of queer Palestinians to create a ubiquitous set of "checkpoints" where markers of identity are evaluated and policed against cultural scripts of national belonging to grant or deny individuals access to spaces and resources. Just as the literal checkpoint system regulates the movement of Palestinian bodies in Israel-Palestine, queer Israeli space is organized around a set of literal and figurative checkpoints that regulate the movement of queer Palestinian bodies. As expressions of sovereign power and its assertion of total control over matters of life and death, these checkpoints are enforced in often violent ways that engender a kind of queer Palestinian "suffering" that differs radically from Western and Israeli narratives in that it implicates the practices of the state rather than an amorphous, intolerant Palestinian "culture." The dissertation concludes by suggesting that the concepts of "resistance" and "complicity" are inadequate for understanding how queer Palestinians respond to violence and endure their suffering. It argues instead for a sort of "agency of survival," a kind of "getting by" in the face of violence, in which queer Palestinians manage to survive—and even find "pleasure" and "have fun"—by creating and maintaining affective connections to family, religion, and community. What arises out of this notion of agency is a queer subject that does not fit within the schema of liberal humanist assumptions about personhood: a queer Palestinian subjectivity that insists on its Palestinianness and its queerness but subtly redefines the contours of both.
Issue Date:2011-01-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Jason T. Ritchie
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-01-14
Date Deposited:December 2

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