The Anti-Globalization Movement, Queer Diasporas, and Cultural Production

By Lee, Ruthann | Women & Environments International Magazine, Fall/Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

The Anti-Globalization Movement, Queer Diasporas, and Cultural Production


Lee, Ruthann, Women & Environments International Magazine


The transnational movement of people, information, and even discourses, characteristic of contemporary neo-liberal globalization is having a large impact not only on economic relations but also on sexual identities and identity politics. New forms of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered (LGBT) and/or queer identities and communities are emerging to question dominant models of subjectivity, sexual desire, and embodiment. Postcolonial nations are witnessing the formation of sexual identity-based social movements whose political rhetoric and strategies appear to emulate Euro-American approaches to subjectivity, sexual identity, and citizenship. Yet, these postcolonial sexual identity movements are simultaneously challenging Western ideas about the individual, the universal subject possessing inalienable "human rights," as well as the erotic. Moreover, transnational sexual diasporas are transforming the sexual politics, social environments, and cultures of nations around the globe.

Intolerance towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders tends to be greatly intensified in those states that are the most impacted by neo-liberalism. This is because the neo-liberal agendas of institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization deepen and even exaggerate the dehumanizing effects of capitalism. The structural adjustment policies and increased privatization imposed by these institutions has led to the erosion of social and health services, environmental degradation, increased homelessness, and rising poverty rates. In this economic climate, the regulatory functions of the nuclear family are more crucial to social reproduction than has been the case in recent generalions. Indeed, in many countries of both the North and the South (for exampie, the USA, Mexico, Peru and, increasingly, Canada), neo-liberal governments have joined forces with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and/or with Protestant fundamentalists to develop aggressive "family values" and "pro-life" campaigns designed to regulate all things sexual. Moreover, while all of these developments have led to massive movements of people around the world in search of improved living conditions, racialized migrant workers - including significant numbers of sex workers and sexual minorities - have been increasingly subjected to surveillance and police brutality since the events of 9/11.

My research looks at ways in which queer diasporics use video to contest the dominant world processes and homogenizing tendencies of globalization. In particular, I ask questions, such as the following: What are the some of the strategies used by queer diasporic artists who align themselves with the anti-globalization movement? How do their works address the contradictions and complexities in late globalized capitalism, regarding issues of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, caste, language, and nationality, when people's relationships and allegiances to nation-states are becoming less stable and clear-cut? What is the activist potential of such diasporic cultural productions? In order to address such questions, I recently travelled to Quito, Ecuador, to conduct research at the Social Forum of the Americas (ASF) and the Forum for Sexual Diversity held from July 25 to 30 2004.

The Social Forum of the Americas, a regional gathering of social movements and non-governmental organizations, is part of the World Social Forum (WSF) process. Initiated in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001 and embracing the hope that "another world is possible," the WSF has become the largest space for the articulation of critiques of, and alternatives to, the neo-liberal order. The purpose of the Forum for Sexual Diversity, a new initiative introduced at the ASF, was to generate a space for formulating and debating proposals promoting the recognition of sexual rights as human rights. This forum within a forum included seminars, panel discussions, workshops, and testimonials organized by various LGBT and feminist organizations from the global South. …

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