Academic journal article Borderlands

The Right to Jerusalem: The Danger of Queer Safe Spaces

Academic journal article Borderlands

The Right to Jerusalem: The Danger of Queer Safe Spaces

Article excerpt

Theoretical Introduction

This study investigates key everyday queer events building on the authors' experience with the queer community in West-Jerusalem. (i) We wish to understand whether and how hegemonic militarist-colonialist security practices in Israel and specifically in Jerusalem (Kotef & Amir 2007; Bar Yosef 2013) are reflected in the construction of discourses and practices of queer 'safe spaces' and in turn, how this construction produces a sense of un/safety. Israel's hegemonic militarist-colonialist security practices produce various discourses and provide a sense of safety using heavily armed security forces, surveillance, and violence against Israeli society's Others (Ihmoud 2015; Puar2015; Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2015a). Our study draws on the Foucauldian (1977) perspective that hegemonic discourses (re)produce power structures in critical arenas in order to discuss queer safety within the contested urban space of West-Jerusalem. By offering a situated view of queer safe spaces, we claim that their contextualization and their specific sociocultural and geographic nuances are highly relevant for the construction of norms, boundaries and hierarchies in/of space. In this sense, we offer that notions of safety and affective expressions of belonging and/or alienation are connected to Israel's securitization practices and discourse. As a result, queer discourses and spaces in Jerusalem are based, to some extent, on hegemonic-heteronormative understandings of safety. Examining specific sites and moments in West-Jerusalem gives voice to embodiments, expressions, and reactions to queer un/safety.

Everyday experiences for queers living in Jerusalem is, at times, a reality of un-belonging and Otherization. In an attempt to offer momentary respite from these constant threats of violence, Jerusalem's queer community construct spaces designated as 'safe' for queers. For this paper, we broadly define 'queer safe spaces' as spaces designed to serve the needs of non-heteronormative or not-cisgender individuals. In other words, queer safe space is an affective mode of safety which allows its participants to produce a sense of belonging, feel at ease with, and achieve familiarity within a specific place (Boulila 2015; Fox & Ore 2010; Hanhardt 2013).

Queer safe spaces are increasingly at the focus of academic and activist scrutiny (e.g. Browne 2009; Gieseking 2016; Hanhardt 2013; Held 2015; Quinan 2016). Portrayed as a space of tolerance and acceptance, queer space is imagined to be safe. However, in some cases queer spaces reproduce power relations (Nash 2010; Oswin 2008), recreating hierarchies and exclusion (Brown, Browne & Lim 2007; Oswin 2013). The metaphor of queer safe spaces plays a major role in constructing LGBT space (Hanhardt 2013). Moreover, safe spaces are conceptualized as paradoxical and relational spaces, 'responding to an interaction with an insecure world' (The Roestone Collective 2014, p. 1326).

Discussing West-Jerusalem space, which is located in the Middle East, we have to keep in mind that the queer preoccupation with the construction of safer spaces is unfolding mostly within a context of (Westernized) LGBT politics bolstering LGBT public visibility and advocating for it. Considering Israel's continuous state of war and subsequently Israel's militarized society as a general context, we deconstruct the use of the term 'safe' in queer spaces in West-Jerusalem, in which security issues are inextricably embedded in race, nationalism, and militarism, and where security for some necessarily involved the denial of security for Others (Ihmoud 2015; Puar 2015; Pugliese 2015; Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2015a, 2015b). We use the term 'Other' to refer specifically to Jewish Israeli society's notion of otherness, which includes individuals perceived as Arabs, whether Jews or non-Jews of whatever religiosity. Israel's public and private spaces are saturated with discourses about safety: from the security guards placed in the entrance to all public spaces to the anti-missiles rooms built in all new Israeli apartments. …

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