Monday, February 18, 2008

Quote: Gayatri Gopinath

Gayatri GopinathThroughout this essay ["Nostalgia, Desire, Diaspora,"] I have attempted to gesture toward the ways in which nation and diaspora are refigured within a queer diasporic imaginary. Nostalgia as deployed by queer diasporic subjects is a means for imagining oneself within those spaces from which one is perpetually excluded or denied existence. If the nation is "the modern Janus," a figure that gazes at a primordial, ideal past subject while at the same time facing a modern future, a queer diaspora instead recognizes the past as a site of intense violence as well as pleasure; it acknowledges the spaces of impossibility within the nation and their translation within the diaspora into new logics of affiliation. The logic of "pigs can't fly" becomes transformed, in the diaspora, into the altetrnative queer logic that allows for two brides in bed together, a marriage without grooms, pigs with wings. In other words, a queer diasporic logic displaces heteronormativity from the realm of natural law and instead launches its critique of hegemonic constructions of both nation and diaspora from the vantage point of an "impossible" subject.
--Gayatri Gopinath, "Nostalgia, Desire, Diaspora," in Theorizing Diaspora, Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur, editors, Oxford: Blackwell, 2003, p. 275.


  1. It's very eloquent (he says a little snarkily).

    I wonder at what point queerness is produced and circulates and at what point it is taken up and re-deployed.

    How do we think (to use an academic shorthand I usually despise) the nominative function of queer in relation to its disciplinary implications?

    Where is the "law" located in this formulation, and, indeed, in her entire book? What are the points at which a queer "imaginary" finds its limits within the space of the quotidian, even as it enacts possibilities?

    Our work touches on a lot of points, so I have a lot of questions for her. A lot!

    Mostly, what is the function of diaspora as a conceptual and historical term, not simply a description of travel and immigration.

  2. i like gopinath's work and her questioning of male writers like kureishi. i guess my issue with her is why not try to write a novel that doesn't silence female queer identities, rather than becoming a trendy figure head for postcolonial queer theory. she is placing queer theory in postcolonial discourse. horray. others had already done that, daniel coleman, for example. im not dissing her critiques of kureishi and others, im only bemused at the 'new' turn in the ever turning, vertiginous jargon-ridden field of postcolonial studies. besides, i think she has to flesh out her arguments about kuresihi more, before i can believe her. and i am no kuresihi fan. i hate the black album, but i do admire some of his earlier work.


  3. besides, buddha of suburbia should also be looked at historically, in relation to thacherism. i thought that she should have made her argument more complex, so as to be aware of numerous identities. at least, this is my reading of her.

    and not a very nuanced one...partly b/c i dont really trust a lot of postcolonial theory any more.

    this came after realizing that much of it doesn't take class into consideration.

    oftentimes, it just seems like racialised middle class academics attempt to create a space for themselves in this field.

    two cents.


  4. I'm actually often very glad when people don't do what I want them to do--it opens a space for us to do it.

    I am more concerned with what her work *claims* to do, if only implicitly. This, I think, is a more generous way to approach a scholar's work. I have problems with some unexamined theoretical assumptions in her work. I believe that's a fair critique.

    As to the larger question of her being "trendy" or "poco-light," I honestly have no opinion. But I am concerned because such descriptions are so often used to dismiss difficult conceptual work or innovative forms of scholarship.

  5. im not sure if gopinath's work is very innovative.... my main issue with discursive analysis of kureishi's work is that it has very little depth. i would have to return to the text in question in order to think through that question more.

    i guess i am more interested in the historical contexts of kureishi's work, let's say MyBeautifulL, see Rashisana where some of the broader political and historical contexts are examined.

    my main issue with my extremely cursory read of gopinath was simply that in her argument about K's work (the struggle between fathers and sons and the absences that this opens, or so she argues but doesn't really prove...) is that this can pathologize queer south asian men along the lines of generational conflict, even as it opens up a space for queer women. Why these identity camps?

    surely there must be a more empathetic approach than this.


  6. Gentlemen, I have little to add, except that Asher, I imagine she hasn't written the novel you suggest because, well, she's not a novelist or poet (or doesn't want to risk being one). Great critiques of the larger work from which this essay derives. What do you think about the collection on "diaspora," which does emphasize, Keguro, the other conceptual understandings of diaspora that you mention.

  7. I am a fan of the anthology (which I purchased recently), and an especially huge fan of Anita Mannur--she has a great blog on food and is simply wonderful in person.

    I will also confess, I raise the questions that I've been trying to write about (with, finally, a measure of success) for some time. Coming soon to a journal or some such place.

    I do think the queer critique of diaspora has been somewhat lacking; and it's not quite the same thing as migration, which has received eloquent treatments. At least one exception of this is Lorand Matory's work on Candomble and its diasporic translation during the 1930s, when what Edwards terms the practice of diaspora functioned, as it often does, as the normalizing practice of diaspora.