Human Rights / Education

Listening to Black Femme Lesbian with Jack Halberstam

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Queer theorist Jack Halberstam was the last speaker of Queer Theory class in this term.
Queer Theory course coordinated by Kaos GL in cooperation with Ankara University Gender Studies Program ended with the participation of Halberstam on May 16, 2014. Halberstam explained the three most important branches of queer theory; gave some examples and enabled the participants to think together their activist implications.  
Halberstam avoiding analyzing queer theory with reference to only sexuality draw a picture that encompassed the dimensions of race and class regarding the three branches of queer theory: Psychoanalysis, discourse theory and postcolonial thought.
“The abject can be desirable”
Halberstam, firstly, touched upon the term “performativity” by Judith Butler with reference to psychoanalysis. Halberstam claimed that “the way how you performed sexuality had already been defined by the existed language and culture.” He added that Butler also did not think that this was a dead end.
Second, with reference to the theorization of “abjection” by Butler, Halberstam claimed that the abject could also be desirable. He also mentioned that “lesbian body could be phallic; heterosexual body could be abject; gay body could be castrated; queer body could be desired” by highlighting that desire was accumulated in a place that was indicated by power.”  
“We cannot think gender apart from race”
Third, Halberstam mentioning “gender positioning was always already racialized” with reference to Fanon explained the way in which white masculinity was idealized by positioning black male body as a sexual mode in lack of intellectuality and Asian masculinity, on the other hand, was insufficient” with reference to “Racial Castration” by David Eng.
Halberstam also criticized the ways in which any kind of representation of the white was desirable and normal with reference to Keeling. Halberstam claimed that it was black femme lesbian about whom a film could not be made. Because, black femme lesbian represented who and what was not visible, in other words, unthinkable character: “Lesbian but not heterosexual, feminine but lesbian, black woman not available to white men” made her literally unthinkable and invisible within the logic of film. In this respect, she became in Deleuzian terms “edge of the frame.”
“LGBT movement should fail”
Finally, explaining the fact that political discourses that gained acceptance silenced the others, he asked “what if suicide is a mode of speech that cannot be understood by the colonialist?” Then, he criticized that speech and protest should not have been normalized by the power.
Halberstam said that traditional ways of protest do not work anymore and highlighted that an LGBT movement that internalized neoliberal understanding of success should fail at the end.
He also criticized that being a gay or lesbian does not necessarily mean to be against fascism and claimed that he was interested in queer Muslims who are under the threat of fascist state and Islamphobic gays and lesbians. 
Translation: Ezgi Koçak
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