Reflecting on Decolonial Queer

Pereira, Pedro Paulo Gomes. 2019. “Reflecting on Decolonial Queer.” GLQ 25 (3): 403–429.

Decolonial Queer Studies

This article explores the viability of a relationship between queer studies and decolonial studies, questioning whether a decolonial queer could exist despite the English term queer signaling a geopolitics decolonial thinking counters. The author defines the "coloniality of power" as "a conceptual, political, ethical, and productive construct of the social spheres forged in Europe during the early centuries of colonization." Colonization represents the historical events, where coloniality is the concept for understanding the underlying logics of colonial undertakings. Decolonial thinking pivots towards understanding how some peoples are exporters or theories, whule others are suppliers of experience. This work seeks to posit a "decolonial queer" mode of thinking.

Queer theory in the Global South arose as an open term aimed at confrontation of the hegemony of the Global North. Though the United States adopted perspectives from postmodernists like Derrida and Foucault, so too did the queer theorists of the Global South, modifying it to be understood outside of the North American context. They argue that queer theory is agonistic, stretched and compared to other theories. Queer theory is also not divorced from geopolitical power; "when queer theory travels to the global South, it carries with it the challenges, dangers, and potentialities that all voyages present." They argue the historical power of queer theory is often ignored, and that the voyage of theory, much like the voyage of bodies, changes and transforms them into something different.

Colonial logics define cultural difference in values and hierarchies of geopolitics, race, and gender, shaping ontological classifications of culture. Controlling classification means controlling knowledge, and transforms geopolitical, gender, and racial difference into inferior zones. Like queer theory, decolonial studies target and critique assumptions and the formulation of Others. Both queer theory and decolonial thinking question how constructions of gender and sexuality overlap, and are the products of colonization. Both address "history's gaze" in shaping a heteronormativity. Finally, both theories are embodied theories.

Yet queerness, despite its seeming ability to travel, is often difficult to place based on the assumed proximit of queer to the Global North. Even the word queer is difficult to translate, therefore it preserves itself in English even in other contexts---"signaling a geopolitics of knowledge that decolonial thinking seeks to oppose." Despite this, the author argues for a "recuperaton" of concepts from otherwise colonial queer theories, adopting ahistorical takes in "Western" theories to better understand coloniality. "Its efforts would seek to break with the apparatus and logic of coloniality, to signal them in its movements, and to move away from them, while perceiving Agamben's body of work—and its silence regarding colonial history—in the context of coloniality. This effort would also direct itself toward altering concepts, transforming them in such a way that they might produce something new, and apply more broadly and in different ways." As such, the author states: "decolonial queer theory is a theoretical possibility that passes through our bodies, as well as througha politics of localization." Decolonial queer theory can show how history has and continues to be filtered through the white heterosexual male lens. They challenge readers to engage with queer texts in a decolonial way, to resituate queer theory with other-theories an readopt its subversive promise.