In November, I spent several weeks in Sweden, Germany, and Austria presenting Makeshift Reclamation, a multimedia program showcasing grassroots feminist arts and activism. Traveling like this means immediately connecting with feminists/queers/radicals in every town you pass through, which is a great, and illuminating, way to travel. And everywhere we went, activists of color and conscious white activists talked about homonationalism.
I didn't really get homonationalism before -- I mean, how pervasive it is throughout Europe, how scary it is, how much it demonstrates differences between U.S. and European political climates. (Though there is anti-migrant, or migratist*, racism and violence in both the U.S. and Europe, the forms and underlying narratives of it are different.)
Pictured: Rosa Lila Villa, an LGBTQ community center and housing project in Vienna; the banner reads "Pervs Against Deportation."
So what is homonationalism? There are many ways to define this (lots of them rather theoretical), but here is how I understand homonationalism playing out in Europe as explained to me by queer activists in numerous cities: consider the EU a "migratist fortress," as a friend put it in Vienna. While some might understand the EU as a relaxing of borders, it is so only among European member states who are collectively strengthening a fortress-like EU border to restrict the movement of people from outside the EU into it.
And, of course, there are deep racial underpinnings of this. The focus of the anti-migrant discourse and policies in the part of Europe I traveled through are people from Africa and the Middle East. Within that context, increasingly powerful right-wing parties in many EU nations are mobilizing the support of white gay EU citizens for anti-migrant policies by casting African and Middle Eastern migrant populations as culturally homophobic -- that is, using Islamophobia and other racist narratives to whip up fear in the minds of white gay EU citizens and encourage them to support racist, migratist policies (that support a right-wing, neoliberal economic agenda), which leads to an overall climate of racist violence and fear. (When we passed through Malmo, Sweden, there was a wave of sniper shootings of people of color on the streets.)
When I expressed my confusion at a gay-embracing right wing, several people explained that many European governments are staunchly secular (which is different from the politics of church-state separation and "religious freedom" in the U.S.), and their right-wing isn't the kind of socially conservative religious right we're familiar with in the U.S. That's how a conservative party in, say, Sweden can successfully present itself as "gay-friendly."
Now, I'm no expert on this, just someone who was disturbed at what I learned on my travels. While the European context is different from the U.S. context, it's worth paying attention to specifically -- and in the wider sense of perceiving the threads between anti-migrant policies and violence, the creation of the normative gay citizen, neoliberal economics, and racism worldwide.
I encourage you to learn more, perhaps starting on
And mostly I encourage you to support and engage in LGBTQ movements that resist and create alternatives to *all* forms of oppression.
See also: some posts from earlier in the year by Alex Blaze and Yasmin Nair on homonationalism:
(H/T Che Gosset
, Ain't I A Woman in Sweden
, and Rosa R. *I learned a lot from Lann Hornscheidt and Alyosxa Tudor's articulation of "migratism" as a system of power at the Interfem conference in Uppsala, Sweden.
And maybe sometime soon I will have time to write a post about what it was like to be a queer anti-Zionist American Jew in Germany....