Empire and the dispositif of queerness

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Thinkers heavily indebted to Foucault-such as Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, Jodi Melamed, and Jasbir Puar-are at the fore of a contemporary interrogation of queerness and racialized empire. This paper critically surveys this terrain, differentiates several strands of it, and attempts a theoretical reframing such that we may be better equipped to gain new vantage on the central problematic. I argue that the current conviviality of queerness and em-pire is best understood not only through a univocal 'homonationist' lens, but also requires situating in the context of multiple languages of civilizational superiority and liberal tolerance. In particular, it requires the deployment of arguments about the 'benchmark of civilization,' in which whole societies are ranked along a unilinear trajectory of development according to standards set by the most powerful among them. One relatively recent addition to the criteria of civilizational adjudication is the capacity of societies to 'tolerate' new forms of societal difference. In this case, I argue, the most important of these are the strange pairing of sexual and religious dispositifs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
JournalFoucault Studies
Issue number14
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Civilization
  • Dispositif
  • Empire
  • Liberalism
  • Queerness
  • Tolerance

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