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Accepted Paper:

Trinidad and Tobago and the Global Dialectics of Homophobia and Homonationalism  

Author:

Keith McNeal (University of Houston)

Paper short abstract:

This paper pursues a case study of the global dialectics of homophobia and homonationalism in Trinidad and Tobago to show that understanding Global Southern homophobias as responses to Western neoimperialism is helpful, but incomplete and must be empirically complexified in order to be valuable.

Paper long abstract:

This paper pursues a case study of the global dialectics of homophobia and homonationalism in Trinidad and Tobago to show that understanding so-called Global Southern homophobias as responses to Western neoimperialism may be helpful, but also always incomplete. On the one hand, patterns and politics of homophobia in postcolonial TT may be seen as a sort of state-sponsored oppositional response to Western cultural imperialism, in particular the development of heteronationalist imperatives in TT's postcolonial legal code and political discourse that simultaneously increased the scope of heterosexuality while intensifying the criminalization of homosexuality. However, early postcolonial heteronationalist developments represent more an attempt to emulate Global Northern nationalisms than a reaction to them. Yet over time, with dissolution of the postcolonial nationalist project in the era of neoliberal globalization, Trinbagonian heteronationalism's "homophobia" was upregulated in response to Western imperialism, but this unfolded beyond the immediate jurisdiction of the state within transnationally-entangled religious communities—Hindu, Muslim, and Christian—adopting "conservative" positions that enabled them to establish superficial solidarity. These religious fundamentalisms are flanked from the "left" by secular anti-neocolonialists who see homosexuality as an imported "Western" imposition. Meanwhile, the state is increasingly fractured between a Judiciary that condemns homophobic law as unconstitutional and a "homophobic" Parliament. Moreover, intergenerational change and activist efforts have fostered new forms of homonormativity that aspire for respectability in sex-gender norms that come at the cost of new queer discipline and intensified transphobia, thereby complicating any simplistic characterization of TT as "homophobic."

Panel P126
Interrogating the global geopolitics of homosexuality: state-sponsored homophobia as reaction to Western cultural imperialism? [European Network for Queer Anthropology]