“Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique” by Sa’ed Atshan— Freedom and Homophobia

Atshan, Sa’ed. “Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique”, Stanford University Press; 2020.

Freedom and Homophobia

Amos Lassen

I have long worried about the Palestinian LGBT community and even though I am a citizen of Israel, I fear for my gay brothers and sisters who are just miles away. Their issues have become major points of concern globally regarding queer politics.  They have to fight the patriarchy and imperialism of their homeland yet have to deal with  an “empire of critique” from Israeli and Palestinian institutions, Western academics, journalists and filmmakers, and even fellow activists.

Within their rights movement is an emphasis on anti-imperialism above the constant struggle against homophobia. In “Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique”,  writer Sa’ed Atshan asks how transnational progressive social movements can balance struggles for liberation along more than one axis. With him leading us, we look at critical junctures in the history of Palestinian LGBTQ activism that show the “queer Palestinian spirit of agency, defiance, and creativity” as they face tremendous pressures and forces that work to constrict it. Atshan explores the necessity of connecting the struggles for Palestinian freedom with the struggle against homophobia.

We have not had a study ofqueer Palestinian activism that allows us to see and to understand the complicated and complex intersections of selfhood, activism, and belonging. By using the limits of the binary of East/West and self/other through detailed empirical analysis and powerful theoretical interventions, we find here important information of  Middle East studies, queer studies, and anthropology.

Today’s climate in academia tends to make radicalism  and schisms synonymous and we really need a way to look at Queer Palestine. Through American scholarship the critique of empire has become the empire of critique. We are called to  introspect, reflect and reject the theories of “cultural authenticity.”

By bringing together ethnography and personal experience, Sa’ed Atshan gives us new ways to think about the challenges and trajectory of the Palestinian LGBTQ movement. The struggle for justice and freedom against empire and homophobia are indivisible and we must see it that way.

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