SOAS University of London

Centre for Gender Studies

Queer Politics in Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 2

Queer theory is ‘for’ and ‘about’ everyone. Although frequently assumed to be a branch of social and political theory preoccupied with the study of sexual minorities, the insights of theorists such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler into questions concerning the constitution of identities, subjectivities, resistance and the operation of power, have travelled widely, informing scholarship in a host of ostensibly unrelated terrains. Yet like many other kinds of social and political theory, queer theory has been Eurocentric and has only recently begun to engage seriously with the world outside the North Atlantic.

This course is intended to provide both an introduction to queer theory, as well as to engage with the question of its relevance in contemporary Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. As non-normative sexual identities have become ever more visible in these parts of the world, the politics of sexuality has become freighted with apparently unrelated baggage. LGBT rights have recently become a centrepiece of Western human rights diplomacy as well as a major priority for UN human rights advocacy. Conversely, conversations about LGBT rights have become a major point of tension between Western and non-Western states. In some discourses, acceptance of LGBT rights has become a new signifier of the old divide between the civilised and the savage. Tensions have emerged within LGBT movements between purveyors of such orientalist tropes and their radical critics invested in a politics of intersectionality implicating sex, race, class, nation and other forms of subjectivity. This course will use struggles for sexual self-determination as a prism through which to consider broader questions about the constitution of modernity, the proliferation of identities, rights and claims for justice, the consolidation and deconstruction of postcolonial national identities, the aspirations and anxieties of postcolonial elites, etc. These questions will be studied contextually, with topics in many weeks focusing on a single area case study, or a comparison of two or more country-contexts

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

• Understanding the political, social, economic, demographic and other factors underlying the expression of sexual minority identities in postcolonial Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
• Learning to analyse the anxieties and phobias that such expression arouses on the part of postcolonial states and elites, and to contextualise these developments in relation to the consolidation of postcolonial identities more generally.
• Gaining knowledge of the strategies of advocacy that queer social movements have developed in struggles for sexual self-determination.
• Understanding how and why the issue of LGBT rights has become a recent centrepiece of Western human rights diplomacy, and of UN human rights advocacy.
• Appreciating how struggles for queer self-determination can shed light on central questions of international relations and political theory: the constitution of modernity, the proliferation of rights and claims for justice, the consolidation and deconstruction of postcolonial identities, the endurance of imperial civilising missions, etc.
• Critically investigating the relationship between area studies and queer theory, challenging the binary between the Global North as the 'home' of critical theory and the Global South as provider of data for that theory to consume.


The module will be taught over 10 weeks with one 2 hour seminar per week

Scope and syllabus

• Queering Area Studies
• Law, Governance and Sexuality
• Queerness, Globalisation and Commodification
• Sexuality, Nation, Empire
• Race and Carnality
• Who Does Queer Theory Belong To?
• Queer Futurity

Method of assessment

Assignment one (3000 words); 70%
Assignment two (oral presentation): 30%

Suggested reading

Johnson, Patrick E., “Quare' Studies, or (Almost) Everything I Know About Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother.” in Text & Performance Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 1. (January 2001), pp. 1-25
Maya Mikdashi, Jasbir K. Puar; Queer Theory and Permanent War. GLQ 1 April 2016; 22 (2): 215–222
Chiang, H., & Wong, A. (2016). Queering the transnational turn: Regionalism and queer Asias. Gender, Place & Culture, 23(11), 1643-165
Chiang, H., & Wong, A. (2017). Asia is burning: Queer Asia as critique. Culture, Theory and Critique, 58(2), 121-126
Horton, B. (2018). The Queer Turn in South Asian Studies? or “That's Over & Done Queen, On to the Next”. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 5(3), 165-180.
Awondo, Patrick, Peter Geschiere & Graeme Reid, (2012) ‘Homophobic Africa? Toward a More Nuanced View’, African Studies Review 55:3, 145-68
Puri, J. (2016). Sexual States: Governance and the Struggle over the Anti-sodomy Law in India. Durham: Duke University Press
Alexander, M. (1994). Not Just (Any) Body Can Be a Citizen: The Politics of Law, Sexuality and Postcoloniality in Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. Feminist Review, (48), 5-23
Emmanuel David; Capital T: Trans Visibility, Corporate Capitalism, and Commodity Culture. TSQ 1 February 2017; 4 (1): 28–44
Mendoza, V. (2015). Metroimperial Intimacies : Fantasy, Racial-sexual Governance, and the Philippines in U.S. Imperialism, 1899-1913. Durham: Duke University Press.
Sears, A. (2005). Queer Anti-Capitalism: What's Left of Lesbian and Gay Liberation? Science & Society, 69(1), 92-112.
Morgensen, S. (2010). SETTLER HOMONATIONALISM Theorizing Settler Colonialism within Queer Modernities. Glq-A Journal Of Lesbian And Gay Studies, 16(1-2), 105-131
Amar, P. (2013). The Security Archipelago : Human-security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism.
Rao, Rahul. (2014): ‘The Locations of Homophobia’, London Review of International Law 2. 2: 169–199.
Puar, J. (2013). Homonationalism as assemblage: Viral travels, affective sexualities. Jindal Global Law Review, 4(2), pp. 23-43.
Coly, A. (2010). A Pedagogy of the Black Female Body: Viewing Angèle Essamba's Black Female Nudes. Third Text, 24(6), 653-664
Martin F. Manalansan; Race, Violence, and Neoliberal Spatial Politics in the Global City. Social Text 1 December 2005; 23 (3-4 (84-85)): 141–155
Meghani, S., & Saeed, H. (2019). Postcolonial/sexuality, or, sexuality in "Other" contexts: Introduction. Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 55(3), 293-307
Matebeni, Z., & Msibi, T. (2015). Vocabularies of the non-normative. Agenda, 29(1), 3-9
Muñoz, J. (2009). Cruising utopia: The then and there of queer futurity. New York, NY: New York University Press
Cohen, Cathy J. (1997). Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics? GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 3(4), 437-465


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules