Queer Politics in Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Centre for Gender Studies

Module overview

This module is an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of queer theory and queer politics as they relate to and unfold in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and their diasporas. 

There are five key facets to this course: 

  1. Exploring key texts and theories associated with queer theory more generally. 
  2. 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.
  3. Exploring the historical, political, social and economic conditions underpinning the oppression of sexual minorities in Asian, African and Middle Eastern contexts, and problematising the application of a culturalist lens to sexuality-based oppression in the Global South. A key theme of this course is the relationship between the regulation of sexuality and modern power, and the consequences of this for conceptualisations of queer emancipation and ways of achieving it. Importantly, the course problematises the popular understanding of the West as 'queer-friendly', looking at the violences and the exclusions that such a designation belies. 
  4. Explore the complex and myriad ways in which queer life and queer activism unfold in postcolonial Asian, African and Middle Eastern contexts and their diasporas, paying attention to how queer subjects in these contexts navigate their environments and their queerness. The course problematises seeing such subjects as data to whom 'Western' queer theory should be applied, approaching them and their lives and contexts as productive of queer theory. 
  5. Thinking through the political potentiality of adopting a more expansive approach to 'queerness' and 'queering' beyond the realms of gender and sexuality.

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

Subject to change yearly.

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