SOAS University of London

SOAS academic wins Sussex International Theory Prize

1 October 2021

Congratulations to Rahul Rao won the prestigious Sussex International Theory Prize for his book Out of Time: The Queer Politics of Postcolonialiaty (Oxford University Press, 2020). The Prize is awarded by the Centre for Advanced International Theory at Sussex. 

Rahul Rao book

Commenting on the book, the committee said: 

“Out of Time’s exploration of queer freedom struggles in the afterlive(s) of British imperialism offers new and powerful theoretical, conceptual and historical insights into the geopolitical entanglements of sexuality, (imperial) statecraft and neoliberal capitalism. Situated at the intersection of international relations, political theory and queer studies, one of the book’s central points of departure is that for postcolonial critique to remain meaningful at the current juncture requires inquiry into topographies of power beyond offering ‘simple’ reminders of the enduring legacies of colonialism. Foregrounding questions of time and temporality and with focus on Uganda and India, the book explores how the project of decoloniality itself can act as a vehicle for oppression, including colonial and caste domination, and of homophobia and transphobia. Simultaneously, the book urges caution about uncritical turns to the past (‘pinkwashing’ of precolonial sexual oppression) and future (upward mobility through inclusion into (homo)capitalism) as resources for liberation.

Methodologically rich and beautifully written, Out of Time brings together a wide range of ethnographic and archival data with poetry, novels and plays, to ask how time matters differently in the queer postcolony, and what is at stake in mining memory and futurity for queer political possibility. Based on a careful analysis of shifting figurations of global power, the book advances a powerful conceptual innovation for the study of sexuality and empire: homocapitalism. Rao demonstrates that to understand contemporary operations of sexuality and queerness in the international requires supplementing existing frameworks that trace the racial-civilisational logics underwriting dominant liberal state discourses in support of LGBT rights (‘homonationalism’) with the political economy logic of what he terms homocapitalism. By promoting queer freedom through inclusion in the market rather than via human rights, and refiguring queers as model capitalist subjects, the book offers the compelling argument that homocapitalism may be emerging as the more seductive and effective weapon of choice wielded by a global queer liberalism. 

Out of Time succeeds in combining grand theoretical reflections drawing rich insights from Queer Marxism, Dalit studies, Queer of Color critique, and IR Theory, with fine-grained empirical analysis of the politics of queer liberation in the postcolony, offering the kind of radical analysis and cutting-edge theoretical innovation that the Sussex Centre for Advanced International Theory seeks to promote.”

The committee also awarded an honourable mention to Hagar Kotef’s The Colonizing Self. Or, Home and Homelessness in Israel/Palestine (Duke University Press, 2020). 

Hagar Kotef

The committee said: “The book offers an unflinching account of the violent processes underwriting settler colonial dispossession and destruction of Palestinian life-worlds, and their transformation into Israeli homes. Situating her analysis within a broader meditation on the entanglements of liberalism, capitalism and settler colonialism, The Colonizing Self offers a sophisticated theoretical framework that connects modes of structural violence with the dispossessor’s sense of self."