Symposium, 4-5 April 2019,  New York University

Department of Media, Culture, and Communication

239 Greene St, 8th Floor, NY 10003

Thursday, 4 April 2019                                     #sexualityandborders

(Abstracts below)

9.15 – 9.45 Breakfast Arrival & Registration
9.45-10.00 Welcome Welcome by the organizers
10.00 – 11.30 Panel 1:

(Settler-)Colonial and National Sexualitites
Chair: Billy Holzberg, LSE

Elisabeth Tuider, University of Kassel, and Paula-Irene Villa, LMU Munich: The Night of Cologne – The Uncanny Alliance of Cultural Othering, Heteronormativity and Ethnosexism in Germany

Ian Khara Ellasante, University of Arizona: Settler-Colonial Biopolitics Meets Indigenous Peoplehood and Persistence: Sexualities and Genders
Brenda Sanya, Colgate University : Blackness, Biopower, Immigration: Race, Racialization and the Limits of American Exceptionalism
Sabiha Allouche, SOAS, University of London: (Un)Queer -(y)ing the Middle East: Queer Theory, Muslim Sexuality and the Middle East

11.30 – 12.00 Break
12.00 – 13.15 Panel 2:

Sex work and/as Bordering
Chair: Clare Hemmings, LSE

Nick Mai, Kingston University of London: The Bordering Politics of Sexual Humanitarianism: Preliminary Findings of the SEXHUM Project
Caroline Séquin, University of Chicago: A French Paradox: Negotiating the “Traffic in Women” Between Metropole and Colony in the Twentieth Century
Laura Lammasniemi, University of Warwick: ‘That Class of Alien’ – Controlling Migration and Sex Work in England, 1900s – 1920s
13.15 – 14.15 Lunch break
14.15 – 15.45 Panel 3:

Virality and Contagious States

Alyosxa Tudor, SOAS

Victoria Carroll, King’s College London: Bleeding Borders: Creating “Viral Mestizaje” in the Age of AIDS
Marco Dell’Oca, UC Davis : The Making-Tegumentary of Borders
Kasia Kaczowka, Stony Brook University: Toxic Sovereignty, Sexual Selection, and Extimacies of Life and Land in the Making of Colombia’s Post-Conflict
Yener Bayramoğlu, Alice Salomon University Berlin: Violent Sexual Borders in the Time of AIDS in Turkey
15.45 – 16.15 Coffee break
16.15 – 17:45 Panel 4:

Reproductive Justice, Marriage and Transnational Kinship
Chair: Miriam Ticktin, New School

Grace Tran, University of Toronto: ‘How the Wedding Cake Crumbles’: Negotiations of Marriage, Sex, and Intimacy along the Canadian Border
María Célleri, UC San Diego: From La Virgen del Panecillo to La Virgen del Legrado: (Trans)national Feminist Struggles for Reproductive Rights in the Andes
Gala Rexer, HU Berlin: Topographies of Bodies, Borders and Reproduction: Repro-Politics in Palestine/Israel
Sonia C. Gomez, Harvard University: Rethinking the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908: How Gender and Sexuality Complicate Japanese Exclusion
18.00 – 20.00 Keynote+ reception
Radha Hedge, NYU

Itinerant Data: Unveiling Gendered Scrutiny at the Border

Friday, 5. April 2019

9:30 – 10:00 Breakfast
10.00 – 11.30 Panel 5:

The Sexual Politics of Securitization, Surveillance and the Carceral
Chair: Michelle Pfeifer, NYU

Piro Rexhepi, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity: The Geopolitics of Race and Sexuality along the Balkan Refugee Route: Euro-Atlantic Integration and the Post-Socialist Politics of Whiteness
Skye Chirape, University of Cape Town: The Hare and the Baboon: African LGBT Asylum Seekers as Victims of UK Immigration Interviewing Techniques
Jacob Breslow, LSE: The Sexual Life of Parks: Homelessness, Local Bordering Practices, and Carceral Logics
Fadi Saleh, University of Göttingen: Resettlement as Securitization: War, Humanitarianism, and the Production of Syrian LGBT Refugees
11.30 – 12.00 Break
12.00 – 13.30 Panel 6:

Border Intimacies
Chair: Anouk Madörin, University of Potsdam

Moon Charania, Spelman College, and sara shroff, The New School for Public Engagement: Border/s of Flesh: An Essay on the Intimate Geographies of Brownness
Henry Neim Osman, Goldsmiths, University of London: The Kiss of the Electron: Haptic Surveillance, Sensuous Governance and the Erotics of Security
Cristina Pérez, University of Michigan : Border Intimacies and the Case of Anastasio Hernández Rojas
13.30 – 14.30 Lunch
14.30 – 15.45 Keynote Miriam Ticktin, New School for Social Research

Sexuality and Borders: Beyond Innocence

15.45 – 16.15 Coffee break
16.15-17.45 Panel 7:

Queering Borders, Imagining Futures
Chair: Karina Horsti, Academy of Finland, University of Jyväskylä

Abeera Khan, SOAS, University of London: Good Queer Muslim, Bad Queer Muslim: Contested Subjectification Under Queer Liberal Secularity
Nikita Shepard, Columbia University: Queering the Great Migration: Resistance to Racial and Sexual Regulatory Regimes in the African-American Diaspora, 1910-1970
Sarah Held, University of Frankfurt/M. and Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna: Subversive Threads: Art Intervention Against Sexual Violence
Naveen Minai, Institute of Business Administration, Karachi: Desi Butch (Where the ‘Twain Shall Meet): Borders, Genealogies, Intimacies
18.00 – 20.00 Keynote  + reception
Alyosxa Tudor, SOAS, University of London: 

Decolonising Trans/Gender Studies? Teaching Race, Gender, Sexuality and Borders

Sexuality and Borders is a two-day international symposium hosted and funded by New York University’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. It is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at NYU, the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, the DFG-funded research training group “Minor Cosmopolitanisms” (University of Potsdam, Germany) and LSE’s Department of Gender Studies.




Piro Rexhepi: The Geopolitics of Race and Sexuality along the Balkan Refugee Route: Euro-Atlantic Integration and the Post-Socialist Politics of Whiteness 

As the final integration of the Western Balkans into the EU and NATO security structures completes the legal and political infrastructural sealing the Euro-Atlantic geopolitical borders along the Balkan Refugee Route, overlapping national and post-national governing processes have normalized racialized border regimes, where the segregation of post-socialist ‘Balkan’ bodies from the post-colonial ‘Middle Eastern’ others has come to influence everyday politics of sexuality and security. This presentation consists of a chapter in my upcoming manuscript The Geopolitics of Race and Sexuality: Euro-Atlantic Integration and the Post-Socialist Politics of Whiteness in the Balkans which explores the ways in which racialized and sexualized subjects are produced as objects of threat to the geopolitics of whiteness particularly at its borderlands where the making of white post-socialist secular hetero and homonormative Europeans has relied on the disarticulation of migrant, Roma, Muslim and queer Others. Focusing on Bulgaria specifically, I examine the ways in which border securitization and demographic debates that have targeted Roma Muslim men as sexually deviant, repressed and susceptible to radicalism have come to coincide with new methods of racialization and repressions that mirror the production of Muslim populations in Bulgaria as co-conspirators with Middle Eastern migrants in Arabizing Bulgaria in the face of refugee arrivals and an ostensible demographic crisis. Starting with the debates instigated by the gender-nonconforming performances of the Chalga star Azis, I examine the evolution of the debates from Roma Muslim men being projected as a menace to the nationalist hegemonic proto-masculinity to more recently being depicted as a real racial and religious threat to national security and stability. In this racial hierarchy, the tentative inclusion of the Roma Muslims into the body of the nation is undertaken as securitization measure in the face of more ‘Muslim’ Middle Eastern migrants arriving at the EU border in Bulgaria via Turkey.


Moon Charania and Sara Shroff: Border/s of Flesh: An Essay on the Intimate Geographies of Brownness

This essay follows Gloria Anzaldua in the mode of creative nonfiction to trace the gestural, the ephemeral, the occasional, the episodic, the social, the atmosphere, the body and the flesh of queer sexualities in South Asian transnational diasporas. We attempt to recover another theoretical register of femme of color diasporic lesbian/sexual geographies by mobilizing a different genre that combines theory, memoir, and conversation. Centering a writerly approach, we interrogate our own trajectories and genealogies as brown queer women moving in and out of South Asia and varying parts of the global North, and navigating our flesh and body as border/s.  We draw conceptually from traveling analytics, such as “management of stigma” (Goffman 1963), “world-traveling” (Lugones 1987), perverse “borderland” (Anzaldua 1995) and “diasporic catalogues” (McKittrick 2007). Our thinking explicitly about the border as flesh – rather than thinking simply about land and nation, which is what the borders are meant to index – begins by asking, what value may lie in advocating flesh as borders? Less easy, and therefore of greater interest to us, is the exercise of asking whether, how, and why creative nonfiction is itself a critical archive of borders – a felt archive – like ghosts. Stylistically structured as a pastiche of the intimate and the geopolitical – where the geopolitical is always and already intimate – we raise the spectre of that which haunts Global North feminist and queer theory: questions of feeling, language, utility, reparativity, failure, desire, and ambivalence. Our essayspeaks to four central phenomena – economies of bodies, feminized knowledge/s, geographies of brownness, and “uses of the erotic” – in order to disclose how as brown queers we experience moving through empire’s varying temporalities and materialities as ostensibly illuminating for those of us doing decolonial work in continually colonized spaces, with continually colonized peoples.


Nick Mai: The Bordering Politics of Sexual Humanitarianism: preliminary findings of the SEXHUM project

The contemporary increase and diversification of migration flows on a global scale coincides with the onset of humanitarian forms of governance. The parallel global rise of neo-abolitionist policies attempting to eradicate sex work, framed as sexual exploitation, by ending the demand for sexual services translates in harmful policies exacerbating the exploitability and deportability of marginalized migrant groups. Within the humanitarian governance of migration, sexuality and gender became strategic dimensions through which groups of migrants are identified as specifically ‘vulnerable’ to abuse and exploitation, a socio-cultural dynamic I define as ‘sexual humanitarianism’. As a consequence, they are targeted by harmful anti sex work and anti migrant policies and interventions according to visibility and policymaking regimes emerging at the intersection between race, ethnicity gender and sexuality. The paper will present the preliminary findings of the ERC-funded project SEXHUM (Sexual Humanitarianism: migration, sex work and trafficking) studying the impact of policies and interventions targeting migrant sex workers in 4 national settings (Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States) characterized by strategically different legal frameworks (criminalization, regulation, decriminalization) addressing sex work. It will focus on the experiences of two main migrant groups that are targeted by sexual humanitarian concerns and interventions across the four national settings of the research projects: Asian cis women and Latin@s trans women. In decriminalized environments (Australia and New Zealand) sexual humanitarian, racialised concerns about the supposedly higher exploitability of Asian women are fueled by competition within the sex industry. In criminalized environments (France, United States) the targeting of Asian women within already repressive and bordering anti-migration and anti-sex work policies was exacerbated by the neo-abolitionist criminalization of clients in France and by Trump’s administration in the United States since 2016. Across all the national settings of the research trans latin@s women are one of the migrant populations that are most stigmatised and targeted by sexual humanitarian bordering interventions. They become both specifically ‘visible’ (and targetable) by law enforcement in relation to prevailing sex-gendered norms and roles, while being marginalised from mainstream sexual humanitarian support as they do not fit cis/hetero-centric understandings of vulnerability to exploitation, violence and abuse.


Victoria Carrol: Bleeding Borders: Creating “Viral Mestizaje” in the Age of AIDS

In Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa imagines borderlands as sites of physical and psychological friction, inhabited by “the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed, the half-dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the normal.” Beginning with this intriguing slippage – the half-breed and the half-dead – I ask what it means, or could mean, to embody both of these troubling categories in 1980s America, a period when the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis dramatically literalised mixed-blood as a conduit for a deadly pathogen? Mining the interpenetrations of HIV/AIDS discourse and Chicana feminism (which emerged contemporaneously in the academy yet are rarely discussed in tandem), this paper theorises the ways in which self-proclaimed gay Latino cultural producers utilised the concept of “mixed-blood” to comment on the relationality of their bi-racial, intercultural, ailing queer bodies after the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. I term this new conceptual coordinate “viral mestizaje” insofar as HIV transmission, like older systems of coercive and regulated miscegenation, traces the transportation and re-territorialisation of bodily fluids across geographical, cultural, and identitarian borders via modes of (often illicit) sexual contact and commerce. Indeed, by queering mestizaje, Anzaldúa illuminates how blood moves across arbitrary borders without the necessity of heterosexuality. Mixed lineage, she tells us, can never be “straight” and the “radical interconnectedness” of porous bodies is accelerated at sites of non-normative desire and affiliation. But I wish to take this a step further. Precisely because HIV violates the sanctity of boundaries (between nations, bodies, races, classes) it may well be re-imagined as a transformative agent with the potential to suture bodies across lines of difference. This paper considers the affective economies that are created when blood literally and symbolically transgresses boundaries, when “matter” (be it DNA or a virus) is relocated to forge new solidarities. Like mestizaje, the spread of HIV reveals an interconnected world in defiance of sanctioned borders, illuminating forms of often-concealed interpersonal exchange and sexual congress.


Jacob Breslow: The Sexual Life of Parks: Homelessness, Local Bordering Practices, and Carceral Logics

A neighbourhood park can be a border, with or without a fence. This is well known to those who demand their construction as intentional acts of sexual boundary making. In Florida, California, and throughout the U.S. where proximity to a park (anywhere between 500 and 2,500 feet) restricts the rights of residence for people convicted of sexual offences, the increase in construction of so-called ‘pocket parks’ can be understood as an intensification of localized boundary making practices. These tiny parks, like the 300 square foot Janet Shour Playground Park in Los Angeles, follow a punitive carceral logic which extends the life of the prison beyond incarceration and parole. Rendering entire metropolitan areas as legally uninhabitable for people on the sex offender registry, some of these parks have forced those who have been made homeless by them to live in haphazard, tenuous and precarious encampments. In this paper, I analyze the construction of pocket parks as a form of sexual border making, and argue that borders and border making practices—particularly those which seek to confine and restrict criminalized and previously incarcerated sexual subjects—exist beyond the traditional site of the nation’s spatial limits. The paper thus asks that localized acts of material and imagined exclusion be incorporated into the broader scholarly and activist conversation about border making practices. It additionally suggests that interrogations of sexual moral panics attend not just to discursive and representational modes of production, but also to spatial politics. This research is part of a larger project which combines queer theory and transformative abolitionist justice work to interrogate the material and conceptual effects of alleged ameliorations to sexual harms. As part of a wider project that seeks to disrupt the tendency to simply displace ‘unwanted’ sexual content, or sexual subjects, to an unseen ‘elsewhere,’ as if that displacement might render the difficulties of troubling sexualities resolved, this paper examines what it calls the sexual life of parks.


Yener Bayramoğlu: Violent sexual borders in the time of AIDS in Turkey

This paper explores how Turkish health policies at the time of the 1980s AIDS crisis marked queer and migrant bodies as transgressors of geographical borders who supposedly threatened public health. Furthermore, I argue that they were also marked as the external border of normativities, which made those bodies a site of necropolitical violence. Drawing on a rich archive of visual and textual material from the 1980s, I demonstrate how the outbreak of AIDS in the Western world led to new anxieties in Turkey. These anxieties were not, however, fueled by an actual medical crisis, but rather by incendiary media reports. Unlike many Western countries, where AIDS posed an imminent threat for queer communities, there was no fatal AIDS epidemic in Turkey. The virus was not encountered in everyday life by the Turkish public, nor did it threaten to decimate Turkey’s gay community in the 1980s. Nonetheless, Turkish media circulated discourses on AIDS similar to those of Western media, identifying the queer and migrant body as the embodiment of an invisible epidemic. I argue that the stickiness of the constellation “homosexual body” and “AIDS”, as well as that of “migrant sex-worker” and “AIDS” were not based on actual events in Turkish society, but had rather been imported from Western media narratives on AIDS. From this position, I move on to explore how queer and migrant sex-workers came to be identified as outsiders in terms of geographical borders, but also as markers of the symbolic border of normativities in terms of sexuality and gender. While initial representations of gays living with AIDS, for instance, were heavily loaded with the fear that border crossers would bring the virus from the Western world to Turkey, the discourse implicated by the pejorative term “Nataşa”, which was used to describe migrant sex-workers from Balkan countries and the USSR, clearly located AIDS outside the borders of Turkey – and identified migrant and/or queer bodies as potential importers of the “fatal virus”. Furthermore, I argue that violent public health policies, which led to displacements, detentions, deaths, and even to violence enacted posthumously upon dead queer bodies, were staged by the government and represented in the media to reassure the heteronormative public that the state was protecting them. These necropolitical measures made queer and migrant bodies the nexus of surveillance operations and border control.


Cristina Perez: Border Intimacies and the Case of Anastasio Hernández Rojas

In May 2010, an undocumented migrant named Anastasio Hernández Rojas was murdered by border agents who alleged he became violent as he was transported for deportation. Seven years later, his family’s lawyer claimed that in Rojas’ death “you see the whole history of immigration enforcement and the problems that we have and will have more of in the future.” Following this lead, I argue that the dozen or so agents that participated in the beating and tasing of Rojas, as he was lying handcuffed, took part in a layered performance on behalf of the state. This theater of state protection was a display of the Border Industrial Complex (BIC), an increasingly violent and privatized system of border policing that pairs the discourses of migrant threat and US security with the material expressions of militarization. Moreover, this spectacle of state protection aimed to demonstrate the discursive, moral, and legal distance between US border agents and Mexican border crossers. Yet, reading the case of Rojas – the video made by bystanders crossing the bridge from Tijuana, the legal documents produced following the state’s investigations into the matter, the responses to lawsuits and statements by the family – as a performance, reveals that woven into the workings of the BIC lies a desire for the Mexican body. Indeed, while the BIC purports to operate impersonally and bureaucratically to maintain a professional distance between agents and migrants, performances like these highlight the violent intimacies existing between agents and migrants. While much attention has, correctly, been paid to the state’s desire for laboring and exploitable migrant bodies (e.g. de Genova 2013), less attention has been paid to the role of sexual desire in border policing. To that end, I consider a moment in the video of Rojas’ murder in which one of the agents, between tasings, reaches in past a group of his colleagues, and removes Rojas’ pants. Drawing on a body of literature that accounts for the sexualized and gendered nature of state violence, I ask what this moment means and how we might make sense of a group of agents swarming the undressed and dying migrant.


Skye Chirape: The Hare and the Baboon: African LGBT asylum seekers as victims of UK immigration interviewing techniques

The proposed paper is a development of my PhD research at the University of Cape Town, under the supervision of Associate Professor Floretta Boonzaier. As a gay/ queer Zimbabwean refugee who has navigated the asylum seeking process and spent over 48 hours in detention, positionality among other factors has stimulated the motivation to this paper.

Whilst there has been a plethora of research exploring immigration issues impacting refugees and asylum seekers there remains a wide gap on literature that explores the psychology of African LGBTIQ asylum seekers. Particularly, little is understood about the impact of asylum interviews on the mental health of LGBTIQ asylum seekers. Traumatised asylum seekers and refugees are a highly vulnerable group. They often require time to process pre-immigration traumatic events and to establish a sufficient level of trust and confidence before they are able to disclose difficult and sometimes shaming details of their experiences

This research will be the first looking at the impact of asylum interviews with African LGBTIQ social groups. When crossing international borders and claiming asylum, LGBTIQ asylum seekers do not have the support other refugees have. They tend to have an overlap of cultural and sexual identity factors, yet there is limited psychological research on issues that affect this unique group of asylum seekers. Research questions the paper will aim to examine are:

  • In which ways does the UK asylum interview process have an impact on the mental health of African LGBT asylum seekers?
  • How does the interview process trigger post traumatic intrusions in African LGBTIQ asylum seekers?

Accompanying the paper is queer resistance visual activism work.

  1. Untitled – Photo story body of work interrogating the intersection between sexuality and borders (works currently under development), Skye Chirape In collaboration with Matshidiso Skosana (University of Cape Town, SA)
  2. The communication of (queer African) bodies: Sthandwa sami no Ntombi yakhe, radical normalisation of African queer bodies in exile, Skye Chirape, 2016 -Ongoing project.
  3. Mamoyo: history in my bones (2014), autobiographical photo essay of detention related trauma, Skye Chirape In collaboration Cloudy Moroni, 2014 (Italy).


Ian Khara Ellasante:  Settler-Colonial Biopolitics Meets Indigenous Peoplehood and Persistence: Sexualities and Genders

In this paper, I examine the U.S. settler-colonial machine, and its many and ongoing challenges to Indigenous peoplehood, through the lens of biopolitics, and define desire and destruction, or appropriation and annihilation, as the double-pronged settler-colonial imperative. I discuss the systematic destruction of traditional American Indian gender systems, many with Third- and Fourth-Gender roles, with the objective of dismantling peoplehood and dispossessing American Indian lands. I also demonstrate the protective and persistent functioning of the Indigenous peoplehood matrix—with its four elements of land, language, sacred history, and ceremonial cycle—and the inherent resistance, or oppositional process, of the people. In this context, I argue that the assertion of terms like the pan-tribal “Two Spirit” or tribally-centric terms like “nádleehí” (Diné/Navajo), “winkte” (Lakota), and “asegi” (Cherokee) is an act of self-determination, sovereignty, and defiance as many American Indian people, who might otherwise identify as LGBTQ, either outright reject the subsumption inherent in a label such as LGBTQ or don it strategically in navigating across separate cultural domains. Therefore, this paper explores the functions of peoplehood and persistence in shaping identity, resistance, and restoration by discussing the early and ongoing settler-colonial biopolitical regulation of Indigenous sexualities and genders and by examining how the self-naming and re-naming of various queer Indigenous identities engenders everyday acts of decolonization.


Paula Villa and Elisabeth Tuider: The Night of Cologne – The Uncanny Alliance of Cultural Othering, Heteronormativity and Ethnosexism in Germany

Since the so called „Summer of Migration“ (2015), the migration regime in Germany and in Europa has fundamentally shifted. Since then, what was briefly known as “Welcome Culture” has been increasingly replaced by new, but well-known, imaginaries of racialized “Others”.  Sexualizing and racializing narratives are recombined, and mixed with a specific version of Feminism, culminating in “The Night of Cologne”: “Cologne is the name marking the difference between “us” and “the others”, between “the West and the Rest”” (Hark/Villa 2017). 

Relying on discourse analysis, our paper will discuss how neo-colonial narratives have come to shape the public debate in Germany over the past 3 years. We focus on the intertextual rhetoric evoking the danger of the “dark Muslim man” as violent sexual perpedrator. This narratives barely relies on biological racisms, but rather emphasizing a cultural version of ‘Otherness’ (referring thus to muslim religion, tradition, upbringing, etc.). This specific contemporary narrative is closely – and uncannily – interwoven with strands of German feminism, thus claiming to articulate not only a critical stance, but also a political protest against sexualized violence. In short: The Arab refugee/migrant is portrayed as systematic threat to “(German) Women”. This has lead to ambivalent political dynamics. On the one hand, sexualized violence has become much more an issue, leading to a number of important legal adjustments against gender-based/sexualized violence in general. On the other hand, Germany is marked by irrational moral panic, ignoring evidence regarding the (complex and rather weak) nexus of migration, religion and sexualized violence. On the contrary: As we will argue, the German situation is marked by a moral panic which can be understood as “Ethnosexism” (Dietze 2016) and in which the experiences and voices of (e.g. queer) refugees are erased.  Our presentation will finally discussing the ambivalence of this situation in regard to the incorporation of formerly emancipatory strategies in Western societies, especially “sexual liberation” and embodied self-determination. Our presentation not only relies on post- and decolonial perspectives (Mignolo 2005, Quijano 2010), but will try to elaborate on how to critically intervene in heteronormative and ethnosexist regimes of power and representation.


Fadi Saleh: Resettlement as Securitization: War, Humanitarianism, and the Production of Syrian LGBT Refugees 

Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with Syrian queer and trans* refugees in Istanbul between 2014 and 2015, this presentation focuses on the (re)surfacing of the UNHCR’s third-country resettlement scheme as the ultimate humanitarian paradigm and the most desirable and durable solution for Syrian queer and trans* refugees residing in Turkey. De facto considered one of the most vulnerable groups by the UNHCR, Syrian queer and trans* refugees are allowed to apply for resettlement despite the Turkish “contemporary protection regime,” which prevents Syrian nationals from applying based on the ongoing war. This has created a false dichotomy in which Syrian queer and trans* refugees are rendered/perceived as exceptional in comparison to their “non-queer” counterparts in that they can access the UN resettlement system based on their ability to prove a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. That said, Syrian queer and trans* refugees inhabit a contradictory position since, on the one hand, they have become objects of global humanitarian, media, and activist attention due to the ongoing war in Syria; yet, they can emerge as intelligible LGBT refugees who are eligible for resettlement within the UNHCR’s rigid and identitarian frameworks only if they succeed in detaching their refugeeness and self-understanding as queer and trans* Syrians from the ongoing war. To unpack this contradiction, I focus on asylum cases where the applicants were subjected to extensive security interrogation of their religious belonging, political opinions, and affective and familial ties in relation to the war in Syria (after which some applicants were denied resettlement based on security-related reasons). By doing this, I demonstrate how resettlement is not only dependent on the applicant’s “well-founded fear of persecution,” but more on the “perceived” degree of one’s potential involvement in the ongoing war: the more Syrian queer and trans* refugees talk about the war as part and parcel of their sexual or gender identities and flight narratives, the greater the risk of becoming unexceptional and unfit for resettlement.


Brenda Sanya Blackness: Biopower, Immigration: Race, Racialization and the Limits of American Exceptionalism

Centering the corporeal experiences and material significance of bodies lays bare the border as a site for social reproduction. My paper illustrates this point by interrogating the discourses and practices whereby the U.S. nation-state, through its immigration apparatus, situates elite-educated Anglophone African immigrants as “iconic vessel[s] of human capital” (Murphy, 2017, p. 117) while at the same time racializing them through processes of subjectivation as a threat to the national psyche.[1]  Drawing on critical discourse analyses of non-precedent immigration appeals decisions, I show how the border-crossing Black body of the highly educated Anglophone African immigrant is made to carry the contradiction between the legitimate status of the desirable “alien with exceptional abilities” and the illegitimate status of the Black citizen in a society characterized by the “the continuities of slavery and freedom” (Hartman, 1997, p. 13).  I argue that, in Black immigrant life, not only do we see “the historical and geographical immanence of this construction of the human, but also the real, tangible differences between bodies that matter in face-to-face encounters” (Saldanha, 2006, p. 14). It is at the border, where the interaction between politics, history and thought (Esposito, 2011) and institutional regulation and the utility of race (Roberts, 2011) activate the biopolitical logic of “help to live and allow to die” (Foucault, 1978). Elite-educated African immigrants initially benefit from the use of academic achievements as evidence in immigration procedures designed to calculate “the differential life worth of racialized bodies in terms of their contribution to future economic productivity” (Murphy, 2017, p. 11–12); nevertheless, the advantage leveraged for immigration documentation is vanquished at the border between “legal” immigrant status an­­­d the lived realities of Black citizenship.


Marco Dell’Oca: The Making-Tegumentary of borders

With this reflection I want to complicate a complex analogy that is ever-present in current political discourses in the West. First, I want to think about the relation between immigration and virality: Neel Ahuja shows how a thoroughly racialized rethoric of infection and contagion has inflected both the modes of securitizing migrations towards the US, and the discourses and affects sticking to migrant bodies during the late 1800s to the 20th Century. This rethoric of infection though is in fact itself transmissible, and the mobilization of fear of contagion from the racialized outsider to the body of the nation is operationalized to great effect throughout the West, where migrants are more and more often associated with the re-apperance of supposedly eradicated virulent diseases. The fear of contracting tuberculosis, leprosy, and the Ebola virus thus enters imagination through its discursive attachment to migrant bodies. The nation, in these terms, becomes something to be protected from the possibility of infection: its borders become the skin that protects it from the assault of the diseased outsiders. In this context, I want to reflect on the making-tegumentary of borders. “Tegument” is the anatomical terminology that describes the skin as a protective system – indeed, identifies its preventive function. Of course, as Haraway notes, “to talk of race and immunity is to speak in the terms of biopolitics”. And in fact these rethorics reflect into the governance of migrant life and death: in late 1800s US, imperialist discourses on migrations across the Pacific were centered on the rethoric of disease control, in particular through a preemptive call for the export of sanitation into the countries of departure, so as to stop the infected from even reaching the US shore. The logic of these discourses is reminiscent of current European policies that call for the establishment of processing facilities in North Africa with the purpose of discerning “deserving” from “undeserving” migrants. Again, to think with Haraway, “why should our bodies end at the skin?”.


María Célleri: From La Virgen del Panecillo to La Virgen del Legrado: (Trans)national Feminist Struggles for Reproductive Rights in the Andes 


Laura Lammasniemi: ‘that class of alien’– controlling migration and sex work in England, 1900s – 1920s

In a Parliamentary debate in England in 1904, the Conservative Secretary of State for the Home Department, Akers-Douglas, identified the undesirable aliens as persons with known bad character, prostitutes, and persons likely to become a charge upon public funds’. Attempting to convince the Parliament of the need of a legislation that would create the foundation for modern immigration control in England, he argued that the powers of repatriation were needed as with ‘that class of alien, at all events, I think there can be no sympathy whatever’. The law that followed, the Aliens Act 1905, was directed first and foremost against the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Despite its anti-Semitic origins, the Aliens Act 1905 and subsequent anti-aliens’ legislation had a profound impact also on foreign women, particularly those working, or suspected of working, in commercial sex but this aspect of the early aliens’ legislation has not been previously explored in depth. Simultaneously to the creation of new immigration regulations, new laws were created to fight white slavery, a term that was used for trafficking in women at the time, in national and international level.

The paper will show that the anti-white slavery legislation and immigration legislation were used together by the police in England to surveillance particularly foreign born women who were suspected of working in prostitution. The paper will argue that combined these laws created a complex web of legislation that allowed police to surveillance, detain and question women, and their partners, about their intimate relationships and decisions, despite the fact that neither sale nor purchase of sex was a criminal offence. Drawing from the archives of the London Metropolitan Police and the UK Home Office, the paper will demonstrate how the surveillance of women was often conducted under the label ‘white slavery’ and in pursuit of ‘white slavers’/traffickers. In reality, little was done to the ‘white slavers’ and the women themselves often found themselves in court or waiting for deportation for solicitation or more often, newly created immigration offences.


Sabiha Allouche: (Un)Queer -(y)ing the Middle East: Queer Theory, Muslim Sexuality and the Middle East

In a timely intervention, Maya Mikdashi and Jasbir Puar (2016) invite us to embrace the Middle East as a queer area of studies seeing its “permanent war” status. They investigate the links between queer theory and area studies and ponder the “kind of queer” that emerges in the face of “permanent war” (219). Both authors lament the strand of queer scholarship whereby the global south is “reified as raw data” (215) to be queried whilst referring it, sooner or later, to Anglo-American queer scholarship. This paper contributes to the conversation put forth by Mikdashi and Puar by distinguishing between exo- and endo- queer(y)ing. I adopt a discourse analysis approach in support of my argument by drawing on a number of “sexed” events, notably the demonization of Hezbollah fighters’ sexuality, and what I term “gay-friendly islamophobia.”

By exo-queer-(y)ing, I mean the reproduction of the Middle East as an anomalous sexuality, irrespective of orientation – a prominent application in Euro-American news outlets. Exo-queer-(y)ing is both (dis)orientating and orientalising. That is, its dealing with the “queer” orients it towards US queer scholarship whilst reinforcing orientalist depictions of the “other.” The uneventful outcomes of this (dis)orienting is four-fold: a. it privileges the theoretical scope of queer theory itself, rather than the context in question; b. its preoccupation with the question of queer visibility in the Middle East analytically demotes the latter’s heterogeneity; c. it overlooks the relevance of gender performativity in episodes of sexual dissent in the Middle East, be it in an heterosexual or a non-heterosexual context; d. the universalization of gay rights leads to a Euro-American binary assessment of sexuality as either “perverted” or “normal” (Weber 2016); either “bad” or “good” (Rubin 1984). On the other hand, inner or endo-queer-(y)ing is flat, non-binary, and in many ways though not exclusively, rectifying. It embodies the recent scholarship on queer IR; whereas Melanie Richter-Montpetit (2017) urges us to distinguish between LGBT and queer approaches in IR, Cynthia Weber invites us to embrace an “intellectually queer curiosity” that is capable of showing how simultaneous processes of sexualisation, de-sexualization and hypersexualization are “powerfully mobilized in international politics, challenging the common assumption that (homo)sexuality is trivial in international politics” (Weber 2016, 19).


Nikita Shepard: Queering the Great Migration

This paper brings historical research on the African American Great Migration from 1910-1970 into dialogue with contemporary theorization around sexuality and transnational migration. Conceptualizing Jim Crow segregation not just as a regional social system but a racialized border regime stretching throughout the United States, I examine the significance of sexuality both to white efforts to regulate black mobility and to black resistance in the form of interregional migration. Building on the work of Kevin Mumford and Chad Heap into “interzones” and racial/sexual slumming in Great Migration cities, I describe black and interracial spaces of same-sex sexuality and interpret them within a migration paradigm, complicating accounts that attribute Black northward movement to solely to escape from white supremacist violence and pursuit of economic opportunity. The exclusionary and segregationist policies—Northern and Southern—that constrained African Americans and federal bureaucratic regulations that constructed homosexuality as a targeted category of regulation in the mid-twentieth century United States each defined modalities of second-class citizenship, solidifying borders and circumscribing mobility. In this context, the escalation of the Black freedom struggle and the homophile and gay liberation movements in the later years of the Great Migration gain salience not only for their efforts to secure political rights, but for their intervention against internal border regimes designed to regulate the movement of racially and sexually defined populations. However, building on the work of Christine Hanhardt, I conclude that the territorially defined logics of queer anti-violence organizing adopted after 1970 served to strengthen the shifting racialized border regimes engendered by neoliberal development in urban areas. Drawing on arrest records and court cases, memoirs and oral histories, queer of color and borderlands theorists, fictional representations, and other archives, this paper complicates the intersecting histories of race, sexuality, and movement(s) across the twentieth century United States.


Gala Rexer, HU Berlin: Topographies of Bodies, Borders and Reproduction: Repro-Politics in Palestine/Israel

This paper focuses on the complicated intersections of bodies, citizenship, borders, technologies of reproduction, and space in Palestine/Israel by turning to the experiences of female Palestinian citizens of Israel who seek to undergo fertility treatment, and Palestinian women living in the West Bank, who got pregnant by undergoing IVF treatment with sperm their imprisoned husbands smuggled out of Israeli jails. As a considerable amount of studies has already shown, Israel is among the most liberal states worldwide regarding the regulation, implementation, and subsidization of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). Around 20% of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians and should hence de jure derive benefit from Israel’s reproeconomy. However, as has been discussed extensively, Israel’s selective pronatalism first and foremost targets Jewish-Israeli citizens. The ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the sea, air and land blockade of Gaza furthermore reinforce bio- and necropolitical management of Palestinian land and people. As a result, Palestinian and Israeli bodies and populations are being politicized – both within and beyond the green line. This paper aims to critically expand research in this multilayered field by turning to 40 qualitative in-depth interviews with female Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinian women living in the West Bank, and Israeli medical staff (Muslim, Jewish, and Christian physicians) I conducted from 2016 – 2018 in Israel and the West Bank. A key finding of these interviews is the importance of the category of space in (politicized) discourses on (assisted) reproduction. Spanning from the construction of Israeli fertility clinics as “utopian non-spaces”, medical routes of exchange (of knowledge, egg cells/sperm, prejudices, and cooperation) between Israeli clinics and clinics in the West Bank, to several border-crossings in the case of sperm smuggling in the West Bank, all these cases are connected through their embeddedness in a politicized topography of bodies, borders and reproduction. As other scholarly work has demonstrated, Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s notion of the “third country” constitutes a fruitful approach to the case of Palestine/Israel and will hence serve as my analytical framework in this paper in order to understand these topographies from the perspective of Palestinian women and their bodies.

Grace Tran, University of Toronto: ‘How the Wedding Cake Crumbles’: Negotiations of Marriage, Sex, and Intimacy along the Canadian Border

In 2011, the Harper administration launched a nationwide, tough-on-marriage-fraud campaign with the intention of ‘cracking down’ on instances of fraudulent marriage Canada. This campaign echoes the salient trend of regulating and surveilling state borders in the name of national security. Against this changing policy landscape, my research presents the first detailed study of how immigrants present themselves to Canadian state authorities when regularizing their legal status through marriage, by undertaking the first in-depth, descriptive empirical account of individuals who have knowingly and willingly participated in what the Canadian government would consider ‘marriage fraud.’  I explore the ways in which citizenship and declarations of “love” at the border unfold along gendered, racialized lines by considering the following questions: How do participants in ‘marriage fraud’ understand their strategies, decisions, goals, and motivations for participating in these arrangements? How do these actors navigate difficult situations that require nuanced performances of ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’ love, desire, and intimacy, such as weddings, tea ceremonies, and honeymoon nights? How does undergoing the Canadian spousal sponsorship process affect individuals’ understandings of self, love, marriage, and intimacy?

Drawing on preliminary interviews with participants from the Vietnamese-Canadian community who have participated in dam cuoi gia (‘fake weddings’) as marriage brokers and as sponsors, this paper documents the experiences of those directly affected by the concept of ‘marriage fraud’ to shed light on the ways in which love, marriage, and intimacy are sustained, negotiated, and reproduced along state borders during a time of intensified border control. I argue that before, during, and even long after undergoing the immigration application process, participants’ interactions with a voyeuristic Canadian immigration system trigger persisting and complex transformative effects that they must constantly negotiate; this, in turn, shapes actors’ identities and understandings of what it means to engage in an act deemed criminal by the government, to be part of an ‘authentic’ marriage, to engage in intimacy, to be part of a ‘family’ unit, and to belong (or not belong) in Canada. My paper aims to provide valuable insights into how nation-state sovereignty is negotiated at the border, how the construct of a ‘real’ as opposed to ‘fraudulent’ marriage affects transnational couples, and how marriage decisions shape the lives of all parties involved, including the couple and the state charged with policing and surveilling the legitimacy of their relationship.


Henry Neim Osman, Goldsmiths, University of London: The Kiss of the Electron: Haptic Surveillance, Sensuous Governance and the Erotics of Security

This paper argues that whole body imaging is a haptic as well as visual process, and that a haptic vocabulary, emerging from the material encounter of surveillance, might be a more precise critical tool to analyze the space of the scanner. Too often, the language used to describe the security line is purely visual; bodies are rendered in pixels and virtually stripped while the touch of the scanner is lost. I elaborate on Laura Marks’s work on haptic vision and Karen Barad’s theorization of touch as “response-ability” to argue that (machine) vision is a touch. I then use this articulation to read different surveillance technologies, such as CCTV, thermographic cameras and backscatter scanners. The primary mode of surveillance that I focus on, and that I argue most clearly instantiates haptic surveillance, is the backscatter scanner, which was banned from airports but is still used in prisons and courts. I argue that a new mode of “sensuous” governance is produced by the touch of the scanner and locate three distinct ways that sensuous governance is at play. The first is that the touch of the scanner is atomized and therefore unfelt and unregistered; nevertheless, a touch is present. The second reckons with how sensuous governance interfaces with the skin. Instead of penetrating the flesh, backscatter scanners graze against it and in attempting to know the subject, ionize and physically change it in an onto-epistemological shift. The final element is the way that the subject’s skin and body are held in the scanner: a hold that is also a caress. This “caress of the state” conjures the erotics that underlie this encounter, brushing against all those involved, and highlights the critical possibilities that emerge through the use of a haptic vocabulary.

Sonia C. Gomez, Harvard University: Rethinking the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908: How Gender and Sexuality Complicate Japanese Exclusion

In 1908, amid rising anti-Japanese sentiment, the United States and Japan made a Gentlemen’s Agreement that restricted Japanese male laborers from entering the U.S., while at the same time, the agreement allowed the immigration of the “parents, wives, and children of Japanese residents in America.” In making this compromise, the United States encouraged the mass migration of Japanese women who entered the US as wives to Japanese immigrant men. Between 1908 and 1921 more than 20,000 Japanese women immigrated to the US thereby turning Japanese bachelor communities into settlements of heteronormative nuclear families. The Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908 is often described as one in a series of informal and formal racial exclusion policies that specifically targeted Japanese communities along the West Coast and parts of the interior west because it excluded men from entering. In this reading, the clause that permitted women to enter is largely left unexamined. In this presentation, I re-examine the Gentlemen’s Agreement to tease out the ways in which gender and sexuality produced pockets of inclusion in an era of racial exclusion. Explicit in the Gentlemen’s Agreement, both in name and in process, was what Eithne Luibhéid terms “heteropatriarchal standards of immigration control that privileged heterosexual marriages over other kinds of immigration.” While the Gentlemen’s Agreement excluded Japanese male laborers from immigrating, at the same time it allowed Japanese brides to enter, producing a paradox of inclusion and exclusion.


Abeera Khan, SOAS, University of London: Good Queer Muslim, Bad Queer Muslim: Contested Subjectification under Queer Liberal Secularity

How is a demand for the Queer Muslim subject produced and exploited? What are the different ways in which the “Queer” and “Muslim” in Queer Muslim are emphasised, positioned as oppositional and/or produced in tandem? Drawing on London, UK as its fieldsite, this paper will investigate the queer modalities of hegemonic secularism, described by Puar as “Queer (liberal) Secularity” (Puar 2007). How are Queer Muslims instrumentalised to perpetuate the mythic binary of secularism versus Islam? What realities transpire for Queer Muslims, and the Muslim community more broadly, through the perpetuation of these myths? How do these discourses reify binaries of, echoing Mahmood Mamdani, what it means to be “Good” and “Bad” Queer Muslim? This paper attempts to elucidate the ways in which queer secularity can function in tandem with histories and continuities of “Western Sexual Exceptionalism”, and the “myths and realities it manufactures” (Puar 2007) .


Naveen Minai, Institute of Business Administration, Karachi: Desi Butch (Where the ‘Twain Shall Meet): Borders, Genealogies, Intimacies

The terms desi and butch are difficult to define separately, but open up new possibilities for thinking sexuality and borders when put together. Desi can mean people from South Asia, and gestures towards land as homeland. Butch can mean queer masculinity, female masculinity, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual women’s subcultures. Desi queer and trans masculine genealogies and experiences have not been explored in depth in discussions of the ways in which space, sexuality, and gender are co-constitutive, especially transnational logics of borders, land, home, diaspora. My project intervenes in this gap in debates about sexuality, nation, migration, and land in South Asia by examining desi, butch, and desi butch as potential analytics. I attend in particular to the work of these spatio-temporal modes of intimacy and collectivity, and the risks and costs of these shared intimacies and genealogies to ask how reworking forms of space and negotiating multiple borders enable decolonized modes of desire and collectivity. That is, how do we understand desi butch as reworking heteronormative borders of bodies, collectivities, intimacies, genealogies? Using autoethnography and literary analysis, I explore desi butch sexualities as spatial modes of intimacy, alienation, care, fragmentation, and genealogy, in multiple vocabularies of land and home. I ask after the complicated affects, temporalities, and desires signaled by desi butch as a category that troubles and has trouble with heteronormative border regimes and futurities in Pakistan and the US, including questions of translation and citizenship. In particular, I discuss the potential of desi butch as a sexual-spatial analytic through which we can understand the ways in which sexuality matters for the struggles of, between, and around borders. In doing so, I ask what forms, spaces, and practices of care and collectivity are made possible through desi butch as negotiations of borders, and experiences of melancholy and alienation produced by different lines (Gopinath 2005, Ahmed 2006).


Caroline Séquin, University of Chicago: A French Paradox: Negotiating the “Traffic in Women” Between Metropole and Colony in the Twentieth Century  

As anxieties about the traffic of young, virgin, white women grew from the late nineteenth century, several countries joined force to repress what came to be known as the “white slave trade.” France played a key role in the elaboration of the various international treaties adopted in the first half of the twentieth century that aimed to combat sex trafficking, hosting major conventions and helping in devising the legal texts. And yet, when it came to moving from theory to practice, French officials balked at the idea of extending to its empire the very texts they helped to bring about, delaying their application sometimes for decades. This presentation explores how French officials and lawmakers manipulated definitions of sovereignty, territory, and citizenship to justify the emergence of a colonial clause that enabled them to exclude French colonial territories from the treaties’ scope, thereby enabling colonial prostitution to thrive. In colonial Dakar, where tolerated brothels were staffed exclusively with white women who catered to white Frenchmen, the migration of French women from the metropole to the colony was crucial to the survival of the local sex industry. By turning a blind eye to the migration— whether chosen or coerced—of white French women to colonial brothels, French officials thus hoped to provide a sexual outlet to white French colonists that would in turn keep them away from seeking nonwhite women. Colonial prostitution, which relied on the immigration of white women, thus served to limit the occurrence of interracial sexual-conjugal relations and their potential outcome—mixed-race children. At stake, then, was the preservation of Frenchness as white and heterosexual. Using correspondence exchanged between the League of Nations’ representatives, French governmental and colonial authorities, feminist activists, and jurisconsults, this presentation analyzes how the migration of women for sexual labor was negotiated at the junction of imperial and global politics. In doing so, it sheds light on the power relations at play between various entities situated on different scales—whether local, national, imperial, or global—as well as their competing visions of borders, sexuality, and sovereignty.