Authoritarianisms and a right-wing populist resurgence across the globe are once again responsible for a sweeping range of violations. While some groups have been exposed to the cold face of oppression only recently, other groups have long been subjected to similar abuses, ranging from discrimination to direct physical harm. In Turkey under the Erdoğan regime, for example, academics in 2016 calling on the government to end its human rights violations against the Kurds in its southeast and demanding a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue were subjected to exhausting administrative and legal sanctions. Anti-Muslim sentiment and practices are being constantly provoked by the Modi Regime in India. In Russia, Putin is relying on fuelling nationalism to ever expand his powers. Trump, like Putin and Bolsonaro, has harnessed nationalist discourses that work along racial, ethnic, and religious lines and frequently this is built off of dis/misinformation. Therefore, while racial, ethnic and religious identity formations and mobilisations are readily apparent in the context of authoritarianism and conflict, this conference seeks to move beyond this focus and complicate our understanding by bringing non-normative sexualities into the picture.
In countries where nationalisms are resurging, the very term ‘queer’ as well as queer and LGBTIQ+ politics have been framed and rejected by dominant narratives as ‘Western’ and ‘colonial’, both in much of the scholarship (Kulpa & Mizielinska 2012) as well as by authoritarian nationalists. But LGBTIQ+ people in these countries do not necessarily agree with such analyses, which they see as simplified narratives, and instead see their activism as vital to political resistance, and much more complex. (TallBear 2018; Luther & Ung Loh 2018; Slany, Kowalska & Smietana 2005; Popa & Sandal 2019). Dynamics of this kind occur in locations as distinct as, for example, North America, South Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. However, in reality, situations can be even more complex: e.g. in Kashmir, the colonial narratives are seen to be coming from the Indian state rather than only from ‘the West’ (Anand, 2019). On the other hand, emergent nationalisms in some other places are framed as gay-friendly, to the extent of being critiqued as ‘homonationalist’ (Puar 2007). Stigmatisation of geographies, ethnicities, and religions, in some instances, in the name of LGBTIQ+ rights, perpetuate and justify Islamophobia, for example, in the United Kingdom (Ahmed 2011). Conversations such as the one we are proposing with this conference are crucial at this current time of a resurgence of right-wing nationalisms, and their frequent ‘anti-gender’ and anti-LGBTIQ+ framing (Patternotte & Kuhar 2018; Takács and Szalma 2019).
This interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars and activists working on and campaigning against authoritarianisms and right-wing attacks on democracy through a queer perspective. By queering authoritarianisms, we mean making visible LGBTIQ+ lives and politics which resist authoritarian and undemocratic politics. However, we also rest on the ambiguity and potential that ‘queer’ has to offer. Following the Keynote Discussion with the participation of Dr Rahul Rao (Keynote) and Professor Jasbir Puar (Response), there will be four academic sessions on themes such as ‘Queer and Conflict’, ‘The Gendered and Sexual Politics of Authoritarianisms’, ‘Authoritarianisms Caught in the Web: Queer Digital Activisms’ and ‘Decolonising Sexualities’ in addition to workshops including ‘writing amidst conflict’ and ‘transnational LGBTIQ+ activisms and care’. We intend for this conference to initiate fruitful conversations and intersectional solidarities among academics, activists, and academic activists.