Queer Politics/the International Studies Association

11 February 2010, 1755 EST

A couple of months ago now, I blogged about the establishment of the LGBTQA Caucus of ISA, asking for support with signatures of dues-paying ISA members. Many of you sent your support, and as a result, the petition had many more than the number of signatures necessary for it to be presented at the Governing Council meeting this coming Tuesday, 2/16.

I’ve recently discovered that my original post was discussed elsewhere in the great “blogosphere” out there, particularly by James Joyner on “Outside the Beltway,” arguing that there is no need for an LGBTQA caucus for ISA because LGBTQ activism can already take place within ISA.

Directly, to Joyner’s post, I would argue that ISA is in important ways a heterosexist/cissexist organization (and still a sexist one as well), that advocating for the rights of oppressed minorities is not a phenomena that needs explanation, that Joyner’s example of “a man in a dress” experiencing discrimination like a “man with a mustache” (the very construction of which shows a misunderstanding of LGBTQA advocacy) is patently absurd, and the idea of a “purely scholarly organization” without politics is every bit as ridiculous.

But I will leave detailing those critiques to others more articulate than I am.

I’m more interested, here, in the indirect point. The LGBTQA Caucus of ISA is not a cause I own, and particularly not a cause I own as chair of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies (FTGS) section of ISA or as (as Joyner presumes) a woman and a feminist. In fact, to the extent that I am committed to the establishment of such a Caucus, it is because I see that existing organizational and political structures in ISA (including FTGS) are fundamentally inadequate to the tasks outlined in the mission of the LGBTQA caucus as currently presented.

But the larger point is that Joyner is wrong to characterize this as something that I am working on/establishing/shoving a “self-licking ice cream cone” down people’s throats. Instead, I am part (and only part) of a diverse movement that now includes several hundred scholars interested in improving ISA’s structural and substantive openness to queer concerns.

Along those lines, I want to talk a little bit about the Caucus/LGBTQA issues @ ISA 2010 in New Orleans next week.

While it is not right to talk about the establishment of the LGBTQA caucus as a reaction to the politics around ISA in New Orleans, it also isn’t right to ignore that there are issues concerning ISA New Orleans of particular concern to ISA’s LGBTQ population, whatever way we ultimately fall on those as policy preferences or choices.

We each choose to deal with these issues in different ways, individually and collectively. Some very publicly boycott ISA 2010. Some choose not to come to ISA 2010, and do not talk about it in the public sphere. Some debate the issues and ultimately decide against boycotting. Some ignore the questions, and still others try to silence those people who would discuss the politics of ISA as heterosexist/cissexist. Some look to redress those issues in ISA governance/Louisiana governance.

I struggled a lot with my personal way of dealing with ISA New Orleans, and came up with this. As FTGS section chair, I can put together the FTGS critical/eminent scholarship panel. So I have (in the Friday “D” Session), as a political reaction to ISA New Orleans and what I saw in ISA as a result, and as a hope for us as a field/discipline. The panel will include a number of speakers giving views about the state of/potential for queer theorizing in International Relations.

Because many of you will not be at ISA New Orleans/the panel, I will close this post with my thinking/reasoning/introduction to the panel, and a public (yes, that means you) invitation to contribute:

I’ve always been struck by these words of Naomi Scheman: “the issue is not who is or is not really whatever, but who can be counted on when they come for any one of us: the solid ground is not identity but loyalty and solidarity.” It is perhaps because of my identification with these words that I fully expected the FTGS community, such that it exists, to be counted on, in queer struggles with, attempts to reconcile with, and protests of the choice to hold this conference in this location. Though, as a member of the Governing Council, I need to express complicity, I find ISA’s policy choices on this issue specifically and as (actively and passively) relate to its queer members generally deeply unjust, and forming this panel despite some opposition, the absence (either coincidental or location-based) of most of the few people who have written about queer theorizing in feminist IR, the underexplored nature of queer issues in IR generally and feminist IR specifically, and the tensions between these scholar communities outside of IR, is personal activism for me, “aimed at” ISA, at feminist communities in ISA and more generally, and, not unimportantly, “at” myself.

I did not supply the panelists with a set of questions for this panel, and do not intend to exclude voices in the room with something to say on these issues that are not “on” the panel. As such, I’ve asked the panelists to talk for 8-10 minutes, sharing our prepared thoughts, but also collected others’ thoughts in different media, and, after the presentation of those prepared thoughts, am open to “audience” participation either in the traditional question-and-answer format or in terms of thoughts about queer theory in (feminist) IR that do not directly relate to the panelists’ thoughts. A multimedia archive of this panel will be put together and shared.

If you will be unable to be in New Orleans, or even just unable to attend the panel, I am extending the request for audience participation virtually. If you’d like to “comment” on the subject matter, feel free to email me your content. Please try to make it appropriate for a panel (I can’t show a bunch of ten-minute videos or anything). The best format to submit your contribution in would be a powerpoint slide, but I’m open to taking other forms of contribution as well. So, please “participate” if you’re interested, come to the panel if you’d like to, and visit our archive afterwards, details of which will be posted later.