Monday, October 08, 2012

Some have taken note of the strange turn that the career of Judith Butler, a leading postmodern theorist, has taken. Active in Germany, she has joined the campaign against homonationalism. This cause has achieved some prominence in Western Europe and Canada, though so far not so much in this country.

This effort involves so many facets that it is hard to describe briefly. Basically, it seems to reflect the notion that the malign influence of Western imperialism (never mind the other kinds) is responsible for all the ills of the world. The hapless nations of the Third World are in this view innocent of any wrongdoing; they are merely victims of the heartless incursions of the West, which are cultural as much as economic and military. One aspect of this unwarranted inference is the "peculiar notion" that there is a universal horizon of civil rights, a standard of decency that applies everywhere.
No, the opponents of homonationalism say; all cultures are relative and we must never presume to interfere with other nations, simply try to understand and empathize with them.

One of the truly unfortunate results of this warped view is to argue that we must simply accept homophobia in Third World countries. It is, after all, their culture, pure and undefiled--or would be if we had simply not kept besmirching their pristine values.

One component of this view is the attack on "pinkwashing," a supposed process of exonorating the state of Israel because its policies on homosexuality are benign. Personally, I am critical of the current Israeli government, and concerned about the rightward turn of politics in that country. I certainly do not view with any composure the possibility of war with Iran. Yet there comes a point where criticism of Israel crosses over into overt antisemitism, and that seems to be happening with some adherents of the anti-imperialist approach.

By the way, there is to be a conference at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on homonationalism next year.

At all events, the leading proponent of the homonationalist approach seems to be a professor teaching at an American university:


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