Impossible Desires

“They can take my body, but they can never take my spirit.” – Troy Davis

I wish I had a catchy phrase, but I just call them perspective moments – when I am struggling to finish a book exploring queer diasporas and South Asian public cultures, listening to my mama tell me about my little brother’s refusal to finish high school, losing sleep over the hum-drum of graduate school (“Who will be my chair? “Where do I begin? “Will I finish?), and always the negotiations between me and those I care for – a (Black) man is executed (murdered) by the state of Georgia in the face of overwhelming evidence that he did not kill the (white) (male) Police Officer so many years ago as charged.

My backyard vigil for Troy Davis was organized around the one star I could find (when I was little I believed that when “good people” died they went to live on stars and occasionally I still look up to them – pun intended – when I am feeling sad) and I tried to (re)center myself and heed Troy’s words to continue to fight, because there will be another Troy Davis as long as the logics, or pillars to evoke Andrea Smith, of white supremacy are central organizing principles in the United States. This is all to say that the execution of Troy Davis is a perspective moment and I returned to Gayatri Gopinath’s Impossible Desires to see whether the text suggests strategies for creating new worlds.

In Impossible Desires, Gopinath raises the following question: How can we theorize diasporic queerness in a way that does not simply replicate the violent effacements of conventional diasporic and nationalist formations (p. 78)? From my reading, Gopinath explores South Asian popular culture, predominately film and music, as way to demonstrate how ostensibly queer, antiracist productions often (re)center gay male queerness that then “renders queer female desire and subjectivity impossible” (p. 78). These queer projects (re)produce a binary between queerness and feminism. Gopinath’s goal is to “dislodge the insistent, obsessive focus on patrilineal inheritance that structures diasporic narratives…[which then] enables us to reconceptualize diaspora through a queer feminist lens” (p. 65). Privileging queer female subjectivity radically reconfigures home as “outside of a logic of blood, purity, authenticity, and patrilineal descent” and thus disrupts conventional (nationalistic masculine) diasporic narratives.

Methodologically, Gopinath’s text asks us to pay attention to “those who lack power, but have presence,” to ask “different questions of dominant, recognizable archives and to rethink what constitutes a viable cultural archive in the first place” (p. 57). In relation to my project, Impossible Desires opens a space for me to ask, “What would it mean to queer our notion of security?” One of my goals is to (re)imagine security-safety without relying on the logics of the prison-industrial complex. Do I begin by situating how the logics of the PIC already shape our notions of security-safety? Questions for today.

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