This is the forty-third post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.
This is the fifth of seven posts of material from Professor Kevin Floyd’s Queer Studies seminar at Kent State University. Most of these Recovered Writing posts are from summaries that we wrote during the semester on readings. Most of these were densely theoretical works, but we could not expend more than one page on these summaries–no more and no less–exactly one page. This was an incredibly useful exercise to get to the heart of an argument, study its supporting evidence, and identify its strengths and weaknesses. These summaries encouraged us to take a rigorous approach to understand arguments, express those arguments cogently, and adopt the jargon, terminology, and language utilized by the argument’s writer.
Jason W. Ellis
Professor Kevin Floyd
8 April 2008
Summary of Chandan Reddy’s “Asian Diasporas, Neoliberalism, and Family”
Chandan Reddy analyses the confluence of capital and the state in the creation of the figure of the “gay Pakistani immigrant” in this essay. His interest lies in the crossing of Asian immigrants into the U.S. and their experience, emblematized by Saeed Rahman’s account in the opening quote. Immigration law is the system that generated the “gay Pakistani immigrant.” This figure challenges a shift in U.S. immigration law that has been reconfigured by neoliberal influences around the constructed idea of the “family.” Neoliberal economies and policies have shifted focus from serving the individual to promoting capital, which particularly disadvantages diasporic subjects. Dismantling the U.S. welfare state figures into a distribution of entitlements rather than a redistribution of wealth–capital is advanced rather than labor. As a result, the poor and immigrants are further disenfranchised by policy under the rubric of security. In defending the neoliberal American subject, all opponents are labeled/configured as terrorists, which align them in opposition to the catchall words: “democracy, civil society, and rights” (106). Gay marriage in the U.S. constitutes a convergence of Foucault’s deployment of alliances and deployment of sexuality, which it centered on the family. Foucault’s argument that the family extends and consolidates the deployment of alliance links the state and family through law and sex. Currently, those desiring same-sex marriage, while seeking legitimation, have displaced other queer issues. The deployment of sexuality in the U.S. is connected to the “nonnational differences…of gender, race, and sexuality” to expand the working classes, and immigration alters those same differences (108). Using the rhetoric of “family reunification,” the state increases the labor pool while appearing to perform an altruistic function for immigrant noncitizens (109). Furthermore, the welfare responsibility of incoming immigrants has been shifted from the government to the petitioning families. The closeting of immigrant persons is not something merely accepted by them, but it arises out of immigration policies and the state’s focus on the family for visa disbursement. State and federal support of religious welfare organizations over secular ones further an emphasis on heteronormativity. The end of the traditional welfare state is not a good thing, because it only effects the working and poor, and state involvement in those person’s lives will only take other forms such as within the family and church. According to Roderick Ferguson, capital seeks any available labor, while the state enforces “a set of racialized gender ideals” (112). Capital breaks hierarchies while the state enforces/protects heteronormativity along race, gender, and sex lines. Returning to the gay Pakistani immigrant example, a queer of color critique would not necessarily see the U.S. as protecting gay liberty or this example instituting greater gay visibility in the history of law. Instead, that critique would show how the gay Pakistani immigrant is formed at the convergence of mandated heteronormativity and the state’s supposed support of sexual freedom. That figure comes about from the friction between capital and the state. Furthermore, different gay rights groups may read Rahman’s narrative as a gay Pakistani immigrant in different ways. Reddy reads the law as an “archive of racialized sexuality,” or a kind of socio-historical archive (115). The law, as archive, binds historical and social differences including gender, race, and sexuality. Additionally, the law can be read as a social history of a culture through its development over time. The archive is not passive–it reveals as well as creates subjectivities, and it registers “difference and community” (116). The author reads the figure of the gay Pakistani immigrant as the “limit of the archive”–the point at which to reverse engineer the archive’s “conditions for existence” (116).