This is a shorter version of a commentary by Paola Bacchetta, Fatima El-Tayeb and Jin Haritaworn that appears in Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, volume 33, issue 5. The full version is accessible here, with subscription.
Our intervention engages with Queer People of Colour (QpoC) positionalities as a valuable lens through which to rethink the racial and colonial imaginaries of subjects and space in Europe. We bring together race, gender, class, colonialism and sexuality, inseparably, in a shared analytic. We address multiple erasures: of genders, sexualities and race from discussions of space; of QPoC in Europe from discussions of European subjects, race and space; and from US-centric QPoC studies. Europeans are generally presumed to be homogeneously white, while racialized subjects are generally presumed to be uniformly straight and cis. Rarely is space understood as a formation that is co-constituted through sexualities with other relations of power. Our intervention radically rethinks urban environments in their relation to race, subjects and agencies. It also puts QPoC in Europe on the map.
We recognize that the categories ‘queer’ and ‘of colour’ are contingent, contested and unfinished. They can reinforce US-centricity and erase differences among gender and sexually non-conforming collectivities anywhere. When the term ‘people of colour’ travels to Europe it sometimes keeps Europe white and the US hegemonic, and dismisses local antiracist and anti-imperialist struggles as inauthentic and derivative. Similarly, ‘queer’ often circulates in ways that universalize white colonial genders and sexualities, while erasing all others. Yet “queer” entered the academy and transnational flows as an alternative to homonormative identifyers largely via working-class dykes of colour in the U.S. (Anzaldúa 2007; Bacchetta, Falquet and Alarcon 2012; Bacchetta 2002). The assimilation of ‘queer’ (and often ‘queer of colour’) into white-dominated academic formations in Europe often leaves representations of racialized people as deficient, inferior and disentitled to life chances due to their failed genders and heterosexualities, in place (El-Tayeb 2003, Haritaworn 2005).
For this project, despite these indisputable problems, we mobilize both “queer” and “people of colour” to describe radical interventions of QPoC in a Europe from which they remain violently excluded. While identities and allegiances are multilayered and shifting, today the notion of “queer people of colour” allows European QPoC activists, and allows us as scholars coming out of this context, to trace connections that are more complex than dominant US- and Eurocentric narratives imply.
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