Sexuality and the Categorization of Populations



In How and for whom does gender matter? Rethinking the concept of sexual orientation (2013), Alison Better and Brandy Simula problematize “gender-centric” (665) understandings of sexual orientations, arguing instead for a broadening of sexuality research to encompass dimensions of sexuality which are not formed in relation to gender preferences. As they write, researchers have increasingly found divisions between how individuals self-identify sexually and their sexual practices or the gender of their partners (665). Yet nonetheless, discourses of sexual orientation remain dominated by a gender-centric understanding of sexuality, such as queer heterosexuality discourses (668), which cannot adequately capture dimensions of sexuality that are not exclusively, or at all, related to gender. As Better and Simula’s research highlight, many individuals feel they cannot adequately represent their sexuality through gender-centric discourses of sexuality (676-677) as other factors such as race (668, 669), BDSM roles (671, 672-4) or personal connection (675) may be just as, or more, important in ones sexuality.

Better and Simula’s work joins many other gender and sexuality sociologists in “calling for multi-faceted conceptions and measures of sexual orientation” (669) – making their particular contribution by rethinking gender-centric understandings of sexuality. A central theme which has underpinned these calls has been a challenging of the possibility to categorize populations into distinct sexual identity categories. Attempts to categorise and express ones sexuality through a single identity or word – regardless of whether it be heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, trans, bi or other sexual orientation and identities more broadly – suggests an identity, a group, which is the similar. However such forms of identification and categorization risk homogenizing through rendering a multitude of different experiences as the same or similar. As Better and Simula shows, even within identities which appear to be gender-centric such as homosexuality or heterosexuality, non-gendered dimensions of sexuality, such as BDSM roles or race, may often play a more significant role in the sexual desires and practices of individuals. Attempting to homogenize sexuality into preferences of male or female would thus miss when gender either works in relation with other dimensions or is irrelevant in sexual practices.

Research on heterodoxy (Beasley et al 2015) also joins in pursuing this deconstructive attitude, particularly through theorizing heterosexuality. Heterodoxy foregrounds forms of heterosexuality which differ from the orthodox to consider what such divergences mean or can potentially mean for gender and sexual power-relations ( 682). By challenging the possibility of homogenizing heterosexuality as monolithic and homogeneously oppressive, and “queer as the only site for a less oppressive sexuality” (Beasley et al 2015, 681), heterodoxy importantly also contributes to discussion and conceptualizations of more equal gender and sexual relations. This is a controversial position that needs thorough consideration of the exclusion made through theorizing heterodoxy and presents some of the challenges which this emerging deconstructive pursuit may have to face.

This resistance towards homogenizing sexual identities as monolithic also coincides with Tristan Bridges A Very Gay Straight? (2013) research on how heterosexual men may come to define their deviations from homogenous understandings of their gender and sexual identities, male heterosexuals, as ways in which they are “a very gay straight” (58). Importantly, Bridges highlights the significance of more nuanced understandings of sexuality through sexual aesthetics (58), whereby heterosexuals can identify themselves as ‘gay,’ as it is more than a matter of defining oneself but also serves to obscure sexual inequalities and how heterosexuals who deploy sexual aesthetics benefit from these inequalities (58).

On a final note, Better and Simula’s work in moments almost coincided with assemblage theory. As Better and Simula quote an interviewee, “[i]t really is about the person and not about the sex of the person” (672). Better and Simula draw from this that desire itself is a result of interactions as opposed to gender. Horowitz (2013) may expand this to argue that desire is not a result of interactions but intra-actions. In an assemblage or new materialist view, bodies are constantly intra-acting and being constituted relationally with other matter – “people, computers ideas, the weather” (320) – which suggests against any expectations we may have that meanings, or sexuality, should be reproduced in a consistent manner (320). As Horowits writes “[b]ecause we are looking at different phenomena [i.e., different people meeting, or the same people meeting on a different day, a different place, having intra-acted with many new forms of matter since]… it should come as no surprise that the observations issuing from each one… should differ as well” (319).


Note: Image does not represent the nuanced approach being suggested 

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Feminism, Queer Theory

Who Is The Hegemon in Hegemonic Masculinities?

Hegemonic Masculinities


In Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity in a Globalizing World (2008) Christine Beasley provides a critique and reconceptualization of R. W. Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinities. A central concern of Beasley with hegemonic masculinity is Connell’s depiction of the pinnacle of hegemonic masculinity being “transnational business masculinity” (92). For Beasley “Connell’s approach is insufficiently tied to demonstrating how transnational business masculinities have achieved a hegemonic role specifically in relation to the gender order” (93). She further states that “it is not clear how one would assess whether any particular version of masculinity has an over-arching legitimating function” (93). Beasley may be correct that Connell does not sufficiently provide an explanation for why the hegemon in hegemonic masculinity is transnational business. However we may turn to C. J. Pascoe’s Dude, You’re a Fag’: Adolescent Masculinity and the Fag Discourse (2005) and Alesha Durfee’s I’m Not a Victim, She’s an Abuser’: Masculinity, Victimization, and Protection Orders (2011) in considering how an assessment of over-arching forms of masculinity may be carried out.

Neither Pascoe nor Durfee approach hegemonic masculinity as being exemplified by transnational business but instead, paralleling with the rethinking of hegemonic masculinity put forth by Beasley, their writing emphasizes that hegemonic masculinity is established through discourse. Pascoe’s research foregrounds how “[t]he relationship between adolescent masculinity and sexuality is embedded in the spectre of the faggot” whereby “American adolescent boys become masculine through the continual repudiation of a ‘fag’ identity” (329). This ‘becoming’ masculine is largely a discursive movement as it aligns with cultural norms of masculinity which Pascoe shows through recognizing ‘fag’ discourses as racialized. Particularly Pascoe discusses the differences between white and African-American boys in how they understand masculinities regarding clothing (340) and dancing (341) and how this alters their usage of ‘fag’ discourses. Despite Pascoe not using the term hegemonic masculinities within her article, we may see from her work how ‘fag’ discourses reveal a form of masculinity which has an over-arching legitimating function – producing heteronormativity as a quality of the hegemon.


Similarly, Durfee’s I’m Not a Victim, She’s an Abuser researches how men tend to reaffirm the ideals of hegemonic masculinity even while filing petitions for domestic violence civil protection orders. In navigating “a paradoxical social context… one where men are seen as perpetrators of domestic violence, not victims, while at the same time men are increasingly claiming victimization” (317), Durfee writes that “men carefully balance the two identities of “victim” and “man” by describing their victimization in ways that allow them to conform to ideals of hegemonic masculinity” (319). She highlights three main themes which reveal the influence of hegemonic masculinity in men’s abuse narrative (323). First men portray themselves as having been assaulted yet not victims, second they are careful to describe that they are neither the abuser nor abusive, and finally they did not express a fear of their partner. Durfee’s highlights the paradox of this as they are “telling their stories to obtain court orders. There are clear incentives to present oneself as a victim and one’s partner as an abuser. However, the majority of narratives analyzed here do not support this hypothesis” (329).

Both Pascoe and Durfee used hegemonic masculinity in a manner that did not align with Beasley’s description of the concept but instead her rethinking. I wonder whether if upon reading Connell’s work on hegemonic masculinity I would find that Beasley has misread the work or that Pascoe and Durfee are using hegemonic masculinity in a different manner than Connell’s proposal. On a different, and final, point both Pascoe and Durfee’s research produced results which ran counter to claims of inclusive masculinities and postfeminism, as discussed and contrasted by Rachel O’Neill in Whither Critical Masculinity Studies?: Notes on Inclusive Masculinity Theory, Postfeminism, and Sexual Politics (2015). Both Pascoe and Durfee’s work separately is sufficient to make inclusive masculinity and postfeminist researchers reconsider whether we are indeed in times of inclusive masculinity and postfeminism.


Beasley, Christine. 2008. “Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity in a Globalizing World.” Men and Masculinities 11: 86-103.

Durfee, Alesha. 2011. “‘I’m Not a Victim, She’s an Abuser’: Masculinity, Victimization, and Protection Orders.” Gender & Society 25(3):316-334.

O’Neill, Rachel. 2015. “Whither Critical Masculinity Studies?: Notes on Inclusive Masculinity Theory, Postfeminism, and Sexual Politics.” Men and Masculinities 18(1): 100-120.

Pascoe, C. J. 2005. “‘Dude, You’re a Fag’: Adolescent Masculinity and the Fag Discourse.” Sexualities 8: 329-346.


Posted in Uncategorized

Feminist and Queer Scholarship: Intersectionality V Assemblage Theory

In Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System (2007) Maria Lugones offer a new framework for thinking about how gender operates within colonial power: the colonial/modern gender system. Lugones’s framework is heavily postcolonial, arguing that colonialism has not ended as “gender itself is a colonial concept” (186) and remains as an embodiment of its continuity. Lugones theorizing is also intersectional seeing that “heterosexuality, capitalism, and racial classification are impossible to understand apart from each other” (187).

Gender under the colonial/modern gender system is not binary, as colonialism imposed “many genders” (186) hierarchically placed within a light and a dark side of the colonial/modern gender system. The light side refers to body-reasoning’s under colonial power which “affirm rather than reject an oppressive organization of life” (187) such as “[b]iological dimorphism, heterosexualism, and patriarchy” (190). Those in dark side, the colonized, however, were ‘Othered’ and not always understood in these terms. The dark side was not necessarily gendered as biologically dimorphic but could be intersexed “with large penises and breasts with flowing milk” (195). This leads Lugones to point out that if the colonial/modern gender system assigned sexual dimorphism only for “white bourgeois male and females, it certainly does not follow that the sexual division is based on biology” (195).

We may point to two differences between Lugones intersectional theorising and the shifts in feminist and queer scholarship towards theorising assemblages, as exemplified by the work of  Jasbir Puar – the subject and praxis.

The tensions in theorizing the subject between the two approaches is captured by Puar in ‘I Would Rather Be a Cyborg Than a Goddess’: Becoming-Intersectional in Assemblage Theory (2012) where she proposes her critique of intersectionality in proving assemblage as an alternative: these approaches are brought into tension within a nexus between “theories that deploy the subject as a primary analytic frame, and those that highlight the forces that make subject formation tenuous, if not impossible or even undesirable” (40). Puar disfavors the former – intersectionality – as she argues that it is used to account for the “specific difference of “women of color,”” (52) which produces women of color as an ‘Other’ within intersectionality. Puar instead prefers theorizing in terms of assemblages which “de-privilege the human body as a discrete organic thing” (57) and resist solidification of intersectional identities as “bodies are unstable entities that cannot be seamlessly disaggregated into identity formations” (56).

A second tension between Lugones and Puar concerns praxis. Though both see their work as a form of informing praxis, the politics they present radically differ. Lugones work strikes one as a plea for liberations. She states that “gender arrangements need not to be either heterosexual or patriarchal. They need not be, that is, as a matter of history” (190) and so “[w]e need to place ourselves in a position to call each other to reject this gender system as we perform a transition to communal relations” (189).

In contrast, Puar is less interested in envisaging a transition of any form. She states that the focus of assemblages “is not on whether there is a crime taking place, nor determining who is at fault, but rather asking, what are the affective conditions necessary for the event-space to unfold?” (61). This may be a harsh reading of Puar, but I have never yet seen her work concern itself with what an analysis of ‘the affective conditions necessary for the even-space to unfold’ can provide to praxis and activism, or what she thinks it should mean for how we live together.

+ more great pictures of Puar and a party mix of Lugones on Gender


Lugones, María. 2007. “Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System.” Hypatia 22(1): 186-209.

Puar, Jasbir K. 2012. “‘I Would Rather Be a Cyborg Than a Goddess’: Becoming-Intersectional in Assemblage Theory.” philoSOPHIA 2 (1): 49-66.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Feminism, Postcolonialism, Poststructuralism, Uncategorized

The Role of Maori Land Rights Activism in the 1970’s in Reacquiring Maori Land


As a nation-state where the indigenous population has been denied de-colonization and self-determination, alienation from land has been among Maori grievances since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840, which had contrarily promised Maori sovereignty over their lands. Resistance to land alienation has also been a prominent theme of Maori activism as the last resort to resist colonization and the settlers disregard of Te Tiriti and Maori rights. The 1970’s particularly saw the unification and politicization of Maori through activism to resist policies which discrimination against Maori. There has gradually been increasing recognition of Maori rights since, the returning of land

Maori activism has not been restricted to land, yet for simplicity this blog post will focus on activism around land, particularly 3 examples from the 1970’s – the 1975 Land March, the protests at Raglan beginning  the same year and the occupation of Bastion Point in 1977.

1975 Land March

The 73 year long Land Wars (1843-1916) initiated by settlers to acquire Maori land (Walker 2004, 135), accompanied by over a century of imperialist policies designed for the same purpose (Walker 1984, 277), had gradually worked to evict Maori off their land and register it under the possession of settlers or the Crown. Maori resistance to land alienation unified into a land-rights movement in 1975 named Te Roopu o te Matakite, particularly in response to the 1967 Maori Affairs Amendment Act which was dubbed ‘the last land grab’ by activists due to its purpose being to justify the confiscation of Maori land (Walker 2004, 212). In efforts to preserve the remaining one million hectares which Maori owned, Te Roopu o te Matakite led a 30,000 strong hikoi to parliament under the slogan ‘not one more acre of land.’

1975 Land March

Land March (1975)

It may be seen that the marches had failed as no land was directly returned as a result and policy recommendations made by Te Roopu o te Matakite were not adopted. However as a consequences of the Land March Maori across New Zealand were both politicized and united to unprecedented levels in the modern era (Walker 2004, 214). The political-spiritual ideology advocated by Te Roopu o te Matakite consolidated Maori across iwi (Taonui 239), and the galvanizing political discussions which ensued nightly on guest maraes allowed those who had been disconnected or felt distanced from Maori culture to immerse themselves, learn about their roots and draw inspiration from the Maori part of their identity which the colonial government had been working to alienate Maori from (Harris 2004, 75). Various other activists groups had formed inspired by the hikoi to conduct marches and occupations of their own (Taonui 239). The stories of activism in Raglan and Bastion Point particularly display how the land-rights movement in this period had been vital overall in securing recognition of Maori rights and reacquiring Maori land.


In 1972 Tuaiwa (Eva) Rickard and the people of Tainui Awhiro underwent a campaign seeking the return of the Raglan Golf Course. During WWII Tainui Awhiro had been forced off of Raglan for the construction of a military airfield requiring iwi to leave their homes, marae, cultivations and urupa (cemetery), under the agreement that the land would be returned and no harm would come to the urupa (Harris 2004, 60). At the end of the war, however, instead of the land being returned to Tainui Awhiro, Raglan was leased to the Raglan Golf Club to create a golf course, with Maori homes, marae and urupa being demolished without any reference to iwi.

Eva Rickard at Raglan Golf Course (1978)

Eva Rickard at Raglan Golf Course (1978)

Eva became a leading figure in the Land March in 1975 which allowed her to network and enlist support for her campaign (Harris 2004, 62). Later that year with the support she had gathered Eva led an occupation of the golf course resulting in her arrest. Three subsequent offers by the Crown followed proposing Tainui Awhiro buy back the land which had been confiscated off of them, yet all were refused by iwi (Taonui 2013, 240). Eva did not feel iwi should pay for land which rightfully belonged to them and two years later the golf course was re-occupied with support from 250 protesters involved in the land-rights movement, once again leading to their arrests (Harris 2004, 62). The Government offered Tainui Awhiro to buy the land again yet with iwi refusing to compromise their position the Government reworked their position until Raglan was finally returned to Tainui Awhiro at no cost in 1987.

Bastion Point

The occupation of Bastion Point by Joe Hawke and the Orakei Maori Action Group in a similar manner displayed the role Maori activism of this period played in reacquiring Maori land. Hawke had also been politicized during the Land March and continued the Maori activist ethos by organizing an occupation at Bastion Point in 1977 following announcements the previous year by the government to subdivide 24 hectares of land at Bastion Point (Walker 2004, 215). The discriminatory policies aimed at confiscating Maori land had left Ngati Whatua only three acres at Orakei by 1928 (Harris 2004, 79). Showing complete disregard for iwi a sewage pipe was built across the front of their marae in 1912 discharging untreated sewage into a bay which Ngati Whatua had traditionally interacted with (Harris 2004, 82). Through using the pretext of protecting Maori health Ngati Whatua were evicted off of their remaining land in 1951 with their homes and marae bulldozed and burned, rendering it seemingly hopeless to retain their tribal homeland (Harris 2004, 82-83).

The occupation in 1977 called for the return of all 72 hectares of Ngati Whatua land at Bastion Point (Taonui 2013, 242). In response the crown offered Ngati Whatua some land returned yet iwi would also be saddled with $200,000 of debt to pay for development costs – similarly to Raglan the offer was refused.

Though financial hardships made the occupation difficult for activists, the protests only came to end after 506 days when 600 police officers were called to end the occupation by force (Harris 2004, 84). Two further occupations took place in 1982 both leading to arrests. When the Waitangi Tribunal jurisdictions were amended in 1985, Hawke lodged a claim at the tribunal, making Orakei the first historical claim the tribunal heard (Harris 2004, 86). The recommendations made by the tribunal led to the 1991 treaty settlement which included the return of 16 hectares, $3 million in compensation and joint management over 48 hectares at Bastion Point (Taonui 2013, 242).

Police circle activists in Bastion Point before arrests (1978)

Police circle activists in Bastion Point before arrests (1978)

It may be seen that it was not activism which led iwi to regain Bastion Point but the Waitangi Tribunal, yet this would forget that the tribunal itself was formed as the result of activism by Nga Tamatoa (Walker 2004, 212). Furthermore, Raglan highlights how the pressure applied by activism without compromising iwi demands can lead to the gradual recognition of Maori land-rights. It may not be unreasonable to assume the occupations at Bastion Point pressured the Government to recognize Maori land grievances. The protests at Raglan and Bastion Point did not seem as though they were going to end unless resolved and due to the uncompromising position of activists this meant iwi had to be compensated for their losses. In this manner Activism can often force grievances into political discussions and be a tool for marginalized voices to gain representation. The Tribunal alone does not have any power to settle treaty claims but only to write reports which in ways can pressure the government to act. Yet it is difficult to assume the Crown was eventually going to return confiscated land in these regions due to how hard activists had to battle to have their land-rights under the treaty recognized.


Harris, A. (2004). Hikoi: Forty Years of Maori Protest. Wellington: Huia Publishers.

Taonui, R. (2013). Maori Urban Protest Movements. In Danny Keenan (Ed.), Huia Histories of Maori: Nga Tahuhu Korero (pp.229-259). Wellington: Huia Publishers.

Walker, R. (2004). Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End (Rev. ed.). Auckland: Penguin.

Walker, R. (1984). The Genesis of Maori Activism. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 93(3), pp. 267-281.

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Postcolonialism

Our Common But Differentiated Responsibility Concerning Climate Change

Carbon Map,Emissions

Is it fair for ‘developing’ countries to pollute more than ‘developed’ countries?

The notion of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR) emerged as a pillar of environmental law to equitably delineate political responsibilities in regards to made-made climate change.[1] Though the notion of CBDR does have merits, this post will utilize the concept of solidarity, as expanded by Angela Williams, to argue that current interpretations of the CBDR are not fair, even on their own terms. Due to the CBDRs disregard for future sources of pollution and its emphasis on pollution-driven development, it has not yet proven to be an effective framework to address the adverse impacts of climate change, and further threatens to create future climate insecurity.[2]

Common but differentiated responsibility

Concerns over the pollution of greenhouses-gases (carbon dioxide, CFCs, and methane) into the atmosphere, began to emerge as a political and international concern in the early 1970’s and has become a controversial topic within the international community, and also a sensitive area for governments globally, since.[3] These discussions began following warnings from the scientific community, alerting that the emission of greenhouses-gasses through industrial processes, such as energy production, transport, and agriculture, have resulted in a build-up of dense greenhouse-gasses in the atmosphere, which trap heat that would have otherwise escaped back into space.[4] This gradually warms the temperate of the earth, leading to changes in the climate; this process has been referred to as climate change.


The threats of climate change however, over 40 years on, have not been resolved, with surface temperatures of the earth projected to rise over the twenty-first century.[5] It is expected most likely for heat waves of greater intensity and duration to occur, while the oceans warm, and acidify, and sea levels continue to rise.[6] With the threats which climate change poses to human security accelerating, many scholars have begun to analyse how climate change law itself has been either ineffectual in addressing climate change, or further produces social and economic insecurity through its measures.[7]

Williams has critiqued the transition environmental law has made from ideas of solidarity towards a greater emphasis on the individual responsibility, arguing this has further entrenched environmental insecurities, and additionally is ineffectual in attending to the causes of climate change.[8] This can be exemplified through the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR).

The first aspect of the CBDR is borrowed from the concept of “common concern” and “common heritage.”[9] The climate is seen as a ‘commons’ which humankind collectively share, use and depend upon. Thus we also have a common responsibility to cooperate, for example through intergovernmental instruments, to protect the climate. CBDR recognizes that climate change is transnational in nature, in that it affects all parts of the globe and thus requires global cooperation to resolve.[10]

CBDR further aims to recognize the differentiated historical responsibilities in the emissions of greenhouse gases. Developed nations have disproportionately contributed to emission of pollutants which are now showing their ecological impact in the form of climate change.[11] This has particularly been since the Industrial Revolution, as industrialized nation-states have advanced their economies and societies through processes depending on the pollution of greenhouse-gases.[12] The industrialized nations also now have a greater capacity to respond to the challenges posed by climate change, which they are also more responsible in producing; yet developing countries do not share this same level of responsibility nor capacity to respond to the adverse effects of climate change.[13] Due to these common but differentiated responsibilities, CBDR emphasizes that developed countries should take the lead in setting environmental standards and reducing their emissions before developing nation-states are asked to follow.[14]

*Country sizes show CO₂ emissions from energy use 1850–2011. These historical (or 'cumulative') emissions remain relevant because CO₂ can remain in the air for centuries. Europe and the US dominate, having released around half the CO₂ ever emitted.

*Country sizes show CO₂ emissions from energy use 1850–2011. These historical (or ‘cumulative’) emissions remain relevant because CO₂ can remain in the air for centuries. Europe and the US dominate, having released around half the CO₂ ever emitted.

CBDR, however, has many ambiguities which have resulted in controversy over its interpretation and application.[15] These tensions in interpreting CBDR became controversial following the first intergovernmental efforts at dealing with climate change, along with other environmental issues – the Stockholm Conference in 1972. Stockholm is seen to have brought greater international attention on environmental issues as common responsibilities, yet conferences post-Stockholm have made a gradual shift away from commonality of responsibilities and towards greater emphasis on differentiated responsibilities.[16]

There are five near globally participated multilateral environmental agreements which utilized CBDR: Montreal Protocol; the Convention on Biological Diversity; the Framework Convention on Climate Change (“FCCC”); and the Convention to Combat Desertification; the principal has also been reaffirmed through other environmental agreements.[17]

CBDR was used in these protocols to argue that it would be unfair to expect or enforce targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse-pollutants on developing countries, as the development of industrialized nations were not hampered by such constraints.[18] CBDR was seen not only as equitable but also pragmatic, as eliminating any substantial commitments for developing nations would incentivize their participation.[19] It was assumed this would facilitate the initial phase of increasing global dialogue, scientific understandings, and cooperation around climate change.[20] Developed nations were set non-legally binding targets to reduce emissions by, and under protocols such as the FCCC developed countries further set commitments to transfer technology and financial resources to developing nation-states.[21]

However, CBDR has been criticized as “backward-looking” as it does not consider emissions of emerging economies yet only the existing stock built predominantly from the US and Europe’s industrialization, and thus does not consider emissions which will occur in the future.[22] The emissions from emerging economies, which are deemed developing, itself is a climate concern, as even if all developed nations achieved carbon-free status the emissions from developing countries could increase global greenhouse-gas concentrations by eighteen percent over sixty years; this contribution from the developing world alone threatens to greatly aggravating climate changes calamitous effects.[23] This highlights there is indeed a necessity for greater global solidarity over our common yet differentiated responsibilities over greenhouse-gas pollution.

Because of being “backword-looking” It may be argued that the CBDR is currently equitable, yet ineffective if it is to be utilized to address climate change. The CBDR further beg the question of what these common yet differentiated responsibilities should be if global cooperation to address climate change is to be both equitable and effective. Moving towards global reductions of greenhouse-pollutants may seem fairer than allowing developing nations to pollute, as even developing nations have become significant contributors to climate change. This is not to pose that it would be fair to place emission restrictions on emerging economies, such as China, which would hinder their development. China still displays greater levels of poverty than industrialized countries, has low per capita emissions and is not largely responsible for existing stocks of greenhouse-gases.[24]

Yet we must problematize the manner in which a transition to ‘pollution-free’ modes of development have not been considered and outlined, yet modes of development through pollution continue to be assumed by the CBDR. A continuation of the CBDR in this manner only allows emissions to continue into the future which undermines climate change efforts in general, creating greater insecurity globally.[25] Thus the manner in which the CBDR has been adopted does not reflect the realization of common responsibilities to protect the climate, nor an adequate differentiation in responsibilities. Nor does it bring us closer to understanding what these responsibilities should be, in a manner which effectively addresses climate change. As developing nations and citizens of the developing world are the most vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change,[26] there is also paradox in allowing developing nations to pollute on grounds of ‘fairness,’ as they will continue to be disproportionately and unfairly affected by the impacts of this pollution.

*Country sizes show the number of people injured, left homeless, displaced or requiring emergency assistance due to floods, droughts or extreme temperatures in a typical year. Climate change is expected to exacerbate many of these threats.

Commitments of greater cooperation in technological and financial assistance for developing states shows great prospects for initiating moves towards sustainable technology and sustainable development. In order to build low-carbon economies which are not dependent upon greenhouse-gas pollution for development, and economies which recognize their common yet differentiated responsibilities, it is crucial they are assisted in such ways.[27] Yet these commitments which were outlined in FCCC remain ambiguous, have been given no legal foundation, and have not been elaborated on in regards to the extent of assistance which developing nations should be provided.[28] Should they be expanded on and undertaken, the transferals of sustainable technologies for sustainable development may show greater willingness of CBDR interpretations to recognize our common but differentiated responsibilities concerning climate change, to work in solidarity towards finding new modes of development which are sustainable and effective in resolve threats concerning climate change.


CBDR has been a contested concept since its emergence in environmental law. The ambiguity of the concept has left little responsibility being taken by the international community in solidarity, and has further promoted controversy. CBDR can be a useful framework in recognizing different levels of responsibility and capacity to react to climate change. Yet due to the environmental impacts the emissions of emerging economies will have in the future, current interpretations of the CBDR do not seem fair on their own their own standards .The CBDR has not yet provided a framework for addressing our common responsibility over the climate, nor presented what these responsibilities could practically be even on differentiated terms. Thus as a framework to overcome global challenges, the application of CBDR has currently been ineffective and threatens to further aggravate climate insecurities as opposed to resolving them.


[1] M Ruxandra et al., “The “Common but Differentiated Responsibility” Viewed as a Soft Law Instrument and Its Reflection in Some International Environmental Acts,” Advances in Environmental Sciences 5, no. 1 (2013): 10. Accessed October 5, 2015.

[2] Mary J Bortscheller, “Equitable but Ineffective: How the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities Hobbles the Global Fight against Climate Change,” Sustainable Development Law & Policy 10, no. 2 (2010): 51-52. Accessed October 5, 2015.

[3] See more: Kelly-Kate Pease, International Organizations (United States: Pearson, 2012), 232-254.

[4] Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss. Global Politics: A New Introduction. (London: Routledge, 2009.) 52.

[5] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. (2015): 57. Accessed October 5, 2015.

[6] Ibid., 58.

[7] Angela Williams, “Climate Change Law: Creating and Sustaining Social and Economic Insecurity,” Social & Legal Studies 20, no. 4 (2011): 507. DOI: 10.1177/0964663911414240

[8] Ibid., 508.

[9] Rachel Boyte, “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities: Adjusting the ‘Developing’ / ‘Developed’ Dichotomy in International Environmental Law,” New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law 14, no. 2010 (2010): 66. Accessed October 5, 2015.

[10] Williams, “Climate Change Law: Creating and Sustaining Social and Economic Insecurity,” 503.

[11] Paul Harris, “Common but Differentiated Responsibility: The Kyoto Protocol and United States Policy,” New York University Environmental Law Journal 7, no. 1 (1999): 28. Accessed October 5, 2015.

[12] Edkins and Zehfuss, Global Politics: A New Introduction, 51

[13] Harris, “Common but Differentiated Responsibility: The Kyoto Protocol and United States Policy,” 28.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Boyte, “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities: Adjusting the ‘Developing’ / ‘Developed’ Dichotomy in International Environmental Law,” 69.

[16] Ibid., 68.

[17] Ibid., 65-66.

[18] Harris, “Common but Differentiated Responsibility: The Kyoto Protocol and United States Policy,” 32.

[19] Boyte, “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities: Adjusting the ‘Developing’ / ‘Developed’ Dichotomy in International Environmental Law,” 74.

[20] Ruxandra et al., “The “Common but Differentiated Responsibility” Viewed as a Soft Law Instrument and Its Reflection in Some International Environmental Acts,” 12.

[21] Boyte, “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities: Adjusting the ‘Developing’ / ‘Developed’ Dichotomy in International Environmental Law,” 73.

[22] Bortscheller, “Equitable but Ineffective: How the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities Hobbles the Global Fight against Climate Change,” 51.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., 50.

[25] Ibid., 51.

[26] Boyte, “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities: Adjusting the ‘Developing’ / ‘Developed’ Dichotomy in International Environmental Law,” 74.

[27] Williams, “Climate Change Law: Creating and Sustaining Social and Economic Insecurity,” 507.

[28] Ibid.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Green Theory

Nuclear Orientalism and the Iranian Nuclear Negotiations


From the Democratic-leaning supporters to the Republican-leaning opponents, orientalist conceptions of Iran have pervaded discourse on the increasingly controversial topic which is the Iranian Nuclear Negotiation’s.

Though wide differences of opinion are displayed by both sides (and differences within the two camps exist also which I cannot do justice to detail here) I want to problematize the manner in which both sides have reiterated an orientalist us/them dichotomy as the basis for their positions.

The commonality between the two positions is that they both construct Iran as an ‘other’ who cannot not be trusted with a nuclear weapon and must be stopped at all costs. Iran is viewed through orientalist conceptions of being an irrational, untrustworthy and a dangerous actor, who if armed with a nuclear weapon will be a threat to regional stability and global security. Particularly among opponents of the deal, such as Netanyahu, Iran is seen to be driven by a malign mission of annihilating USA or Israel.


The non-nuclear power who has agreed not to pursue nuclear weapons is contrarily depicted as owning nuclear arms


Their controversy begins at how to resolve this existential crisis. Supporters, particularly Obama, hold that negotiations and diplomacy are the best option as the only other alternative is war, which the negotiations have protected ‘us’ from. They hold that the deal itself has proven this as Iran have agreed to reduce enrichment below the requirements needed to make a nuclear weapon, and to vigorous survillence by the IAEA which would detect if Iran was not in compliance with the negotiations.

The video below highlights an ad campaign featuring prominent celebrities supporting the deal. Though comical, they show frustration that opponents in Congress will not recognize the deal is indeed the best option to resolve the Iranian threat. They emphasize the utter importance of this deal as without it, nothing would be stopping Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, and then we would all be “super dead.”

Right-wing opponents display to a greater extent the modern conceptions of the orient through their generalization’s of the Middle East – Fox News host Eric Bolling can be made an example of this. Constructing an understanding of Iran through generalization, he links Iran to al-Qaeda, ISIS, Charlie Hebdo and 9/11, in his frustration with the Geraldo Rivera’s support for the negotiations.

This unsophisticated understanding of the Middle East ignores the diversity and complexities of the region by assuming a threatening Middle Eastern ‘other’ which can be generalized. Contrarily to Bolling’s generalization, however, all of these examples reference Sunni related incidents and groups, all of which Iran either challenges directly through funding proxies, or ideologically as they are a Shia led nation-state.

It also forgets all these groups have been directly or inadvertently supported by US and its allies. Yet paradoxically Bolling blames Iran for these acts through the construction of a homogenous Middle Eastern ‘them,’ who are threatening, barbaric and unrelated to ‘us’ who are the opposite. This is why Geraldo’s efforts to subvert this binary and display Iran as a grievable subject who has indeed been wrong by the perfect ‘us,’ though very weak, ended up being the most controversial subject of the debate.

This orientalist construction of the threatening ‘other’ is not only found in public discourse surrounding events concerning nuclear weapons, but has been codified into international law itself. The NPT creates a dichotomy of nation-states considered trustworthy of owning nuclear weapons and those who are not; rational/irrational nation-states.

As this dichotomy has been challenged over time and nation-states considered ‘irrational’ have created nuclear arms, great controversy has broken out in already nuclear-armed countries over it’s grave implication. Following Pakistan’s creation of a nuclear weapon Senator John McCain announced the US was “closer to nuclear war than we have been any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” A similar, yet even darker prediction was made recently by Cheney that the US was “closer to actual use of nuclear weapons than we’ve been at any time since Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and WWII.”


So, does a nuclear-armed Iran pose a threat? My answer to this question is also yes. Not because Iran is suicidal and would consider actually using a nuclear weapon, but because nuclear weapons are themselves dangerous, regardless of who owns them. By ignoring this we naturalized certain states as rational such as the US (the only country to have used the weapon.) We also legitimize certain forms of action such as the invasion of Iraq and the sanctions on Iran, both over suspicions of WMD’s (though suspicions of Iran do have much more legitimacy.) Yet these orientalist manifestation in global politics only serve Western interests and not the global security they contend to uphold. My point can be articulated by the late George Kennan:

“I see the danger not in the number or quality of the weapons or in the intentions of those who hold them but in the very existence of weapons of this nature, regardless of whose hands they are in. … I see no solution to the problem other than the complete elimination of these and all other weapons of mass destruction from national arsenals; and the sooner we move toward that solution, and the greater courage we show in doing so, the safer we will be”

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Postcolonialism

Abu Ghraib torture and the Orientalist Construction of the ‘Muslim body’: A Critique of US Exceptionalism


The disturbing images of torture in the US-led Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq sent shockwaves around the world as graphic photographs of US guards torturing and humiliating Iraqi soldiers spread across the globe in 2004. The images displayed naked bodies heaped in piles, forced homosexual actions and masturbation, violent beatings, mutilated corpses, and blood soaked interrogation rooms. Yet the guards gleefully pose, smile, seemingly oblivious to the violence, pain, and terror that surrounds them.

How are we to make sense of the sadistic violence displayed in Abu Ghraib? With its emphasis on pains, pleasures, desires, fears and power, such queer moments, Puar would assert, require even queerer modalities of thought. Borrowing from Orientalism and Queer Theory, I aim to analyze how the Muslim body has been constructed as a homophobic ‘other,’ to exceptionalize Western identity as ‘tolerant’ yet sexually ‘normal.’

The scandal was originally framed as having been conducted by a handful of rogue guards, a terroristic ‘other’ working outside the bounds, laws and values of the US. Yet this narrative of US exceptionalism against these terroristic perversions of the prison guards, eventually came to crumble as it became evident that these were not rogue guards working outside their orders, but soldiers following orders.

The torture scheme was devised, drafted, and approved within the highest echelons of security and foreign policy making within the US government. Among the material which the Pentagon’s torture strategies drew from was the anthropological study, The Arab Mind, which included a chapter on the taboo and shame of homosexuality in the ‘Arab world.’ Despite occasionally being used by the US military, the text has been highly controversial. Theorizing an ‘Arab Mind’ from the outset is problematic as it assumes a homogenous, ahistorical, ‘Arab unit’ with a discernible mind, exists.


Prisoners forced to conduct homoerotic sexual actions

In response to the sexualized torture practices displayed in Abu Ghraib, LGBT communities widely condemned the use of same-sex sexual acts as a form of humiliation. Yet discourse surrounding this issue by liberal LGBT theorists continued to reiterate orientalist concepts of a sexually repressed homogenous ‘Arab unit,’ constructed against a more ‘tolerant’ Western identity.

Queer theorists Patrick Moore wrote “prisoners were not only physically abused but also accused of actually being homosexuals, which is a far greater degradation to them.”

Irene Monroe further stated “The sexual nature of many of the acts being homosexual, and therefore transgressive and disgusting among Iraqi men, clearly points to the homophobia in Islamic law.”

These readings are reminiscent of the homogenous ‘Arab mind.’ Such theorizing is problematic as it erodes the agency, diversity, humanity, gender and sexuality of the Muslim(s). A Middle Eastern male becomes, in essence, a hyper-masculinized, homophobic and misogynistic body, impervious to pain and religiously motivated, yet hyper-sensitive to humiliation. Given the striking difficulty to believe anyone would prefer torture over being called homophobic slurs, Moore’s statement display’s how, despite the explicitly homophobic nature of the torture program (you are gay (bad) we are straight (good)), the US still emerge as exceptionally ‘tolerant’ of sexualities.

In Monroe’s statement the photographs themselves served this image of US exceptionalism as they created preconceived assumptions of Muslim hyper-masculinity and heterosexuality. The practices of sexually degrading forms of torture become evidence itself of the homophobia and hyper-masculinity of those being tortured. Islamic law further becomes a single ideology guiding the orientations of the whole ‘Arab world.’

To move towards a truly emancipatory discourse of the queer subject, we should not be quick to assume an ahistorical and homogenous narrative of the repressed Muslim ‘other,’ yet analyse our current gender systems as historical conceptions themselves.

The Middle East has been assumed ‘stuck in time,’ as the West progressed and provided greater freedom’s to marginalized groups. These ideas of a historically homophobic ‘Arab’ are not only factually inaccurate but continue the logic of contrasting a conceptualized homophobic ‘other’ against a tolerant and progressive West.

It is also notable that the original depictions of the orient are sharply in contrast to current orientalist notions of the Middle East. The Middle East was originally seen by Europe as being more sexually tolerant, yet during this period homosexuality was equated with religious sin for European nation-states. Thus European religious piety was exceptionalized against an immoral ‘other.’

The Snake Charmer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Orientalist image of nude boy standing in front of older men in Mosque (The Snake Charmer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme)

Queer theory may be criticized for having nothing of importance to contribute to debates on torture and international relations. It may have been more worthwhile discussing political, geopolitical, or ethical implications of torture. Or examples of torture over the last two millennia to highlight it’s inefficiency in gathering intelligence. Or to question the perplexingly absurd notion of how and why torture is still practiced, particularly by nation-states of such (self-announced) exceptionalism. Yet as the Abu Ghraib torture scandal highlights, sexualized discourses and actions are underlying features of war and thus it would be irresponsible to ignore their impacts. By borrowing tools from critical International Relation’s theories, Queer Theory can be provide new paradigms for analysing how queerness disseminates within war, politics and public discourse and problematize the manner in which subjects are queered.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Queer Theory

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 517 other followers