Sa’ed Atshan, “Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique” (Stanford UP, 2020)

In Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique (Stanford University Press, 2020) anthropologist and activist Sa’ed Atshan explores the Palestinian LGBTQ movement and offers a window into the diverse community living both in historic Palestine and in diaspora.

His timely and urgent account contends that the movement has been subjected to an “empire of critique,” which has inhibited its growth and undermines the fight against homophobia in the region and beyond. On the one hand, explains Atshan, queer Palestinians must contend with the harsh realities of patriarchal nationalism, homophobia and heteronormativity, Israeli occupation, dehumanizing discourses such as ‘pinkwashing,’ and the legacies of western imperialism.

At the same time, Atshan argues that critiques against such issues – leveled by academics, journalists, and even queer activists – have contributed to a stifling ideological purism that has put activists on the defensive and alienates some queer Palestinians.

Along with a succinct presentation of the immense challenges faced by the LGBTQ-identifying Palestinians, Atshan highlights Palestinian agency, ingenuity, and resilience. He considers how progressive social movements around the world can navigate the often fraught and complex dynamics of intersectional activism, and leaves his readers with a vision of a diverse queer Palestinian movement capable of “radically reimagining possible futures.”

Sa’ed Atshan is an assistant professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College.

Joshua Donovan is a History PhD candidate and Core Preceptor at Columbia University. His dissertation examines competing conceptions of identity and subjectivity within the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Christian community in Syria, Lebanon, and the diaspora.

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