Marxism and Identity Politics after the Orlando Massacre

Gokboru Sarp Tanyildiz



[This is paper is part of the pre-organized panel session (by Himani Bannerji, Parastou Saberi, Gokboru Sarp Tanyildiz) on "Marxism: Whose Identity?" within the identity politics stream of the conference.]

On June 12, 2016, 50 LGBTQ people –most of whom was Latinx, Puerto Rican in particular– were massacred in an Orlando gay bar by Omar Mateen. The response to this heinous event varied within the US and outside, as well as within the LGBTQ communities and outside. Despite the multiplicity of responses, a combination of homophobia and Islamophobia appeared virtually in all them. Unlike the mainstream LBGTQ organizations and the political right that adopted an anti-homophobic, but an Islamophobic stance, Marxist political groups generally adopted an anti-homophobic and anti-Islamophobic stance at the same time. However, having the right political stance does not stand in for a historical materialist analysis. The Orlando massacre represents a matrix of social relations and forms of consciousness that crystallized in a set of complex identities such as American, gay (LGBTQ), immigrant, Latinx, Muslim, terrorist. Both the concepts of homophobia and Islamophobia, and their convergence and divergence with one another gain their significatory power in relation to these identities. Thus, I contend that any social analysis of this event should begin with these identities. In this presentation, I develop a historical materialist analysis of the Orlando massacre by examining how abovementioned identities are not reified, essentialized categories that people come to passively occupy; rather, they are produced through ongoing struggles between people who are differentiated in their coordinated everyday activities. Furthermore, I argue that understanding how an identity is put together helps us to connect seemingly disparate social phenomena such as cultural politics of dancing in LGBTQ communities and imperialist politics of the US. Thus, by demonstrating the analytical position of ‘identity’ in a historical materialist social inquiry, my paper contributes to the debate between Marxism and identity politics that continues to falsely pit oppressed peoples against one another.

Gökbörü Sarp Tanyildiz
PhD Candidate in Sociology, York University

identity politics - sexuality - marxism - social organization