Shifting Boundaries: Europe, heteronationalism and homonationalism in political economy and history

Peter Drucker


The spread of European imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th century was accompanied by the export of European heteronormativity, in the form of laws against ‘sodomy’, homonormative medicine and cultural taboos that still exist today in much of Africa and Asia. By analogy with Jasbir Puar’s concept of ‘homonationalism’, we can describe this linkage between imperial ideology and institutionalized heterosexuality as ‘heteronationalism’. Examples of this heteronationalism include the suppression of homosexual practices in 19th-century, Christianized Greece following Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, early 20th-century campaigns against same-sex practices among Moroccan Jews in the interests of their assimilation into the culture of French colonizers, and the Dutch colonial identification of Islam in the early 20th-century East Indies with unbridled native sexuality. With the 20th-century transition in Western Europe from the gender and sexual orders of classic imperialism to those of Fordism and then of neoliberal globalization, heteronationalism has given way to homonationalism: the instrumentalization of LGBT rights as evidence of Western European cultural and political advancement. Heteronationalism is now more often linked to African authoritarian populism, Islamic fundamentalism or the Eastern European far right, or attributed to communities of immigrant origin in Western Europe. This paper outlines the political economy underlying this transformation of sexual cultures.

Colonialism - Imperialism - Nationalism - Racism - neoliberalism - queer marxism - sexuality