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25 Years

The Queer Time of Death: Temporality, Refugee Rights, and the Politics of Commiseration

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 12:00pm
Event Location: 
ICGC, Heller Hall 537

In this talk, I explore the way that refugee rights as a temporally and spatially contingent concept normalizes queer and transgender refugee subjects, while managing the lives and deaths of different populations. Through examining the chronopolitics and geopolitics of rights within the refugee discourse, I point to inconsistencies in the universality of human rights and argue that the recognition of the refugee in the human rights regimes relies on essentialist and timeless notions of identity that travel in the teleological time of progress. The Iranian queer and trans refugees in Turkey are suspended in an in-between zone of recognition, where rightfulness and rightlessness come together in a temporal standstill. At the end, I argue that the ‘protection’ of transgender and queer refugees, as well as refugee advocacy and scholarship under the liberal rhetoric of rights are contingent on the politics of commiseration that sustain refugee regimes.

Sima Shakhsari is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. They earned their PhD in Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University and have held postdoctoral positions at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wolf Humanities Center and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of Houston. Shakhsari was an assistant professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at Wellesley College before joining GWSS at UMN in 2016, and has a long history of activism at queer and women’s organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their forthcoming book manuscript titled “Politics of Rightful Killing: Civil Society, Gender, and Sexuality in Weblogistan” (Forthcoming in 2019 by Duke University Press) provides an analysis of Weblogistan as a site of cybergovernmentality where simultaneously national and neoliberal gendered subjectivities are produced through online and offline heteronormative disciplining and normalizing techniques. Shakhsari’s current research examines the way that Iranian transgender asylum seekers in Turkey and refugees in Canada and the U.S. are nationalized/denationalized, sexed, gendered, and raced in multiple re-reterritorializations as they transition across national boundaries, online and offline “frontiers,” sexual norms, religious discourses, and geopolitical terrains during the “war on terror.”