Queering Home: Neoliberal Biopolitics and Diasporic Reappropriations in the Cultural Texts of Michelle Cliff, Hanif Kureishi, Jessica Hagedorn, and Jackie Kay

Gairola, Rahul Krishna. Queering Home: Neoliberal Biopolitics and Diasporic Reappropriations in the Cultural Texts of Michelle Cliff, Hanif Kureishi, Jessica Hagedorn, and Jackie Kay. 2009. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

This study tracks the institutionalization of what Michel Foucault has termed “biopolitics,” or the targeted regulation of populations, as a widespread technology in the eras of neoliberal capitalism ushered into the global economy by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. It illustrates that this process operated particularly well under the trope of “home,” and focuses on cultural production around conceptions of “home” from the late 1970s into the twenty-first century. I detail the ways in which “home”—as a geographical and ideological site—can be read as a key site where oppressed people have been marginalized since the demise of traditional imperialisms. The “texts” (literature and film) I examine are produced by diasporic peoples of color currently living in the US and UK whose work resists and reappropriates exclusive “home” sites.

Specifically, I examine the literature of Michelle Cliff, Jessica Hagedorn, and Jackie Kay, and the films of Hanif Kureishi. In doing so, I excavate the ways in which neoliberal biopolitics pervade notions of “home” at various sites: in the post-colonial education and schooling in 1980s Jamaica; in experiences of post-colonial, Pakistani diasporas residing in Thatcherite London in U.S consumerism, militarism, and hegemonic notions of beauty in the Philippines during the Marcos era; and in the ideological and physical violence deployed by state institutions and exploitative media in contemporary Britain. Together, these ostensibly disparate chapters piece together a puzzle that elucidates the ways that biopolitical mandates promoted by US and UK neoliberalism shape exclusive home sites. Such mandates regulate populations through categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality, that assimilate social identities to acceptable formations of “home.”

However, I more importantly show and conclude that non-heteronormative, diasporic peoples of color have resisted and re-appropriated exclusive “homes” supported by neoliberal biopolitics. This cultural insubordination manifests in the representations in these texts, and also in the realm of cultural production inhabited by these diasporic artists. In plain terms, these re-appropriated “home” sites evince the social stakes of “home” for the authors and filmmakers examined herein. This project thus contributes to ongoing dialogues in a number of fields: post-colonial studies, queer studies, transnational and diaspora studies, and cultural studies. Key scholars with whom I am engaged throughout this project include Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Paul Gilroy, Antonio Gramsci, Judith Halberstam, Stuart Hall, Karl Marx, A. Sivanandan, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and others.