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Journal of Social and Cultural Analysis New York University College of Arts and Science

Issue 6, Spring 2016


FACULTY ADVISOR Michael Ralph EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Ava Ahmadbeigi Justine Daum DESIGN EDITOR Maya Singhal EDITORIAL BOARD Brenna Darling Charissa Isidro Rachel Laryea Juliette Maigne Hannah Schulman Katerina Voegtle Sean Waxman JOURNAL OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ANALYSIS We are a student-run, peer-reviewed publication dedicated to showcasing undergraduate scholarship that engages with the interdisciplinary fields of inquiry that are housed in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. The Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) combines topics and methodologies from the humanities and social sciences into seven interdisciplinary programs—Africana Studies, American Studies, Asian/Pacific/American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Latino Studies, Metropolitan Studies, & Social and Cultural Analysis. The students and faculty in SCA pride themselves in their use of intersectional analysis to consider race, class, gender, sexuality, and dis/ability while investigating apparatuses of power and critiquing the relationships between individuals, institutions, and governments. If you are interested in learning more about the department of Social and Cultural Analysis, please visit sca.as.nyu. edu/. If you would like to submit to future issues of the Journal of Social and Cultural Analysis or if you have questions about the journal, please email sca.ug.journal@gmail.com. Cover Art: “Displacement” by Chloe Chan (p. 16)


Table of Contents

1

Bushwick is Over: The Contradictions of Gentrification for the Creative Middle Class Brenna Darling

16

“Displacement” Chloe Chan

17

“Anchor Babies” and Birth Tourists: Birthright Citizenship and the Racialized Politics of Belonging Chelsea Meacham

29

Misplaced Blame in the U.S.-Mexican Immigration Issue Kenzi Abou-Sabe

34

Untitled Jiyoung Jo

35

“Pushing an Open Door:” An Investigative Report into Ireland’s Marriage Equality Referendum Alexandra Taylor

50

The Definition of ‘Chinese’ Chloe Chan

51

To Be “Terrorist” but Not “Gay:” Iran’s Threat to the U.S. Ava Ahmadbeigi


61

FACES Belle Yau

66

Irreverent Dancing Bodies: K-Pop Dance Covers, Technologies of Gendered Embodiment, and Queer Space Making in Thailand Matthew Lim

77

Loss of Voice Chloe Chan

78

Lost in Translation: The Rhetoric of Nutrition and Starvation Cathryn Piwinski

89

Acknowledgements

90

Meet the Contributors


Bushwick is Over: The Contradictions of Gentrification for the Creative Middle Class Brenna Darling “One by one, many of the working class quarters have been invaded by the middle class - upper and lower ... Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the working class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.”1 Ruth Glass first defined gentrification according to what she saw in 1960s London, a discrete process in which middle class newcomers transformed a neighborhood until its previous residents could no longer afford to live there. This first generation of middleclass occupants did the gentrifying work themselves for the most part. For Glass, gentrifiers were professionals willing to put forth the effort to upgrade their living quarters. Today, “gentrification” has become a broader term, encompassing a variety of urban processes beyond Glass’ observations, coming to signify not just the product of the actions of middle-class individuals, but institutional processes that are encoded in policy. While much of the theorization on gentrification has focused on the class struggle that ensues from displacing workingclass residents, this dynamic can likewise complicate the lives of those intiating the process. I argue that the class-related issues that are part of the gentrification discussion go beyond the conflict between the gentrifiers and the displaced. Gentrification in its most recent forms can create conflicts and contradictions between actors from within the middle-class and elite groups who most directly benefit from it. I develop this argument by considering how these intra-class contradictions play out in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Defining Gentrification As mentioned previously, gentrification is a process 1


in which more affluent individuals move into a working-class or low-income urban neighborhood that often has a history of disinvestment and neglect by the city or state, triggering the displacement of current residents. By making physical improvements to the neighborhood such as renovations to the housing stock, the newcomers essentially raise the cost of housing until it becomes too expensive for previous inhabitants. Phillip Clay has argued that gentrification in American cities has occurred by way of a four stage process. In the “Pioneer,” stage, a small number of “creative types” move into a working-class neighborhood, bringing with them some amount of financial and social capital.2 They renovate properties, which is made possible by private funding. Targeted properties are generally vacant, and thus, little displacement of existing residents occurs initially. The later steps expand on the first as the perception of risk in the neighborhood declines. The “Expanding Gentrification” stage occurs when the neighborhood is deemed livable by more middle class occupants. “Displacement” starts to intensify in the third stage, in which more “risk-averse” gentrifiers move in and rents increase. The neighborhood’s physical character continues to change as developers begin to invest in new commercial quarters and in the housing stock. Class tensions become even more pronounced as rents continue to rise. “Mature” gentrification arises when there is no longer any question as to the safety of investments in the neighborhood. In Stage 4, financial institutions and developers see the neighborhood as significant opportunity, and people of increasing wealth and means move in. At this point, many original residents will have been displaced along with some of the “pioneer” gentrifiers. However, some scholars find the stage model unsatisfactory for its purely descriptive qualities and rather emphasize why gentrification occurs. In general, explanations of gentrification fall into one of two camps: the “demand-side” or “supply-side” camp. The first of these explains gentrification by appealing to changes in the lifestyle preferences of the middle class. Gregory Lipton, for instance, argues that in the mid-nineteenth century, the middle and upper classes began to prefer the urban to the suburban.3 Family dynamic shifts are a significant part of this explanation; these individuals began to delay marriage and children, often 2


having fewer children, which in turn decreased the attractiveness of homeownership and the “calm” of suburbia. These often single or childless adults prefer the cosmopolitanism of urban life and are less concerned with private automobiles and public schools. These explanations posit that consumer preferences are the primary driver in gentrification. On the other side of the debate, some scholars have argued for a production-based theory of gentrification, critiquing the consumer preference model as ignorant of the interests and roles of the real estate and financial sectors.4 Neil Smith emphasizes the importance of gentrifiers’ role as producers of their own profit; making a sound financial investment on their home is their most important consumer “preference.’ Within urban capitalism, gentrifiers produce value by making improvements to a gentrifying neighborhood, whether it be by their own “sweat equity” or by their mere presence in a neighborhood as a middle class or elite individual. Investing in early-gentrifying neighborhoods is profitable, due to the “rent gap,” or the difference between the price of property in a neighborhood, which is low due to previous disinvestment and under-maintenance, and the potential ground value of that property, which is higher due to proximity to central business districts and proximal development.5 This gap creates an opportunity for those with enough initial capital to make improvements on a property, either traditional developers or occupier-developers like the “pioneer gentrifier.” Thus, the production-based explanation can be called the “economy” explanation for gentrification, grounded in the urban capitalist economic structure. Gentrification and Class Struggle Given that gentrification causes the socio-economic character of a neighborhood to shift, many analyses of the process focus on the resulting interclass conflicts that. An easy way to see how gentrification impacts residents along class lines is to consider the costs and benefits accrued in the gentrification process. The primary benefits of gentrification come in financial form, for those economic actors who have capital tied to property in gentrifying neighborhoods. Most clearly, the initial gentrifiers are able to take advantage of the rent gap created by disinvestment. Individuals who are able to profit from investment in improving property will 3


almost always be of a higher class than previous occupants. This is because, due to disinvestment and decay, a pre-gentrification neighborhood will often be redlined, meaning residents would be unable to get loans in order to improve the housing stock themselves. Thus, anyone who is able to improve housing and eventually profit from this investment either already had private capital to make the improvements, or was able to receive grants to “revitalize” the housing stock, and recipients of these monies have generally been middle class.6 As professional developers become involved, the opportunity for accumulation intensifies, and largescale developers with access to more significant amounts of capital are able to mobilize to construct luxurious housing or commercial spaces. At this point, rents for these spaces rapidly increase, and elite developers are able to collect high returns on their investment. In this way, gentrification as an investment opportunity has been de facto limited to middle-class and elite individuals, or businesses in the case of professional development. Financial institutions that earn interest on the mortgages of gentrifiers also stand to benefit from the process, as well as the state, which will collect on higher property tax assessments as properties in a neighborhood become more valuable.7 The costs associated with gentrification fall on the working-class population who are displaced from gentrifying neighborhoods and the working-class population of the city as a whole who will have less housing options overall. As Smith and other scholars have prophesied, “the restructuring of urban space [due to gentrification] now taking place is likely to produce nothing short of a bourgeois playground” in many American cities.8 As gentrification progresses, housing for working-class families diminishes or shifts elsewhere, and the commercial amenities provided in many gentrifying neighborhoods no longer meet working-class needs. Discussions of urban revitalization and economic development as policy also serve to illuminate class tensions in the gentrification process. For example, Richard Florida has argued that cities should go to significant lengths to attract the “creative class” to live and work there as a policy initiative. Florida defines the creative class as a group of individuals who are employed in various sectors where production of knowledge is part of a social 4


process of entrepreneurship and generally value individuality, diversity and openness.9 Florida argues those who are often called “creative types” are critical to the economic vitality of an urban environment, as firms realize that creatives are their greatest asset. For firms to create growth and jobs for a city, they need to be located in an environment that is hospitable to the creative class, both inside the firm itself and in the locality in general.10 He argues for “Three Ts” of economic development, Technology, Talent and Tolerance; the middle-class individuals that embody these notions are those that the city needs to attract.11 Thus, policy should be put in place to create a city that caters to the needs of the creative class, like edgy, upmarket housing and art-oriented or intellectuallybased entertainment. The characteristics that Florida ascribes to the creative class demonstrate that these individuals have the capacity and sensibilities that often prompt gentrification and displacement. By valuing “tolerance” or “diversity,” these individuals are likely to move into a neighborhood with residents from across the socioeconomic spectrum. But, by moving there, whether or not they put significant effort into renovating their housing, the sense of creative hipness they bring to the neighborhood has potential to attract other middle-class and elite individuals and larger-scale developers who have the capacity to change the social character of the neighborhood, raise property values, and displace large segments of the preexisting population. In this way, policy aimed at attracting Florida’s “creatives” is a clear class project that can lead to displacement. Perhaps more explicitly, Mayor Bloomberg’s policy to brand New York as a “luxury city” in order to attract corporate headquarters could be said to be part of a gentrification strategy with explicit class interests. President Andrew Alper of the New York City Development Corporation, working closely with Bloomberg, argued in a 2002 speech that New York would have to market itself to companies that could afford to do business here.12 Bloomberg and Alper’s logic was that New York is obviously very expensive, so the only way to bring in companies and foster growth was to market the city for its value, that certain qualities of New York can justify its high costs. Rather than putting policies in place to make New York more affordable for businesses, Bloomberg and 5


Alper decided the strategic move would be to enhance New York’s “luxury brand,” and bring in only the businesses that could afford to pay for it, which had significant class-based implications.13 First, the businesses who meet this definition are generally high-margin companies operating in the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector, and the jobs they bring are often very high paying and provide opportunity for only the highly educated, managerial class. Thus, by bringing these companies to New York, Bloomberg prioritized job creation for the elite, but importantly also created a situation where more middle-class and elite individuals would likely be coming into New York for work. Creating a hospitable environment for these elite actors would mean creation of luxury housing and other amenities, likely expanding and hastening the gentrification process for the benefit of FIRE sector professionals. In this case, Smith’s “bourgeois playground” is inscribed in policy. By making gentrification, by way of economic development initiatives, part of city policy, officials prioritize the needs of elites under the guise of promoting growth that benefits all. Gentrification and Elites Although, rightly, much of the conversation about gentrification focuses on class conflict, as gentrification progresses and intensifies, it is possible that the ever-more-rapid pace of upmarket development could create problems for gentrifiers themselves. Most clearly, this is the case for the “pioneer” or “marginal” gentrifiers who spearheaded the process and could eventually lose out on some or most of its benefits. Loretta Lees describes how the “super-gentrification” that has and is currently taking place in Brooklyn Heights demonstrates this notion. Lees defines super-gentrification as the “transformation of already gentrified, prosperous and solidly upper-middle-class neighborhoods into much more exclusive and expensive enclaves” and she calls the new generation of gentrifiers “financifiers,” as their economic behavior is a direct result of the “fortunes from global finance and corporate service industries.”14 She tells the story of super-gentrification by way of a typical four-story brownstone in the neighborhood, which was purchased by a middle-class lawyer and his wife in 1962. The couple renovated the home themselves and then sold it to a wealthier women relocating from Cobble Hill in the late 1990s for 6


several times the original price, following the typical stage pattern described previously.15 Although this particular couple was able to benefit directly from the investment they made in a gentrifying neighborhood, this phenomenon demonstrates how many pioneers, more solidly middle-class, could eventually be priced out of the neighborhood. This is especially the case for renter, but even for those who purchased property, increased tax assessments can prompt families to abandon the neighborhood and move to more affordable areas. Thus, gentrification can also cause middleclass displacement in addition to the working-class displacement previously discussed. Lees’ interviews also illuminate how the new “third wave” gentrifiers moving into Brooklyn Heights changed not only the property values but the cultural character of the neighborhood as well, much to the dismay of the first generation of gentrifiers. As rents went up and up, the “quaint,” locally-owned businesses, which were part of what attracted the pioneers in the first place, were displaced by “corporate chains” such as The Gap, Banana Republic and Starbucks”.16 Longtime residents came to view the new neighbors as “an assault on the small town ethos and community feel of the neighborhood,” and lamented the “Manhattanization” of Brooklyn Heights. Importantly, the interviewees in question were not the working-class population that inhabited the neighborhood before it became more fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s, but the very people who prompted this change. Lees explains that in her interviews, many people emphasized that the “wives of the pioneer generation had created the sense of community in Brooklyn Heights” that made it an attractive place for the new wealthy families to live17. The neighborhood created by the pioneer gentrifiers seems to reflect Jane Jacobs-esque urbanism, with lots of street life, interaction between residents and the presence of small businesses.18 Jacobs’ conception of a healthy and vital urban neighborhood has been touted as something of a bible or guide for urban thinkers since the 1960s, and she is well regarded by the urban middle-class intelligentsia in general. At the same time, her arguments for mixed-use blocks and 24-hour activity have been criticized for appealing exclusively to nostalgia and middle-class sensibilities 7


to support her ideas. In her later years she distinguished between “good gentrification,” which is consistent with her notions of vital communities, and “bad gentrification,” in which neighborhoods turn into sterile and “homogenous commercial corridors”.19 However, some critics argue that her push for “good gentrification” has almost inevitably lead to “bad gentrification,” creating later-stage gentrified neighborhoods that Jacobs herself would have hated. In fact, Jacobs’ middle-class peers, the gentrifiers themselves, most likely do not want to live in a “homogenous corridor” either, but the gentrification process that they have taken part in has produced this environment. Jacobs herself seems to have already seen this contradiction in gentrification, saying “when a place gets boring, even the rich people leave” (Florida, “Getting Jane Jacobs Right). To what extent this is true has yet to be seen. In the case of Brooklyn Heights, as the population shifted towards double-earning, high-level professional families, the Jacobsian sense of community and street life was apparently lost. According to Lees’ study, a “wealthy middle-aged doctor” who grew up in the neighborhood wrote that the “community [is] less close [because] more yuppies moved in,” demonstrating how even elite members of the community feel certain negative impacts of gentrification.20 The first generation used their “sweat equity” not only to increase their property values but also to create the marketable neighborhood that would be eventually attract the elite families who would displace them, even if those aspects of the neighborhood no longer exist in their original form. As gentrification progresses, the “Jane Jacobs neighborhood,” with a sense of community and regular interaction between residents, that Lees’ interviewees say Brooklyn Heights once was, has diminished. While the neighborhood changes prompted by supergentrification more clearly cause distress for pioneer gentrifiers, it also seems like these changes could be to the detriment of the new gentrifying class. Even for the ultra-elite “financifiers” that have moved into Brooklyn Heights, a sense of community is likely a major draw for any neighborhood, especially for families with children, which is still a large proportion of Brooklyn Heights residents. However, the presence of these “financifiers,” according to Lees’ study is a significant factor for the loss of this aspect of 8


the neighborhood. Paradoxically, perhaps for some later-wave residents, part of the reason they moved to Brooklyn Heights has diminished because of their own presence in the neighborhood and lifestyle choices. As previously discussed, once the later stages of gentrification are underway and the neighborhood has been deemed to be a “good investment,” a higher proportion of development is led by large-scale developers who want to build more explicitly “luxury” housing, namely higher-rise and ultramodern condo buildings. This trend towards density and glass towers can be seen to be explicitly at odds with the existing “hipster” brand of urbanism that arises in many gentrified neighborhoods and serves to make them attractive to the middle class and elites. In this way, the gentrifiers themselves cannot “have it both ways,” as their presence in a certain neighborhood, which may have been prompted by an artistic or diverse environment, in shades of Florida’s thesis, will inevitably lead to the neighborhood losing these features in the long-run. Barbara Eldridge calls this tension “Brooklyn-the-brand versus Brooklynthe-megacity,” bringing attention to the contractions that laterstage, developer-led gentrification can create even for the gentrifier population.21 Naturally, for some earlier-stage gentrifiers, like the Brooklyn Heights brownstone couple cited earlier, this can lead to displacement. As the Center for an Urban Future reported in their Creative New York 2015 report, “Artists and other creative professionals have a long and fraught history with the real estate market. When creative people move into affordable, often industrial areas, they tend to drive up real estate values, ultimately pricing themselves out of the neighborhood.”22 In this case, the contradiction creates population displacement, but even for other residents who can afford rent increases, many attractive aspects of the neighborhood are diminished. On another, if more abstract, level, if Florida is correct in positing that diversity and a sense of urbane progressivism attract the creative class, here considered as gentrifiers, these notions may be at odds with the overt emphasis on consumption the fuels large-scale luxury development of modern housing and amenities. Efforts to preserve the historic architecture that often attracts gentrifiers, which often goes up against the agendas of 9


developers is also a part of this conversation. In the West Village, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, made up of mostly middle-class and elite residents of the Village, have tried to push back against St. John’s Partners’ large-scale development slated for the Pier 40 site on the grounds that it is too big and would change the neighborhood’s character.23 As development in cities increases due to influx of capital and populations desiring luxury housing and amenities, elite developers are increasingly put into conflict with preservationist populations who are also often of elite or at least middle-class status. A Case Study: Bushwick In this final section, I will look at the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick to see how gentrification has impacted the preexisting population of the neighborhood as well as the gentrifiers, who apparently have much lamented the changes to the neighborhood which they themselves prompted. I chose to focus on Bushwick because of the mentioned vocalness of many of the residents as well as the barrage of interest in the neighborhood from the media as being one of New York’s “up-and-coming” trendy places to be. Smith’s rent gap conception of gentrifications seems to be a particularly good fit to describe the history of the neighborhood, as disinvestment in Bushwick in the mid-20th century contributed to a rise in crime and drug traffic. In the post-war years, the previously German community had mostly moved out of the neighborhood as part of “white flight,” and Bushwick shifted to a predominantly low-income Puerto Rican and black neighborhood, causing rents to drop rapidly and general disinvestment to occur.24 After the Blackout of 1977 resulted in large-scale arson and looting of many Bushwick businesses particularly along main thoroughfare Knickerbocker Avenue, the area further deteriorated, leaving very low-rents, poor housing stock and street conditions, significant levels of crime, and overall disinvestment. Artist communities that could be seen as first-stage gentrification have existed in Bushwick for a few decades, with many groups of artists and other creatives living together in large warehouse-style, live-work spaces. However, since a majority of these residents were low-income and many lived as squatters in abandoned buildings, this phenomenon did not cause significant displacement 10


among the preexisting population. Intensified or later-stage gentrification in this Brooklyn neighborhood began roughly in the mid-2000s due to an outward push from Williamsburg, a laterstage gentrified neighborhood to the immediate North-West, and was aided by the Bushwick Initiative project managed by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and Assemblyman Vito Lopez.25 This project was important to making conditions in Bushwick suitable for gentrification to take place and included reducing crime, improving housing stock, and increasing general economic development in the approximately 20 blocks surrounding Maria Hernandez Park. To address these goals, the City invested $750,000 into improving the quality of housing in this area, utilized resources from the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) in order to aid local business, and undertook other projects to make the neighborhood more livable, such as providing pest-resistant garbage receptacles Low rents due to the rent gap created by previous disinvestment, efforts by the City to “clean up” the neighborhood, rapidly rising rents in many surrounding neighborhoods and the existing presence of “pioneering” artists and other creative types have all contributed to the heightened levels of gentrification in Bushwick today. Rents have risen steadily in Bushwick since the mid-2000s, but in very recent years the process has seemed to intensify rapidly. According to a Brooklyn Rental Market Report, the average rent for a studio apartment in Bushwick as of November 2015 was $1826 per month.26 According to popular logic that a renter’s income should equal approximately 40 times their monthly rent, although I realize this is often not practiced in New York, someone who rents an average studio in this neighborhood should make $73,040 per year. Given the high but declining proportion of low-income residents in the neighborhood, many residents do not have near this income level, and thus significant displacement continues to take place in Bushwick. The class aspect of changes in Bushwick are particularly visible around the Morgan L-train stop, where tastes of the neighborhood’s creative middle-class take the form of cafes and other amenities that are likely to be out of the price range accessible to working-class residents. Longtime residents of the area who have not yet been displaced have 11


expressed fear that they will soon “have to move out” or that they “have nowhere left to live” as gentrification continues.27 However, the older residents of the neighborhood, along with those who have already been displaced are not the only ones lamenting Bushwick’s recent changes. In upcoming documentary, “The Bushwick Diaries,” filmmaker Kweighbaye Kotee interviewed residents of the Brooklyn neighborhood about the changes they have seen in the area over the last few years, and interestingly, she claims that generally those who were the most upset about the gentrification of Bushwick were residents who have lived there for less than ten years, putting them into a category of in movers who relocated to Bushwick while gentrification was already underway. “They were the angriest. They were the ones who were saying Bushwick is over,” she explained regarding these interviewees, who would likely be considered to be gentrifiers themselves.28 She contrasts this attitude with that of many older residents, who had seen multiple changes to Bushwick over the years, and thus seemed less alarmed by the changes. However, Kotee did not specify whether the older residents who were less concerned were also those likely to be displaced or if they would be able to afford to stay in the neighborhood. It might be argued that the newer, angrier residents in question may be more likely to believe that their feelings about gentrification could lead to actual resistance to the unwanted community changes taking place due to a their attained level of education or class privilege. This may contrast to older and less affluent residents who may not feel that articulating their anger would lead to any positive change. For first-generation gentrifiers, who at the time were unlikely to cause much displacement of the working-class population, the concern over further gentrification is likely due to their own impending displacement. While many of the squatting artist communities have left, or were forced out of, the neighborhood, other slightly less marginal but still financially insecure young people and artists who allegedly made the neighborhood hip in the first place cannot afford to live there. Corcoran real estate group describes Bushwick as an “up-and-coming bohemian hangout” full of “live/work spaces as well as artist studios,” actively using the residence of artists to attract further gentrifiers to the neighborhood.29 In this way the artistic community that draws 12


the creative middle class is effectively pushed out by those very middle-class newcomers. This creates a somewhat contradictory situation for the middle-class and elite in-movers who desire to be near an artistic community but, by their very presence in an artistic neighborhood, contribute to the disappearance of that community. Perhaps this is what Kweighbaye Kotee’s interviewees mean when they say that Bushwick is “over,” that the “real” artists are going or gone. The presence of working-class families has also been cited by some gentrifying residents as one of the factors that brought them to the neighborhood in the first place, although displacement caused by gentrification itself has diminished this demographic of Bushwick. In a 2006 New York Times interview with relatively new-to-the-neighborhood Bushwick local, Tom Le, the resident explained that “one of the most wonderful things about Bushwick is that it is a wonderful established family neighborhood. You can drive up and down the streets in Bushwick and you see families out there.”30 However, as rents continue to rise, the family-community aspect of the area that attracted new middle-class residents in the first place is threatened by their moving in. At least in particularly hip and expensive parts of Bushwick, it is less likely today that Tom would be able to find the family-community he praised in 2006. In Bushwick, the neighborhood was primed for gentrification by disinvestment, the presence of artists, and City-backed revitalization efforts, and the displacement that has resulted has caused interclass resentment, as well as a contradictory situation for the gentrifiers themselves. To conclude, gentrification is the movement of middleclass and elite residents into working-class neighborhoods, which raises housing costs. As rents rise, lower-income residents are displaced, causing significant class tensions and resentment from the residents who are priced out. At the same time, the process of gentrification involves contradictory forces that cause tensions between the interests of gentrifiers themselves. If consumer preference dictates some aspects of gentrification, then it seems that middle-class urban professionals are drawn to diverse and creative neighborhoods, but their presence in those neighborhoods diminishes those attractive neighborhood characteristics. Many of the “pioneer” gentrifiers who jump-started the process are 13


displaced. As gentrification progresses, tension forms between preservationists, mostly middle-class and elite individuals who desire to maintain the architectural aspects of the neighborhood that brought them to it in the first place, and developers who hope to capitalize on high rents. In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, the presence of artist communities and other factors has led to gentrification and subsequent displacement, causing many of the aspects of the area that drew gentrifiers to the neighborhood in the first place to be increasingly hard to find. Notes Ruth Glass, London: Aspects of Change (London: Macgibbon & Kee, 1964) p.xvii 2 Phillip L. Clay, Neighborhood Renewal: Middle-class Resettlement and Incumbent Upgrading in American Neighborhoods (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington, 1979.) 57-59. 3 S. Gregory Lipton, “Evidence of Central City Revival,” Journal of the American Institute of Planners, (1977): 146. 4 Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City (London: Routledge, 1996) 54-55. 5 Smith, 64-64. 6 Neil Smith and Michelle LeFaivre, “A Class Analysis of Gentrification,” Gentrification, Displacement, and Neighborhood Revitalization (1984): 54. 7 Smith and LeFaivre, 55. 8 Smith and LeFaivre, 59. 9 Richard L. Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, (New York, NY: Basic, 2002), 48,73. 10 Florida, 134. 11 Florida, 251. 12 Julian Brash, Bloomberg’s New York Class and Governance in the Luxury City, (Athens: U of Georgia, 201), 100. 13 Brash, 111. 14 Loretta Lees, “Super-gentrification: The Case Of Brooklyn Heights, New York City.” Urban Studies (2003): 2487. 15 Lees, 2488-2489 16 Lees, 2496. 17 Lees, 2507. 18 Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York City: 1

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Vintage, 1961), 31-35. 19 Richard Florida, “Getting Jane Jacobs Right,” The Atlantic 2 April 2010. 20 Lees, 2503-2509. 21 Barbara Eldridge, “Hipsters or Height? Brooklyn-the-Brand Versus Brooklynthe-Megacity,” Brownstoner 17 Nov. 2015. 22 “Creative New York 2015,” Center for an Urban Future, 2015. 23 “Architect and Developer Try to Build the Case for St. John’s Project,” The Villager [New York City] 19 Nov. 2015. 24 Robert Sullivan, “Psst... Have You Heard of Bushwick?” The New York Times 5 May 2006. 25 City of New York, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, THE BUSHWICK INITIATIVE: YEAR ONE Progress Report 2006. 26 “MNS Real Impact Real Estate,” Brooklyn Rental Market Report, Nov. 2015. 27 Doyle Murphy, “Rents Too Damn High in Bushwick, Bed-Stuy,” NY Daily News, 6 Jan. 2014. 28 Savannah Cox, “’Bushwick Is Over,’ Say People Living There Less than 10 Years: Film,” DNAinfo New York, 16 Dec. 2015. 29 “Bushwick,” Corcoran. 30 Sullivan.

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“Displacement” - Chloe Chan In “Displacement,” the piece shows the struggles of an Asian-American to find her own identity. Despite being in New York City, her traditional Chinese qipao and oil-paper umbrella shows her close ties to her homeland. 16


“Anchor Babies” and Birth Tourists: Birthright Citizenship and the Racialized Politics of Belonging Chelsea Meacham The reproductive lives of women of color have long been the site of intense political debate and intervention. Perhaps the most prominent iteration of this debate in current political discourse is that surrounding immigrant mothers and the phenomenon of the “anchor baby.” Although framed on the surface as a debate about children and birthright citizenship, the “anchor baby” conversation is more about mothers than it is about babies. At its root, it is a racialized and eugenic debate about who should and should not be having children—where and when they should or should not be having them. When politicians and other public figures invoke the language of anchor babies, they are nearly always talking about Latino populations. Because citizenship status cannot be physically “read” on the body the way race can, race becomes a marker for immigration and citizenship status so that Latino populations, whether documented, undocumented, or U.S.-born, collectively become the primary targets of anti-immigration attacks. The language of the “anchor baby” implies a calculated move by undocumented Latino parents to establish ties to U.S. citizenship through their children. However, this language provides a false sense of rootedness and security, dramatically disconnected from the reality of forced deportations and familial separations faced by families of mixed legal status. Historical Context and the Fourteenth Amendment U.S. citizenship is embedded in a deep history of racialized inclusion and exclusion. The Fourteenth Amendment, which establishes citizenship and equal protection for all individuals born or naturalized in the U.S., was ratified in 1868 following the end of the U.S. Civil War in order to ensure citizenship for previously enslaved people. However, the particular phrasing of 17


the amendment allows for interpretations in which certain subjects can still be excluded. The text of the Fourteenth Amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The ambiguous stipulation that citizens must be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the state has been historically used to exclude certain subjects in distinctly racialized ways. Although it is currently interpreted to exclude only the U.S.born children of foreign diplomats, this clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has been interpreted in specific historical moments to deny citizenship rights to certain racial and ethnic groups. Although it did not explicitly address the citizenship status of indigenous populations, the Fourteenth Amendment was carefully worded in order to exclude most indigenous peoples from citizenship rights. In 1884, the Supreme Court heard the case of Elk v. Wilkins after John Elk moved off of the indigenous Ho-Chunk reservation and attempted to vote in Nebraska but was denied voting rights. The court found that Elk was not “subject to U.S. jurisdiction” because he was born on an indigenous reservation, and was therefore ineligible for citizenship rights including voting. In 1924, however, Congress passed legislation that granted citizenship to indigenous groups within the U.S. During the late 1880’s, exclusionist groups who hoped to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of Chinese immigrants argued that Chinese immigrants, and their children by extension, had allegiances to their home countries and therefore were not subject to U.S. jurisdiction or eligible for birthright citizenship. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1898 in USA v. Wong Kim Ark that these U.S.-born children were and are indeed citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment, similar arguments continue to emerge among anti-immigration activists who hope to establish tighter parameters for birthright citizenship. Consensual Citizenship and the Racialized Immigrant In “Characterizing Consent: Race, Citizenship, and the New Restrictionists,” Robin Jacobson traces a history of movements to restrict or eliminate birthright citizenship. Jacobson argues that while the frameworks used by those advocating for consensual citizenship have changed over the years, the process of racialization implicit in these arguments has remained more or less constant. In the early to mid-1990s, anti-immigration activists 18


primarily adopted a framework of economic “fairness” to claim that immigrants and their children represented an economic burden on the country that comes at the cost of “legitimate” (presumably white, economically autonomous) citizens. Many argued for a citizenship based on “mutual consent” rather than birthright in which these “legitimate” citizens decide who is eligible and ineligible for citizenship. Jacobson writes, “In theory, consensual citizenship is not race based and may seem emancipatory; in practice, however, consensual citizenship can be dangerous” (645). Although presented as a “colorblind” approach to determining citizenship, this method of consensual citizenship relies on a racialized understanding of Latino immigrants as an “economic drain and prone to violating the law.”1 This supposedly “colorblind” method of conferring citizenship is simply incompatible with the United States’ history and reality of racism and racialized citizenship. In a country where the majority of citizens have parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents who were immigrants, consensual citizenship is racialized so that “earning” legitimate citizenship is predicated on whiteness. A second or third generation Latino immigrant is marked by race in a way that the white European immigrant is not. For these reasons, Jacobson contends that maintaining birthright citizenship is “essential for avoiding racial injustice.”2 The argument that immigrant families represent an “economic drain” on U.S. resources quickly loses momentum when we consider the way families of mixed legal status exist at a particularly vulnerable space within the U.S. For families in which some members (usually children) have legal status while others (parents and older siblings) do not, the specter of deportation is a constant and looming threat. Even when citizen children are eligible for and in need of social services, these mixed-status families often choose not to seek out public assistance out of fear of deportation and uncertainty about their eligibility for such services. The argument that immigrants and their U.S.-born children abuse public safety-net programs is inconsistent with the reality that U.S. welfare policy has made it extremely difficult for both documented and undocumented immigrants to access public services since the Welfare Reform of the mid 1990s. Moreover, framing families who are able to successfully seek out these services as undeserving and improper citizens creates a slippery slope upon which only those who are completely autonomous are 19


considered full and proper citizens. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the conversation around birthright citizenship shifted from a focus on economic “fairness” to a panic around “invasion.” This deeply affective framing of immigration as an ideological and physical threat to the U.S. polity became particularly salient in the wake of the September 11 attacks and the subsequent “War on Terror,” in which brown bodies came to represent an imminent threat to national security. This led to a “hardening” of the border that was informed by a conglomerate of panic over terrorism, drugs, and immigration. The alignment of an anti-immigration agenda with the “War on Drugs” as well as the “War on Terror” “helps to create not just an exclusionary context, but also a violent one,” in which the physical and legal abuse and exclusion of Latino immigrants is framed as both normal and necessary.3 Undocumented immigrants are seen as a threat to the very foundation of the United States, as having committed a violent and unforgivable crime against U.S. ideals. Within this shifting framework, Latino immigrants, and their U.S.-born children by extension, are seen as undesirable citizens primarily because of their inability or refusal to assimilate more so than their ostensible economic dependency. This framing of consensual citizenship calls into question “the genuine desire of the individual prospective member,” so that citizenship is no longer something to be determined and legitimized by the general polity, but to be proven by the individual immigrant.4 Jacobson conceptualizes this as a shift from “republican” to “liberal” notions of consensual citizenship. In this way, failure to conform to U.S. notions of ideal citizenship is framed as an individual rather than systemic failure; the Latino immigrant is blamed for failing to achieve a level of citizenship that was never really on the table to begin with. Jacobson notes that “the exclusionary force of consensual citizenship is not accidental or incidental but is at the core of the concept.”5 Consensual citizenship necessarily involves determining who is a desirable or undesirable citizen, and this often happens in gendered and racialized ways. Because the concern with birthright citizenship is, at its core, a concern about reproduction, the anxiety around citizenship and immigration centers around Latina immigrant women’s reproductive lives and bodies. The Latina immigrant woman is framed as a hyper-fertile and hyperreproductive figure who is “unable or unwilling to be selfsupporting.”6 The Latina immigrant poses the greatest threat to the 20


U.S. because of her supposed ability to reproduce at an alarming rate, creating a sort of “racial invasion.” Although the “economic burden” and the “invasion” narratives are not incompatible and have long existed alongside one another, the debate around immigration and birthright citizenship has tended to emphasize one over the other at various political moments in order to reify racialized notions of who is a proper and legitimate citizen. The currently popular language of the “anchor baby” implies that the children of Latino immigrants serve as tools for establishing firm roots in the U.S. Anti-immigration activists often claim that immigrant parents choose to have children in the U.S. so that these children will grow up and sponsor their naturalization process. However, a child cannot sponsor their parents’ naturalization until they are at least twenty-one years old. In order to realize such an elaborate scheme, a family would have to face the very real threat of deportation for a minimum of twenty-one years before being able to even begin the process of naturalization. In 2011 alone, an estimated 46,000 undocumented immigrant parents were separated from their U.S.-born children through processes of deportation.7 Even when deportation never actually occurs, the mere threat of deportation puts extreme stress on mixed-status families. For an undocumented parent, the decision to have children in the U.S. is not a one-way ticket to citizenship; undocumented parents who choose to have children in the U.S. are likely aware of the prevalent dangers and challenges of living in the U.S. as a mixed-status family. The assumption that Latino immigrant families have children in order to secure citizenship and access public services does violence to the very real personal and affective aspects of family making and the severity of the specter of separation, and reduces the decisions Latino families make about where and when to have children to calculated citizenship schemes. Citizenship and Access to Reproductive Services Because it is at its core a debate about women’s bodies and reproductive lives, the “anchor baby” debate is inextricable from a larger conversation about reproductive rights and health. Many undocumented women lack access to reproductive health services, including contraceptives, abortions, and other family planning services. A woman’s undocumented status may actually constrain her ability to decide when, where, and under what circumstances she has a child. This reality directly challenges the notion of the 21


“anchor baby” as a calculated decision. An undocumented woman who becomes pregnant unintentionally may attempt a self-induced abortion, or may be forced to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term and realize the narrative of the “anchor baby.” In this way, motherhood becomes a racialized terrain in which certain women’s reproduction is framed as virtuous while others’ is framed as selfish, illegitimate, and excessive. Immigrant Latina women, and particularly undocumented women, are excluded from the category of the “good mother” due to their immigration status; they cannot be “proper” mothers because they cannot raise “proper” citizens. Immigrant women struggle to access prenatal care and other services that allow a mother to meet her family’s basic needs and establish herself as a good mother. Leisy J. Abrego and Cecilia Menjívar label this a “form of legal violence that not only restricts immigrant women’s ability to mother their children but also brings about suffering to these women as mothers.”8 The Latina immigrant woman’s mothering and citizenship are politicized and policed in a way that the white, middle-class U.S. mother’s is not. Because U.S. nationalism is inextricable from U.S. notions of family values, discourses of nationalism and “good motherhood” become entangled in one another, such that the immigrant mother is vilified twofold through the mutually enforcing categories of the “bad mother” and the “bad immigrant.” Angela Hooton and Silvia Henriquez note a strange contradiction that emerges in the overlap between the pro-life movement and the anti-immigrant movement. They write: There is no question that policy-makers place little value on the health of the expectant mothers, outside of their role as incubator for a citizen child…[M]others are denied health care coverage because of their immigration status, but their fetuses have certain privileges based on their future citizenship! The “support” for immigrant women’s fetuses dissipates quickly, however, because once the children are born they become part of the “immigration problem.”9 Hooton and Henriquez call attention to the fact that those who advocate a pro-life agenda are often the same activists who are vocally opposed to citizenship for “anchor babies.” In this way, the soon-to-be-citizen fetuses of immigrant women are perhaps seen as more valuable in the womb than they are once delivered, as conservatives’ priorities shift from a pro-life agenda on behalf of 22


the fetus to an anti-immigration agenda in opposition to the Latino family. Some anti-immigration activists even advocate sterilization of undocumented women to prevent “irresponsible” and undesirable pregnancies. In an opinion piece on “anchor babies” and welfare benefits published in a West Virginia newspaper, Harold E. Butler writes, “I am opposed to abortions, but not to having tubes tied and males having vasectomies to prevent irresponsible pregnancies.” Butler puts the “anchor baby” debate in direct conversation with a reproductive rights agenda in a way that advocates overtly eugenic practices for determining which women are proper mothers and which children are legitimate citizens. Birthright Citizenship and Chinese “Birth Tourism” Latino populations are not the only communities of color charged with abusing U.S. birthright citizenship. In recent years, notable news outlets such as Bloomberg Business, The New York Times, and the Huffington Post have published stories on the rise of “birth tourism” or “maternity tourism” among affluent Chinese women, who spend large sums of money to come to the U.S. to give birth. Giving birth to children in the U.S. has been appealing to Chinese women and their families for a number of reasons, including access to better healthcare and medication, less exposure to airborne pollutants for newborns, and evasion of China’s infamous one-child policy. Perhaps most alluring, however, is the fact that all children born within the U.S. under the industry of “maternity tourism” are granted U.S. citizenship, a valuable asset in terms of future educational opportunities and other social and economic perks. Some restrictionists have drawn parallels between Chinese “maternity tourism” and the Latino “anchor baby.” However, these phenomena are quite distinct in several important ways. First, Chinese women come to the U.S. for the explicit and exclusive purpose of having a child, and have no intention of staying in the U.S. longer than is necessary for the delivery and recovery period. Drawing a parallel between the phenomena of birth tourism and of the “anchor baby” perpetuates the false idea that pregnant Latina women are waiting at the border to come deliver their babies in the U.S. and carefully and calculatedly establish ties to citizenship. Second, Chinese “birth tourism” is a quite lucrative industry, in which mothers-to-be pay tens of thousands of dollars for airfare, visas, hospital bills, and lavish apartment buildings where they 23


stay before and after giving birth. With names like “USA Happy Baby” and “American Angel 8,” these service providers charge huge sums to provide women with a luxurious and almost fairytale-like experience. Chinese women who participate in this maternity tourism are generally quite affluent, especially compared to undocumented immigrants who come from Latin America and often work low-wage jobs without benefits. In a piece for Bloomberg Business, Susan Berfield notes that a typical maternity tourism customer staying in the Los Angeles area stayed an apartment rented to her by the maternity tourism company that included a pool, fitness center, views of the San Gabriel mountains, and a nanny—who was not unlikely an immigrant woman of color herself. The news articles in which stories of maternity tourism appear are also quite distinct from those that depict the crisis of the “anchor baby.” While pieces about “anchor babies” often provide viewpoints and political commentaries from both immigration and anti-immigration activists, only the pieces on maternity tourism provide direct interviews with the mothers themselves. One Chinese woman qualifies her experience of motherhood and immigration: [My mother] instilled in our minds that you are not to go on welfare. You’ve got to work hard and support yourself, and you don’t depend on the government for anything…I see the two Chinese families that I’ve crossed paths with and they’re the same way. They’re not taking advantage of the system.10 The Chinese woman attempts to distance herself from the “bad” (presumably Latino) immigrant who “takes advantage of the system” by relying on welfare and other government services. Although both groups of mothers are vilified in their own way, Chinese women who take part in birth tourism are not plagued by the threat of deportation the way the Latina mother is, and as a result perhaps have more agency, visibility and control over their own image. While it is not illegal to come to the U.S. to give birth, it is illegal to lie about the purpose of a visit. For this reason, Chinese birth tourism is seen as a sort of “legal gray area.” Homeland Security is “cracking down” on maternity tourism, but its focus seems to be more on the companies arranging the trips 24


than on the women themselves. Chinese women who participate in maternity tourism are perhaps protected by their wealth and by their particular racialization as “model minorities” from suffering the level of stigma and backlash that Latina immigrant mothers face. They are encouraged to keep all invoices from their hospital visits in order to prove that they “didn’t use the public charge [welfare].”11 This advice reflects the language of the Welfare Reform legislation passed in the 1990s, which served as an “administrative tool to exclude or deport those immigrants perceived to be or to have the possibility of becoming a burden on the state.”12 Under this iteration of Welfare Reform, public assistance is framed not as a right or necessity but as a charitable act for which some subjects are simply unworthy, and dependency is framed as a “pathological disease indicative of those with such weak moral constitution that they are unable to self-regulate and make the ‘right’ choices.”13 It is not the actual pursuit of state support that is grounds for exclusion from citizenship, but rather the conditions that might produce any sort of need for assistance— including, in some cases, need for pre- and postnatal healthcare.14 For some immigrant women, dependence on the state is quite literally criminalized. In this way, the citizenship resulting from maternity tourism that may otherwise be seen as illegitimate is justified by the parents’ ability to pay for the services involved. Chinese maternity tourists and their children represent the “right” kind of immigrants and citizens. Proponents of birth tourism argue that it bolsters the U.S. economy, similar to other forms of tourism. Unlike the language of the “anchor baby” which suggests a tethering of oneself and one’s family to the U.S. through the citizen child, “maternity tourism” suggests a temporary and even pleasant vacation. Despite critiques of both phenomena, the language of the “anchor baby” is markedly more hostile. In “Criminalizing Immigrant Mothers: Public Charge, Health Care, and Welfare Reform,” Lisa Sun-Hee Park asks, “[If] neoliberalism promises that less government surveillance and more privatization will lead to greater individual freedom…this assertion raises a crucial question: For whom?”15 While transnationalism and birthright citizenship appear to open up unique citizenship opportunities for certain “desirable” Chinese subjects, Latino subjects are excluded from enjoying the “benefits” of neoliberal individualism, and are actually subjected to even more heightened surveillance under these neoliberal conditions. Park notes that the 25


“de-regulation” of certain “desirable” subjects which produces the conditions for maternity tourism is dependent on the “reregulation” or hyper-regulation of other “less desirable” subjects. Still, many conservative groups and figures also speak negatively of Chinese maternity tourism, although not as harshly as they do of the Latino “anchor baby.” Their insistent protests despite the affluence and lucrative nature of the Chinese maternity tourism industry suggest that for many conservatives, the panic around both maternity tourism and “anchor babies” is less about a scarcity of physical or economic resources and more about the maintenance of a predominantly white U.S. racial fabric and the idea of U.S. citizenship as sacred ground to be protected against invasion from racial “outsiders.” 2016 Presidential Election The use of the term “anchor babies” has been the subject of heated debate between political parties in the 2016 presidential election. Some republican candidates, such as Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, have defended their use of the term despite criticism from Latino and other immigration activist groups. Both men seemed to chalk up the debate around the term to a question of semantics, contending that they could not avoid using the offensive language of the “anchor baby” for lack of an alternative term. Although immigration activists have offered alternatives such as “children of undocumented immigrants,” Trump and Bush have continued to opt for “anchor baby,” signaling an awareness of the importance of the racially coded nature of the term that is not captured by the differently coded phrase “children of undocumented immigrants.” UCLA law professor Hiroshi Motomura describes the use of this language as a “war of soundbites” used by certain presidential candidates to elicit a particular response. Some conservative politicians invoke the language of the “anchor baby” to appeal to a specific audience by framing certain citizens as illegitimate and a “threat” to “real” American families to produce fear among voters. The “anchor baby,” then, is a symbolic figure invoked by presidential hopefuls as part of an anti-immigration agenda. In this way, the racialized, unwanted, illegitimate “anchor baby” is framed simultaneously as a helpless victim of manipulative and irresponsible parents, and as a malicious enemy or potential enemy of the State. Conclusions The narrative of the “anchor baby” is deeply embedded in 26


histories of race, class, and gender. The term “anchor baby” and the ideologies it represents establish immigrant women’s bodies and reproductive lives as subject to constant government surveillance. Through this coded language, the abstract concept of citizenship becomes marked on the body through race, so that all Latino families, whether immigrant or native-born, documented or undocumented, represent the “threat” of immigration and the anchor baby. Discussions of immigration are inextricably tied to concerns about motherhood and reproduction as well as healthcare and public assistance. Through discussions of phenomena such as “birth tourism” and the “anchor baby,” reproduction becomes a site where citizenship is policed in distinctly racialized ways. In this way, it is not undocumented Latino parents that utilize “anchor babies” to solidify their position within the U.S., but antiimmigration activists who use the figure of the “anchor baby” to racialize citizenship and belonging. The deeply affective nature of the “anchor baby” discussion provides a landscape for tracing the parameters of citizenship and belonging. Even for those for whom citizenship is a legal reality, many political figures attempt to draw distinctions between those who are “deserving” and “undeserving” citizens, often along racial and ethnic lines. Lisa Sun-Hee Park asserts that these conditions produce “a multi-tiered state in which the freedoms and rights of some are maintained by the reciprocal restriction on those same freedoms and rights of others.”16 In other words, the white U.S. mother and the white U.S. child’s citizenship and belonging are dependent on the exclusion of the Latino immigrant family and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese birth tourist family. The discourse of the “anchor baby” is part and parcel of a broader history of politicizing and policing women of color’s reproductive lives, echoing eugenic language about desirable and undesirable mothers and children. Notes

Robin Jacboson, “Characterizing Consent: Race, Citizenship, and the New Restrictionists.” Political Research Quarterly 59.4 (2006), 648. 2 Ibid., 645. 3 Leisy J. Abrego and Cecilia Menjívar, “Immigrant Latina Mothers as Targets of Legal Violence.” International Journal of Sociology of the Family 37.1, Policing Motherhood (2011), 12. 4 Jacboson, 650. 5 Ibid., 653. 6 Ibid., 648. 1

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Ana Elizabeth Rojas, “Some Children Left Behind: Families in the Age of Deportation.” Boom: A Journal of California 2.3 (2012), 82. 8 Abrego and Menjívar, 9. 9 Angela Hooton and Silvia Henriquez, “Immigrant Rights Are Women’s Rights,” Off Our Backs 36.4 (2006), 38. 10 Matt Sheehan, “Born In The USA: Why Chinese ‘Birth Tourism’ Is Booming In California.” The Huffington Post, May 14, 2015. 11 Susan Berfield, “Chinese Maternity Tourists and the Business of Being Born American.” Bloomberg, May 12, 2015. 12 Abrego and Menjívar, 29. 13 Ibid., 31. 14 Ibid., 29. 15 Lisa Sun-Hee Park, “Criminalizing Immigrant Mothers: Public Charge, Health Care, and Welfare Reform.” International Journal of Sociology of the Family 37.1, Policing Motherhood (2011), 31. 16 Park, 32. 7

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Misplaced Blame in the U.S.-Mexican Immigration Issue Kenzi Abou-Sabe

The rhetoric that surrounds immigration policy in the United States is largely based on precepts that are both factually inaccurate, and limited in their historical understanding. Most anti-immigration theory rests on a perceived sense that Mexican migrants are exploiting the U.S. tax system, and fleeing a defunct economy to overcrowd the tenuous American economy. What this sort of discourse ignores is how beneficial immigration can be for an economy, the historical effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement that forced many Mexicans to abandon their economy, and the general backwardness of U.S.-Mexican border policy in comparison to the European Union’s. In Timothy C. Brown’s essay, “The Fourth Member of NAFTA: The U.S.-Mexico Border,” Brown argues that negative perceptions of the border that lend to anti-immigration sentiment are not really founded. He compares the amount that American taxpayers spend on services enjoyed by Mexican undocumented immigrants, to the profit generated by Mexican shoppers in the United States, and the result shows that taxpayers benefit at a margin of 600 percent.1 The conservative notion that undocumented immigrants exploit the American economy explicitly ignores this context. Whether or not politicians are aware of statistics like these, reducing the immigration problem to a parasitic issue makes for powerful rhetoric, and many utilize that fact. Donald Trump, vying for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, attested that Mexico was sending criminals and rapists to the United States as immigrants. Statistics show that first-generation immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.2 If exploitation is not factually the principal issue of illegal immigration, then there must be another. Brown claims that 29


American xenophobia plays a significant role in the unpopularity of immigration reform: “Americans tend to look down on Mexico as poor, brown, and backward.”3 The issue with this specific brand of xenophobia—not that all xenophobia is not an issue, because it is—is that it’s founded in assumptions that are simply not true. Mexico is not inherently poor because its citizenry is not hardworking, nor is it poor because it is lacking in natural resources. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) reoriented the Mexican economy into a so-called, “race to the bottom.” The state of Mexico’s job market and the resulting flux of Mexican migrants to the United States were not wholly caused by NAFTA, but nor are they factors totally independent of American political action. The United States’ international economic policy had an influential hand in the modern Mexican economy, so to believe that Mexicans are running from a broken economy on their own terms ignores a crucial aspect of U.S.-Mexican macroeconomic history. In 1970, there were only approximately 1 million people of Mexican origin living in the U.S., and by 2000, that number had surged to 9.8 million, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. During that period, the majority of Mexican demographic growth was due to immigration, and not to the reproduction of MexicanAmerican nationals, as it had been before 1980.4 NAFTA’s implementation in 1994 is hardly a coincidental factor in this population boom. Patricia Fernández-Kelly and Douglas S. Massey address this economic history in their essay, “Borders for Whom? The Role of NAFTA in Mexico-U.S. Migration.” NAFTA was an international accord that allowed capital to flow freely between the North American states, but unlike within the European Union, it made no corresponding relationship for labor migration. The agreement also directly benefitted American business. In order for Mexico to modernize its economy according to NAFTA, it required loans, which were conveniently made by U.S. banks5 In agreeing to NAFTA, then President Salinas of Mexico was attempting to “‘Taiwanize’ Mexico.”6 He thought that withdrawing the federal government from the economy would help Mexico prosper, but in reality, all it did was de-incentivize innovation and propagate low value-added labor. This proved especially problematic when Mexico couldn’t compete in the low value-added labor category, suffering from Asian manufacturing 30


and the American and Canadian trade competition opened up by NAFTA. Mexico’s struggling economy was compounded by the contradictory nature of its agreement with the U.S. and Canada. “The European Union became a supranational category in which citizens were relatively free to cross borders as long as they could support themselves.”7 NAFTA was the opposite. The U.S. and Canada didn’t attempt to prop up Mexican development as the U.K. has had to with Greece and Spain. Borders did not become fluid, but were rather staunchly, insultingly defended. In comparison to the success of the EU, many of the U.S.’s policies toward Mexico seem counterintuitive. NAFTA pushed integration in capital, trade, and intelligence, but explicitly prevented integration of labor markets. The fact that the former powers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service have been transferred to the Office of Homeland Security portrays a state of affairs where immigrants are not job seekers but security liabilities.8 The reasons for this are thematic of post-9/11 America, but nonetheless remain slightly illogical. As Fernández-Kelly and Massey point out, tightening the grip on a border the way the U.S. has with its Mexican border actually encourages undocumented immigrants to remain in the country, rather than risking the dangerous process of reverse migration by attempting to return to Mexico.9 This contradiction makes the doomsday rhetoric that American politicians assume when arguing that taller fences ought to be built especially ironic. Part of the “problem” of U.S.-Mexico immigration is the insult and hyperbole that’s often associated with discussing the issue. Saskia Sassen, author of Globalization and its Discontents, writes that, “Public opinion and public political debate have become part of the arena wherein immigration policy is shaped.”10 This eccentricity of modern immigration policy heightens the relationship between American lawmakers and xenophobic, doomsday-fearing American taxpayers of many ethnicities, and both political persuasions. The public nature of the issue also subjects it to the influence of lobbies, and since lobbies exist to serve their own self-interest and not to propagate the truth, more political rhetoric and less fact is introduced into the debate.11 Today, most immigrants to the United States aren’t Latinos, and most Latinos in the United States aren’t immigrants. The recent and massive influx of young, unaccompanied Latinos 31


into the Southwestern U.S. that prompted President Obama to request billions from Congress in emergency funding wasn’t even a Mexican migration flow. Most of those children came fleeing violence and instability in Central American countries like Guatemala.12 The conflation of Mexican and all Latino immigrants is just one such example of how sentiment and perception have diluted the conversation around Mexican immigration in the U.S. The tension around the subject of immigration then grows, with each new wave. According to Sassen, a cyclical aspect of the immigration climate in the U.S. is that with each new infusion of immigrants, a new group of Americans opposed to immigration solidifies. Sassen explains how Americans often “underestimate the country’s capacity to absorb more people,” but notes, “they also fail to appreciate the political and economic forces that give rise to immigration in the first place.”13 Contrary to popular discourse on both sides of American politics, immigrants in general rarely come to the United States fleeing a destitute financial situation. If they were truly that poor, they would not be able to afford immigrating. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but the majority of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. are middle class laborers simply seeking better job opportunities and perhaps a less corrupt, more transparent government.14 Although Mexican immigrants as a demographic group are less well-off than the overall average for immigrants, in 2011, 41 percent of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. had a either a high school diploma or higher.15 Even so, this justification of immigrants’ credentials still implies that Americans benevolently, charitably accept immigrants, rather than asserting their acceptance as justified, and based on political and economic precedent. Conversations about immigration that ignore its history or that glaze over facts in favor of popular sentiment operate in a vacuum, and because of that, the terms they attempt to propagate will always be on poor footing. “The Achilles heel of U.S. immigration policy has been its insistence on viewing immigration as an autonomous process unrelated to other international processes.”16 Some historians say that the success of countries is based upon their constituency’s willingness and ability to forget. To forget ethnic and cultural pasts, and the arbitrary borders that interrupt them. To forget the societal wrongs their countries have imposed—slavery and institutionalized sexism, to name just two— with an eye bent on the future. 32


America’s convenient memory loss in the case of Mexican immigration disregards the economic manipulation of NAFTA and the ensuing financial chokehold it placed on Mexico’s working class.17 If lawmakers and the public saw the effects of American economic policy the same way they occasionally understand the historic faults of our influence in foreign policy, perhaps discourse on the subject would be more understanding, and better suited to actually address the issue, instead of just inflating it. Notes

Brown, Timothy C. “The Fourth Member of NAFTA: The U.S.-Mexico Border.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 550 (1997): 105-21. Web. 105 2 Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana, and Mark Hugo Lopez. “A Demographic Portrait of Mexican-Origin Hispanics in the United States.” Pew Research Centers Hispanic Trends Project RSS. Pew Research Center RSS, 01 May 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. 3 Brown 108, 114 4 Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana, and Mark Hugo Lopez 5 Fernández-Kelly, Patricia, and Douglas S. Massey. “Borders for Whom? The Role of NAFTA in Mexico-U.S. Migration.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 610 (2007): 98-118. Web. 99 6 Fernández-Kelly, Patricia, and Douglas S. Massey 104 7 Fernández-Kelly, Patricia, and Douglas S. Massey 105 8 Fernández-Kelly, Patricia, and Douglas S. Massey 108 9 Fernández-Kelly, Patricia, and Douglas S. Massey 110 10 Sassen, Saskia. Globalization and Its Discontents. New York Press: New York, 1998. Print. 9 11 Sassen 10 12 Shear, Michael D., and Jeremy W. Peters. “Obama Asks for $3.7 Billion to Aid Border.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 08 July 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. 13 Sassen 31 14 Sassen 32 15 Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana, and Mark Hugo Lopez 16 Sassen 49 17 Sassen 50 1

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Untitled - Jiyoung Jo

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“Pushing an Open Door:” An Investigative Report Into Ireland’s Marriage Equality Referendum Alexandra Taylor On May 23rd, 2015, Irish deputy prime minister and Labour party leader Joan Burton said, “The people of Ireland have struck a massive blow against discrimination.”1 The ‘blow,’ many years in the making, was a landslide majority ‘Yes’ vote for legalizing same-sex marriage, making Ireland the first country to ever do so by popular vote. Over 1.2 million citizens voted in favor of gay marriage, representing 62% of Ireland’s electorate. Considering homosexuality was only decriminalized in Ireland twenty-two years ago in 1993, the vote was a major step forward in the nation’s progression towards a more secular, liberal society. From landmark court cases to grassroots campaigns, the referendum had tremendous momentum behind it to increase its chance of success in the polls on May 22nd. The purpose of this article is to discuss the catalysts for the referendum, and to analyze what made this act of legislation possible at this moment. Through firsthand interviews, I reconstruct a narrative that draws upon the perspectives of the politicians, the campaign leaders, and the citizens who all played part in this pivotal event. I argue that there was more than marriage equality at stake in the referendum, not only for the homosexual population but for Irish people more broadly. Gay marriage is a social and political justice issue that has certainly been known to incite citizen action, but something about the way a real and rhetorical community formed around the referendum, campaigned for it tirelessly, and then collectively celebrated its legal victory suggests that unity, nationhood, and decency was on the ticket along with same-sex marriage. In what follows, I show that the ‘Yes’ vote was evidence of Irish people creating for themselves the type of world they desire to live in, and then presenting that vision to the international community as a 35


testament to the nation’s collective aspiration. “OUT FOR OURSELVES”2 To explore how same-sex marriage garnered so much momentum, it is important to understand how the Irish national body differentiates itself from those of other countries through its background—namely its fraught history and largely homogenous population. Ethnic and racial minorities only make up about 12 percent of the Irish population, compared to only 6 percent at the beginning of the 21st century. The country’s small size (roughly about the same square mileage as the state of Indiana), rural topography, and geographical isolation from many other European countries may have contributed to Ireland’s homogeneity over time, but these factors have also served the Irish people well in terms of fostering a close-knit cultural experience. The traditional customs of Gaelic culture are deeply woven into the social fabric of the country, and Roman Catholicism, which is and has been the nation’s principal religion since the country converted to Christianity in the 5th century, has also been a backdrop against which much of the country’s unification has taken place.3 On a micro level, the LGBT community in Ireland has experienced similar periods of isolation and unification, not having gained visibility in mainstream Irish culture until the latter half of the 20th century. One of the earliest preeminent LGBT organizations in Ireland was the Dublin Lesbian and Gay Collective (henceforth referred to as “The Collective”), founded in 1981 by a small group of activists enraged at what they perceived to be outright violations of the social and civil liberties of Irish gay men and women. The Collective championed for LGBT rights from radical, feminist, and socialist perspectives. The size and organic, “ad-hoc” nature of the group gave it the agility that other more formal LGBT coalitions, such as the National Gay Federation and the Irish Gay Right Movement, lacked at that time. “Out for Ourselves: The Lives of Irish Lesbians and Gay Men,” published in 1986, details Irish “coming out” stories and featured an extensive account of the LGBT civil rights movement in Ireland up to the mid-1980s. Though many journalists overlook the publication and despite the fact thats the Collective disbanded in 1987, roots of this politically significant organization are still readily apparent. Many 36


of the Collective’s members went on to form the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), which contributed significantly to the success of the Marriage Equality Referendum and serves as a tribute to the Collective’s legacy of perseverance. THE BEGINNINGS OF A MOVEMENT International Precedent In 1989, Denmark passed the Registered Partnerships Act that granted same-sex unions many of same entitlements as heterosexual marriages, including tax breaks and the right to share benefits. However, the Act stopped short of calling these partnerships “marriages” and Danish couples were not lawfully permitted to be married in a state church, or to adopt a child.4 Considered an important step forward at the time, other countries followed suit throughout the 1990s until the Netherlands became the first country to fully legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. The Dutch law, unlike any before it, fully eliminated any distinction at all between heterosexual and homosexual marriages. However, the same could not be said for Irish law, which at that time did not legally recognize civil partnerships or any other such unions between LGBT couples. Zappone v. Revenue Commissioners (“the KAL case”) Anne Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone met in 1981 while studying Theology at Boston College in Massachusetts. In September 2003 the couple married in a civil ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where their marriage is legally valid. When they returned to Ireland in 2004, the couple wrote to the Revenue Commissioners—the Irish tax authorities— to inform them of their marriage and claim tax allowances (among other financial advantages) that are awarded to married heterosexual couples in Ireland. The Revenue Commissioners informed Katherine and Anne Louise that they would not authorize the couple’s tax claim because “the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘husband’ as a married man and ‘wife’ as a married woman,” terms that Irish tax legislation makes use of but does not define independently.5 The High Court of Ireland heard the case in 2006, at which time it was decided that the Irish constitution had always meant for marriage to be between a man and a woman, and that, although the constitution is a flexible document open to 37


interpretation, it could not redefine historically upheld definitions of marriage. Justice Elizabeth Dunne, who ruled on the decision, also stated that the welfare of children would potentially be at stake if same-sex couples could be legally married. As Ronan Farren, Deputy Director of the Irish Labour Party, said, this legal case generated major interest in and new traction for same-sex marriage rights, similar to the way the AIDS crisis of the 80s made healthcare and spousal rights matters of key importance for samesex couples.6 It wasn’t until 2010 that the Civil Partnership Act was put into place in Irish law, which recognized same-sex “unions” but not “marriages.” This discrepancy was a loophole through which many marital benefits awarded to heterosexual couples without question (including financial and healthcare-related spousal rights) would legally continue to be denied to homosexual couples. In undermining the eligibility of same-sex couples, the law fell short of providing full equality. Marriage Equality: The Organization In 2008, in the midst of Katherine and Anne Louise’s legal battles, Marriage Equality formed as “a not for profit, single issue, national grassroots advocacy organization” whose goal was “to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Ireland through the extension of civil marriage rights to samesex couples.”7 According to director Moninne Griffith, the original idea was to make same-sex marriage legal either through the courts or through legislation. They wanted to be sure that they targeted “all of the spheres—the legal, the political, and the public.”8 The organization had some initial difficulty gaining access to politicians, and the few they were able to contact had reservations about legalizing gay marriage. “They would often say, ‘not in my lifetime,’ or, ‘it’s not going to happen.’ It was a different climate back in 2008,” Griffith said. Griffith mentioned that there was even some resistance in the LGBT community itself from those who didn’t want to “rock the boat,” those who wanted to enact change incrementally instead of all at once with one legislative push, those who didn’t want to pursue the issue at all, and even radical feminists who don’t believe in marriage because it mimics the heteronormative patriarchy. All things considered, “it took an enormous amount of time to really get things going.” In April 2013, the landscape was altered following Ireland’s economic 38


recession. The recession, although devastating, allowed Marriage Equality to make forward strides in their movement. The Labour Party came into power, and Marriage Equality worked with them to create a line about same-sex marriage in their general manifesto. Griffith said the grassroots feel of the organization softened people, and encouraged them to visit their local politicians in constituency clinics to express their support for the initiative, which is how momentum around the movement began to grow. A Constitutional Convention In 2011, per instruction from Ireland’s Attorney General, the first national Constitutional Convention was held in Ireland to decide on several proposed amendments to the Irish Constitution, as well as to discuss the interpretation of existing aspects of the document (including definitions, language, and the voting system). The convention was made up of 66 randomly selected, broadly representative Irish citizens, 33 nominated parliamentarians from each political party, and one independent chairman. One of the main issues up for discussion was constitutional provision for same-sex marriage, which had become a controversial topic due to the sociopolitical climate created by the KAL case and increased visibility of early Marriage Equality campaigns. When the twelve-month Convention had concluded in 2013, public attention was focused largely on this issue of same-sex marriage, and in 2014 Taoiseach Edna Kenny announced that there would be a national referendum the following spring. Griffith said that Marriage Equality initially resisted the idea of the Convention. She explained, “We didn’t think it was a good idea to have the majority people voting on minority rights. Generally that isn’t a good idea. That’s why we have a constitution—to protect minority rights. But it was the only show in town, so we had to get on board if we wanted to make marriage equality happen.” As it turned out, the convention was instrumental in creating positive public discourse around the issue. There were reportedly over 1000 applications for the 66 citizen seats in the convention, and ultimately all 100 participants voted 3-1 in favor of constitutional reform to allow for civil same-sex marriage. Panti Bliss On January 11th, 2015, Rory O’Neill, also known as drag performer and LGBT activist Panti Bliss, appeared on The Saturday Night 39


Show and publicly remarked on homophobia in modern Ireland.9 His comments included how “people who make a living writing opinion pieces for newspapers” often get away unscathed when making derogatory comments about gay people. His naming of various newspaper columnists during this discussion led the show’s broadcaster, RTÉ, to redact the episode from its online player due to “potential legal issues and for reasons of sensitivity following the death of Tom O’Gorman,” a popular journalist who had been murdered the week prior and whom O’Neill did not mention in his commentary. RTÉ apologized on behalf of O’Neill and reportedly paid out over 80,000 Euro to various members of the Iona Institute, a Catholic lobbying group, whom O’Neill had mentioned in his comments. This event incited major public debate surrounding homophobia and RTÉ’s treatment of gay people on their network. On February 1st, O’Neill took the stage at the Abbey Theatre as Panti Bliss and made a powerful speech on how it feels to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. Panti said: People who have never experienced homophobia in their lives, people who have never checked themselves at a pedestrian crossing, have told me that unless I am being thrown in prison or herded onto a cattle train, that it is not homophobia. And that feels oppressive. And so now, Irish gay people, we find ourselves in this ludicrous situation where not only are we not allowed to say publicly what we feel oppressed by, we’re not even allowed to think it, because our definition has been disallowed by our betters. And for the last three weeks I have been denounced… for using “hate speech” because I dared to use the word “homophobia”, and a jumped-up queer like me should know that the word homophobia is no longer available to gay people…and now it turns out that gay people are not the victims of homophobia—homophobes are the victims of homophobia.10 She received a standing ovation. The following day more than 2,000 people gathered in Dublin city centre for a protest sponsored by LGBT Noise against homophobia in Irish media. The speech went viral, putting an international spotlight on Panti herself and on LGBT rights. The injustice she faced from RTÉ and the 40


profound speech she gave in response made her one of the most prominent voices in the campaign for marriage equality. O’Neill told Independent.co.uk that he received “thousands of emails from gay people…people in wheelchairs and with autism… and from women.”11 He also said that people are united in their experiences of oppression and that he hoped his speech would start conversations about homophobia within families; a lot of gay people thanked him for his words. By drawing attention to the basic rights that gay people deserve but are not awarded, Panti Bliss advocated not only for herself but also for oppressed people from all walks of life. The intense social activism she incited suggests that there was more at stake in the referendum than samesex marriage rights. As the LGBT community came into focus just months before the referendum date, Irish people expressed a growing interest in and a deepening concern for how gay people are treated and how homophobia manifests in their society. Voting ‘Yes’ on gay marriage became equated with voting ‘Yes’ to a society that encourages and values respect for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. CAMPAIGN STRATEGIES: WHAT, WHY, & HOW The Human Story “The real ethos of the campaign,” Griffith remarked, “was the human story. The personal stories that people shared that everyone could relate to or find empathy for. This needed to inform all the work we were doing, even with politicians.” For instance, adults and young adults from the LGBT community were brought in to talk to the politicians directly so that a face could be put to the issue. To figure out what angle Marriage Equality would need to use with certain politicians to convince them to support samesex marriage, the organization conducted extensive research into their backgrounds and passions outside of politics. Often this led to a familial or otherwise relational connection that would help Marriage Equality convince the politicians to express support. The importance of the human story is a thread that runs throughout the narrative surrounding the referendum. With the Labour Party making up 10-15% of the voting population at that time, Farren noted how necessary it was to initiate campaigns that touched people’s hearts—not just their minds. The main 41


Labour Party spokesperson for same-sex marriage was chosen to be a married, heterosexual white man with children. While this may have seemed counterintuitive at the time, Farren said it was designed to attract more votes. Polling had revealed that while most women in the Labour Party’s voting population were in favor of same-sex marriage, heterosexual men were the one of the largest demographics not in favor. These men cited “unspecified” reasons—something made them uncomfortable, something felt “off” or “not right,” but they couldn’t articulate what it was. The spokesperson was chosen so that this group of voters, whose support was crucial to the success of the referendum, could connect and identify with a man who “looked” like them, ideologically if not physically, and understand how he might arrive at the decision to support same-sex marriage. At the same time, both the Labour Party and Marriage Equality felt that they risked alienating people if their campaigns placed too much explicit emphasis on electoral politics , so it was all the more important for these organizations to address their audiences not just as “voters” but as mothers, fathers, children, friends, coworkers, siblings, and Irish citizens. The Role of the Media At about 100 days before the referendum date, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) launched YES Equality, a campaign that made extensive use of social media platforms to publicize promotional pictures and videos. Another campaign out of Trinity College Dublin put out one particularly resonant video titled “#RingYourGranny for Marriage Equality,” which received over 68,000 views on YouTube and was picked up by other media news outlets such as Entertainment.ie, The Irish Times, and Out. com.12 The video opens with a montage of young people looking slightly nervous as they dial their grandparents to ask their opinion on the referendum. The video was based on the premise of uncertainty for how older age groups would vote (as opposed to younger age groups, who were expected to vote ‘Yes’). While some grandparents expressed full support, others weren’t as sure. The video was aimed at getting younger generations involved in the momentum of the campaign, closing with “If we want to play a part in this referendum, the simplest way is to talk about it with those who aren’t as sure.” It attracted attention for its tenderness and humor, but also for the way it portrayed same-sex marriage 42


as an issue that could be discussed in families—one that could help bridge the gap between generations. It was important for all campaigns to involve the media because, as Griffith noted, the media in Ireland has the most persuasive power. “Local stories are far more convincing than a politician on TV,” she said, “and it was revolutionary at the time to get people outside the city to talk about their experiences. It was important to have other voices besides the gays from Dublin city center.” Farren, who served on the board of Marriage Equality in addition to his role at the Labour Party, also spoke about the necessity of running a tight, broadly focused 4-6 week campaign for the purposes of stronger media coverage. Irish media law mandates that broadcasters give equal time to both the ‘For’ and ‘Against’ sides of any debatable issue: a shorter campaign meant that each side would have less debate time on air, which the Labour Party felt would have the best implications for the outcome of the referendum since there would inevitably be less opportunities for the opposition to present inimical arguments. Farren noted that the campaign also paid special attention to how their tone came across in the media—it was imperative not to call anyone “homophobic” or to use derogatory language of any kind. Keeping the campaign broad also meant keeping it positive and focused on individual stories of equality. The message was about extending the definition of marriage to include gay couples, not to detract from the marriages of straight ones. “All in all, it mobilized very well,” Farren commented. Children and the Opposition Another goal of both the Labour Party and of Marriage Equality was to neutralize a major issue that the opposition clung to throughout the campaign period: that of the welfare of children raised by same-sex couples. Religious, political, and social conservatives often argued that being raised by two parents of the same sex puts children at an all-around disadvantage. The Labour Party offset this argument by having children of LGBT couples speak publicly about their positive experiences being raised by their parents. The point of this was to refute the opposition’s claim, but also to show that LGBT couples had already been (and continue to be) raising children and having families together, long before the referendum became a political talking point. Marriage Equality also stressed the importance of making their campaign 43


visible to the public eye. Posters of “ordinary LGBT families” were put up around the city and sponsored by Dublin city buses for the summer to help dispel myths and fears about LGBT people having kids and raising families. “We felt it was important to show the kids, that way people could see for themselves that [the kids] turn out fine—high functioning, smart, ordinary kids. It’s not like they have three heads or something,” Griffith commented. The Labour Party anticipated oppositional arguments surrounding surrogacy and adoption, so they worked to put legislation in place legalizing adoption for same-sex couples in March 2015, two months before the referendum was held. When the opposition did ultimately argue that same-sex marriage would “disturb the traditional family unit,” it dramatically backfired because the heteronormative “traditional family unit” was no longer the status quo, and their argument insulted many families who existed outside an ideal that no longer applied to people outside of a small portion of the middle class. Many citizens, especially those in whose lives gay families have a presence, were no longer tolerant of lectures on traditional heteronormative values. REFERENDUM RESULTS AND PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS Anticipating ‘Yes’ When the Netherlands legalized gay marriage in 2001, the vote had been a “foregone conclusion” according to the Washington Post. Fourteen years later, Farren and Griffith were similarly confident about the passing of the Irish Referendum. In months leading up to the campaign, market research showed that there was an increase in public support and, shortly thereafter, Marriage Equality was able to garner cross-party support for the vote. “The campaign was really building momentum and people were on paper as supporters of marriage equality, so we knew pretty much who was going to be voting ‘Yes’,” Griffith said. Both Farren and Griffith described the referendum as “like pushing an open door” in the sense that they knew they had the support of the majority voting population behind them. “The campaign wasn’t just how many gay couples wanted to get married, it was also about issues of kin support and also just about principles of equality,” Farren said. The Results Are In13 If anything above 50% ‘Yes’ would’ve be considered a resounding 44


win, then the 62% ‘Yes’ vote that was revealed on May 23rd, 2015 might be best described as a phenomenon. The turnout was 60.5%, the highest for any referendum since the Divorce referendum that took place in 1995. Only one constituency out of forty-three voted ‘No’, eliminating the fear of a divide between urban cities like Dublin and the more rural parts of the country. The vote was strongest among young people, women, and working class voters, yet just the sheer scale of ‘Yes’ to ‘No’ votes (62% ‘Yes’ versus 38% ‘No’)xiii reflects the intensity of the cultural progression which took place in the 22 years between the decriminalization of homosexuality and the legalization of marriage equality. An astounding 96% of new voters who registered to vote in the referendum actually showed up on voting day. The hashtag #HomeToVote represented how many young emigrants returned home to Ireland to participate. As Conor Payne writes in his Socialist Alternative article “Massive ‘Yes’ to Irish Marriage Equality Referendum,” “The scale of the victory…demolishes the myth of an innately conservative silent majority and points to the forces who are the real agents of change and progress in Irish society.” Griffith commented, “The campaign really reaped the benefits of the eight years of hard work we had done prior. People in local groups across the country, of which there were over 60, were all on-message. Everyone knew what they were talking about. It was like putting the roof on a house we had built.” To this effect, Irish Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who came out in 2015 as the country’s first openly gay minister, said the campaign was like “a social revolution.” This “social revolution” was on full display at the Dublin Castle that day, where the rainbow colors of the international gay movement lit up the cobblestone courtyard and over 2000 people gathered to celebrate. The symbolization of celebrating at such a historical landmark is purposeful—it represents a change made that would not have been possible on those very grounds even just a few decades earlier. Today, the Irish constitution boldly reflects this embracement of equality with the words “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with the law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” This gives equality not only to same-sex couples, but also for those who choose not to identify within the gender binary. Public Perceptions: Irish Nationhood, History, Religion, and 45


Pride14 Dean and Luke, a gay couple in their early thirties living in Dublin, attributed the success of the vote not only to the creativity of campaigns like YES Equality and the #CallYourGranny Campaign, but also to the small size of their nation. “They say there are only six degrees of separation between strangers—in Ireland, there’s even fewer than six,” Dean said. Luke agreed that the close-knit social tapestry of the nation made it so that everyone knew at least one person who would be affected by the decision on same-sex marriage. He said, “It would have been a close enough connection that even a rural granny would stop and think, ‘How can I vote ‘no’?’” Social media coverage of Panti Bliss helped to bring on board people who simply felt the need to stand up to such an extreme shortcoming of justice. Dean and Luke also discussed the role of the country’s history, saying: “People are more willing to get on board with things because that’s always been our way. We have always had to deal straight on with issues we face. There is nothing in our history we have hid from, so we don’t run away when there’s a problem. People supported the majority thinking even if they were somewhat on the fence about the issue, because they recognized that, in one way or another, it was for the greater good of the country.” The declining role of the Catholic Church also contributed significantly: “In some areas,” Luke said, “older people left their congregations because they didn’t want to be told how to vote.” Farren agreed that these days in Ireland, people under 30 years old aren’t diligent about their church attendance anymore. Though 85% of the country still identifies as Roman Catholic, the church plays a less distinct role in daily life now that its moral authority has been challenged due to corruption and sexual abuse scandals.15 A group of straight women in their fifties attested to the conflict that their age-group felt between the referendum and the teachings of the church; one woman said she felt like it came down to a question of whether a person stood by the church, or didn’t. She went to Catholic school as a child and felt that the religious conflicts with same-sex marriage took her a long time to process. However, in a nod to the issue’s fundamental complexity, the women also expressed their belief that gay marriage progressing forward before women’s rights such as abortion and contraception is “backwards.” A strong sense of 46


Irish pride was one aspect of the ‘Yes’ vote that Dean, Luke, and the older straight women all agreed on despite differences in sex, age group, and sexual orientation. The women expressed that the country felt a strong sense of nationalistic pride knowing that they would be the first country to do this by popular vote. Dean and Luke agreed that everyone was “very aware” of the international attention this would attract. “We knew that if we were the first country to do something like this, other countries would not be far behind. And look what’s happened in the U.S. already,” Dean said, referring to the June 26, 2015 nationwide ruling on legalizing same sex marriage in the United States. The women also noted that the popular cultural belief was that other countries had an impression of Ireland as being “behind the times,” and this served as incentive to vote ‘Yes’ because people wanted to prove that Ireland had “caught up with the rest of the world.” Panti Bliss encapsulated these comments when she remarked, “I think (outsiders) are still hung up on the idea that Ireland is some sort of very conservative country ruled by the Catholic Church.” If anything, the ‘Yes’ vote certainly challenges this perspective. Griffith had other thoughts about the final vote, concluding, “The lesson? Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, coalition building, softening both political and public opinion. It takes data, and it takes a solid evidence base…But that wasn’t the point for Irish people. They don’t care if they’d be the last country on Earth to vote ‘Yes’. It wasn’t about that so much as fair play—that is deep rooted in the Irish psyche.” “WHO WE ARE” Prime Minister Edna Kenny best captured the essence of what the referendum truly stands for in Irish society when she said, “With today’s vote we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.”xvi His comments suggest relief, as if the true core of the Irish culture had been present all along and, with the passing of the referendum, was finally revealed for all to see. This was a vote for marriage equality, but it was also a vote for generosity, for love, for compassion, for diversity, and for inclusion. The word ‘Yes’ emerged with the power of the nation invested in it. Saying ‘Yes’ was about showing the world that the change had already been made and that the country had already transformed—the vote for same-sex marriage merely made it 47


official. It meant more than just tolerating gay marriage, more than just awarding tax benefits to gay couples—it meant sharing a deep sense of Irish-ness through enacting social change as one unified body. It was about making LGBT Irish citizens an equal part of Irish society, which YES Equality summed up beautifully with the words, “It means that all of us—lesbian, gay, straight, family members, friends, colleagues, allies, voters—belong equally to the Irish national family.”16 It was about the sense of national pride that came with presenting Ireland at its best—a fairer, better Ireland where Irish people actively make their country, and the world, a better place to live by offering a fundamental right to those who were denied eligibility for so long. In the preface to “Out for Ourselves,” the Collective authors write that the project of creating the book “was ambitious and the work involved much pain and sweat. There were some disappointments and conflicts and at times many of us would have abandoned the whole project. But the book had become too important for the collectives involved, for the many other contributors, and we think, for Irish lesbians and gays generally. So we carried on. We are now sure that it was worth it.”17 The same can be said for the Marriage Equality Referendum as a type of national project. It involved diligent, conscientious work on the part of countless volunteers, campaigners, politicians, activists, and LGBT community members, and it ended up teaching the whole country an invaluable lesson about one another and the nation. Notes McDonald, Henry. “Ireland Becomes First Country to Legalise Gay Marriage by Popular Vote.” The Guardian 23 May 2015, The Observer sec. Print. 1

Irish Queer Archive. “FADÓ FADÓ: Dublin Gay Collective founded 1st July 1982.” Facebook. 1 July 2013. [25 Aug 2015. <www.facebook.com> 2

“Ireland”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 23 Feb. 2016 <http://www.britannica. com/place/Ireland/The-Republic-of-Ireland>. 4 Taylor, Adam. “What Was the First Country to Legalize Gay Marriage?” The Washington Post 26 June 2015, WorldViews sec. Print. 3

5

“About Katherine & Ann Louise.” Marriage Equality. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

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6

“Interview with Ronan Farren.” Personal interview. 19 Aug. 2015.

7

“Who We Are.” Marriage Equality. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

8

“Interview with Moninne Griffith.” Personal interview. 26 Aug. 2015.

O’Carroll, Sinead. “Part of The Saturday Night Show Removed from RTÉ Player over ‘legal Issues’.” Thejournal.ie. N.p., 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. 9

Daly, Susan, and Rory O’Neill/YouTube. “Watch Panti’s Powerful Speech about Oppression of Gay People.” Thejournal.ie. N.p., 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. 10

Attwood, Karen. “Drag Queen Panti Bliss on the Irish Same-sex Marriage Referendum, International Fame and the Changing Gay Scene.” Independent. N.p., 11 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. 11

#RingYourGranny for Marriage Equality - TCDSU. Prod. Zooko Creative. YouTube, 15 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. 12

Payne, Conor. “Massive ‘Yes’ to Marriage Equality Referendum.” Socialist Alternative. N.p., 29 May 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. 13

“Interview with Dean and Luke.” Personal interview. 6 Aug. 2015; “Interview at Panti Bar.” Personal interview. 12 Aug. 2015. 14

Hjelmgaard, Kim. “Ireland Legalizes Gay Marriage in Historic Vote.” USA Today. N.p., 24 May 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. 15

16

YES Equality. N.p., 23 May 2015. Web. 25 Aug. 2015.

“Out for Ourselves – The Lives of Irish Lesbians & Gay Men – 1986.” Web log post. Brand New Retro. N.p., 27 June 2014. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. 17

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The Definition of ‘Chinese’ - Chloe Chan In “The Definition of ‘Chinese,’” a young Chinese-American girl is confused about her bicultural identity. The background is composed of newspaper clippings and is meant to emulate a page from the dictionary. 50


To Be “Terrorist” but Not “Gay:” Iran’s Threat to the U.S. Ava Ahmadbeigi

In the years following the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, Iran–US relations shifted drastically from the close alliance that once existed between the Shah and the US to a dynamic characterized more and more in the early 2000s by animosity and mistrust. In what follows, I consider three major events that helped to render Iran a threat from the US perspective: the Iranian Islamic Revolution, George W. Bush’s 2002 state of the union address, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2007 visit to Columbia University.1 This newfound threat occurred on two levels. First, Iran became an unpredictable nation that could use its “weapons of mass destruction” against the US and its allies. Furthermore, President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to use normative language around sexuality and to acknowledge the presence of “homosexuals” in Iran threatened the containment and control the American state had achieved over its own purportedly “deviant” sexual population. By constructing a narrative of Iran around the idea of being an “evil” terrorist threat, the US created an enemy that needed to be controlled and civilized to save “oppressed” Iranians and to safeguard American values involving gay rights and citizenship. Foreign policy concerning terrorism may seem distant from LGBT rights, both discourses are grounded in anxieties involving nationhood, citizenship, and otherness. In her article, “Mapping US Homonormativities,” Jasbir Puar argues that the construction of a “terrorist” figure by the US creates a space for gay, lesbian, and queer bodies to act as patriots while it continues to “other” them as sexual deviants.2 She calls this “homo-nationalism” and grounds it in Lisa Duggan’s theory of homonormativity defined as a “‘new neo-liberal sexual politics’ that hinges upon the ‘possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption.’”3,4 “Gay 51


culture” and “homosexuality” are western concepts that emerged in the late 1800s.5 This is not to say that same-sex desire and love did not exist in previous eras, just that consensual and deviant sexual desires and practices were neither labeled as identities nor used as a tool for domesticity, consumption, and nationalism. The turn to “homosexuality” as an identity has been the basis of the LGBT rights movement in the US (a shift that has been particularly apparent in the discourse around marriage equality and about whether LGBT are “born that way”), as well as a tool for US intervention in foreign affairs. In what follows, I do not take a stand for or against the US or Iran in matters concerning terrorism or the rights of sexual minority populations. Instead, I aim to understand how the US LGBT movement and the construction of the middle-eastern “terrorist” affect and are affected by our desire for citizenship and belonging. Following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, a key moment for the shift in discourse around citizenship in both US and the “civilized” world, President G.W. Bush declared in his January 2002 State of the Union Address that “those of us who have lived through these challenging times have been changed by them. We’ve come to know truths that we will never question: Evil is real, and it must be opposed.”6 He grounded this of “evil” in terrorism, saying, [The] goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction... Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom... States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.7 According to this speech, North Korea and Iraq were also 52


dangerous nations whose regimes made up the “axis of evil.” President Bush charged these states with “arming to threaten the peace of the world” with their “weapons of mass destruction”. Needless to say, the US and its allies also had and continue to have and develop weapons capable of widespread “destruction,” yet it was the countries in the “axis of evil” whose actions and motives for the development of these weapons were labeled as “terrorism.” Furthermore, President Bush offered no real definition of “terrorism” in his speech; instead, he deemed any country that opposed the US and that has weapons “terrorist.” More than just placing North Korea, Iran, and Iraq on an “enemies” list, this speech portrayed the above countries as inherently evil, unpredictable, and untrustworthy terrorist threats and set up the Iranian people in particular as in need of help and saving from their own government. *** The Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-1979) and particularly its final monarch, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had a friendly relationship with the United States. It was, however, the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that changed everything: the government shifted from a monarchy to a theocratic Islamic republic, new laws were put in place, new attitudes adopted, and foreign relationships were redefined. The structure and intent behind these new relationships, as well as Iran’s terrorist motives are debated. On one side of this debate are people like Shaul Shay, a historian and former leader of the Israel National Security Council, who argues that, “In the course of twenty-five years of Islamic rule (1979-2004), Iran has appeared to be a state that supports a radical foreign policy with no holds barred, including terror, in order to export the Islamic revolution and facilitate its political objectives”8. On the other side of the debate, there are scholars like Ervand Abrahamian who acknowledge some Iranian activity that argue for a more nuanced understanding of Iran – US relations. In Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth About North Korea, Iran, and Syria, Abrahamian writes that President Bush’s statement about the “axis of evil” came as a shock to both Iran, which had been improving its relationship with the US for several years and to the State Department, which had not been consulted about the content of Bush’s speech9. Abrahamian argues that the invention of the “axis of evil” was a reflection of fearful sentiment that existed in neo-conservatives in the US. This constituency, “known among 53


more conventional conservatives as neo-rightists and neo-crazies,” had “persistently complained for years about Washington’s ‘dovish’ and ‘appeasement’ policies towards ‘fascists’ and ‘Islamic fanatics.’”10 “In their eyes, the 1979 Iranian revolution turned politics upside down. In one swift blow, it wiped out their ‘island of stability’ in the region, their main ‘policeman’ in the Gulf...”11 Iran was many things and of much use to the US during the Pahlavi Dynasty, but the Islamic Revolution of 1979 brought a shocking end to this relationship not only because Iran stopped cooperating with the US as its “policeman” in the Gulf, but because it suddenly was equated with Islam, an “uncontrollable” religion “fundamentally” opposed to the West and westernization. Although the Islamic Republic of Iran was trying to make amends for tense relations with the US in the years leading up to 9/11, its efforts were overlooked in the aftermath of the attacks. The popular opinion still holds that “Iran embodies the incorporation of two basic elements in its policy that turn the use of terror in its international relations into a ‘legitimate and effective’ tool... The first principle is the ideological and religious basis at the center of which lies the aspiration to establish Islamic rule worldwide...”12 As far as the US is concerned, Iran has become an evil and terrorist Islamic state, threatening to spread its backwards rule everywhere. Iran’s occupation of this backwards terrorist position becomes even more threatening when it concerns not just “weapons of mass destruction,” but the sexual lives of ordinary people. In her article, “Dating the State,” Katherine Franke argues that sexuality and sexual rights become a way for governments to talk about foreign policy and mobilize globalization and civilizing missions. She discusses examples from Israel, Iran, Poland, and Romania, and in the case of Iran, explores President Ahmadinejad’s 2007 visit to Columbia University, which is now most known for Ahmadinejad’s denial of the existence of homosexuals in Iran. Franke’s argument, similar to arguments made retrospectively about the manipulation of women and gender in colonialism, is focused on the dangers of “world powers” imposing their views on other groups and countries. I n Iran’s case, there was another layer of motivation behind the strong reaction against President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the existence of homosexuality in Iran. Ahmadinejad seemed to not only know that Iran was placed outside of global conversation and citizenship, but he seemed to not care, smiling his way through the audience’s 54


“boos” as he rejected their normative language on sexuality and rights.13 If what keeps people “in line” is the fear of being placed outside the nation and outside of citizenship, then Ahmadinejad’s blatant disregard for a global disapproval of his position is threatening not only in that it makes the US vulnerable to Iran’s unpredictable motives, but in that it jeopardizes the very normative grounds on which the US has incorporated homosexuality into the nation. *** The context in which homosexuality surfaced during President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University further stabilized Iran’s portrayal in the US as an evil Islamic, premodern, and uncivilized threat in the two main ways outlined above. After his speech, Ahmadinejad was asked about the rights of women and homosexuals in Iran, to which, as Franke quotes, he responded, “ ‘[w]omen in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom...In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country...In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you that we have it.’”14There was huge backlash against this statement, from both LGBTQ activists and the general public who insisted that of course homosexuals exist in Iran, and of course they deserve to have their “gay rights”. Franke argues, [Ahmadinejad’s statements about women and homosexuals] offered evidence of what some in the United States thought they already knew about Iran and its political leadership: It is tyrannical, pre-modern, uncivilized, and not to be trusted--not trusted about its knowledge of its own people, nor about other issues such as its nuclear ambitions, its role in supporting the insurgency in Iraq, or its threat to Israel.15 More than an issue of gender, sexuality, and laws around same-sex desire, Ahmadinejad’s response to the question of homosexuality was used as a way into conversations about civilization and modernity. Indeed, the introduction given by Columbia’s president situated Ahmadinejad as a “petty and cruel dictator” that represented all that Americans thought they knew about Iran’s backwards Islamic position on war, weapons, and terrorism.16 Franke argues that “Modern states are expected to recognize a sexual minority within the national body and grant that minority 55


rights-based protections. Premodern states do not.”17 Iran, by that definition, is a premodern and uncivilized state—a condition that is characterized primarily by Iran’s “adherence” to Islam and Sharia law. However, the reaction to President Ahmadinejad’s response is problematic in several ways. The first is that it is founded on an incomplete understanding of Iran and sexual relations in Iranian culture and society. In her article, Franke cites Professor Hamid Dabashi’s more accurate translation of Ahmadinejad’s words on homosexuality in Iran: “ ‘[I]n Iran we do not have homosexuals as you do. In our country there is no such thing. In Iran such things—in Iran—in Iran—there is no such thing. I have no idea who has said this to you.’”18 There is only a subtle difference between this and the previous translation, but the crucial difference is in the meaning of the original Persian words. Professor Dabashi analyzes how, to say that Iran does not have homosexuals as Americans do does not mean that a similar phenomenon does not exist in Iran, but that it does not manifest nor is it expressed in the same ways. He also points out that Ahmadinejad’s language of existence (“there is no such thing”) could imply that same-sex desire and sex are not socially acceptable and are therefore not seen publicly and in that way, do not exist in Iran.19 By refusing to talk about the state of sexuality in Iran in terms of the normative language and frameworks laid out in the US, Ahmadinejad, either intentionally or unintentionally, became an even larger threat, this time to America’s ability to contain homosexuals and maintain heteronormativity. To further understand why Iran’s nonconformity with frameworks of American sexuality is so threatening, it is helpful to look at Afsaneh Najmabadi’s study of sexuality in contemporary Iran. In her book Professing Selves: Transsexuality and SameSex Desire in Contemporary Iran, Najmabadi looks at how and why transsexuality is more accepted than “homosexuality” in Iran. This seemingly reverse acceptance has been confusing for people unfamiliar with Iranian culture, which along with legal and medical authorities, frames sex change as the “cure for a disease abnormality (gender identity disorder)” and a “religiolegally sanctioned option for heternormalizing people with same-sex desires and practices.”20 The Islamic Republic of Iran actively invests large sums of money in sex change surgeries for transsexuals. It does not do this because it is “progressive” in the 56


American sense, but because it recognizes same-sex desire and would rather change the genders of sexual deviants, than confront their sexual practices. I am not arguing that the cultural, social, and religious views on same-sex desire in Iran are not problematic, just that they do not necessarily have to do with Islam. Najmabadi, for example, argues that cultural norms, not religion, are the primary obstacle for trans and “gay” people in Iran.21 Still, “American gay press after 1979 began to report on the extermination of Tehran gay life,” which was more visible during the Pahlavi Dynasty, “by the Islamic Republic. There is an implicit progressivist dynamic to these stories: the emergent gay subculture of Tehran would have led naturally to a livelier, more open gay Tehran, except that its life was cut short by the 1979 revolution and the subsequent Islamization of society.”22 Islam, then, is presented as the root of difference between modes of managing same-sex desire in Iran and the US. Following Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University, American reactionary framing of Iran as backwards and uncivilized because of its “adherence” to Islam was also problematic in that it flattened diverse interpretations of Islam. In her article, “Iran’s Sexual Revolution,” Pardis Mahdavi argues that a new “sexual revolution,” emerging in Iran as a mode of resistance to the Islamic Republic. She writes, “What began as a small movement seeking to shift attitudes about morality, comportment and sexuality in Tehran quickly broadened to a larger focus on the body, sociality, and comportment in opposition to what many young people view as a repressive regime.”23 This social movement, which consisted of everyday modes of resistance such as drinking, dancing, and not abiding by the dress code in Iran, was linked to the political Green movement, which also rejected aspects of the Islamic Republic. The existence of this internal resistance is not contradictory to my argument because I do not claim that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not treat its own population in questionable ways; instead, I argue that the Islam of the Islamic Republic of Iran is not necessarily the Islam of Iranian people. The Republic’s Islam is interpreted and enforced such that in recent years, Iranians have been criticizing the regime for having lost touch with the values of Islam.24 Therefore the Republic, and by extension the entirety of Iran, is inaccurately presented as an “Islamic” deviant terrorist and uncivilized threat. It is useful to think about this particular construction of Iran 57


as an “Islamic terrorist” threat in the context of Puar’s argument on homonormative-nationalism. Puar writes, “the Orientalist invocation of the ‘terrorist’ is one discursive tactic that disaggregates US national gays and queers from racial and sexual ‘others’, foregrounding a collusion between homosexuality and American Nationalism that is generated both by national rhetorics of patriotic inclusion and by gay, lesbian, and queer subjects themselves: homonationalism.”25 Homo-nationalism positions queer Americans as citizens who only fully belong in the nation given that they make up for their deviance through homonormativity and patriotism. To create a narrative of Iran that is centered on its Islamic foundation, cultural and religious backwardness, and terrorism, is to prompt queer Americans to further stabilize its position as a racial and sexual “other.” This view of Iran being so popular that even scholars express sentiments like: [A]s the Islamic Republic of Iran tries to give meaning to the pronoun Islamic, its laws ban the practice of same gender sex, and in case of four strikes you are out --death awaits the sinner… Here, Iran becomes a terrorist threat not only by way of nuclear weapons, but by its deviant response to non-normative sexual populations.26 Puar writes, “Many gays and queers identified with the national populace as ‘victims of terrorism’ by naming gay and queer-bashing as a form of terrorism; some claimed it was imperative to support the war on terrorism in order to ‘liberate’ homosexuals in the Middle East.”27 In this way, homo-nationalism links terrorism and queer identity such that it reveals itself as being as much about creating an evil enemy other (and “saving” its victims), as it is about keeping track of and control over its own sexually deviant population. These developments are only about a decade and a half in the making. As I have noted, it was in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and in the wake of 9/11 that Iran-US relations changed such that Iran became a dual threat: through heightened “terrorist” activity and its rejection standards of global citizenship.28 When President Ahmadinejad boldly and unapologetically denied the existence of “homosexuals” in Iran, he both acknowledged and 58


rejected the notion that states’ “political power, their legitimacy, indeed their standing as global citizens, are bound up with how they recognize and then treat ‘their’ gay citizens.”29 By being placed outside of a modern, civilized, and global citizenship, Iran has undermined the value and validity of the very notion of “citizenship.” Furthermore, it is possible to understand modes of living in Iran as radically different from but not necessarily less “civilized” than modes of living in the US, as well as to see spaces that emerge out of what the US may deem “backwards,” which could create new possibilities for gender non-conforming people the world over.30 To approach the matter this way is to challenge not only how the US views Iran, but how queer Americans relate to the US and the ways in which it contains their sexual “deviance” in a heteronormative system. Notes

Katherine M. Franke “Dating the State: The Moral Hazards of Winning Gay Rights” (Columbia Human Rights Law Review 44:1, February 2012) 35 2 Jasbir K. Puar “Mapping US Homonormativities” (Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 13:1, 67-88, February 2006) 67 3 Puar, 68 4 Lisa Duggan quote from “The new homonormativity: the sexual politics of neoliberalism”, in: Russ Castronovo & Dana, D. Nelson (Eds) Materializing Democracy: Toward a Revitalized Cultural Politics Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2002 5 Katz, Jonathan Ned. “The Invention of Heterosexuality,” Socialist Review 20:1 (Jan-March 1990): 14-15 6 “Text of President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company, 29 Jan. 2002. Web. 7 The Washington Post 8 Shaul Shay. The Axis of Evil: Iran, Hizballah, and the Palestinian Terror. (Transaction Publishers. 2005) 1 9 Ervan Abrahamian, Bruce Cummings; Moshe. Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth About North Korea, Iran, and Syria. (The New Press, 2006) 97 10 Abrahamian et al., Inventing the Axis of Evil, 97 11 Abrahamian, 98 12 Shay, The Axis of Evil, 10 13 “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Speech to Columbia University 24 September 2007.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 14 Franke, “Dating the State,” 21 15 Franke, 33 16 Franke, 18-20 17 Franke, 5 18 Franke, 35 19 Franke, 34-35 20 Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire 1

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in Contemporary Iran (Duke University Press 2014) 1 21 Najmabadi, 7 22 Najmabadi, 121 23 Mahdavi, Pardis “Iran’s Sexual Revolution” in Introducing the New Sexuality Studies by Steven Steidman, Nancy Fischer, and Chet Meeks. (Routledge 2011) 411 24 Mahdavai, 414 25 Puar, 67 26 Floore, Willem M., A Social History of Sexual Relations in Iran. (Mage Publisher 2008) 365 27 Puar, 70 28 As Puar argues, “Discourses of terrorism are thus intrinsic to the management not only of race…[but] to the modulation and surveillance of sexuality, indeed a range of sexualities, within and outside the US nation’s parameters.” (Puar, 85) 29 Franke, 4 30 Najmabadi,4

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FACES (in a flower shop) Lidded eyes with a multitude of deep and natural creasing - Belle Yau

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FACES (in a bakery) Symmetrical and heavily-folded lids framing a direct gaze Belle Yau

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FACES (in a fruit stand) Deep, center-facing creases with rich lines framing the eyes - Belle Yau

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FACES (in a gelato stand) Arched lids with minute creasing - Belle Yau

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FACES (in a cafe) Contrasting creases behind a pair of black-framed glasses - Belle Yau

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Irreverent Dancing Bodies: K-Pop Dance Covers, Technologies of Gendered Embodiment, and Queer Space Making in Thailand Matthew Lim In 2014, a Thai all-male dance cover group, Next School, took the stage on Thailand’s Got Talent with their synchronized drumming, lip-syncing, and dancing. They mimicked South Korean girl group After School’s “Bang!” The audience cheered wildly for the familiar song Next School was mirroring perfectly. Next School capitalized off of the success of the K-Pop girl idol group, reaching their own demi-idol status at that moment on national television. But what does this national recognition of a trans-gendered performance say about the role of capitalism in generating a new set of possibilities? In what sense are these dynamics in the forms of embodiment and performance the members of Next School cultivate? According to John D’Emilio, capitalism and industrialization allow for individuals to live outside the confines of the family, providing urban centers and occupations in which queer subjects can establish new relations and desires.1 The urban centers became the sites where gay men and lesbians invent other ways of meeting each other. In the early 20th century, gay men gathered in public bathhouses and YMCAs and large cities like New York and Chicago built lesbian bars. According to D’Emilio, these places sustained new webs of connectivity and intimacy for gays and lesbians because of the way the free labor market ushered in ways for them to find a larger community to organize and identify with.2 The productive possibilities that emerge out of capitalist processes becomes a necessary framework to view Hallyu— literally translated into the “Korean Wave,” which refers to Korean popular culture’s rippling popularity. As such, I build on D’Emilio’s to argue that, paralleling the development of urban spaces during the age of American industrialization, the 66


development of new media technologies of YouTube carves new cultural spaces within highly mediated places for new queer subjectivities and practices to develop and flourish. Looking more specifically at Next School, their dance covers highlight the ways in which Hallyu’s expansion into Thailand offers new possibilities for exploring, performing, and embodying alternative modalities of gender. The rising tide of Hallyu in Thailand indexes the growth of Thailand’s economy, which has recently developed a larger middle-class consumer base with increased spending power.3 In the late 20th century into the early 21st century, Thailand’s economy expanded rapidly, resulting in the growth of the size, wealth, and influence of the Thai middle class.4 In the early 21st century, Thailand’s economy expanded at a constant rate of approximately five percent per year. The average income rose from 16 to 19 percent annually.5 These economic shifts impacted the Thai genderscape, or the conceptualizing of a Thai gender system. Drawing from the work of Judith Butler, gender is an inherently unstable identity and modes of gender can shift over time. Gender is tenuously constituted in time and space and requires a “conception of constituted social temporality.”6 For instance, while kathoeyness—a term that encompasses all forms of transgender expression—is part of the traditional three-gender system in Thailand, the incorporation of beauty practices into the kathoey gender identity is a modern phenomenon that is produced out of the rising middle class. The cosmopolitan, younger middle-class “modern kathoeys,” as they call themselves, uphold gender through the utilization of modern medical technology, such as hormones, Botox, and surgery.7 These material goods and technologies made available by the circuits of global capitalism signify a nation’s shifting place in the global economy.8 Thailand’s booming economy and the rising middle-class base thus shape the development and consumption of these technologies that partially construct and impact contemporary gender identities. The development of Thailand’s genderscape is also tethered to the presence of the West and the project of modernity, together illuminating the space for Hallyu to enter Thailand’s market. The rapid pulse of transformation in gender in Thailand during the post-Asian financial crisis can be seen as an extension of Thailand’s history with both the presence of the West in the social imaginary and the discourse of modernity impacting nationalist 67


modernization projects that reformulated gender.9 Beginning in the early 20th century, the threat of Westernization sparked interventions in the traditional gender system. The Thai state imposed sexual dimorphism in order to create a system that would be read as legible by the West and demonstrate Thailand’s siwilai (civilized) status to prevent encroachment and colonization.10 Later on, in the late 1970s, transgendered identities were subsumed under the discourse of modernity and associated negatively with Westernization. As a result of these shifting discourses, the transgendered body became a site of anxiety and fears. Although it was a symbol of modernity and the rise of the middle-class, it simultaneously represented an impediment to the masculine development narrative of the nation.11 The press constantly depicted the transgender bodies as deviant and weak. One article in the magazine Phuen Chiwit in 1984 stated, “It is disgusting that the deterioration of morality and ethics will have a negative impact on society at large, because [the homosexual youth] will grow up to be citizens who are weak.”12 The press’s depictions reveal how the kathoey body is the place where the vexed relationship between the positively viewed notion of modernity and the negative perception of Westernization play out. The historical legacy of Thailand aspiring towards a project of achieving modernity shows that Western hegemony does not entirely dominate Thailand. Instead, Thailand’s sexual logics and subjectivities are responding to the West but they are also developing locally; it is not a transposition of Western genderscapes onto Thailand. This local development of modernity, particularly in relation to gender, is once again salient in the aftermath of the 1997 IMF (International Monetary Fund) crisis. After the IMF crisis, which engendered a turn away from the West as the model for economic development and a greater political, economic, and cultural association with other Southeast and East Asian nations,13 the nexus of the translocal is where notions of modern (queer) subjectivities derive from. This economic and social context provides the opportunity for South Korea and Hallyu to enter Thailand as the new social, economic, and cultural signifiers of modernity. The expansion of the new middle class in Thailand occurred in tandem with the growing cosmopolitanism of other nearby Asian nations, producing a sense of cultural proximity and affinity between Asian countries.14 Cultural proximity creates an imagined community 68


living in a shared time and common experience of postmodernity, and Thai youth are drawn to South Korea’s cultural productions because of its inherent “vision of modernization” that Western and Thai music do not possess.15 This vision of modernity is constructed through a skillful hybridizing of Asian and Western values that speak to the shared Asian experience that Western culture alone does not, and cannot, capture.16 Hallyu thus draws its success from “soft power,” the ability to communicate through the desirable and pleasurable17 and appease newly emerging capitalist desires and anxieties in Thailand.18 Through soft power, South Korea sets itself as the “prominent model to follow or catch up [with], both culturally and economically.”19 Angel Lin and Alvin Tong have argued that consumers of Hallyu within the imagined community of a cosmopolitan Asian “us” are able to negotiate their own local values and align themselves with the desirable South Korean vision of modernity to imagine how they themselves can participate in an Asian modern identity. The identification with Korean culture becomes an allegory for Thai national aspirations for development and moves towards modernity. For the Thai queer population, the soft power of Hallyu, and K-Pop in particular, not only allows for participation in an emergent cosmopolitan, modern Asian sphere, but it also conveys a pleasurable play with gender and gender presentation, which molds contemporary gender expressions and practices in Thailand. In 2009, the K-Pop scene saw a boom in transgender role-playing practices; girl groups imitated popular boy group songs and dances, and conversely, boy groups covered popular girl group performances, wearing wigs and mini-skirts, and thereby pushing the boundaries of femininity and masculinity.20 These enormously popular performances were symptomatic of a complex, multilayered, and flexible masculinity that K-Pop boy groups embodied. They conveyed various masculine forms, such as the conventional hard-body masculinity and the cute, soft masculinity. Because a locality is historically contingent and culturally produced in dialogue with globalizing forces,21 this mutable masculinity that epitomizes K-Pop has a powerful influence on Thailand’s genderscape, producing another iteration of the disjunctured process of globalization when it is reinscribed in culturally specific ways. In Megan Sinnott’s ethnographic study, many Thai women claimed that there was a loss of traditional gender/sexual categories and identities (of tom and dee specifically) due to the influx of 69


this foreign, inter-Asian sexual style.22 Though these allegedly disappearing traditional categories are still alive, this sentiment reveals that the impact of K-Pop on Thailand’s contemporary queer formations is acutely felt and very much present and real. Central to inter-Asian cultural flow of K-Pop in Thailand and the translocal exchange of gender practices and identity formations is YouTube. The video-streaming technology of YouTube grants K-Pop mobility into new frontiers, both physical and virtual.23 YouTube ushers in K-Pop’s flexible gendered images into Thailand. For Thai youth, YouTube is important in its ability to reinforce the visuality of K-Pop.24 Because K-Pop is performancecentered, with K-Pop idols extensively trained in singing as well as dancing, YouTube centers the audio and visual simultaneously to make K-Pop circulate successfully.25 The interactive capabilities of the medium of YouTube consolidate the multiple modes of cultural commodities’ circulation that John Fiske describes. Thai youth are not just placid cultural dupes to K-Pop, but they are able to use the technology of YouTube to embody the social and cultural meanings attached to what they see. They are simultaneously consuming K-Pop and its play with gender performances through the videos distributed by Korean entertainment agencies as well as producing their own dance covers to engender their own meanings, pleasures, and social identities.26 By this logic of the popular economy, the dance covers of girl group K-Pop songs produced by effeminate Thai men do not simply mimic the display of conventional femininity, but rather, showcase moves that reinscribe new gendered meanings into these dances.27 To understand the complexities and geopolitical power embedded in YouTube cover dances, we can look specifically at a popular Thai all-male dance cover group: Next School. Founded in 2009, Next School (a play on a South Korean girl group’s name, “After School”) covers girl group dances and uploads videos of their covers onto their YouTube channel. They have performed publicly in K-Pop Cover Dance festivals in Thailand and recently, have reached demi-idol status and national fame through their participation in Thailand’s Got Talent. Next School possesses a different potential for transgressing the borderwork that draws the distinctions between men and women, which is an active process enacted on the bodies of South Korean boy groups. Though South Korean boy groups construct a versatile masculinity, they continually operate within the conventions of monitored gender 70


norms, continually distinguishing themselves from queer men. Next School, however, locates the codes of queerness found within K-Pop performances and expounds on them, exhibiting a gender performance that does not return to a conventional masculinity often linked to male bodies. Situated within the national economic context of a growing middle class consumer base, Next School reflects the conditions of the postmodern body, demonstrating the role of capitalist processes in constructing and promoting local queer expressions. Postmodernity transforms the body into an object of indulgence and the interest in the consumption of body-related products (fashion and beauty) are indicative of a late capitalist lifestyle.28 Because K-Pop is linked to the beauty industry, the realm of cover dancing is the conduit through which Next School is able to participate in this emergent postmodern Asia. The material goods that are part of this expanding middle-class consumerist culture become crucial to Next School’s gender performance. In these mirrored choreographies, the lipstick, makeup, and clothes Next School wears are just as important as the lip-syncing and dance moves themselves. Next School strategically uses clothes to alter the self in order to reconstruct ideas of the Thai genderscape.29 Clothes ultimately represent one dimension of what Foucault coins as “technologies of embodiment.”30 Technologies of embodiment are defined as the processes through which one produces, transforms, or manipulates their body through particular kinds of body work, or “labored modifications that individuals inflict on their own bodies.”31 They draw from tools existing outside the user’s body— in this case, re-appropriated feminized clothing—to manipulate their embodied form of gender. Tiantian Zheng in “Karaoke Bar Hostesses and Japan-Korea Wave in Postsocialist China” argues that because bodies are gradually no longer marked by the imprint of field labor, clothes become the newest manifestation of engaging in body politics and the site for people to form their identity. For hostesses, clothes and fashion are “a vehicle or space to imagine global belonging and citizenship.”32 For Next School, clothes and their imaginative capacity function similarly in the Thai context, where public surfaces and “face” are highly valued in conceptualizing gender, without the need to refer to private behavior, interiority, or the discourse of truth and disclosure that are so highly focused on in the West.33 71


The refashioning of the self through the utilization of technologies of embodiment allows Next School to imagine alternative gender performances. Members of Next School wear clothes that do not emphasize the fetishized “hard body” that South Korean hard masculinity is contingent upon. Rather, their clothing, from the tight sleeveless vests and white skinny jeans in their premier audition performance for Thailand’s Got Talent to the backless black tops that wrap tightly around their bodies for their semi-finals performance, emphasize the slender body. Their accentuation of the long, non-muscular “interminable legs” and slender framework that often characterize the femininity put forth by Korean girl idol groups extend their political, bodily performance of gender.34 The choice to appropriate Korean girl groups’ performance of femininity through their deliberate outfit choices reinscribes a local and gendered Thai meaning. This transnational translation of body politics from South Korea’s girl groups to Thailand’s all-male cover dancers exhibits “queered effeminacies”: the refusal to comply within normative gender dimorphism.35 Next School’s participation in cover dance and presentation of queered effeminacies ultimately demarcate a new social arena for feminine Thai males to construct queer space within the different places where they perform. I adopt William Leap’s definition of place and space to distinguish between the two. Place, according to Leap, is an accessible terrain, whereas space is a constructed, situated, and claimed terrain.36 The difference and relation between the two is apparent when looking at Next School’s YouTube channel (see figure 1). The nature of cover dances is to resituate the original movement of K-Pop groups into different places.37 Cover dancers deviate from the K-Pop artists they emulate with their deeper sense of place and body.38 Unlike K-Pop, their videos are not filmed in staged elaborate settings. Because of the deliberate intentions behind where Next School chooses to locate their irreverent, dancing bodies to film their dance cover, where each of their dances takes place gains symbolic traction. Within these places where Next School dances—the streets outside a mall, a dance studio, the K-Pop cover dance competition stage, or Thailand’s Got Talent’s stage— Next School claims these physical sites through these moments of radically queer gender performance. The mobility of dance makes these mobile queer spaces possible, transposed onto the otherwise 72


heteronormative Thai geography. It is this very mobility that also makes queer space, by definition, more ephemeral and not clearly defined and visible in the geography of Thailand.39 They constitute an alternative mapping of queerness and are “created and owned by actors who transgress the heteronormative operations and functions of localities.”40 Out of these transgressions, made up of the technologies of embodiment and investment in body work, an aspirational world materializes, where these new forms of queer effeminacies are temporarily naturalized for the four minutes Next School is closely emulating the synchronized girl groups’ dances.

Figure 1 A snapshot of some of Next School’s YouTube channel. The practice of cover dances is mobile and can be performed in any space, public or private.

The importance of the construction of queer space is underscored by the eschewal of queerness in Thailand’s public discourse. The historical legacy of anti-colonial national projects to demonstrate a civilized status reverberates in the present day as a regulatory force of normalizing gender and prohibiting noncompliance.41 In Thailand’s elite commentary, queerness and “kathoeyness” are cast as “degenerate and contagious, undesirable and expanding, and thus in need of discipline.”42 The gender panic and need to police the borders of gender heightened particularly after the 2006 military coup d’état, which set off national fears of being perceived as weak with a large transgender population.43 Queer spaces resist the call for discipline and biopolitical intervention, and through the cover dance’s public spectacle 73


of different visions of doing gender, cover dance groups like Next School draw attention to the inherent instability of gender and offer a more capacious way of understanding Thailand’s genderscape. Cover dance participation also subverts the ways in which nationalist discourse renders queerness as the antithesis to modernity. Whereas Thai media since the 70s have portrayed queerness in Thailand as hindrances to modernity, K-Pop cover dances critique that process of other-ing and illuminate a trans-spatial belonging to a wider cosmopolitan Asian sphere, successfully occupying a modern Asian identity that South Korea upholds. When read as actors claiming queer space, Next School becomes the site where the multiple dimensions of consumerist desires converge to produce, promote, and elaborate queer culture. Next School embodies Korean pop culture’s multiple economies and modes of circulation that Fiske outlines: from the consumption of K-Pop through YouTube to the reproduction of K-Pop in the form of cover dances. They point to the productive possibilities of capitalist processes via their appropriation of consumer choices to inform alternative mappings of gender and queerness. Though I have highlighted their incredible potentiality, their performances seem restricted in its inherent theatricality, which allows room for the conventions of calling to the purely imaginary character of the act.44 Consumers of Next School may simply claim its theatricality to draw the lines between performance and life, fantasy and reality. What are the other forms and performances of queerness then that can work in conjunction with dance covers that do not simply relegate the allowance of queerness to the stage? How can we rethink a queer terrain in Thailand in which the heterosexual subject’s culture is not simply flexible only to the extent that they only contract and expand to offer queer subjects little choice but to constantly comply to the conditions that are given? Nonetheless, Next School harnesses the power of Hallyu as a medium to push the boundaries of gender, reconstitute the meanings attached to K-Pop, and recalibrate the contours of Thailand’s social and cultural terrain. They represent one front of resistance that offers new pathways to a larger process of queer world-making in Thailand. 1

Notes

John D’Emilio, “Capitalism and Gay Identity,” in Powers of Desire:

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The Politics of Sexuality. Eds. Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, and Sharon Thompson, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983) 471. 2 Ibid., 470. 3 Dredge Byung’chu Käng, “Idols of Development: Transnational Transgender Performance in Thai K-Pop Cover Dance,” Transgender Studies Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4. (November 2014) 567. 4 Peter A. Jackson, “Bangkok’s Early Twenty-First-Century Queer Boom” in Queer Bangkok, Ed. Peter Jackson, (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011) 32. 5 Ibid., 21. 6 Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4. (Dec 1988) 520. 7 Dredge Byung’chu Käng, “Conceptualizing Thai Genderscapes: Transformation and Continuity in the Thai Sex/Gender System” in Contemporary Socio-Cultural and Political Perspectives in Thailand, Ed. P. Liamputtong, (New York: Springer Netherlands, 2014) 425. 8 Kimberly K. Hoang, Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work, (Oakland, CA: UC Press, 2015) 130. 9 Käng, “Conceptualizing Thai Genderscapes,” 410. 10 Ibid., 411. 11 Megan Sinnott, “The Semiotics of Transgendered Sexual Identity in the Thai Print Media: Imagery and Disocurse of the Sexual Other,” Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 2, No. 4. (2000) 437. 12 Ibid. 13 Käng, “Idols of Development,” 568. 14 Dooboo Shim, “Hybridity and the Rise of Korean Popular Culture in Asia,” Media, Culture & Society. Vol. 28, No. 1 (2006) 26. 15 Ibid., 39. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Sun Jung, “Bae Yong-Joon, Soft Masculinity, and Japanese Fans: Our Past Is in Your Present Body” in Korean Masculinities and Transcultural Consumption: Yonsama, Rain, Oldboy, K-Pop Idols (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010) 40. 19 Shim, 40. 20 Sun Jung, “K-Pop Idol Boy Bands and Manufactured Versatile Masculinity: Making Chogukjeok Boys” in Asian Popular Culture in Transition, Ed. Lorna Fitzsimmons and John A. Lent, (New York: Routledge, 2010) 164. 21 Käng, “Conceptualizing Thai Genderscapes,” 412. 22 Sinnott, 458. 23 Liew Kai Khiun, “K-pop dance trackers and cover dancers: Global cosmopolitanization and local spatialization” in Internationalizing Media Studies: Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, Ed. Youna Kim, (New York: Routledge, 2013) 170. 24 Kent A. Ono and Jungmin Kwon, “Re-worlding culture?: YouTube as a K-pop interlocutor” in Internationalizing Media Studies: Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, Ed. Youna Kim, (New York: Routledge, 2013) 208.

75


Ibid. John Fiske, “The Popular Economy” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader. Ed. John Storey, (New York: Pearson Longman, 2009) 541. 27 Liew, 166. 28 Jung, “Bae Yong-Joon, Soft Masculinity, and Japanese Fans,” 65. 29 Käng, “Conceptualizing Thai Genderscapes,” 409. 30 Hoang, 129. 31 Ibid. 32 Tiantian Zheng, “Karaoke Bar Hostesses and Japan-Korea Wave in Postsocialist China: Fashion, Cosmopolitanism and Globalization,” City and Society 23.1 (2011) 53. 33 Kang, “Idols of Development,” 559. 34 Chuyun Oh, “The Politics of the Dancing Body: Racialized and Gendered Femininity in Korean Pop” in The Korean Wave: Korean Popular Culture in Global Context, ed. Yasue Kuwahara, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) 60. 35 Käng, “Idols of Development,” 561. 36 Nikos Dacanay, “Encounters in the Sauna: Exploring Gay Identity and Power Structures in Gay Places in Bangkok” in Queer Bangkok, Ed. Peter Jackson, (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011) 101. 37 Käng, “Idols of Development,” 562. 38 Liew, 173. 39 Dacannay, 101. 40 Ibid. 41 Käng, “Conceptualizing Thai Genderscapes,” 425. 42 Käng, “Idols of Development,” 568. 43 Kang, “Conceptualizing Thai Genderscapes,” 425. 44 Butler, 527. 25 26

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Loss of Voice - Chloe Chan In â&#x20AC;&#x153;Loss of Voice,â&#x20AC;? a girl walks around mindlessly as the large city fails to recognize her existence. The dragon coming out of the x-ray symbolizes self-expression and individuality. The piece is meant to convey the feelings of loneliness despite being surrounded by other people. 77


Lost in Translation: The Rhetoric of Nutrition and Starvation Cathryn Piwinski

On its bright yellow bag, Skinny Pop Popcorn tells the reader in all capital letters that it contains “NO ARTIFICIAL ANYTHING.” A single cup has “ONLY 39 CALORIES,” “0 TRANS FAT, and is entirely “CHOLESTEROL FREE.” These loud declarations, coupled with the list on the back of the bag which records everything not found within the popcorn— preservatives, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and genetically modified organisms—supports their ultimate assertion that you can “INDULGE GUILT FREE.” The language present on this bag is emblematic of a greater rhetoric that surrounds nutrition, dieting, and food as a whole. Food advertising and diet marketing consistently use rhetoric that portrays a need for non-toxic/GMOfree, nutrient-dense, and authentic food. The absolute, incessant, and almost panicked use of lists and capital letters on Skinny Pop reflects a greater mentality that our bodies are constantly at risk of slipping into “unhealthiness,” as we are too often plagued by dangerous, fake, or apparently toxic food. This anxiety, however, has consequences. In his article titled “What Is Health and How Do You Get It?,” Richard Klein writes that “we may be nearing a point where the institutions of public health, the media, and commercial interests that surround it, and the ideological wisdom it dispenses, do more harm to the nation’s health than good.”1 In this essay, I use Klein’s argument and position myself “against health,” by “being critical of the myths and lies concerning our health that are circulated by the media and paid for by large industries.” 2 I argue that the manner in which we have come to define healthy and unhealthy foods, while perhaps initially intended to promote some ubiquitous state of bodily “health,” paradoxically produces unhealthiness. I link this to the newly recognized eating disorder called orthorexia, in order to assert that the overwhelmingly 78


negative way in which we shame certain foods and the bodies that consume them prompting a radical and ultimately harmful drive for “health.” Rhetoric is language. But rhetoric is more than language in that it also carries the intent of persuasion. Rhetorical strategies entail consciously and carefully chosen words in order to communicate a message effectively. In the case of nutritional rhetoric, Alison Henderson and Vanessa Johnson, authors of the article “Food, Health, and Well-Being: Positioning Functional Foods,” assert that “the language and symbols used by food producers are linked to organizational values and strategies, to values prevalent in society, and to current discourses related to what counts as ‘healthy’ food.”3 In their essay, Henderson and Johnson explore the concept of a “functional food,” which they define as “food products that claim physiological benefits beyond the need for basic nutrition.”4 They trace how such foods, specifically the energy drink, are advertized, and identify that they evoke a language of both health and pleasure. The companies emphasize not only “taking care of oneself, and making sensible nutritional choices,” but also “consuming beverages for taste and pleasure.”5 What arises from this advertising strategy is the intrinsic separation of nutrition and pleasure—the “functional” energy drink is unique and ground breaking in that, unlike any other food product, it has the capability to combine both health and enjoyment. The implication of this is that food is not normally intended to satisfy both criteria; the rhetoric of this advertising campaign therefore benefits from the constructed guilt that arises from consuming pleasurable foods. Dan Jurafsky, author of the book The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, examines how this implicit guilt manifests in the consumer’s language, particularly in relation to the quintessential unhealthy foods. In his survey of online restaurant reviews, he notes that “we ‘crave’ or are ‘addicted to’” certain foods: “it’s the snack-foods and bar foods, guilty pleasures because of their fat, sugar, and deep-fried goodness that invite the comparison to drugs.”6 He hypothesizes that this tendency arises from the need to distract “ourselves from our own ‘sin’ of eating fried or sugary snacks: ‘It’s not my fault, the cupcake made me do it.’”7 What Jurafsky does not explain, however, is the internal drive behind this guilt: why is eating the cupcake a “sin” to begin with? I connect this with the “functional” advertising strategy 79


of the energy drink: because this food uniquely combines both nutrition and pleasure, we are taught to understand that, in every other instance, these two concepts are mutually exclusive. It therefore becomes problematic when the individual shamelessly consumes an unhealthy food item. As Henderson and Johnson assert, “the responsibility for ‘healthy’ decisions is… deemed to lie with the consumer.”8 This idea operates off the concept of shame and self-shame. Institutions characterize a food as “unhealthy” due to its high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar, or deep-friend nature. It is a food that has been shamed as unacceptable, disgusting, and essentially synonymous with drugs. This shame inevitably transfers to the consumer’s body when they consume the unhealthy food—their body is now also unacceptable and disgusting, and so it must adopt the language of guilt and addiction in order to attempt to displace this “unhealthy” habit. The divide between the “unhealthy” food and the “healthy” food, however, is not clear; it has been blurred by the rhetorical strategies of advertising that not only promotes “functional foods,” but also the foods that we have understood as quintessentially unhealthy. Later in his book, Jurafsky analyzes the language on a potato chip bag, noting that “potato chips turn out to be a health food, at least in the special world inhabited by advertising copywriters. All the bags were covered with language emphasizing how healthy and good for your body the chips are, using phrases like ‘healthier,’ ‘0 grams trans fat,’ low fat,’ ‘no cholesterol,’ ‘lowest sodium level.’”9 He also notices a trend of potato chip bags claiming “natural authenticity” and “the lack of anything artificial or fake.”10 This advertising strategy accomplishes two things. First, it thoroughly confuses the consumer’s understanding of what constitutes a health food. The potato chip, historically and widely regarded as “unhealthy,” is repositioned as healthy and actively nutritious for the body. Second—and most important to my analysis of food rhetoric—it positions certain food constituents as inherently bad for the body. Potato chips are healthy, according to their advertisers, because they contain less fat, cholesterol, and sodium. This, in turn, rhetorically characterizes these essential nutrients as bad for the body and therefore undesirable and best avoided. Additionally, the claim that these healthy potato chips are more “authentic” and, resultantly, not “fake” or “artificial” subsequently demonizes food additives. Klein writes in his article: “These days, we do not eat for pleasure, but to lower our 80


numbers.”11 This fear-mongering rhetorical device, much like the panicked advertising of Skinny Pop Popcorn, fuels this motivation, as it scares the consumer away from the fake and unhealthy potato chips and into the arms of the “healthier” brand. Advertisements capitalize off of the language of health; but in the pursuit of this profit, consumers, in their obligatory quest for healthiness, are left confused by and afraid of their food. The theoretical savior of the confused consumer is diet culture. Diets and their propagators offer food doctrines and dogmas that claim to not only make sense of and reject the mixed messages from advertisers, but also rescue unhealthy bodies from themselves. In doing so, however, they adopt an equally panicked rhetoric of their own. Kara Shultz, in her article “On Establishing a More Authentic Relationship with Food: From Heidegger to Oprah on Slowing Down Fast Food,” examines how specific diets and their theories have constructed a sort of “diet culture,” in which consumers are taught to live in fear of the perilous food they eat. In response to corporate advertising, Shultz writes that “a vast majority of the non-cookbook food publications on the market today decry the ‘toxic food environment’ manufactured by the corporate food industry,”12 and that this industry is, therefore, “quite literally killing us.”13 The authors of these non-cookbooks take the demonization of food a step further than the advertisers, claiming that “eating the overly homogenized, chemically doused, artificially flavored food of the corporate food industry is responsible for a multitude of health problems.”14 Despite the authors’ claim of opposing the corporate food industry and their advertising, they adopt and utilize a manipulative rhetoric that is incredibly similar, if not even more extreme. They frequently and bluntly describe food as “toxic” and capable of “killing” us, attributing this quality to the “artificial” and “chemical” nature of its ingredients. This type of language extends beyond the “noncookbook” authors and into dieticians who promote a certain meal plan. Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, the creator of the popular Fully Raw Diet, claims that the benefit of her regime is “that you stop abusing your body each meal with toxic residue that it must deal with, leaving it free to cleanse and heal itself” of the “fermentation and putrefaction taking place in the colon.”15 This description is overflowing with dramatic—even violent—buzzwords. Not only does it assert that the normal American diet is rife with “toxicity,” “abuse,” and “putrefaction,” but it also promotes a fundamental 81


mistrust of the human body, meaning that the individual must take steps to routinely “cleanse” and “heal” it. Despite their claim of resisting food industry and advertisements, dieticians and their diets reproduce the same fear-mongering and shaming language as these groups, further exacerbating the panicked drive towards “health.” With this rhetorical pattern of shame, fear, and mistrust— all in the name of achieving health—firmly established, I now examine how this rhetoric affects the consumer and their obligatory pursuit of healthiness. It is already clear, from Jurafsky’s analysis of how people discuss their guilty pleasures, that advertising and diet-promoting strategies affect how we describe our indulgence; but how does it affect our literal behaviors? Pimbucha Rusmevichientong et al., authors of the article “The Impact of Food Advertisements on Changing Eating Behaviors,” attempt to answer this question by conducting an experiment in which they analyze how certain advertising strategies will impact what consumers purchased for lunch. Participants outside the control group were asked to choose a meal, watch a series of health foodrelated advertisements, and then choose another meal; the authors then compared nutritional values of both meals to determine how these advertisements may have affected consumer choice. They discovered that “healthy food, anti-obesity, and mixed food advertising all reduced the total caloric intake relative to those of the control.”16 These advertisements, according to the authors, also reduced total fat and total sodium intake.17 This experiment establishes that advertising significantly impacts the consumer mindset when approaching food: as a result of the promotion of healthy, low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sodium meals, participants visibly altered their behavior. In their experiment, Rusmevichientong et al. also learned that healthy advertising was more effective than anti-obesity advertising and subsequently assert that “the use of ‘fear appealing’ emotive messages with information on possible health risks aimed at scaring recipients into changing their behavior to a healthier one, is generally not recommended in health promotion campaigns.”18 This is a slightly challenging result for both advertisers and diet advocates and for my own argument linking their negative rhetoric to issues of health. This experiment acts as empirical pushback to the shame and scare-tactics surrounding the race for nutrition, though perhaps supports the idea of producing the concept of a 82


healthy potato chip or a curative diet. I therefore maintain that negative language is only part of the problematic promotion of a constructed ideal of “health,” as the politics of shame and fear are rhetorically balanced by the false promise of a nutritious, functional, cleansing food or diet plan. In order to prove that both negative and positive rhetoric of health does impact the individual, and to establish that this impact will paradoxically lead to unhealthiness, I now turn to more qualitative narratives, specifically surrounding the eating disorder orthorexia. Orthorexia is a relatively new eating disorder, first medically recognized and written about by Steven Bratman in 1996. His book, titled Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating, is both an information manual on the various causes, manifestations, and symptoms of the disorder, and an instructional manual on how to recover. Drawing from his own personal experience with the disease and from the lifestyles of his patients, he succinctly describes it as “a fixation on eating healthy food,”19 distinguishing it from other disorders: “Whereas the bulimic and anorexic focus on the quantity of food, the orthorexic fixates on its quality” and purity.20 He links the development of the disorder to multiple hidden causes, arguing that “the essence of orthorexia is the way in which it makes food carry unnecessary burdens. Food as spirituality, food as self-denial, food as substitute for the chaotic world, food as guarantee against ever getting sick.”21 For the purpose of my argument, the most important cause of the disorder originates from the concept of what Bratman calls “Food Puritanism,” which “assumes that the enjoyment of eating is a guilty vice, tending toward the evil of disease. This assumption, taken as indisputable, maintains that there really is not reason to eat other than to maximize health, that any other motivation is shameful.”22 This mentality directly echoes the aforementioned nutritional rhetoric of shame. The guilt of eating, however, has moved beyond the drug-like addiction to the fatty cupcake, and has instead been displaced onto food as a whole. Only “functional foods” become acceptable, as they provide the necessary nutrients to “maximize health.” However, due to the rhetorically constructed confusion that surrounds the constitution of a healthy, “functional” food and an unhealthy food, the orthorexic’s consumption levels result in excessive restriction and their physical, as well as their mental, health suffers. 83


Bratman dedicates the second part of his book to explaining and debunking various diets that he claims will often lead to the development of orthorexia, thus supporting my assertion that the rhetorical strategies of these diet fads paradoxically support an unhealthy lifestyle. He attributes his own development of the disease to his adoption of the Raw Foods Theory, which was discussed earlier with reference to Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram’s Fully Raw Diet. He describes a different raw food plan, which explicitly echoes that of Carrillo-Bucaram: Jethro Kloss’ Back to Eden preaches that “bad eating habits and the use of refined and adulterated foods are largely responsible for not only all the sickness but the social ills of the world as well.”23 Connecting back to the rhetoric of “toxicity,” Bratman writes that “repeated at the end of each of forty chapters, ‘Cooked food is poison.’”24 All of this language, Bratman believes, leads to “the religious longings to repent, to purify oneself, to return to a state of innocence.”25 This, he writes, leads to further rabbit-hole dieting, such a fruitarianism—the consumption of nothing but fruit— and breatharianism—the consumption of nothing but air or “energy.”26 These obsessive, even deluded, diets are categorized under the general eating disorder of orthorexia. It is an unhealthy, dangerous, often deadly, way to live, but is paradoxically promoted through the rhetoric of healthful living. Under the rhetorical guise of providing one’s body the ability to cleanse itself of harmful food toxins, to consume authentic, energizing, and nutritious food, and to ultimately reach some sort of definitive state of pure health, the individual conversely slips into unhealthiness. Unlike Bratman, however, certain individuals do not come to understand this state as one of unhealthiness, which—I assert—results from the nutritional rhetoric that constantly reproduces itself. Connie Musolino et al., authors of the article “’Healthy Anorexia’: The Complexity of Care in Disordered Eating,” interview participants who exhibit signs of disordered eating, but have either not received an official diagnosis or do not recognize anything intrinsically problematic or unhealthy with their behavior. One interviewee, Kelly, described her eating habits as “healthy anorexia,” in that she has “mastered starving” while still “maintaining a level of health.”27 She says: “See [my doctor] doesn’t know I have anorexia. He doesn’t know that, he doesn’t know how I eat, he doesn’t know how I live. But when I go to the doctor and say ‘have I got something wrong with me?,’ he says 84


‘no’… he says I’m really healthy.”28 The story of Kelly reveals that “health,” especially with regard to food consumption, is a remarkably vague term—a direct result from the confusing rhetoric that surrounds the notion of nutrition. Another interviewee named Charlotte directly blames the circulation of such language by recounting the following: “We live in a society that is obsessed with food… I kept going back to the pantry, trying to find something that fit the criteria that would be okay to eat. And I could discount everything in the pantry for one reason or another, based on antioxidants, or fibre or glycaemic index, or the level of refinement or preservatives, or colourings or sugars or, you know? There wasn’t a single thing in that pantry that was okay, if I put all of our society’s messages and health professionals’ advice together about what’s okay and what’s healthy to eat.”29 Charlotte’s moment in front of the pantry ended in tears, reflecting not only the physical toll that nutrition advice and rhetoric takes, but also the psychological toll. She directly blames the misleading language of the media, society, and medicine, which demonizes food ingredients ranging from chemical additives to fat” and “sodium.” While Charlotte, however, does recognize the problems inherent with her current lifestyle, Kelly represents a fraction that operates under the deluded understanding of “health,” promoted and further bastardized by nutritional rhetoric. She pursues, as she describes, her “healthy avenues of starving” in order to reckon with the confusion produced by the authoritative language of nutrition and match the demands it sets forth. The concept of healthism acts as a theoretical backing of the direct link between the rhetorical drive for health and the unhealthiness that it paradoxically produces. Musolino et al. define this term as a “specific health consciousness” and assert that “significant socio-political changes (such as the rise of neoliberalism and increasing appetite for health consumerism) have extended and cemented the idea that one should take responsibility for one’s health and place the pursuit of healthy lifestyles at the centre of moral virtue, personhood and citizenship.”30 This condition is familiar, as Henderson and Johnson also recognize this tendency in their article about functional foods: the onus to achieve “health” is placed entirely on the consumer. Likewise, the language of “moral virtue” is reminiscent of the struggle of the 85


orthorexic, who seeks purity and spirituality through the fixation on and consumption of healthy foods and the restriction of unhealthy foods. Healthism, according to these authors, leads to an “ethics of care,” which is described as a form of self-care that is tied up within the constantly challenging and changing “ethics” of social norms.31 They later note that the above quotation from Charlotte is “related to an ethics of care—to the ability to select the ‘right’ type of foods that would care for her body and demonstrate her ethical relationship with the world.”32 They conclude that “restriction, clean and natural eating were highly reflexive demonstrations of care of self, positioned against the ills associated with anything ‘bad,’ ‘unhealthy’ and ‘artificial.’”33 Healthism, and the ethics of care that it creates, therefore opposes anything “unhealthy” and “artificial,” but can only do so when it asserts an overwhelming and often contradictory understanding of what defines these terms. It demonizes certain food components and ingredients—the “empty” calorie, the saturated fat, any chemical whatsoever—and it shames certain methods of eating—corporate foods are “killing” society and cooked foods are “putrefying” our delicate bodies. The result of this extreme rhetoric is the subsequent destruction of the individual who feels morally and ethically obligated to abide by these rules of care. Healthism, therefore, theoretically links the language of nutrition to the pursuit of an ideal health, and inevitably dooms it from the start. There has been, in spite of the ubiquity of this rhetoric, recent pushback against it. Emblematic of this movement is the widespread circulation of a photograph depicting a plate of ice, with the caption: “Finally settling down to my vegan, gluten free, soy free, antibiotics free, raw, non GMO, organic, fat free, 0 carb meal.” Likewise, in his book, Bratman lists diet discrepancy after discrepancy to force his readers to acknowledge just how limiting these nutritional dogmas are.34 He writes: “Maybe one of these eating theories has a monopoly on truth and all the others are wrong, but I would suggest that actually it goes the other way: None of them has a monopoly on truth. Each is just a piece of the truth, worthy of consideration but not veneration.”35 There is a small, but sure, movement among those who do not feel morally or ethically obligated to reach their full state of “health” to acknowledge and spread the absurdity of the nutritional rhetoric that exists today. The health pursuit has become too panicky and the language surrounding the fear-mongering and magically 86


curative advertisements and diets are becoming transparent. After the tears from the moment in the pantry, Charlotte says: “In the end, I just went ‘fuck it,’ and just grabbed something.”36 Nevertheless, as stated earlier, rhetoric is a powerful and incredibly useful tool of marketing and persuasion. Advertisers, diet promoters, and all of those who can continue to capitalize from the strive for healthiness will continue to use extreme language, both discouraging and encouraging, to assert the individual’s physical and moral obligation, as both a liberal self and a neoliberal citizen, to pursue an embodiment of perfect health. This incessant drive, effectively promoted by the extreme rhetoric of shame, risk, and mistrust of both food and the body, therefore paradoxically results in the slippage into unhealthiness. The confusion is too widespread and constant, the instructions too contradictory and restricting, the rhetoric too absurd and harmful—it’s time to just say “fuck it,” and grab something from the pantry. Notes

Klein, Richard. “What Is Health and How Do You Get It?” How Health Became the New Morality. Ed. Jonathon M. Metzl and Anna Kirkland. (New York: NYU Press: 2010), 16. 2 Klein, 16. 3 Henderson, Alison, and Vanessa Johnson. “Food, Health, and Well-Being: Positioning Functional Foods.” The Rhetoric of Food: Discourse, Materiality, and Power. Ed. Joshua J. Frye and Michael S. Bruner. (New York: Routledge: 2012), 74. 4 Henderson, 71. 5 Henderson, 77. 6 Jurafsky, Dan. The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014), 101-102. 7 Jurafsky, 102. 8 Henderson, 84. 9 Jurafsky, 109-110. 10 Jurafsky, 111. 11 Klein, 22. 12 Shulz, Kara. “On Establishing a More Authentic Relationship with Food: From Heidegger to Oprah on Slowing Down Fast Food.” The Rhetoric of Food: Discourse, Materiality, and Power. Ed. Joshua J. Frye and Michael S. Bruner. (New York: Routledge: 2012), 225. 13 Shulz, 227. 14 Shulz, 227. 15 Carillo-Bucaram, Kristina. FullyRaw by Kristina. FullyRaw, 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. 16 Rusmevichientong, Pimbucha, and Nadia A. Streletskaya, Wansopin Amatyakul, Harry M. Kaiser. “The Impact of Food Advertisements on Changing 1

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Eating Behaviors: An Experimental Study.” Food Policy 44 (2014), 62. 17 Rusmevichientong, 63. 18 Rusmevichientong, 63. 19 Bratman M.D., Steven. Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession With Healthful Eating. (New York: Broadway: 2001), 9. 20 Bratman, 10. 21 Bratman, 77-78. 22 Bratman, 74-75. 23 Bratman, 108. 24 Bratman, 109. 25 Bratman, 111. 26 Bratman, 114. 27 Musolino, Connie, and Megan Warin, Tracey Wade, and Peter Gilchrist. “’Healthy Anorexia”: The Complexity of Care in Disordered Eating.” Social Science & Medicine 139 (2015), 20-21. 28 Musolino, 21. 29 Musolino, 22. 30 Musolino, 18. 31 Musolino, 19. 32 Musolino, 23. 33 Musolino, 23. 34 Bratman, 90-91. 35 Bratman, 92. 36 Musolino, 23.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This year, the Journal of Social and Cultural Analysis had a record number of submissions for our sixth issue. Because of budget and spatial limits, we could not accept every submission and had to make some tough decisions. We are very proud, as editors of this journal, to hold a space where undergraduate students can further engage with important material and share their thoughts with students and faculty. Although this journal is not an exhaustive collection of the work that SCA students do, our journal incorporates various intersectional perspectives to look at a myriad of cultural phenomenon. We would like to thank several people who have helped us to make this publication possible. Many thanks to our faculty advisor, Michael Ralph, whose dedication, experience, and perfectionism has guided this journal to its praise-worthy status. Thank you to Betts Brown who has been the journalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest asset, consistently working to get the word out about the journal and our amazing department. A special thanks to Bridget McCurtis, Assistant Vice Provost of Diversity Initiatives, and Senior Director of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program for providing the necessary funds to print this publication. A huge thanks to our design editor Maya Singhal, as this journal would forever exist in the realm of Google Docs without her. Finally, thank you to everyone who submitted pieces this year as your hard work and passion for rigorous thought has ultimately created a fantastic undergraduate journal that all of us are proud to publish. We hope that you have enjoyed this issue of the Journal of Social and Cultural Analysis, and that you will consider submitting your own work to this treasured space for undergraduate thought for next yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s issue. Ava Ahmadbeigi & Justine Daum Co-Editors-in-Chief Brenna Darling, Charissa Isidro, Rachel Laryea, Juliette Maigne, Hannah Schulman, Maya Singhal, Katerina Voegtle, & Sean Waxman Editors 89


Contributor Bios Chloe Chan is a third-year psychology student minoring in chemistry and child and adolescent mental health studies. She was born in New Jersey but lived in Hong Kong during her childhood years. After returning to the States, she felt caught between two cultures, and belonging to neither. She struggled to adapt to the American way of life while holding onto her familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s traditional values. During her high school years, she created a series of artwork in order to understand her bi-cultural identity as an Asian-American. Brenna Darling is a senior studying Metropolitan Studies in SCA and Philosophy. Her primary interests are how we interpret and conceptualize both positive and negative civil rights in the American context, and David Hume. She hopes to attend law school in a year or two and continue to think about these things. Matthew Lim is a senior studying Asian/Pacific/American Studies and Gender/Sexuality Studies. He enjoys lingering in a productive melancholy, if there is such a thing, and thinking about the rich histories he has inherited from his parents and the alternative futures that his studies help him see. In his free time, he dabbles in graphic design (but has lots to learn), listens to the Chinese tunes his parents always played on their CDs when he was growing up, and reads and writes as a way to grow his mind and soul. Chelsea Meacham received her Bachelor of Arts in Social and Cultural Analysis and Spanish this January. Her honors thesis, Mothering Across Borders, explored the experience of transnational mothering arrangements among Mexican and Central American families. At NYU, she served on the e-board for Best Buddies, a club that advocates for the social inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is currently working in the field of womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rights and reproductive rights. Cathryn Piwinski is a senior studying English Literature, with minors in Social and Cultural Analysis and Classics at New York University. She is interested in language, both within and without fictional narratives, and how it constructs the human body and identity, particularly with regard to race and class. After graduation, Cathryn intends to pursue a Masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degree in English, 90


studying postmodern book design and production, and its social and economic implications. Alexandra Taylor is a recent graduate of New York Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s College of Arts and Science. She holds a B.A. in English Literature, as well as minors in both Gender Studies and Communications. She currently works at a healthcare and science public relations firm in New York City. Belle Yau is a senior at New York Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s College of Arts & Science, studying Psychology, Studio Art, and Literature. She uses photography as a means to investigate the interactions between the mental and the physical. The FACES series celebrates the often unacknowledged diversity of American appearances and explores the roles (both perceived and actual) of Asian-Americans in society. Editor Bios Brenna Darling is a senior studying Metropolitan Studies in SCA and Philosophy. Her primary interests are how we interpret and conceptualize both positive and negative civil rights in the American context, and David Hume. She hopes to attend law school in a year or two and continue to think about these things. Charissa Isidro is an aspiring journalist and a third-year student at New York University. She is double-majoring in Journalism and Social and Cultural Analysis with concentrations in Asian Pacific American Studies and Metropolitan Studies. Charissa spent her sophomore year abroad in London and Berlin and hopes to continue traveling the world. She speaks a little bit of German and plans to conduct research on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Europe this summer. Her academic interests mainly revolve around politics and activism, especially with regards to immigration and citizenship. Her actual interests are chocolate, pandas, and Game of Thrones. Rachel Naa-Du Laryea is a senior studying Social & Cultural Analysis with concentrations in African American Studies and Metropolitan Studies. Her current research interests lay at the 91


intersection of race, class, and privilege. When she’s not reading or writing, she spends her free time finding cheap, yummy eats in the city, watching Underground, and wondering how she “just might be the next Bill Gates in the making.” Juliette Maigné is a current NYU sophomore from Marseille, France. She is majoring in Social & Cultural Analysis with a focus on Gender & Sexuality Studies, with minors in Politics and Creative Writing. She takes an interest in coming up with all sorts of creative responses (long and short, abstract and specific, spontaneous and longstanding) when asked what she wants to do with that degree ‘in sociology.’ She follows too many Instagram accounts that she deems valuable socio-cultural material and valid objects of study. Lesley Quizhpe is a junior at New York University, double majoring in Global Liberal Studies and Latino Studies. Many of her endeavors have involved research and written works particularly around the Latino identity and their socio-economic and cultural position within the racial-binaries of the United States. She hopes to extend this research topic to incorporate the ways in which Latino’s perform protest politics and participate in public and private spaces. Lesley enjoys playing competitive soccer and is an avid writer. Outside the academic sphere she composes personal essays, poems and other creative works. Lesley plans on pursuing a joint J.D./MBA program after graduation and hopes to continue her passion for protest politics, social and cultural identity formations through future academic, experiential and career opportunities. Maya Singhal is a Social and Cultural Analysis major, concentrating in Asian/Pacific/American Studies, women of color feminism and literature. She has had a tempestuous relationship with publication design since she learned how to use Adobe InDesign in the 10th grade and has spent many hours in the subsequent years trying to get it to yield to her will. Besides designing the Journal of SCA, she has also done work for Third Woman Press. In her free time, she reads too much and tries to find feminist academic justifications for the amount of time she spends watching Netflix. Sean Waxman is currently a junior in the College of Arts and Science studying Gender and Sexuality Studies and French. His re92


search interests include the construction of the self through autobiographical works, the transmission of affect and collective memory, and queering literature that has been heterosexualized. If he isn’t daydreaming about dismantling white supremacy and finding alternatives to capitalism, he is more often than not binge-watching a show or wondering about how put theory into practice. Co-Editors-in-Chief Ava Ahmadbeigi is a graduating senior at NYU majoring in Social & Cultural Analysis with emphases on Gender & Sexuality Studies and American Studies, and minoring in Creative Writing. She has recently completed her Senior Honors Thesis concerning the role of memory on the formation of ethnic, racial, and national identity in Iranian immigrant families, for which she received the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund Grant. Ava is also the recipient of the American Studies Award, and is currently a Programs Intern at GLAAD. After graduation this May, Ava hopes to work in an LGBTQ or refugee-related non-profit for several years before returning to academia for a PhD in American Studies. Justine Daum is a graduating senior in Social & Cultural Analysis with concentrations in American Studies and Metropolitan Studies. Additionally, Justine studies Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy; and Philanthropic Fundraising. She has recently completed her Senior Honors Thesis which explores the history of Jewish American identity through the context of the contemporary Jewish Food Trend. Most recently, Justine is the recipient of the Metropolitan Studies Award and has combined her interests in research, writing, and advocacy to produce and host audio segments for WNYU’s “The Rundown.” Justine hopes to use the skills she has learned to work in broadcasting in order to facilitate discussions about issues relating to race, sexuality, gender, religion, ethnicity, and disability/ability.

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Profile for NYU Journal of Social and Cultural Analysis

Journal of SCA: Spring 2016  

Journal of SCA: Spring 2016