In June of 2010, Judith Butler turned down the Civil Courage Award from Berlin Pride, critiquing the organizers’ association with homonationalism. She said that if she could, she herself would award the prize to the number of activist groups which work to fight both racism and homophobia.
But what exactly is homonationalism?
In her speech, which was received with much applause from the audience and contempt on the part of the organizers, Butler described the problem as such: “Lesbian, gay, trans, and queer people can be used [by] warmongers involved in cultural wars against immigrants through labored Islamophobia and military wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. In this time, through these instruments, we become recruited for nationalism and militarism.”
Homonationalism is using a nation’s liberalism towards homosexuality as a means to encourage racist attitudes towards other nations, on grounds that they are less enlightened.
Here is an example of homonationalism from immigration policy in the Netherlands. In 2006 the Netherlands passed a new requirement for dual citizenship. Those looking to become Dutch residents would first need to pass a citizenship test before leaving their country of origin. This includes a Dutch language test, which costs upwards of $400. Additionally, applicants were required to take a test in compatibility with Dutch liberalism, and they were required to watch a film on Dutch liberalism, which featured images of homosexuals making out and topless women sunbathing on a beach.
The citizenship test was not required of immigrants coming from the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, which indicates that the policy was meant to target those from non-Western nations, specifically Muslim immigrants.
The video and the test on liberalism were criticized as particularly problematic, as they clearly relied on homonationalism, and imperialistic feminism in order to discourage and prevent Muslim immigrants from immigrating to the Netherlands.
The Dutch immigration minister was very open about the intent of the policy “There are over 600,000 people in the country that don’t speak proper Dutch and are mostly unemployed. We can no longer afford to welcome immigrants who will not integrate into mainstream society, which is why we have advocated a new restrictive visa system.”
In addition to taking advantage of potential immigrant’s poverty and illiteracy as a basis for exclusion, liberal Dutch views toward gay and feminist rights were clearly used as tools in a racist immigration policy, to keep persons from less liberal nations out. Human Rights Watch denounced the citizenship tests as discriminatory for these reasons. In 2008, a judge ruled against and abolished this discriminatory citizenship test, when an illiterate Moroccan woman filed a case against the Dutch state, and won.
“The Netherlands is not the only European country that has begun to restrict immigration or citizenship” reads an article from workpermit.com. “Britain will rate potential immigrants in accordance to a points system favouring skilled workers, and Germany has proposed a history exam, and would question applicant’s views on arranged marriages, homosexuality, women’s rights and terrorism.” Perhaps this is what Butler was protesting when she rejected Berlin Pride’s award.
– Robyn Brush