Sex, Lies, and Indigeneity: Queering Colonialism on Lesbian Land

Friday, January 2, 2015: 2:00 PM
Gramercy Suite B (New York Hilton)
Katherine Schweighofer, Indiana University Bloomington
Returning to historical “origin stories” grounds our contemporary identities in the past and opens new political directions. Women’s land communities, commune-like gatherings of lesbian and feminist women who sought freedom from patriarchal restraint by moving to rural spaces, were fundamental to 1970s lesbian politics, community, and identity. Reading land community histories through recent work in queer Indigenous studies reveals the ongoing production of lesbian identities through geography, race, and indigeneity, while demonstrating the difficulty that radical countercultural movements had in disentangling themselves from neoliberal forms of normative cultural politics. 

“Settler sexuality” refers to the biopolitical practices of colonial power systems that regulate Indigenous gender and sexuality by supplanting them with the sexual modernity of settler subjects. Much of the literature on settler sexuality explores ongoing white heteronormative regulation of Native sexual and gendered practices. I show how settler sexuality also appears in contexts that are structured around homosexual desires and intimacies; even radical women’s lands, founded to resist oppressive power systems, may perpetuate systems of settler sexuality. Using the accounts of Juana Paz, a single, bisexual Native lesbian land member, I suggest a form of settler sexuality in which white coupled homonormativities regulate Paz’s queer indigenous sexuality through social and political power structures. My focus on settler homosexuality furthers recent scholarship on homonormativity and the production of white queer bodies by drawing attention to colonialist legacies. Additionally, this paper disrupts the presumed liberatory power of queer intimacies by demonstrating how critically engaged queer resistance projects can be undermined by neoliberal elements that challenge some forms of normativity while reinforcing others. Reframing queer intimacies from the women’s land movement via contemporary politics affirms their ongoing legacy while also suggesting how radicalism and mainstream ideology blurred in ways that scholars have largely ignored.

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