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Saturday, May 25, 2024

‘Queering Borders’ event illuminates the importance of diverse dialogues

UW-Madison Associate Professor Karma Chávez spoke to students and the public Thursday about her book “Queer Migration Politics” in her talk entitled “Queering Borders: Immigration, Race and Sexuality.”

Chávez began by discussing what “queerness” means, that it has many definitions and usages and how the queer movement is different from the gay and lesbian movement.

“The gay and lesbian movement is focused on the equality triumvirate of marriage, military and hate crime legislation,” Chávez said.

This triumvirate “leaves in place the structures that oppress all queers” and is “profoundly normative,” she said. By contrast, the queer movement seeks to “rupture our commitment to normative constructs.”

“Queerness always implies an intermeshed understanding of identity,” Chávez said. She added it often also involves activists with different strengths and goals working together.

Chávez discussed how the idea of “queering borders” could shed light on important current events, pointing to recent controversies over unaccompanied minors entering the United States from Mexico and Central America and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Chávez cited how President Barack Obama’s rhetoric while discussing immigration presented what was really a large and complex issue as a humanitarian crisis mainly centered on families by using phrases like “deporting felons, not families.”

Through framing the problem this way, Obama not only took attention off of the larger issues but was able to pass laws that “crack-down” on immigration even more intensely, Chávez said, which will not help the children or their families.

In relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, Chávez discussed how “we should not just look at blackness through a racial lens, but through a queer lens as well.”

Black men are seen as “hyper-masculine” because they “wear sagging pants and hoodies,” Chávez said.

Assuming these men are threatening because of their appearance and gender presentation is a form of gender discrimination, making this issue not just a racial one, but a gender one as well, Chávez said.

“Queering borders” is a way to introduce multiple viewpoints and better the understanding of complex current events and problems, Chávez said.

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Chávez emphasized the importance of considering issues through a variety of identities while maintaining distinctions between separate issues.

“We should focus not on how our struggles are the same, but how our struggles are connected,” Chávez said.

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