Pinkwatching And Pinkwashing: Interpenetration and its Discontents

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Pinkwatching And Pinkwashing: Interpenetration and its Discontents

[Editor's Note: The below article, which first appeared at Jadaliyya (9 Aug 2012), was co-written by Jasbir Puar and Maya Mikdashi.]

Over the past year, we have been carefully observing and participating in the rise of anti-pinkwashing queer activism in the United States and Europe, which has followed a similar, though not equivalent trajectory to activism in the Middle East. Pinkwashing—the process by which the Israeli state seeks to gloss over the ongoing settler colonialism of historic Palestine by redirecting international attention towards a comparison between the supposedly stellar record of gay rights in Israel and the supposedly dismal state of life for LGBTQ Palestinians in Occupied Palestine—has met stiff and increasing resistance from queer activists in the United States. Increasingly, though, we have been hard pressed to discern the difference between how pinkwashing operates as a story about sexuality in Israel/Palestine and the supposed counter-narratives produced by what has come to be known as “pinkwatching.” In fact, we note that many of the same assumptions that animate the discourses of pinkwashing are unwittingly and sometimes intentionally reproduced in the pinkwatching efforts to challenge the basis of pinkwashing. Keeping in mind that divergences between academic and activist concerns and strategies are in part structured through disciplinary difference, we nevertheless offer the following observations about the collusions between pinkwashing and pinkwatching. We have clustered our notes around four loose themes.

First, we discuss the ways in which both pinkwashing and pinkwatching operate within and reproduce a discourse of homonationalism. Indeed, without the background picture of homonationalism, neither pinkwashing nor pinkwatching would be intelligible. This is not a normative statement, but rather a recognition of the ways that homonationalism—by which we mean quite simply, that the right to, or quality of sovereignty is now evaluated by how a nation treats its homosexuals—has come to structure the conditions of possibility about sexuality and rights internationally for debates.

Second, we examine the ways in which the practice and normalization of settler colonialism operate as the staging ground for both pinkwashing in Israel and pinkwatching in the United States. While pinkwashing serves to conceal Israel's colonization of Palestine, pinkwatching rarely exposes the United States' self-scripted silence on settler colonialism at home and the ways that discourses of sexuality operate to present natives and people of color as always in need of redemption and education by the liberal state. Discourses on sexuality and criminality are,