Queer geographies of Geborgenheit: The LGBT politics of security and formations of agency in Brazil

Hutta, Jan Simon (2011). Queer geographies of Geborgenheit: The LGBT politics of security and formations of agency in Brazil. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ed5c


The thesis discusses emergent formations of agency that are currently taking shape in relation to lesbian, gay and trans subjectivities in Brazil. It engages with the anti-homophobic politics of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement and, simultaneously, draws on research conducted with queer people so as to extend the view beyond activist practices. During the past two decades, anti-homophobic politics have been oriented towards an engagement with the public provision of security for sexual minorities, in particular in terms of victim services, new laws and changes in policing practices. The thesis argues that a key aspect of these politics relates to a 'governmental' logic of population management that the LGBT movement has come to enact as part of a broader shift towards a politics of 'citizenship'. Michel Foucault's elaborations around liberal governmentality are discussed in relation to recent debates around sexual politics in order to address new dynamics of normalisation and subjectivation that have taken shape. Contextualising the LGBT politics within broader social struggles around a democratisation of the country after two decades of military dictatorship, it is however argued that the activist enactments open up a potential for transformation that goes beyond processes of normalisation and subjectivation. Relations between queer people, sites of activism and state institutions have started to change with the effect of granting queer people access to resources that have previously been denied, as well as instigating a change in the militarised organisation of the Brazilian security apparatus. A Deleuzian understanding of agency as an affective and relational capacity is introduced in order to bring out various aspects of this potential. This understanding is further elaborated with reference to the German notion of Geborgenheit, which, it is argued, is particularly useful for bringing out how emergent formations of agency take shape in concrete spatial contexts. More specifically, Geborgenheit - which means something like sheltered-ness and security in an immediately positive and spatial sense - helps in addressing affective dynamics that enable subjects to open up to, stake claims or positively relate to spaces. This also enables an extension of the analysis beyond 'governmental' practices of the LGBT movement to a range of further sites. Geborgenheit, in this sense, provides a productive counterpoint to the notion of 'security' which has been dominating the political debate around queer politics in Brazil, opening up possibilities for rethinking the relevance of both activist and everyday enactments and the affective dynamics that are at play. The metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro provides a focus for the analysis, which is related to the fact that LGBT security activism has started out and continues to be strongly articulated there. Moreover, this spatial focus helps in bringing out some challenges involved in engaging with security politics and Geborgenheit in a context that has created new agentic possibilities for queer people, yet has simultaneously been marked by profound social inequalities, intense spatial segregation, and multiple forms of violence. Formations of agency are profoundly conditioned by the paradoxical dynamics unfolding in this context. The empirical research used involves participant observations at activist conferences and interviews with activists as well as two participatory workshop series conducted with lesbian, gay and trans people in- two different parts of Rio's metropolitan region - the Centre and Nova Iguacu, in the Baixada Fluminense region adjacent to the municipality of Rio de Janeiro. An investigation of emergent formations of agency within and across sites of activism and the everyday is used for a discussion of problems and potentials of security politics and for a reconsideration of politics of citizenship more broadly.

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