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Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

The Centre for Media and Culture in Education

Works in Proress Seminar Series, Session 4

Friday, March 1, 2-4 p.m.
OISE/University of Toronto
(@ St. George Subway Station)
252 Bloor St. West, 12th Floor
MEK Room, Room #12-105

This event is wheelchair accessible.

Natalie Kouri-Towe | PhD Candidate | Humanities, Social Sciences & Social Justice Education | OISE/UT

Queer activist cultures: Palestine-solidarity activism and the making of queer subjects

In the last decade, a series of activist groups have emerged as part of a growing movement of queer activism within the larger Palestine-solidarity movement. The emergence groups like Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Palestinian Queers for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, and PinkwatchingIsrael.com mark a particular shift in the larger narrative of liberation movements, and Palestine-solidarity activism in particular. What conditions inspired these queer interventions, and what distinguishes these politics from their larger movements, such as queer rights movements and Palestine liberation movements? The growth of queer Palestine-solidarity activism marks an important site for examining the shifting terrain of transnational solidarity activism and opens up questions about activist cultures and orientations. Who are the subjects and objects of queer Palestine-solidarity activism? What do these activist cultures produce and circulate? What can be said about the transformational possibilities emergent in these cultures? What does it mean to take up solidarity across locations (i.e. how do activist cultures emerge in places like Toronto versus Beirut)? Taking up these questions, I want to examine how the queer cultures of solidarity open new spaces for thinking about struggles of resistance and narratives of liberation. In particular, this work suggests that the complex maneuvering between activist strategizing, identification, and narratives of liberation are far more fluid than mainstream narratives of national liberation permit.

Turning to the emergence of a series of queer activist responses to the Israel/Palestine conflict, this presentation looks to activism in order to reflect on the tensions between activist cultures and the possibilities emergent in the affective life of queer solidarity. More specifically, however, this presentation is a story about the beginning of a movement, a queer Palestine-solidarity movement, and how this emergence marks a particular shift in the politics of solidarity, social change and transformative politics of our contemporary moment.

Dr. Dina Georgis | Assistant Professor | Women & Gender Studies Institute | University of Toronto

Learning from the Queer Residues of War in Akram Zaatari’s 'Red Chewing Gum'

My presentation will take up Akram Zaatari’s video Red Chewing Gum (2000) to think about the relationship between aesthetic representation and learning from war. Zaatari is among a group of Lebanese post-war generation artists who have publicly criticized Lebanese war amnesia and the general resistance to narrativize the 15-year-old civil war. Their work offers an aesthetic, and emotional, archive of war that challenges a public culture that has been defined by a future imagined as moving forward rather than looking back at the wreckage.

Unique to Zaatari’s work is his interest in sexuality, and, in particular, queer sexuality. In Red Chewing Gum, the war is revisited vis-à-vis an account of the separation of lovers. The video is in the form of a “video love letter.” The narrator poetically recounts his last encounter with his lover in Hamra, a commercial and tourist centre in Beirut that was changed by the war. Against the sounds of gunshot and the gritty streets of Hamra, the narrator returns to a frozen moment in time when he and his lover are mesmerized by a young street vendor sitting in an alley chewing all the contents of the Chiclets gum packets he is supposed to be selling. Among the heap of chewed white gum, a single red one stands out. Choosing pleasure over survival, love over war, the boy and his red gum stand for the site of love and eros in the context of war and conflict. Here, memories of passion and pleasure are not distractions from conflict but are the affective residues of war. These affects are not easily named or understood but are the enigmatic resources for learning and for narrativizing a “queer” futurity.