Neocolonialism/neo-imperialism

On a blissful, summer day I found etched into history a profound statement for the ages.  In his second inaugural address during the midst of the Civil War Abraham Lincoln courageously proclaimed: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other.  It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us not judge, that we be not judged.”[1]  Upon reading those words, I began a period of cogitation in my life that bore much fruit from contemplative struggle.  A desire for economic gain and power through our capitalist system caused the horrendous atrocity of enslavement of Africans in the United States of America.  While slavery in the United States may have ended, oppression is still alive and flourishing. Under the powerful capitalist world-system that is neocolonialism or neo-imperialism a great many are left suffering and without agency.

Immaunuel Wallerstein explains that the world is currently under a capitalist world-system.  It thrives on exploitation by giving priority to “the endless accumulation of capital.”[2]  Due in large part to modern advances in technology, neo-colonialism has immense global reach.  According to Wallerstein, the world can be divided into three basic categories consisting of core, semi-peripheral, and peripheral states.[3]  The core states have the greatest power.[4]  The peripheral states are the least developed; they are exploited by the core states for their raw materials, cheap labor, and agricultural products.  The semi-peripheral states, exploited by the core states, exploit the peripheral states.[5]  The core states, having great economic, political, and military power, gain capital accumulation in the world economy through unequal rates of exchange with semi-peripheral and peripheral nation states.[6]  Through their great power, core states pay unfair prices for raw materials from peripheral states, and they keep them from making adequate profit from their resources.  Core states pay workers miniscule and often non-livable wages so that their states can maximize profit.[7]  Adding to the exploitation of the resources of periphery states as well as the exploitation of labor, the core states construct political limitations, such as patents and trade barriers.[8]  This system of corruption causes great oppression in the world.  The poverty, caused by the corruption of this system, is overwhelming and heart-breaking.

A theologian, named Franz Hinkelammert, brings to light what he regards as serious exploitation resulting from prevalent capitalist theory.  Hinkelammert pays particular attention to exposing the corruption behind the ideas of Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist, who advised world leaders, such as President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.  His theory that drives capitalism often views basic human rights as an impediment to the market.[9]  Everything and everybody is turned into a commodity and worth only relates to capital production.[10]  Machines are often valued as more important than humans because women and men have needs and rights.[11]  Friedman’s theory views human freedom and basic human needs as cumbersome to the production of wealth and as “an imperfection in the capitalist market.”[12]  Accumulation of wealth is the primary focus of the capitalist market so that everything and everyone is a commodity potentially leading to wealth production.  Hinkelmmert argued that Friedman worked to develop, “a world vision in which anything whatsoever is subject to being made a commodity; there is no free zone either within the person or outside.”[13]  In other words, instead of viewing human life as a priceless gift, Friedman’s capitalist theory removes all sacred value from life because of capitalism’s unquenchable thirst for wealth and power.  Capitalism focuses only on the monetary value or lack thereof of each human being.  It does not aim to improve people’s quality of life, but capitalist markets aim to exploit the majority to pad the wallets of the few.

Prominent liberation theologians view the world economy as dominated by a capitalist Empire.  For instance, Nestor Miguez writes about this Empire: “The only freedom that survives is the freedom of the market, where the human being either remains subject to the dominant interests or is expelled.”[14]  In this Empire, also known as neocolonialism, people are manipulated into wanting material goods.  Joerg Rieger also holds that advertising “represents the most sustained effort at shaping subjectivity and desire at the level of the unconscious.”[15]  Rieger asserts that, unlike needs, desires are infinite.  Accordingly, “unlimited desire provides the basis for unlimited consumerism.”[16]  Due to this desire which drives the market, our limited resources are not put to use for fulfilling basic human needs but instead for producing more wealth for the few through manipulation.  Advertising drives consumerism and people are manipulated into desiring the latest and greatest that capitalism offers.  This manipulation, based in greed, receives priority whereas the interests of the poor and suffering are not valued.  The marginalized become voiceless and “inaudible”.[17]  Miguez explains: “In a nutshell those who do not have money do not have a right to the resources that make life possible; in other words, they do not have the right to exist.”[18]  Under neocolonialism many toil and struggle in a world that does not hear their voices and cries.

Neocolonialism’s impact on the marginalized LGBTQ community is intensely powerful.  Teresa Hornsby maintains that capitalism “produces not only heteronormative human sexuality but all those sexualities that we call ‘subversive’ or queer.”[19]  Hornsby emphasizes that, evolving from industrial capitalism, neocolonialism is based in technology and “as the needs in the form of capitalism change, as populations grow and mix, and as technology reduces the need for sexual reproduction” the “production of a compulsory sexuality becomes less important since fewer bodies are needed.”[20] Since businesses are no longer reliant on quantities of laborers, as they once were, non-procreative sexualities are losing their deviant status.  Thus, even as we celebrate that the world is becoming more affirming of the LGBTQ community, we are left with the haunting power of neocolonialism/neo-imperialism.

Anonymous Student

[1] Abraham Lincoln The Inaugural Address of the President of the United States March 4, 1865

[2]Immanuel Wallerstein, World-Systems Analysis (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004), 24.

[3]Ibid., 28.

[4]Ibid., 17.

[5]Ibid., 29.

[6]Ibid., 17.

[7]Ibid., 31,35.

[8]Ibid., 26.

[9] Franz Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1986), 36, 82-83.

[10]Ibid., 83.

[11]Ibid., 83.

[12]Ibid., 36.

[13]Ibid., 81.

[14]Nestor Miguez, Joerg Rieger, Jung Mo Sung, Beyond the Spirit of Empire (London: SCM Press, 2009), 18.

[15]Ibid., 33.

[16]Ibid., 38.

[17]Ibid., 9.

[18]Ibid., 12.

[19]Teresa J. Hornsby, “Capitalism, Masochism, and Biblical Interpretation,” in Bible Trouble, eds. Teresa J. Hornsby, Ken Stone (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 137.

[20]Ibid., 140.

Bibliography

Hinkelammert, Franz. The Ideological Weapons of Death. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1986.

Hornsby, Teresa J. “Capitalism, Masochism, and Biblical Interpretation.” In Bible Trouble, eds. Teresa J. Hornsby, and Ken Stone, 1-7. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.

Miguez, Nestor and Rieger, Joerg and Mo Sung, Jung. Beyond the Spirit of Empire. London: SCM Press, 2009.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. World-Systems Analysis. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004.

Feminist Theory

Narrowing the multiple definitions of feminism and feminist theory into one cohesive, understandable definition is a daunting task. Asking the question, “What is feminist theory,” produces the following answer: “In simple terms, feminist theory is a theory on women’s rights and gender equality. It involves the study of women’s roles in society which include their rights, privileges, interests, and concerns. It serves as an extension to feminism which evaluates the rightful place of women in the society.”[i] While this explanation seems simplistic, it is an adequate definition for the initial stages of feminist theory.

Beginning with independent actions and writings of forward-thinking women throughout history, feminism morphed into a collaborative movement in Europe and the United States towards female political equality in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The movement expanded beyond political equality into social, cultural and economic arenas worldwide, and feminists have worked feverishly to advance gender equality with an emphasis on improving the lives of women.[ii]  The work of feminism is impacted by feminist theory in that feminist theory no longer focuses on righting the injustices of women alone, but it also now includes efforts to improve the lives of anyone existing outside of heteronormative-androcentric constructs.

Feminist theory continues evolving and expanding. Since the 1990’s, it has incorporated the construct of gender identity so that a more timely definition of feminist theory includes one that “explores both inequality in gender relations and the constitution of gender”. [iii] In the 1970’s gender is defined using a biological binary of female/male based upon the physical appearance of the genitalia. This definition ignores humans born without or with varyingly developed genitalia. In the 1980’s, gender is distinguished from biology and is instead credited to culture and experiences. The resulting nature v. nurture debate was a result of this intellectual development in feminist theory. Currently, many feminist theorists hold that gender is no longer grounded in a biological binary but should be understood as a construct, as people exist on a spectrum of physical, emotional, cultural, and behavioral characteristics.

Feminist theory cannot be credited to a single theorist, but instead finds its roots in the ideologies of a variety of people. Early feminists such as Marie Dentiere from Switzerland and Laura Cereta from Italy paved the way for others like, Modesto di Pozzo di Forzi, Sophia Elisabet Brenner and Anne Bradstreet. Eighteenth century feminists carried forth the message on the shoulders of Eleanor Butler, Lucretia Mott and Sojourner Truth. The 1800’s witnessed feminist greats like Elisabeth Altmann-Gottheiner fighting for women’s suffrage and Qasim Amin advocating for women’s rights in Egypt. The list of notable feminists from the 1800’s is as long as the list of injustices they fought against but includes publisher Amelia Bloomer, suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Nellie McClung, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Although many scholars contributed to feminism, Judith Butler’s work stands out. Her book, Gender Trouble (1990) and an essay titled, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” (1988) illustrate her philosophical disputation. Butler also credits Simeon de Beauvoir’s work with greatly impacting feminism and feminist theory. Beauvoir’s statement, “If her functioning as a female is not enough to define woman, if we decline also to explain her through ‘the eternal feminine,’ and if nevertheless we admit, provisionally, that women do exist, then we must face the question: what is a woman?” This question is the basis for Judith Butler to develop her “gender troubling theories”.[iv]

In her essay, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” Butler began troubling the idea of feminist theory. [v] She maintains that using a radical critique or the troubling of traditional interpretations, deconstructs existing frameworks prevalent in mainstream views. In Butler’s case, they eliminate the female/male and homo/heterosexual binary. Butler regards gender as “in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed”. For example, feminist theory’s focus on the plight of women no longer exists in Butler’s world of gender as a performance. She sates, “Gender reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent to that it is performed”, therefore, gender “can neither be true nor false, neither real nor apparent,” and yet we live in a world in which “gender is stabilized, polarized, rendered discrete and intractable” and “made to comply.”  Butler reiterates Simone de Beauvoir’s claim that “woman, and by extension, any gender, is an historical situation rather than a natural fact”. Any feminist theory, based strictly in the male/female hetero/homosexual gender binaries supports and agent (woman) no longer in existence.[vi] Butler asks,  “Does being female constitute a ‘natural fact’ or a cultural performance, or is ‘naturalness’ constituted through discursively constrained performative acts that produce the body through and within the categories of sex?” In short, Butler’s troubling of gender overturns feminist concepts that essentialize “woman”.

Currently, feminist theories include analyses that consider all ‘Others’ living outside the hegemonic paradigms of power. Feminist theories are fluid, and inclusive. Without feminist theory, we would be nowhere and with feminist theory, we are everywhere.  Thus, Butler asks: “What political possibilities are the consequence of a radical critique of the categories of identity?”[vii] The political ramifications of this radical critique of identity include having more time to engage in scholarly discourse regarding the injustices perpetrated against ‘Other’. Heteronormative constructs would topple being replaced with meaningful conversation and action to right the wrongs done in the name of identity.

 

 

Endnotes

[i] Erwin Z. What is Feminist Theory? May 20, 2011. www.qwhatis.com/what-is-feminist-theory (accessed April 26, 2016).

ii Sally Haslander, Nancy O’Connor and Peg Tuana. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Topics in Feminism. Edited by Edward N Zalta. November 28, 2012.

http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2015/entries/feminism-topics (accessed April 22, 2016). )

iii Jennifer Carlson and Raka Ray. Oxford Bibliographies. July 11, 2011. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756384/obo-9780199756384-0020.xml (accessed April 26, 2016).

iiii Simone de Beauvior. The Second Sex: Introduction Women as Other. 1949. https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/index.htm (accessed April 29, 2016).

v “Troubled” is Butler’s word for reformulating a theory or idea through intense scrutiny and self-criticism, reworking it and presenting the theory as something more inclusive than before.

vi Judith Butler. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” (The Johns Hopkins Press) 40, no. 4 (December 1988): 519-531.

vii Judith Butler. Gender Trouble. (New York: Routledge, 1990), xxxii.

 

Queer Theory

Historically, humans living outside of the heteronormative construct are silent and tyrannized.  These marginalized “Other” suffer under the oppression of structures of tradition, culture, religion, politics, economics and education. They function within an androcentric-heteronormative construct. The term queer “refers to anything outside the norm,” according to Laurel C. Schneider.[i] Within this oppression a queer community rises up and with it the voice of the marginalized cries against the Empire.[ii] An epic struggle against injustice, ostracism, and subjugation exists wherever the dynamics of power meet the forces of queer.

Schneider defines Queer theory in the following statement: “Queer theory is not just for and about so-called homosexuals. It is critical theory concerned principally with cultural deployments of power through social constructions of sexuality and gender.”[iii] Queer theory’s roots appear in the writings of Michel Foucault, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, David Halperin, and Judith Butler. Queer theory also owes its existence to the result of work done by North American academic Teresa de Lauretis and others during a working conference in 1990.[iv] The goal of the conference “was based upon a speculative premise that homosexuality is no longer to be seen simply as marginal with regard to a dominant, stable form of sexuality (heterosexuality) against which it would be defined either by opposition or by homology.”[v] The conference, according to de Lauretis, “was intended to articulate the terms in which lesbian and gay sexualities may be understood and imaged as forms of resistance to cultural homogenization, counteracting dominant discourses with other constructions of the subject in culture”.[vi]

The term “Queer Theory” was coined “in the effort to avoid all of these fine distinctions in our discursive protocols, not to adhere to any one of the given terms, not to assume their ideological liabilities, but instead to both transgress and transcend them-or at the least to problematize them”. [vii] Since the 1990 conference, queer theory continues to “develop in dynamic and unpredictable ways,” being well-known for “interrogating the boundaries and categories that structure the discourses of sexuality and gender” as well as bringing a “critical lens to bear on the intersection of sexual dynamics with other dynamics such as race, class, nation, and culture”.[viii] Queer theory strengthens the voice of the “Other” while considering the unique perspective and intersectionality of the “Other”. In the struggle against Empire, queer theory provides the foundation upon which queer communities now stand.  Providing fuel to this struggle is the desire of the “Other” to problematize or “trouble” the structures long held normative. To “trouble is inevitable and the task, how best to make it (trouble), what best way to be in it (trouble)”.[ix] Creating a theory from studies focused on the lives of LGBTQ people lead to the expansion of those studies to include anyone outside of the androcentric-heteronormative structures.

The troubling of androcentric-heteronormative structures includes a critical review of the oppressive tools used within the power structure. One major source of repression is sacred texts of religious communities/faith traditions, including the Bible.  Queer Hermeneutics is the field of study focused on interpretations of the Bible. Within the framework of queer hermeneutics, passages long used to intimidate and oppress are no longer interpreted through the lens of the oppressor. Ellen T. Armour describes those assuming this task as “attending not only to the fine nuances of ancient language and cultures formative of biblical origins but to interpretive context writ large (religion and science) and small…”[x] Armour confirms the importance of the work when she states, “The Bible matters in our contemporary context because of its status within certain communities as holy writ”.[xi] Queer hermeneutics utilizes the foundational principles of queer theory to interpret sacred texts from the point of view of the “Other”. Queer hermeneutics is a hermeneutical approach that further develops the biblical hermeneutical tradition that tries to decipher what the Bible says about homosexuality. Thanks to the work of queer theorist like de Lauretis, queer hermeneutics takes seriously that queer does not apply to sexuality but is grounded in the stance of resistance against hegemonic powers. [xii]Authors such as Teresa J. Hornsby and Ken Stone tackle specific biblical texts, like Leviticus 18, utilized against the LGBTQI community in an effort to reverse injustices suffered and offer a more inclusive reading. Queer hermeneutics breathes life into the damaged souls of many LGBTQI identifying individuals who turned away or were driven away from God by conservatively interpreted biblical text.

The future of queer theory and queer hermeneutics is uncertain because of its own self-troubling. Queer theory widens the discourse to the point that everyone exists within a spectrum. There is no essentialism in queer theory.  If everyone fits into queerness and every topic can be “queered,” the purpose of practicing a queer hermeneutics becomes oblique. If resistance to the androcentric-heteronormative hermeneutical tactic is not the goal, queer theory does not apply to our world objective and queer theory organizes around categories that it resoundingly rejects. Jessica Coblentz reports, “Many have wondered whether the lack of a unifying, stable collective identity undermines the practicality of queer activism”. She further asks, “If the content of the ‘queer’ label is forever subject to change, how do people mobilize around a common aim?”[xiii] Her question is valid when one considers the damage that would ensue if the purpose of Queer hermeneutics became lost in the inclusivity of queer theory. How does one help the marginalized or “Other” if the tools used to do so are lost in ambiguity?

Queer refers to anything that resists normativity. It does not always refer to sexuality. Ellen Armour claims that “to queer’ is to complicate, to disrupt, and to disturb all kinds of orthodoxies”.[xiv] Queer theories, born in the 1990s as part of gay/lesbian studies, now live in a world much larger than any identity discourse. Queer theory also considers the intersectionality of race, class, and economic status. Queer theory continues to morph. It broadens its own inclusivity and its queering of androcentric-heteronormative constructs about sexuality, race, class, economic, and educational status. However, queer inclusivity risks becoming so very broad that specific injustices and the means to right those wrongs are lost in the obscurities of identity. Queer hermeneutics, founded in queer theory, must continue working to raise the voices of the oppressed while simultaneously resisting the move from being a theory capable of concrete actions to a philosophy too broad and ethereal to explain anything, much less sexual identities and practices.  Still, the conversion of the androcentric-heteronormative hermeneutic with which the Bible has been read to queer hermeneutical readings transforms the Bible to a guide for cultural, compassionate human behavior.

Endnotes:

[i]  Laurel Schneider. “queer theory.” In Handbook of Postmodern Biblical Interpretation, edited by A.K.M. Adam, (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2000), 206-212.

[ii]  Empire= the power structure upheld by androcentric-heteronormative values.

[iii]  Laurel Schneider. “queer theory.” In Handbook of Postmodern Biblical Interpretation, edited by A.K.M. Adam, (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2000), 206-212.

[iv] Teresa de Lauretis. 1991. “Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities an Introduction.” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies iii-xviii.

[v]  Ibid, iii-xviii

[vi]  Ibid, iii-xviii

[vii] Ibid, iii-xviii.

[viii]  Teresa J Hornsby and Ken Stone. “Already Queer: A Preface.” In Bible Trouble: Queer Reading at the Boundaries of Biblical Scholarship, (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), xi.

[ix] Judith Butler. Gender Trouble. (New York: Routledge, 1990), xxix.

[x] Ellen Armour. “Queer Bibles, Queer Scriptures?” In Bible Trouble, edited by Teresa J. Hornsby and Ken Stone, (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 1-7.

[xi] Ibid, p. 5.

[xii] Susanne Scholz, “Toward a Future of Queer Bible Hermeneutics” (lecture, Perkins Theological Seminary at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, April 26, 2016).

[xiii] Jessica Coblentz. “Queer Biblical Scholarship in Christian Activism,” Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa 34, no. 2 (2010): 1-17.

[xiv] Ellen Armour. “Queer Bibles, Queer Scriptures?” In Bible Trouble, edited by Teresa J. Hornsby and Ken Stone, (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 1-7.