International Sociology and International Sociology Reviews
Topic of the Month, June 2023
‘LGBTIQ+ human rights’ is our Topic of the Month for June 2023. On this topic, enjoy Free Access to this article by Matthew Waites (School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK) published in International Sociology, Decolonizing the boomerang effect in global queer politics: A new critical framework for sociological analysis of human rights contestation. Read on to know more about the author’s trajectory and work.
Why are you working on this topic? Could you share an experience, a fact or a person who made you get engaged on that research?
M. Waites: The article “Decolonizing the boomerang effect in global queer politics: A new critical framework for sociological analysis of human rights contestation” emerges from my publicly engaged work on global queer politics, especially in relation to the British Empire’s legacy of criminalisation, in ongoing conversation with LGBTIQ+ social movement activists. However the analysis is of much wider relevance for anyone interested in global processes of human rights contestation, especially for anyone thinking about the difficult relationship between human rights and decolonizing, with reference to decolonial politics. The article proposes a new conception of Keck and Sikkink’s well known ’boomerang effect’, reconceptualised through decolonizing analysis, suggesting that the boomerang – as originally a cultural object of the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia – can still contribute a helpful metaphor for conceptualising human rights claiming processes in social theory. The article engages the examples of two ground-breaking LGBTIQ+ activists – Caleb Orozco from Belize (@UNIBAMSupport) and Jason Jones from Trinidad and Tobago (@trinijayjay) – who have both made transformative legal and political claims for decriminalisation of same-sex sexual acts partly by invoking international human rights; their autobiographical accounts are quoted (for example, see Jason Jones “We won in Trinidad. Now its time to end all homophobic laws in the Commonwealth”, The Guardian, 14 April 2018). I am inspired by the brave activism of these individuals, but I can also see the role for critical sociology to contribute to conceptualisation and contextualised analysis of what they are doing. Since publication of the article, and after reading it, the activist Jason Jones has for example invited me to a meeting at the British Parliament involving Members of Parliament, where he spoke addressing his ongoing legal case at the Privy Council (still the highest court for Trinidad and Tobago, illustrating colonial legacies).
Do you have any video, recorded conference, or online material that you would like us to share with others?
M. Waites: The article develops from previous work including the open access book Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change, co-edited by Corinne Lennox and Matthew Waites (London: School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2013), available at https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv512st2.
Recent articles have included an open access article in Current Sociology, co-authored with Leon Freude, analysing quantitative data on homophobia in African states, and its relation to xenophobia (available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00113921221078045).
My webpage at University of Glasgow has links to a number of past lecture videos, open access resources and a full list of publications, as well as further information about my research and PhD supervision: https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/matthewwaites/.
I am co-editor (with Sonia Corrêa, Jordi Díez and David Paternotte) of the Global Queer Politics book series of Palgrave Macmillan, and we welcome book proposals which can be emailed to me directly (Matthew.Waites@glasgow.ac.uk).
What would you emphasize about your academic trajectory? Can you highlight which have been your academic positions, universities, awards, departments and research centers?
M. Waites: I am a Reader in Sociology in the Sociology subject area within the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow, in the United Kingdom, where I have worked since 2006. The Sociology subject area (follow @UofGSociology) is intellectually vibrant under new Head of Sociology Professor Les Back, with excellent critical sociology being produced on themes of racism, colonialism and migration as well as regarding sexualities and genders for example.
My work has also included publication of an article “Genocide and Global Queer Politics” in the Journal of Genocide Research (Vol.20, no.1), the official journal of the International Network of Genocide Scholars of which I am a member. This article analyses the relationship of the discourse of genocide to sexualities and genders beyond heteronormativity through examining case studies including Nazi Germany, Uganda and Gambia, and it appears to have become foundational for subsequent publications offering queer studies of genocide, by various authors. I am currently working with Sonia Corrêa and Gustavo Gomes da Costa Santos on co-editing a book Colonialisms and Queer Politics which will compare empires and their colonialities.
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