Week 8 Reading Assignment

What struck me the most whilst reading Rahul Gairola’s essay was the importance of the concept of ‘home’ and the notion of belonging, both in the small-scale community setting and the larger scale of nations, attributed to national belonging. Gairola’s essay facilitates in defining and understanding home as, “a site of habitation where body and place harmonize in a nostalgic experience of inclusion and nation” (38). To my understanding, a tailored community without tendencies to exclude, thus providing an equitable setting. Although Gairola is addressing a politically oppressive era in England with Margaret Thatcher at the wheel, in this reading, I saw a way of potentially contextualizing this essay to William Friedkin’s, Cruising. The film itself takes place a mere eleven years after the Stonewall rising as well as holding base in Greenwich Village, another symbolic contextual factor and an advocator of the queer community within New York. This gives the film itself an unethical theme. Just like in Gairola’s essay we encounter the presence of hegemonic oppression as a result of the politics respective to the times. America, having just lost the Vietnam War, finds itself in a state of flux attempting to reinstate its ‘masculinity’ within the nation with the introduction of the “hard body”, a perception prominent to the Reagan Era. The queer community based in New York, marked as one of the gay capitals in the country due to the Stonewall riots of 1969 highlighting the genesis of contemporary gay right movements, is battling this societal displacement where violence and sexuality share common ground. Homosexual communities were often “othered” due to the fact that deviant sexualities did not represent American values at the given time. In dealing with this displacement, oppressed populations in America attempt to find a sense of belonging, or home. This in an attempt to overcome the loss of the war. Although queer individuals can confide in smaller sub-communities where similar values are shared, they cannot benefit from a sense of belonging to a nationhood due to their lack of rights and equity in American society. The film’s protagonist, Steve Burns, works his way into the queer, underground community in New York by representing his own queerness as performance. Here we see the first level, attempting to ‘belong’ and be accepted in this community. Lastly, in the second level, we see how in the process of joining this queer community, he sheds light on elements of societal oppression on the greater queer community, seen through police brutality and other mistreatment, which is a way of connecting or belonging to the wider society.

 

Works Cited:

Gairola, Rahul K. “Capitalist Houses, Queer Homes: National Belonging and Transgressive Erotics in My Beautiful Laundrette.” South Asian Popular Culture. Volume 7, Issue 1 (2009): p. 37 – p. 54.

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