This talk details the constitutive relationship of homosexuality and Islam in contemporary South Korea as national security threats, rooted in liberal promises of multiculturalism and socio-political realities of ethnic nationalism. Dr. Gitzen will demonstrate how the emergence of Islamophobia in South Korea—situated within increased attention to so-called “Islamic terrorism,” the 2016 passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and the April 2016 National Assembly elections—is rooted in homophobia. Both Islamophobia and homophobia, and indeed, security itself, is an opportunistic discourse. This talk will show that in the wake of this increased Islamophobia, queer activists were at the forefront critiquing the increased racism and xenophobia and calling for renewed attention to the passage of an Anti-Discrimination Law.
This event is cosponsored by the East Asian Studies Center and the Islamic Studies Program.
Timothy Gitzen is an anthropologist, a writer, a speaker, a teacher, and a queer activist. He is a Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Indiana University’s Institute for Korean Studies. He received his PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. His research examines the intersection of national security and sexuality in South Korea, interrogating the production and management of the “queer threat” through a national security matrix that proliferates other threat figures. Based on ethnographic dissertation research, this project seeks to challenge the political science-dominated field of security studies by analyzing national security through the experiences of queer and trans peoples and bodies in South Korea. He examines the treatment of queer and trans peoples and bodies as national security “threats” by the state and conservative Christian organizations as they bring queer and trans lives into relation with human and nonhuman “threat figures,” including North Korea, Muslims, and viruses. Simultaneously, he explores the sociality of national security paradigms as institutions of oppression and the way queer and trans activists move through them. This is the first anthropological study to explicitly analyze national security through queer studies, and one of the few ethnographies of national security “on the ground.”