I do not know if William Ruto, Kenya’s possible new vice president, genuinely dislikes homosexuals. I suspect that as a mostly cosmopolitan Kenyan, one with lots of money and influence, he probably travels in the same circles as some wealthy homosexuals. I suspect some wealthy homosexuals might consider him a friend: a shared interest in economic profitability and political power creates “friends.” I suspect he’s even shared a drink with a homosexual or two. In fact, I would hazard that he does not spend much time, if any, thinking about homosexuality, and that he has no strong feelings about homosexuality either which way.
During Kenya’s vice presidential debates, Ruto found it politically expedient to compare homosexuals to dogs. He used the powerful politics of disgust to create affiliation. No one contested his claims. Homophobia became a social glue and a political lubricant.
In casual conversations and elsewhere, I have been arguing that we should think of how homophobia creates affiliations between groups with diverse interests: some Christians of various denominations; some Christians and some Muslims; some anti-racist and some anti-capitalist groups; some feminist and some male rights groups; some political progressives and some political conservatives. More broadly, I am interested in how “the intimate,” most especially what Audre Lorde terms “heterocetera,” lubricates social interactions, making possible worlds and affiliations.
To be disposable, in this instance, is to be available as a figure, body, life, who/that can be used to lubricate socio-political and other kinds of interactions, to be available as a shared subject/object of affect: the thing that can be agreed upon and whose availability to be agreed upon creates a shareable social.
I’m not yet sure if the consensus created by shared homophobia—as performative—will ever have the weight of the consensus created by shared heterocetera. I suspect it will not. So I am interested in the brief, moment-by-moment work accomplished by performances of expressed/expressive homophobia. What happens in the 1-2 seconds, the 3-5 minutes, the 10-15 minute clips in which homophobia is produced as a shared object? What projects take shape? What affiliations become possible? What rivalries are forgotten? What conflicts smoothed over? What good feelings are created that can then be used to negotiate and re-negotiate positions? I am less interested in critiquing homophobia—others do that far more effectively—than I am in understanding how it works. I want to understand its persistence, its intensification, in part because I want to understand how the social and the political and the cultural take shape and move through brief temporal interruptions and increments, moment to moment, minute to minute, micro to micro.
Disposability names a temporal-affective-materiality: one is “trashed.” Something is made possible. While much political commentary focuses on that trashing, I continue to learn the Foucauldian lesson:
We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes’, it ‘represses’, it ‘censors’, it ‘abstracts’, it ‘masks’, it ‘conceals’. In fact, power produces. It produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production (Discipline and Punish).
It is in the spirit that power is “productive” that I have sought to ask what homophobia makes possible, what it lubricates, what it enables, what it fosters, what it feeds, what it nurtures, what realities it makes realizable.