Security Amendments: simple facts

The constitution is the supreme law of the land.

259. (1) This Constitution shall be interpreted in a manner that—
(a) promotes its purposes, values and principles;
(b) advances the rule of law, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights;
(c) permits the development of the law; and
(d) contributes to good governance.
Changes to the constitution under the guise of changes to security laws are unconstitutional. The constitution is very clear about how it may be changed.

255. (1) A proposed amendment to this Constitution shall be enacted in accordance with Article 256 or 257, and approved in accordance with clause (2) by a referendum, if the amendment relates to any of the following matters—
(a) the supremacy of this Constitution;
(b) the territory of Kenya;
(c) the sovereignty of the people;
(d) the national values and principles of governance mentioned in Article 10 (2) (a) to (d).
(e) the Bill of Rights;
(f) the term of office of the president;
(g) the independence of the Judiciary and the commissions and independent offices to which Chapter Fifteen applies.
(h) the functions of Parliament;
(i) the objects, principles and structure of devolved government;
(j) the provisions of this Chapter.

(2) A proposed amendment shall be approved by a referendum under clause (1) if—
(a) at least twenty per cent of the registered voters in each of at least half of the counties vote in the referendum; and
(b) the amendment is supported by a simple majority of the citizens voting in the referendum.

(3) An amendment to this Constitution that does not relate to a matter mentioned in clause (1) shall be enacted either—
(a) by Parliament, in accordance with Article 256; or
(b) by the people and Parliament, in accordance with Article 257.

256. (1) A Bill to amend this Constitution—
(a) may be introduced in either House of Parliament;
(b) may not address any other matter apart from consequential amendments to legislation arising from the Bill;
(c) shall not be called for second reading in either House within ninety days after the first reading of the Bill in that House; and
(d) shall have been passed by Parliament when each House of Parliament has passed the Bill, in both its second and thirdreadings, by not less than two-thirds of all the members of that House.

(2) Parliament shall publicise any Bill to amend this Constitution, and facilitate public discussion about the Bill.

(3) After Parliament passes a Bill to amend this Constitution, the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament shall jointly submit to the President—
(a) the Bill, for assent and publication; and
(b) a certificate that the Bill has been passed by Parliament in accordance with this Article.

(4) Subject to clause (5), the President shall assent to the Bill and cause it to be published within thirty days after the Bill is enacted by Parliament.

(5) If a Bill to amend this Constitution proposes an amendment relating to a matter mentioned in Article 255 (1)—
(a) the President shall, before assenting to the Bill, request the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to conduct, within ninety days, a national referendum for approval of the Bill; and
(b) within thirty days after the chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has certified to the President that the Bill has been approved in accordance with Article 255 (2), the President shall assent to the Bill and cause it to be published.

257. (1) An amendment to this Constitution may be proposed by a popular initiative signed by at least one million registered voters.

(2) A popular initiative for an amendment to this Constitution may be in the form of a general suggestion or a formulated draft Bill.

(3) If a popular initiative is in the form of a general suggestion, the promoters of that popular initiative shall formulate it into a draft Bill.

(4) The promoters of a popular initiative shall deliver the draft Bill and the supporting signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which shall verify that the initiative is supported by at least one million registered voters.

(5) If the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirement of this Article, the Commission shall submit the draft Bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission.

(6) If a county assembly approves the draft Bill within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission, the speaker of the county assembly shall deliver a copy of the draft Bill jointly to the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament, with a certificate that the county assembly has approved it.

(7) If a draft Bill has been approved by a majority of the county assemblies, it shall be introduced in Parliament without delay.

(8) A Bill under this Article is passed by Parliament if supported by a majority of the members of each House.

(9) If Parliament passes the Bill, it shall be submitted to the President for assent in accordance with Articles 256 (4) and (5).

(10) If either House of Parliament fails to pass the Bill, or the Bill relates to a matter mentioned in 255 (1), the proposed amendment shall be submitted to the people in a referendum under clause (10).
This is not my language. This is the language of the constitution. This matters.
258. (1) Every person has the right to institute court proceedings, claiming that this Constitution has been contravened, or is threatened with contravention.

(2) In addition to a person acting in their own interest, court proceedings under clause (1) may be instituted by—
(a) a person acting on behalf of another person who cannot act in their own name;
(b) a person acting as a member of, or in the interest of, a group or class of persons;
(c) a person acting in the public interest; or
(d) an association acting in the interest of one or more of its members.
We are in fractured times.

The Media is (must be singular) upset about those portions of the Security Bill Amendments that affect it. Other organizations are similarly upset about those portions of the Amendments that affect them.

Where is the global vision?

A global vision must resist the impulse to say “Kenya is bigger than any single person.” This approach refuses to value each human life, each individual, each person resident in or attached to Kenya.

The abstraction cannot take the place of the bodied enfleshments.

What vision of Kenya can place the value of each and every life resident here and attached to here at its center? That’s the vision worth pursuing.

Kenya should never “be bigger than,” because Kenya is precisely the value placed on each and every person within its borders and attached to it in some way.
Who speaks for the refugees whose worth as humans is being devalued?

Who speaks for the arrested, whose rights to a proper process are being taken away by legalized, indefinite detention?

Who speaks for due process when the process of acquiring evidence can no longer be challenged?

Who speaks against the class war instantiated by multiplying fines by factors of 10 and 100?

Who speaks about the illegal, unconstitutional laws being conferred on the presidency?

Who speaks for the right to privacy?
I am not hopeful.

Because the many who stood by as #kasaraniconcentrationcamp happened, the many who were silent, will remain silent. And, anyway, that ship has sailed. Little alarm was raised as Somalis were profiled, disaggregated, made to demonstrate loyalty to Kenya, and still abused.

The silence—it is here. Already, we are whispering, because the president’s honor and dignity cannot be assailed. A tweet is actionable.

This is fear.

This is intimidation.

This is the taking away of freedom.

It is wrong. It is bad. It is evil.

A Clarification

Kenya’s solicitor general lied.

Here’s what the constitution says about rights and freedoms:

19. (1) The Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural policies.

(2) The purpose of recognising and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the potential of all human beings.

(3) The rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights—

(a) belong to each individual and are not granted by the State;

(b) do not exclude other rights and fundamental freedoms not in the Bill of Rights, but recognised or conferred by law, except to the extent that they are inconsistent with this Chapter; and

(c) are subject only to the limitations contemplated in this Constitution.
I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve been studying language for a very long time. No bill in parliament can supersede the constitution. None. None at all. Any unconstitutional law is unconstitutional.

The state DOES NOT GRANT RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS. Repeat after me: THE STATE DOES NOT GRANT RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS. The constitution, which founds the state, explicitly states this.

It is explicit. There. Check your constitution.

Refuse the state’s fuckery. Refuse the fuckery of the media who will not bother to check the constitutions they claim to have.

Second Woman Reports Alleged Assault By Tony Mochama

Nairobi, December 9th, 2014

A second woman has filed a complaint with the police against Standard Group columnist and PEN Kenya Secretary Tony Mochama for alleged sexual assault. The victim requested identity protection, as is her right under the law, and details of the alleged assault will remain confidential as police investigate. Mr Mochama is currently under police investigation for an alleged indecent act against author Shailja Patel at a lunchtime meeting of poets on September 20th. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce Kenyan poets to the founder of the Africa Poetry Book Fund, Kwame Dawes and other US poets visiting Kenya for the Storymoja Hay Festival, and for Kenyan poets to learn about the work of the Africa Poetry Book Fund.

Police are urging any other victims of alleged assault or alleged indecent acts by Mr Mochama to also report to police stations in the jurisdictions where the crimes may have occurred. There is no statute of limitations on crimes under the Sexual Offenses Act.

Witnesses in the case have reported threats by Mr Mochama to sue them for defamation. Witnesses have also reported harassment by writer Binyavanga Wainaina. Police assured all witnesses in Ms Patel’s case that Mr Mochama’s threats have no basis in law as long as witnesses are simply reporting truthfully what they saw and heard. Police warned Mr Mochama and Mr Wainaina that witness-tampering is a criminal offense. Police urged witnesses to report harassment and threats to the police stations in the jurisdictions where they occurred.

Wangechi Wachira, Executive Director of CREAW (Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness) said: “It is unfortunate that Mr. Mochama, while loudly protesting his innocence in the media, is actively attempting to subvert the course of justice and impede the due process of the law. It is the duty of every citizen to cooperate with our criminal justice system until justice is not only done but seen to be done.”

Issued by:

• Centre for Rights Education and Awareness ( CREAW)
• The Co- Convenors of the Africa Unite Campaign to End Violence against Women
• The Kenyan Ambassador – Africa Unite Campaign

Wangechi Wachira, Executive Director
Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW)
Cell. 254722314789

Our American Now

England was rolling moss and gathering buds and saving nines, Princess Di in a long dress, and First Aid English to fix our broken tongues. BBC Shakespeare with dowdy sets and James Bond the glamor of attachment. Pictures in an album, the silence we misread as enchantment. Now, the smiles seem a little sadder. Stiff upper lips.

We are different now.

Then: the excitement of speaking English properly. To be Eliza Doolittle. The strangeness of the U.S. accent. Exotic. Kiswahili by Lionel Richie. My father said no to the U.S., convinced it was still barbaric. No fit place to acquire an education. A country squire trapped in his peasant past.

America offered amnesia, unending mobility, accumulation that was not unseemly.

We are ruder now.

Tavia Nyong’o has argued that Barack Obama is the first postcolonial president in the U.S. Uhuru Kenyatta is the first U.S.-educated president of Kenya. If, as so many writers have argued, the U.S. is the great nation founded on forgetting, president Kenyatta’s U.S.-style inauguration following a U.S.-style Bush v. Gore court case has implications for Kenyan memory-work and historical reconstruction. This is not a matter of documentation or truth, but about the urgency and importance attached to memory-work in our ongoing state of crisis. (To be “under-developed” or “developing” or “third world” is to be in a perpetual state of crisis, one intensified by the “global war on terror.”)

The almost ritual invocation of Bush v. Gore during the Supreme Court hearings on the presidential election suggests that we have entered a newly Americanized frame of reference. It marked, I think, a certain departure from the promiscuous cultural mixings we see in popular culture: the adoption of U.S. spelling by Kenyan publications, the presence of more U.S.-style eating establishments, even as our bookstores remain heavily British. Since 2003, when president Kibaki assumed office, many U.S.-trained professionals have “returned” to Kenya or have been instrumental in setting up and engaging with local institutions. One could argue this has been true since at least the late 1960s, but the invocation of Bush v. Gore during the televised Supreme Court hearing formalized a transition in how Kenya is to be thought. (We aspire to be “like” the U.S. as it has grown increasingly repressive, domestically and internationally; that requires a different writing occasion.)

I’m interested in what it means to be “like” the U.S. for memory-work. James Baldwin is my guide here.

Perhaps no country is as anxious about historical memory and memory-work as the U.S. History books are scrubbed clean, public memory denied, the thing happening at the moment described as not-happening, the known classified, the unknown classified, the previously known classified, and memory trained to anticipate the future. The now-here is to be forgotten for a tense predicated on an ever unfolding expansive future. Save room on your camera-phone for what will unfold. Erase the past if you need to. Memory is what is to happen. Memory is desire.

In “Autobiographical Notes,” Baldwin writes, “About my interests: I don’t know if I have any, unless the morbid desire to own a sixteen-millimeter camera and make experimental movies can be so classified.” An interest predicated on a not-here, not-now, anchored in a desire to own something not yet describable, something “experimental.” How to read Baldwin’s desire in this early writing?

Baldwin understands white America’s desire, a “we” he inhabits and makes thinkable and impossible:

Time has made some changes in the Negro face. Nothing has succeeded in making it exactly like our own, though the general desire seems to be to make it blank if one cannot make it white. When it has become blank, the past as thoroughly washed from the black face as it has been from ours, our guilt will be finished – at least it will have ceased to be visible, which we imagine to be much the same thing. (“Many Thousands Gone”)

Who is this writing “we”? What act of forgetting must be undertaken to blank it and accept it as “we”? I must struggle to remember the “I” who is writing the (im)possible we.

He adds,

The making of an American begins at that point where he himself rejects all other ties, any other history, and himself adopts the vesture of his adopted land. This problem has been faced by all Americans throughout our history – in a way it is our history – and it baffles the immigrant and sets on edge the second generation until today. (“Many Thousands Gone”)

Kenya’s American Now is about a relationship to history and to memory and to feeling. It is present in Vision2030, a collective vision predicated on eliminating the unsightly and the unproductive from public view and collective memory; it is present in many shiny plans to develop an educational system predicated on producing appropriate “skills” for new industries that will transform us; it is present in the current attempts to depict the ICC as an imperial invader that took over a Kenyan process and marginalized Kenyan voices; it is present in (successful) attempts to criminalize IDPs, the “welfare mothers” of Kenya; it is present in the new accents on TV that erase traces of other pasts, other affiliations; it is present in the desire for forgettability; it is there in the enforcement of that forgettability.

Kenya’s America Now is about desiring the memory of tomorrow: what is to be made and who we will be constantly overwrites the who and where we have been, those things that “hold us back in bondage.” Kenya’s America Now is being produced by our politicians, our religious leaders, our business leaders, our intellectuals, and our artists, all looking away from here-now and then-there, the Egypt we left and the desert we crossed. We are in a new land of free computes and free maternity care and free secondary education and it is bright and shiny and new and only fools would dare try to look back.

Remember Lot’s Wife.


A document issued in 2008 reads,

Recalling that the Parties have previously agreed to:

    Identify and agree on the modalities of implementation of immediate measures aimed at:

  1. Ensuring the impartial, effective and expeditious investigation of gross and systematic violations of human rights and that those found guilty are brought to justice.

And have expressed a commitment to:

  1. Identification and prosecution of perpetrators of violence, including State security agents
  2. Addressing issues of accountability and transparency

The Parties to the National Dialogue and Reconciliation, together with the Panel of Eminent African Personalities (The Panel), agree to the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence (Commission of Inquiry).

This Commission of Inquiry will be a non-judicial body mandated (i) to investigate the facts and surrounding circumstances related to acts of violence that followed the 2007 Presidential Election, (ii) investigate the actions or omissions of State security agencies during the course of the violence, and make recommendation as necessary, and (iii) to recommend measures of a legal, political or administrative nature, as appropriate, including measures with regard to bringing to justice those persons responsible for criminal acts. The Commission of Inquiry aims to prevent any repetition of similar deeds and, in general, to eradicate impunity and promote national reconciliation in Kenya.

I believe this document helped to establish the Kriegler and Waki Commissions, though I’d have to look back at other documentation to be sure. I want to use it as a starting point to consider how we got “here.”

The here, at the moment, features two ICC indictees, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who formed a coalition, ran a sophisticated election campaign, and were elected as president and vice president, respectively. While a petition before the Kenyan supreme court seeks to challenge this election, I am not inclined to believe it will be successful.

Note: I am speculating.

If we take the overall goal of forming the Commission of Inquiry, as specified in the final sentence—to prevent any repetition of similar deeds and, in general, to eradicate impunity and promote national reconciliation in Kenya—we might say that the Commission succeeded, to the extent that there has been no “repetition of similar deeds.” We will have to be generous with that “deeds”: this election opposed Uhuru and Raila, not Kibaki and Raila; while Uhuru appears to have unofficially taken over the presidency, as seen in a series of high-powered meetings, no formal, hurried swearing in has taken place; while rumors of armed militias are not absent, there are no stories of widespread ethnocidal violence directly resulting from this election or within this election period; while messages of ethnic-based violence are not absent, there are no (or few?) reported incidents of ethnocidal violence stemming directly from that violence, which does not mean it is not happening, but silence is another issue; perhaps most crucially, the two principals in this particular election cycle have not holed themselves up in bunkers, watching us kill each other, as they sulk and plan; likewise, Kenyans are not calling to them to “save us” from ourselves, at least I don’t think so. This is not 2007-2008.

It is not clear that something called “national reconciliation” has been achieved, though the extended vote tallying produced a sense of national exhaustion. We wanted it to end, regardless of how it ended. We were united in our affective exhaustion, our strained nerves, our jumpiness. A “we” emerged at the scene of the national marked by profound anxiety and restlessness. One might speak of an affect-nation.

I would like to proliferate the stories around this election, the narratives of how we got “here,” because I’m wary of single explanations. My understanding is partial, and I welcome further additions and complications. I’ll be very schematic.

1. This election had something to do with ethnic coalitions and ethnic fractures:

    It would be foolish to deny that this election was about strategic ethnic alliances, both at the level of those competing for office and, just as importantly, at the level of those voting. I leave it to others to parse in greater detail how voting patterns can be read, but I’m very interested in what happened at the Coast and in Western, and in a few other places where notions of election principals and major parties were challenged in intriguing ways.

2. This election had something to do with generational politics:

    Uhuru’s campaign was sleek and young. His St. Mary’s accent, his cosmopolitan polish, his ability to switch registers, from “deep” Gikuyu to flawless English, his ability to embody Vision 2030, played well, I suspect with voters who heard, in his accents, a vision of the future. His youth gestured toward Obama’s youth, for better or worse. Given that Kenya’s political and development language is so anchored in the youth, I think Uhuru embodied something, some kind of generational change that Raila simply could not.

3. This election had to do with a public, rhetorical shift away from the PEV to the ICC:

    Since 2008, those victims of the post-election violence, the dead and the displaced, have been increasingly marginalized within political discourse. Accusations have been leveled that opportunists are masquerading as IDPs, the more developmental minded have castigated IDPs as waiting for handouts, and those bound to Vision 2030 and its amnesiac foundations have urged IDPs to move on. Not to mention, the philanthropy directed toward IDPs by politicians and social groups has enabled us to group them as those who need philanthropy, a grouping that voids the specificity of how they came to be IDPs. This assault on the notion of the IDP has been accompanied by a shift in emphasis: whereas the Commission of Inquiry was set up to pursue justice for IDPs, the shift to the ICC as the site of justice has highlighted the “problem” of sovereignty.

    Should Kenyans be judged by “foreign” bodies?

    Deep memories of colonialism have been invoked as have been ongoing, if unspoken, resentments about the presence of exploitative and often racist foreigners in Kenya. My own rather nasty encounters with racist whites in Kenya make me froth at the mouth at the thought that similar people might judge black Kenyans. The politics of race and nation have complicated questions of justice: the necessary question of whether African countries are targeted by the ICC quickly supplanted the question of justice for PEV victims. Let me tread carefully: this supplanting is not an accident. Human agents directed thinking in this particular direction.

4. This election had something to do with political dynasties:

    To be honest, I’m not sure how to think about political dynasties. I’m interested in the tangles of loyalties and allegiances created over generations through all kinds of political and economic deals: Uhuru and Raila have vast resources and networks, complex lattice structures of support. Practically, I don’t think dynasties have anything to do with love and have everything to do with mutual obligations. But we’d need to trace the deep structures of obligation—affective, economic, political, cultural, intimate, intellectual—that make Uhuru and Raila privileged dynastic figures.

5. This election had something to do with fear and anxiety:

    We are scared of each other. Scared of how to deal with other. The humanist in me wants to say it’s because we have not been trained in how to think about reasoned debate and the use of passion in such debate. I must confess, I find many discussions with Kenyan thinkers simply exhausting, a game of “I know better.” I simply concede and move on to something else. It has something to do with an educational system rooted in test culture that rewards zero-sum competition. It breeds a particular mindset, a particular set of strategies that refuse intellectual generosity. It might seem like a leap to suggest that our test culture produces an affective orientation that marked these elections, but I want to hold on to the leap.

6. This election had something to do with optimism and faith:

    So many of us wanted to believe that if we set up the right procedures, purchased the right equipment, had the right number of observers, showed up and kept the peace, then things would work out. Frankly, I would rather have optimism and faith instead of resignation and apathy. Election day was filled with news of long lines, of waiting and voting, of pride in taking part in a process. It was a day of optimism and faith.

7.This election had something to do with greed and corruption:

    The massive expansion of bureaucracy created by the new constitution has created multiple new opportunities for power to be amassed and distributed. The simple fact of moving from 8 provinces to 47 counties has multiplied how power will be used, by whom, and for what purposes.

8. This election had something to do with profound gender anxieties:

    The 2/3 clause in the constitution that was supposed to guarantee women form at least 1/3 of all governing structures created massive anxieties around gender: claims that undeserving women were taking over proliferated, as did unrelenting misogyny and sexism.

9. This election had something to do with power:

    With its allocation, its distribution, its concentration, its dissemination, its force, and its deployment.

10. This election had something to do with the war on terror:

    More precisely, this election had something to with the normalization of securitization. It had to do with believing we need to be monitored because we cannot control ourselves. Binyavanga ends One Day, “We fail to trust that we knew ourselves to be possible from the beginning.” We failed to trust and we believed that the strategies developed to fight terror would control our “bad” impulses and guarantee “peace.”

All of these factors, and others, were in play over the long life of this election, a life that, I think, really started in 2008.

I should emphasize that this list is partial and speculative: different factors assumed different intensities and combined differently with other factors at disparate times. And it might be that the intensification of some factors depended on rejecting or contradicting others. Again, I don’t have all (or any) of this worked out, but I’m hoping that the stories we tell can attempt to grasp the complexities of writing a still unfolding present.

Our Rational Now

In a less rational, more truthful, past Kenyans feared elections. Each mysterious disappearance, each car crash, each large-scale tragedy, all loss of life was attributed to dark forces: politicians were making blood sacrifices, making pacts with the devil. We speculated and feared. We inhabited rumor and innuendo. Feared the worst. Gave in to dark imaginings. Maybe I misremember. I was younger then. And the haziness of then is clouded by the peculiar season where children vanished and reappeared denuded of genitals and tongues. It was a less rational time, and memory shades into nightmare.

I do not miss the nightmares.

I miss the truth of those less rational times. I miss the passion that dared to imagine the worst, the value that passion placed on human life, the risks taken to speak truth, justice, freedom. I miss the question marks with which we greeted state pronouncements, the cynicism that allowed us to pursue freedom, the restlessness that persuaded us state processes were not infallible, the necessary labor of paranoia, the life-sustaining work of rumor.

I find myself ill-suited to this newly rationalized world, where speculation is greeted with contempt, rumor muted by expedience, silence praised as wisdom.

Now we are newly rational. We budget human life, determine which losses are acceptable, round to the nearest whole number, accept that loss is costly, but necessary. Far from advocating for transparency, we now place human lives in obscene ledgers, practice an accounting perfected by slavery. In our newly rational world, all is okay as long as the numbers balance.

In our less rational, more truthful, past, we were not as quick to write off losses. Perhaps time has dulled the nightmare of what we were then. Perhaps even then we sold each other to save ourselves. Perhaps we still had words like shame, guilt, treachery, blackmail. Perhaps all we had was paranoia and gossip. Perhaps we were less truthful than I recall, more rational about our flesh trades: my life for yours.

Perhaps I simply want to believe in a past where we cared more.

A young writer tells me to abandon my sorrow songs. He urges me to embrace a promised future. Mourning should be left to blood-red soil, flesh-fed trees, blood-infused flowers. Flesh-eating insects that remain to mourn starve to death. We find pathetic those who continue to wear black long after funerals: melancholia is psychopathology.

I continue to sing sorrow songs. To linger at empty graves waiting for those bodies we have not yet found. To taste the flavor of blood in freshly-harvested maize. To hope that justice is still possible. That our present and future selves can look back to the past and say, “we have not forgotten you.”

Queer Disposability

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.