Warming up narratives of community
Queer kinship and emotional exile
Keywords:alienation, exile and migration, narratives of community and belonging, queer kinship
This text tackles questions of what makes a community and belonging possible and sensible. Rather than focusing on a specific community, it centers the ongoing collective living and communality at work in constructing and deconstructing narratives of belonging. The text is based on a year-long ethnographic fieldwork in gender-political communities in Helsinki, among people whose state-authorized residence in Finland is (sought to be) recognized based on the need for protection from sexuality- and gender-based violence in communities of origin/departure. I begin with narratives that participants mobilize to make sense of belonging to a given community or collective (queer, multicultural, Finnish/European) and non-belonging to another (community of origin). Then, I discuss possibilities of affinity, alliance and politics that rethink normative/restrictive structures of identification and othering/exclusion. I foreground queerhood for 1) its praxis of problematizing normative boundaries of communities, 2) its juxtaposition of the intimate and the communal to mobilize vulnerability as transformative to violent structures. I argue that the precarity of queer racialized exiles might entail strategic, but possibly complacent, investment in racializing norms. This precludes consideration of unjust structures in the desired society of settlement. However, the realm of precarity opens to (re)consideration and contestations of the norms and terms of belonging to the idealized desired (Finnish/European/multicultural) community. Scholars have highlighted that experiencing racializing queer-political milieus induces shifts in racialized queers’ narratives of belonging and affinity. My ethnography on mundane narratives in the uncertainty and unmooring of exile traces how abstracted and dichotomous/factionalist narratives of community open and warm up to a queerer sense of kinship that is more attuned to considerations of the lived-experience violence to difference (and the different) within and without these boundaries of belonging.
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