HOMONATIONALISM IN THE CATALAN CONTEXT: SOVEREIGN INDEPENDENCE AND QUEER LIBERATION
WORDS BY JULIAN RONEY
Queer politics and nationalism seldom coincide in the same political movements. Nor do they commonly fall on the same side of the political spectrum, which is why their conjunction – homonationalism – seems all the more, well, queer. Nationalism is conventionally steeped in a rhetoric of unification, of the homogenization of an otherwise diverse set of cultures under the mighty banner of country. Yet in the Catalan context, nationalism has demanded an appreciation and an activism for the recognition of difference. Coinciding with the community’s progressive queer politics, homonationalism aims to represent the uniqueness of the Catalan people as a minority in greater Spain with their own set of independent demands.
In 2017 the Catalan people bore witness to one of those fascinating political contradictions that have begun to appear all too regularly. In defense of the unity of Spain, police violently prevented the public from voting on the Catalan independence referendum. The images of burning ballot boxes and voters being dragged from their booths surely highlights the absurdity of the event; an injunction on a democratic process in the name of Spanish democracy itself. At stake for the Catalan people was, understandably, their own sovereignty, their right for independence and the uniqueness of their identity.
“Queer politics and nationalism seldom coincide in the same political movements. Nor do they commonly fall on the same side of the political spectrum, which is why their conjunction – homonationalism – seems all the more, well, queer.”
Catalonia’s nationalist movement is, however, thoroughly intertwined with their queer politics. For queer rights groups, independence means the ability to secure the progressive aims of Catalonia against the traditionalism of greater Spain, which has historically lagged behind Catalonia in securing important protections. As a civil rights movement which has turned its head towards the empowerment of their local government, it rejects reform for revolution entirely. The stage is set for the national identity of Catalonia to be determined by its own queer community. Homonationalism, in this way, does not configure nationalism to be a mere ‘path’ to the actualization of queer rights, but an opportunity to redefine the national identity as queer in itself.
“A queer nationalism would start a shift from a politics of identity to a politics of becoming, and would therefore imagine the possibility of a becoming-gay and a becoming-lesbian of the Catalan Nation” Josep-Anton Fernandez, 2000, ‘Another country’.
“Homonationalism, in this way, does not configure nationalism to be a mere ‘path’ to the actualization of queer rights, but an opportunity to redefine the national identity as queer in itself.”
As figural as this seems, the construction of a queer Catalonia is not merely symbolic. It marks a reconsideration of the type of relationship between government and community representation which survives in America and Australia alike. The commitment to secure rights and freedoms, as well as end discrimination, thus becomes a pillar for social advancement at a national level, beyond the lobbying of activists and independents. A territory which is already demarcated by linguistic and cultural differences, Catalonia can redefine its identity in accordance with the identity of its people. Homonationalism will turn Catalonia gay.