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Encountering the Past: Grand Narratives, Fragmented Histories and LGBTI Rights ‘Progress’

Lalor, KL (2019) Encountering the Past: Grand Narratives, Fragmented Histories and LGBTI Rights ‘Progress’. Law and Critique, 30 (1). pp. 21-40. ISSN 0957-8536


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Past and future coalesce in discussions of LGBTI rights, often embedded in narratives of progress, civilisation, colonisation and emancipation. An understanding of these dynamics can help to illuminate the complex power relations that currently striate international LGBTI rights discourses. This paper analyses how temporality operates in the context of international LGBTI rights through an examination of the World Bank’s withdrawal of a $90 million loan to Uganda after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014. To do this, the paper juxtaposes postcolonial critiques of the ongoing international legal reproduction of the colonial encounter, with a Deleuzian conception of law’s ‘virtual memory’. These two theoretical lenses are used to show how attempts to advance LGBTI rights can reproduce problematic civilisational binaries, through which the Global North seeks to manage the unruly or ‘uncivilized’ Global South. These civilisational and spatial dichotomies are often obscured by un-interrogated ‘grand narratives’ of progress and by the codification of specific, narrow forms of rights protections. As such, the paper argues that in order to better advance current and future frameworks for sexual orientation and gender identity justice, we must undertake a more attentive encounter with the past.

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