Transnationalizing Desire: Sexualizing Culture and Commodifying Sexualities
Howe, Cymene; Rigi, Jakob
Sexuality, as a conceptual framework, has become a site for several social, moral, and political controversies, economic strategies, existential anxieties and ontological uncertainties. The transformation of sexuality, semiotically and in practice, particularly since the 1950s, reveals itself to be part of wider social and economic processes that have been variously described under the rubrics of ‘globalization’ (Appadurai 1996; Featherstone 1990; Hannerz 1989; Sassen 1998) and ‘transnationalism’ (Blanc et al. 1994; Glick Schiller et al. 1992), or the kindred categories of ‘post-modernity’ (Jameson 1991), ‘late capitalism’ (Mandel 1975) and a ‘new imperialism’ (Harvey 2005). In this special issue, we are interested in how sexuality as commodity and practice has come to stand for vast categories of meaning and experience in a transnational context. We explore how various forms of sexuality and desire inform national identities, the sexual policies of the state, and concepts surrounding commodification and subjectivity. We understand ‘transnationalizing desire’ to be the locus of several overlapping political and cultural processes regarding the intimacies of sexuality: how desire and subjectivity are understood on ‘local’ levels, and in turn, how these categories of meaning and experience become appropriated and re-articulated in transnational exchanges. Central to the analytical frameworks included here is how individuals and collectivities imagine the horizons of sexuality and desire, whether through legal interventions of sexual rights and responsibilities, interactions in the international marriage ‘market,’ or in modifying local hierarchies of sexual identity. Resonating in each of these discussions is a tension between ‘local’ practices, identities and values and those that are seen to be transnationally ‘imported’ varieties.