things I wrote

© Adam Dot 2011

I don’t write nearly as much as I would like, but I manage sometimes. Here are a few links to selected articles, reports, and other things I’ve produced in the past:


Power, Objectivity, and the Other: The Creation of Sexual Species in Modernist Discourse” (Dialectical Anthropology, 1990). The first academic article I ever wrote for publication, with my old friend John Borneman (although not the first one published, due to the vicissitudes of editors’ backlogs). Despite the elephantine title, I still love the opening clause, “You love fucking, all right,” which seems to anticipate a great deal about my checkered later career.

“Nightmare in the Mirror: Adolescence and the Death of Difference” (Social Text, 1990).  This essay, of which I remain rather proud, emerged from watching Heathers over and over at almost-empty matinees during an emotional dry season. I still think it captured something proleptically about the coming fate of childhood, at a point when kids were first becoming real consumers –when they were just starting to use their parents’ Visa cards, and Gossip Girl and texting were undreamed of.

“The Loneliness of Camp” (in David Bergman, ed., Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality, University of Massachusetts, 1993). Chapter VII is my little contribution: “This essay has been, after its fashion, a drag show.  I stand before you in high heels and cocktail dress, in wig and beaded cloche with peacock feathers.” Clearly this had very little to do with my later career as a human rights activist.   However, the piece has acquired a minor cult following among brilliant nerds and grad students in subsequent years. A friendly Ph.D. candidate once told me the essay had changed his life. I didn’t talk to him further; I was afraid to find out what his life was like.

Public Scandals: Sexual Orientation and Criminal Law in Romania (Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 1998).  I began visiting prisons and documenting cases of people arrested under Romania’s sodomy law when I settled there in 1992.  This report summarizes six years of research carried out with Romanian colleagues (as well as a Cameroonian friend who studied there); it fueled the final push for decriminalization in 2001.

“Gay and Lesbian Movements in Eastern Europe: Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic” (in Barry Adam, Jan Willem Duyvendak, and Andre Krouwel, eds., The Global Emergence of Gay and Lesbian Politics: National Imprints of a Worldwide Movement, Temple, 1999). My article has an interesting analysis of the paradigms which make sense of activism in particular political contexts. It also has a buried allusion to sex in a monastery which few readers seem to have noticed.

Written Out: How Sexuality Is Used to Attack Women’s Organizing (Center for Women’s Global Leadership and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 2000).  Written with Cynthia Rothschild for the five-year followup to the Beijing World Conference on Women, this surveys how the right wing uses stigmas against sexuality to discredit feminist activists around the world. It was revised and re-released in 2005 with contributions by Susana Fried. I wrote the purple passages.

More than a Name: State-Sponsored Homophobia and Its Consequences in Southern Africa (Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 2003). In the course of researching this detailed, 300-page work, I met — in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa — some of the most courageous people I’ve ever known.

In a Time of Torture: The Assault on Justice in Egypt’s Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct (Human Rights Watch, 2004). This report grew from three years spent investigating the massive crackdown on men suspected of homosexual conduct in Egypt, in which hundreds or even thousands were arrested, jailed, and tortured. The arrests stopped literally on the day of the report’s release; a Ministry of Interior source told a well-connected lawyer, “It is the end of the gay cases in Egypt, thanks to the activities of certain human rights organizations.”  Read it in Arabic here.

“When Doctors Torture: The Anus and the State in Egypt and Beyond” (Harvard Journal of Health and Human Rights, 2004).  This studies the forensic anal exams that Egyptian medical authorities inflicted on men suspected of gay sex, and rises to a general consideration of how the human body looks in the state’s eyes. The Director of the Forensic Medical Authority in Egypt, a genuinely insane man, was obsessed by rectums — recta? — and experimented with electrical methods of testing the reflexes of anal tissue. The article is thorough and definitive, but somehow fails to capture his peculiar brand of madness.

“The Trials of Culture: Sex and Security in Egypt” (MERIP, 2004).  This article put the huge Egyptian crackdown in the context of a growing, global pattern of both cultural panics and security fears.

“Anatomy of a Backlash: Sexuality and the ‘Cultural’ War on Human Rights” (Human Rights Watch World Report, 2005). This analyzed the opportunistic use of “culture” to stifle difference and dissent — and the reasons that sexuality has become the prime field where battles over cultural belonging are waged.  By the way, that’s Uganda’s Martin Ssempa in the picture, apparently about to smash a sodomitical laptop.

Family, Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial, and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples Under U.S. Law (Human Rights Watch and Immigration Equality, 2006).  This documents the pain and separation forced on binational couples by the government’s refusal to recognize their relationships. It’s a catalogue of anguish, and unusually emotionally vivid for a Human Rights Watch report.  No one was killed or tortured; but the state simply told them: your happiness is out of the question.

“Two Novembers: Movements, Rights, and the Yogyakarta Principles” (Human Rights Watch World Report, 2008).  I can count myself as one of the brainparents (the corollary, I suppose, to “brainchild”) of the Yogyakarta Principles, a groundbreaking summation of how sexual orientation and gender identity are protected in international law.  This essay positions the Principles not simply as a legal document, but as the culmination of decades of activists’ dedication, ardor, and demands.

This Alien Legacy: The Origins of “Sodomy Laws” in British Colonialism (Human Rights Watch, 2008).  Written with Alok Gupta, this demonstrates how fully half the world’s surviving laws against homosexual conduct descend from a single British model. The report has succeeded in making “colonial-era sodomy laws” a kind of catch phrase; it’s harder and harder to defend their indigeneity in the global South with anything like a straight, no pun intended, face. The cover photograph is of Victor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow, the next-to-penultimate Viceroy of india, enthroned with his tight-lipped unhappy wife who looks like the spouse of a closeted homosexual in a Todd Haynes movie. For further insights into the photo, see “The Loneliness of Camp,” above.

Together, Apart: Organizing Around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Worldwide (Human Rights Watch, 2009).  A survey of the strategies and priorities of sexual-rights activists throughout the global South.  Political activism, and political success, can take a protean and astonishing variety of forms. I learned a great deal from writing this one.

“They Want Us Exterminated”: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq (Human Rights Watch, 2009). One of the most harrowing human rights investigations I’ve ever undertaken happened in early 2009. In two weeks in Iraq, we interviewed dozens of people who had barely escaped a killing campaign with their lives — and managed to get most of them out of the country. Read the report in Arabic here, and a dramatic article describing the evacuations here.

“Unbearable Witness: How Western Activists (Mis)Recognize Sexuality in Iran” (Contemporary Politics, 2009).  This is the celebrated article that drove Peter Tatchell and Doug Ireland, both inveterate liars, crazy. Every word of it remains true, and still important, as their marauding misrepresentations continue. The photograph, by the way, shows Tatchell in a characteristic moment of promoting cross-cultural tolerance and understanding; his placard reads, “Islam Nazis Kill Gays.” Enough said.

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1 thought on “things I wrote

  1. Pingback: A Paper Bird « Mercury Rising 鳯女

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