The Against Nature Journal: T.A.N.J. #2 (2021)

A selection of articles are available as PDF in footnote1

Rethinking Migration

The second issue of The Against Nature Journal revolves around the theme of migration, a crucial topic when addressing the experiences of LGBTQI+ individuals who have been displaced from contexts where “nature” is still used as an argument to crim- inalize consensual same-sex conduct or gender ex- pression, as well as the broader questions of trans- national rights and activism, and the trafficking of knowledge and customs.

The first section of this issue presents two different approaches to claims for asylum related to sexual orientation. WARUGURU GAITHO’s legal analysis focuses on a 2013 judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding three asy- lum applications in the Netherlands from nationals of Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal. Her review of the case shows up the contradictory position of the EU on immigration and the differing conceptions of refugee and asylum seekers’ rights by EU countries. It also reveals the very nature of court decision-making, where progressive gestures often go hand in hand with regressive moves. Activist and writer CARL COLLISON shares a journalistic story based on a Zimbabwean national seeking asylum in South Africa due to sexual discrimination in his home country. Collison’s piece also considers desire and aspiration as reasons to mi- grate, while dealing with questions of representation.

The central section focuses on political, cul- tural, and historical processes of “othering,” that is, of perceiving or portraying someone or something as essentially alien or different. Both the symbolic and pragmatic mechanisms of constructing an “other” are key to the rhetoric of migration policies. Gender studies scholar JASBIR K. PUAR coined the term “homonationalism” to explain how queer identities are used by the nation-state against Brown, usually Muslim, others. We are fortunate to be able to republish Puar’s influential essay “Rethinking Homonationalism” (2013), which is accompanied by a new introductory note by the author. Her concept sits in close relationship with the main concerns of our project, and so our engagement with it does not end with this issue; rather, we think of homonationalism as a transversal question that will continue to inform the journal. The vibrant essay by FATIMA EL-TAYEB advocates for queer intersectional critique to denounce structures of oppression, including global migration policies. In doing so, she reflects on the possible meaning of a queer “we,” which connects her text to Linn Marie Tonstad’s essay in our previous issue and to further commissioned texts on this term in issues to come. In our interview with activist and legal researcher ALOK HISARWALA GUPTA, we explore how India is central to understanding the historical expansion of against nature laws, showing that it is not only people but also laws which cross borders. The conversation considers Gupta’s earlier LGBTQI+ activist work in relation to his current animal rights activism, troubling the di- vision between human and nonhuman animals. All three contributions offer powerful propositions for reviving the potentiality of queer politics: through ac- knowledging racism, patriotism, and terrorism (Puar); incorporating intersectionality in theory and action (El-Tayeb); and by considering animal rights in the fight against oppression of all forms of life (Gupta).

While the question of queer migration calls for an overview of the structural, transnational pro- cesses that occur when queer subjects cross borders, it also asks for a more personal reflection of the everyday diasporic experience. Thus, the final section brings together several voices that offer insights into migration on a micro level. Writer and filmmaker ABDELLAH TAÏA’s short story is a firsthand account of the xeno- phobia that a young Moroccan migrant typically faces in France.Taïa is an iconic figure in the Arab world and beyond; his contribution to T.A.N.J. is part of his fervent fight for LGBTQ+ rights globally. The four-part poem by DIVYA VICTOR from her forthcoming book CURB (Nightboat Books, 2021) links desire, feeling, and the personal to the process of applying for an Alien Relative visa in the United States post-2016, when hate crimes committed against South Asian migrants only escalated. GLORIA ANZALDÚA (1942–2004) explores the alienation and homelessness experienced by many queers in her poem “Del Otro Lado” (Of/from the other side). The work of this significant author of feminist and queer theory—and a great inspiration to many contributors to this issue—was informed by living on the Mexico–US border and her personal experiences of social and cultural marginalization.

The journal’s regular features continue in issue two, including the section devoted to rethinking the notion of “against nature.” This time, a reprint of the introduction by ZEB TORTORICI to his book Sins Against Nature (Duke University Press, 2018) traces the construction, development, and consequences of sodomy laws in colonial New Spain through a passion- ate engagement with the archive. This issue also in- cludes our Columns section, with reports from Brazil, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, and the UK, many of which reflect on the ways the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted queer lives.

Lastly, this issue on migration presents a sig- nificant visual intervention by artist ZOE LEONARD, who has shared with us a number of photographs from her ongoing project Al Rio/To the River (2016–). Through seriality and repetition, these images em- phasize the quotidian movements of crossing the river border between the US and Mexico, and explore the complexities of representing the many lives that touch its currents.


Gloria Anzaldúa was a Chicana, Tejana, lesbian, feminist poet, theorist, and fiction writer from South Texas. In addition to authoring Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza (Aunt Lute Books, 1987), she was coeditor of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (Persephone Press, 1981) and editor of the critical anthology Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras (Aunt Lute Books, 1990). Anzaldúa passed away in 2004.

Dayna Ash is a cultural and social activist, playwright, performance poet, and the founder and executive director of the nonprofit arts organization Haven for Artists, based in Beirut, Lebanon.

Naoufal Bouzid is an African LGBTI activist from Morocco. He is the cofounder of Equality Morocco. For over ten years, he has worked with local and international human rights NGOs and different campaigns to decriminalize homosexuality and raise awareness of LGBTI issues in Morocco.

Carl Collison is a freelance journalist, photographer and filmmaker, who focuses specifically on producing LGBTIQ–related content from across Africa. In 2020, he was included in Exit magazine’s list of Queer Warriors, a list of twenty people globally who are fighting for queer liberation on the African continent.

Pawan Dhall has been engaged with queer activism in India since the 1990s. He runs Varta Trust, a nonprofit for gender and sexuality issues that works on legal aid and citizen journalism. He researches and writes on the histories, health, and socioeconomic inclusion concerns of queer communities. His most recent publication is Out of Line and Offline: Queer Mobilizations in ’90s Eastern India (Seagull Books, 2020).

Fatima El-Tayeb is Professor of African-American Literature and Culture at the University of California, San Diego. Her work deconstructs structural racism in “color-blind” Europe and centers strategies of resistance among racialized communities, especially those that politicize culture through an intersectional, queer practice. She is the author of three books and numerous articles on the interactions of race, gender, sexuality, and nation.

Waruguru Gaitho is a queer, Black, African, radical feminist. As a human rights lawyer specializing in SOGIESC, gender, race, and social justice, her career is dedicated to advocating for the equal rights and dignity of marginal- ized communities, not just through the law but also via academia and community organizing.

Alok Hisarwala Gupta is a queer activist and lawyer. He has written extensively on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. He coedited Law Like Love: Queer Perspectives on Law (Yoda Press, 2011)with Arvind Narrain, where a wider queer politics was imagined. Guided by his queer politics that transcend the species barrier, he now works on animal rights.

Tim Johnson is a poet and artist based in Marfa, Texas. With his partner Caitlin Murray, he operates Marfa Book Co., a bookstore, gallery, and publishing company. He is also the cohost of a weekly Spanish language radio program on Marfa Public Radio, Dos Horas Con Primo.

Eliel Jones is a (queer) critic, writer, and associate curator at Cell Project Space, London. He has written about contemporary art and performance for Artforum, Elephant, Flash Art, Frieze, The Guardian, MAP, and Mousse, among other publications.

Zoe Leonard is an artist working with photography, sculpture, and installation. She has exhibited widely since the early 1990s, with recent solo exhibitions at MOCA—Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2018), and MoMA, New York (2015). Her project Al Rio/ To the River will be shown at Mudam, Luxembourg, and MAM Paris in 2021.

Kari Mugo is a Kenyan creative writer and activist. Her writing covers identity, culture, global mobility, politics, and travel. She previously worked at Kenya’s National Gay and Les- bian Human Rights Commission, and continues to agitate for the full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in the region.

Jasbir K. Puar is Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability (Duke University Press, 2017) and Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Duke University Press, 2007). In 2019, she was awarded the Kessler from the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies, given yearly to scholars and activists whose work has signifi- cantly impacted queer research and organizing.

Mariah Rafaela Silva is a Black trans woman activist and member of the group Conexão G for LGBTI citizenship in the favelas. She is also a PhD researcher in social communication at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

Abdellah Taïa is an acclaimed Paris-based novelist and filmmaker born in Morocco. He has published eight books in French that have been widely translated, and was awarded the prestigious Prix de Flore for his novel Le jour du roi (Seuil, 2010). His commitment to the defense of homosexuals in Muslim countries has made him one of the most prominent Arab writers of his generation.

Zeb Tortorici is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University. He is the author of Sins Against Nature: Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain (Duke University Press, 2018) and coeditor of Ethno-Pornography: Sexuality, Colonialism, and Archival Knowledge (Duke University Press, 2020). His current research looks at the preservation and archiving of pornography in Mexico.

Divya Victor is the author of CURB (Nightboat Books, 2021, forthcoming), Kith, a book of verse, prose, and lyric essay (Fence Books / BookThug, 2017), and Natural Subjects (Trembling Pillow Press, 2014), winner of the Bob Kaufman Award. Her work has also featured in numerous anthologies, including the New Museum’s The Animated Reader and Crux Desperationis: International Journal of Conceptual Writing.

The Against Nature Journal (T.A.N.J.) was a biannual arts and human rights magazine published by Council

Issue #2 Winter 2021

printed in 2000 copies
234 x 146 mm


  • Gloria Anzaldúa
  • Dayna Ash
  • Aimar Arriola
  • Naoufal Bouzid
  • Carl Collison
  • Pawan Dhall
  • Fatima El-Tayeb
  • Waruguru Gaitho
  • Alok Hisarwala Gupta
  • Tim Johnson
  • Eliel Jones
  • Kari Mugo
  • Jasbir K. Puar
  • Mariah Rafaela Silva
  • Abdellah Taïa
  • Zeb Tortorici
  • Divya Victor

Visual Contribution

  • Zoe Leonard


  • Aimar Arriola
  • Grégory Castéra

Contributing Editor

  • Giulia Tognon

Copy Editor

  • Laura Preston


  • Sriwhana Spong


  • Julie Peeters

Cover Art

  • Stepan Lipatov


  • Abi Tariq

Editorial Committee

  • Aimar Arriola
  • Thomas Boutoux
  • Grégory Castéra
  • Arvind Narrain
  • Sandra Terdjman
  • Giulia Tognon

Advisory Committee

  • Nikita Dhawan
  • Taru Elfving
  • Karim Nammour
  • Piergiorgio Pepe
  • Graeme Reid
  • Nizar Saghieh