Jasbir K. Puar is a U.S.-based queer theorist who is currently an associate professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Puar is author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. She has written widely on South Asian disaporic cultural production in the United States, United Kingdom and Trinidad, LGBT tourism, terrorism studies, surveillance studies, biopolitics and necropolitics, disability and debilitation, theories of intersectionality, affect, and assemblage; animal studies and posthumanism, homonationalism, pinkwashing, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Puar has an M.A. in Women's Studies from the University of York and completed her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies at University of California at Berkeley in 1999.
In "Queer Times, Queer Assemblages", published in 2005, Puar analyzes the War on Terror as an assemblage of racism, nationalism, patriotism, and terrorism, suggesting that it is "already profoundly queer". Her focus is on terrorist corporealities in opposition to "normative patriot bodies", and she argues that "discourses of counterterrorism are intrinsically gendered, raced, sexualized, and nationalized". Through an analysis of the American response to the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse in 2004, she contends that contemporary discourses of Muslim sexuality only mask and reproduce an underlying belief in American exceptionalism. She also rearticulates the body of the suicide bomber as "a queer assemblage that resists queerness-as-sexual-identity", a force with the power to converge, implode, and rearrange time, space, and body. Finally, Puar focuses on the archetypal Sikh terrorist, turban and all, in order to posit that her examination of queerness as an assemblage calls attention to "epistemology in tandem with ontology".
Puar critiques the deployment of homonationalism in the United States as a justification for violently implementing the doctrine of American exceptionalism embodied in the War on Terror. The United States flaunts its supposedly liberal openness to homosexuality to secure its identity in contradistinction to sexual oppression in Muslim countries. This oppression serves as an excuse for the United States to “liberate” oppressed women and sexual deviants in these countries, simultaneously papering over sexual inequality in the United States. United States exceptionalism and homonationalism are mutually constitutive, blending discourses of American Manifest Destiny, racist foreign policy, and an urge to document the unknown (embodied in the terrorist) and conquer it through queering its identity, hence rendering it manageable and knowable.
Puar's Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, published in October 2007, describes connections between contemporary "gay rights" discourse, the integration of gay people into consumerism, the ascendance of "whiteness", and Western imperialism and the war on terrorism. Puar argues that traditional heteronormative ideologies now find accompaniment from "homonormative" ideologies replicating the same hierarchical ideals concerning maintenance of dominance in terms related to race, class, gender, and nation-state, a set of ideologies she deems "homonationalism".
In her journal article, "Homonationalist Futurism: 'Terrorism' and (Other) Queer Resistance to Empire", Heike Schotten utilizes Puar's theoretical framework and conflates it with the theories of Lee Edelman to produce a model for thinking about racialized identities and resistance to the "sexual contures" of the United States Empire. Schotten posits that, when combined, Edelman and Puar's work serves as a crucial resource for "theorizing 'terrorism' and understanding it as an act of political resistance".
On February 3, 2016, Puar delivered a lecture at Vassar College, "Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters", in which she was critical of current Israeli policy toward Palestine, and particularly the Israel treatment of Palestinians. Puar was recorded as stating (by persons attending the lecture) that Israel harvests the organs of dead Palestinians for scientific research; poisons Palestinians with uranium, lead, and phosphorus to "stunt" them; targets their procreative organs; maims them; and gives them the "bare minimum for survival" as part of a medical "experiment". that would "transform the Palestinians into a population of half-fed zombies whose 'dismantled and dismembered bodies' can be subjected to 'gendering,' 'ungendering,' and 'epigenetic deterioration' through biological 'hacking.'"
In response to her speech, a former president of the University of California and a professor emeritus of history at Michigan State University accused Puar of "hatred of Jews and Israel" and "updating the medieval blood libel against Jews". Ziva Dahl, who attended the lecture, accused Puar of "incendiary, unbalanced hate speech masquerades as scholarship", and argued that "Disguised behind a plethora of pseudo-intellectual jargon, she presents bigotry all too reminiscent of 1930s Europe to demonize Jews."
Professor Puar received "threats of rape and murder". Letters of support for Puar were issued by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel as well as by the Jewish Voice for Peace's Academic Advisory Council. The content of her speech at Vassar can be found in her peer reviewed article, "The 'Right' to Maim: Disablement and Inhumanist Biopolitics in Palestine."
- Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (2007), Durham: Duke University Press, ISBN 9780822341147
- Homonationalisme. Politiques queers après le 11 Septembre (2012), translated into French by Judy Minx, Paris: Editions Amsterdam, Maxime Cervulle, ISBN 9782354801076
- Affective Politics: States of Debility and Capacity (forthcoming in 2016), Durham: Duke University Press
- Book chapters
- "Nicaraguan Women, Resistance, and the Politics of Aid", in Haleh Afshar, ed., Women and Politics in the Third World, London: Routledge, 1996: 73-92.
- "Transnational Sexualities: South Asian Trans/Nationalisms and Queer Diasporas", in David Eng and Alice Hom, eds., Q & A: Queer in Asian America, Philadelphia: Temple U.P., 1998: 405-422.
- translated into German: "Transnationale sexualitäten. Südasiatische (Trans)Nation(alism)en und queere Diasporas", in Die Politik sexueller Räume Eds. Matthias Haase, Marc Siegel, and Michaela Wünsch, Berlin: b_books Verlag, 2005.
- "Transnational Configurations of Desire: The Nation and its White Closets", in Matt Wray et al., eds., The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness, Durham: Duke University Press, 2001: 167-183.
- "Transversal Circuits: Transnational Sexualities and Trinidad", in Lise Nelson and Joni Seager, eds., A Companion to Feminist Geography, London: Blackwell, 2004.
- "Ich ware lieber eine Cyborg als eine Gottin”: Intersktionalitat, Assemblage, und Affektpolitik", in Isabel Lorey, Roberto Nigro, and Gerald Raunig, eds., Inventionen, Zurich: diaphanes, 2011: 253-270.
- "Citation and Censorship: The Politics of Talking About the Sexual Politics of Palestine/Israel", in The Imperial University, eds. Sunaina Maira and Piya Chatterjee, University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
Puar has received multiple awards:
- 2007: Association for Asian American Studies Cultural Studies Book Award for Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times
- 2011: Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award, The Graduate School, Rutgers University.
- 2012. Northeast Universities Association of Graduate Schools Teaching Award, Honorable Mention
- 2013: Robert Sutherland Visitorship Award, Queens University
- 2013: Modern Languages Association GL/Q Caucus Michael Lynch Service Award