Posted by: sgrahampdxedu | October 23, 2007

In His Image: the relationship between the state’s construction of self and regulation of appropriate sexuality

M. Jaqui Alexander, in her article “Not just (any)body can be citizen” locates the source of her oppression (as well as that of others) in the way that post-colonial states have imagined themselves (though, as their’s is a hand-me-down model from the absent but still speaking colonizer’s state, her analysis is relevant to the rest of us insisting on applying this heriarchichal model of statehood).  The post-colonial state has imagined itself as a large scale nuclear family: the Motherland weds Father State, who becomes the father to her people.  Father state’s right to rule, then, is based upon the understanding of father-as-head-of-household.  Herein lies the state’s interest in the naturalization of the nuclear family; symbolically this reinforces the states natural role as “the decider.”

Alexander notes that when such a state feels its authority threatened (due to, say, economic pressure from world markets that locate the state’s interest outside its borders and decreases the standard of living at for all but a few home), its focus becomes one not of rationality but of maintaining state power.  

One way such a state may strengthen itself is by deploying laws which draw symbolic borders around sexual difference, the very boundaries around which its power coheres (Alexander (quoting Hall) 5-6).  Laws are the way the state communicates with his children: legal=good/yes & illegal=bad/no.  Thus, “criminalization functions as a technology of control, and much like other technologies of control becomes an important site for the production and reproduction of state power” (Alexander).  Regulation by criminalization is the state’s way of naturalizing the productive sexuality within the context of the nuclear family.  By defining what/who is illegal/bad, by default the state defines the good child, the good national, the citizen.  These laws effectively define the protection of full citizenship only within the heterosexual body, and gives increased status to those citizens living within the bounds of the traditional matrimonial home.  Symbolically, this reinforces its own right to rule, by defining citizenship in its own image.                   

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