Skip to content

Alien Pathogens and Gender Politics in DISTRICT 9

2010 September 26
tags: , ,
by Shared by Steve Rust

In a discussion with students this summer, several of them pointed out that District 9 could be read as a clear metaphor for apartheid rule in South Africa.  However, I hope to revisit that discussion with other students in the future to ask whether the film got them thinking about the AIDS epidemic in Africa, which has recently complicated my own reading of the film and is a powerful reminder that we must always be attuned to multiple approaches to any movie or media text.  I guess what I mean is that while my students and I immediately jumped on the film’s racial and international implication, our focus on this reading drew our attention away from the film’s queer ecology and the idea that the Aliens can represent current HIV patients w/in Africa who are alienated from their own social and ethnic groups as a result of their illness.     In particular, I want to talk more with students about the film’s relevance for contemporary African concerns that ask us to interrogate our western gaze.  The recent effort to establish a death sentence for homosexual acts in Uganda, for example, has added another layer of complication and consideration to my reactions to the film.

In a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Dartmouth professor of Creative Non-Fiction Jeff Sharlett spoke about his recent Harper’s Magazine article on the anti-homosexuality bill recently introduced in the Ugandan parliament.  Among the proposals in the bill: “prison terms for Ugandans who fail to report a homosexual within 24 hours; lifelong prison sentences for a single homosexual act; and the death sentence for a range of acts, including having gay sex while HIV-positive, having gay sex with a disabled person or being classified as a “serial offender” — that is, someone who has gay sex more than once.”   On a recent visit to Uganda interview David Bahati, who authored the bill, Sharlett found “overwhelming popular support for the measure.” If it passes Uganda will join a growing list of states condemning men and women to death for homosexual acts, including Iran, Mauritania, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and Nigeria.

More disturbing yet, Sharlett discovered that  Bahati is one of the Uganda leaders of an American evangelical movement called the Fellowship, or the Family — the secretive fellowship of powerful Christian politicians who wield considerable political influence, both in Washington and abroad.  Sharlett describes the relationship as “very direct”.

Sharlett throws into sharp relief the means by which homophobia as a cultural phenomenon can be cultivated by political propaganda:

“We’ve seen a real up tick in the political uses of homophobia. And I do emphasize that the political use of homophobia – we dont want to make that mistake of saying Africans are somehow more hateful than anybody else. It’s a political moment right now, where a lot of government in Africa are seeing that they can deflect the public from the really serious issues that they face, by drumming up this sort of fear of an alien contagion that builds on this traditional taboo.”

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS