Queering the Cold War
Date Written: 2010-11-01
Publisher: Upping the Anti
Year Published: 2010
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX19829
A review of the book 'The Canadian War on Queers' and its examination of how homophobia, national security, and queerness unfolded in Canada during the Cold War.
The Canadian War on Queersis the most detailed work to date that illuminates the intersections between homophobia, gender conformity, national security, and Cold War paranoia in Canada. The authors don’t speculate about the relationship between state activity and local experiences of homophobia, but they do provoke such questions and have written a book that must be read.
The Canadian War on Queersperceives itself as a political intervention. Histories are always about the present. The book both opens and closes with references to contemporary national security campaigns against Arabs and Muslims and attempts to use the experiences of similar Cold War campaigns against queers to shine light on current abuses. But it also challenges “the social organization of forgetting” complicit in the ever more hegemonic strategies of respectability in queer communities.
In terms of this political work, some of the strengths of The Canadian War on Queersare also its weaknesses. The fascinating first-hand accounts of persecution and resistance, and the lengthy quotes from declassified documents are important source material, but also produce a narrative that is sometimes disjointed, cumbersome, and unnecessarily lengthy. Often, the authors’ interpretation of this material simply restates the obvious. UBCPress could have served both readers and the authors with a more hard-nosed editing process that could have slimmed the volume and better focused its themes.