Queer Politics of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Talk)

Tickets available here

How can critical social analysis illuminate the queer politics of the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting? by Dr Matthew Waites (talk)

Date: 28 June 2018 | Venue: S312, Paul Webley Building | 1200-1300

Chair: Dr Mayur Suresh, SOAS, University of London

18 - Matthew Waites

The London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2018 was targeted by the LGBTI activists of The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), who defined the event as a key opportunity to press for human rights. The original idea for TCEN came from Sri Lankan activist Rosanna-Flamer Caldera, founder of the organisation Equal Ground in Sri Lanka; and many other Asian activists in TCEN also participated in the CHOGM. Apparently in response to prior TCEN activity, UK Prime Minister Theresa May for the first time made a statement of ‘deep regret’ for the British Empire’s criminalisation of same-sex sexual behaviour, on behalf of the British government. TCEN activists sought to advance their case in the various Commonwealth civil society forums, and surrounding events.  Yet from a critical perspective it is obvious that participation in such events is delimited and unequal, requiring us to examine these inequalities and their implications.

 In this presentation I will present findings derived from empirical research conducted during the CHOGM, using online ethnographic methods as well as observation and transcription of speeches, public debates and other public events.  I will suggest that to develop a more empirically informed and structured sociology of ‘global civil society’ in this context, it is helpful to use primary sources to compare and contrast coverage and debates in several social realms: the Commonwealth forums, including the People’s Forum; wider events in London, ranging from street protests to erudite book launches at the British Library;  the online environment of Twitter proposed by the Commonwealth Foundation for global conversation; and the press internationally as an example of news media, in Commonwealth states and beyond.   Through considering these various realms, and drawing comparisons between them, it is possible to develop a more accurately contoured and up to date critical analysis of how Commonwealth governance and Commonwealth civil society operate and interplay, and for whom – to inform contemporary queer politics.



Dr Matthew Waites is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow, with research expertise on issues of human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in international contexts.