On October 26, the Center for African and African American Studies at UT Austin hosted a lecture by Dr. M. Jacqui Alexander from the University of Toronto. Quite possibly one of the best lectures I have seen this year, Alexander began her talk by asking us some difficult questions—Are we living our lives in the service of what we believe and are we attuned to the reasons we came here for? She denounced the current U.S. state as a culture of enemy production based on empire building.

Alexander’s research centers on transnational feminism with particular focus on the United States and the Caribbean. She urged scholars to dislodge notions of cultural relativism, and to address time from tradition (then and there) to modernity (here and now) and vice versa. The importance of addressing time was an ideological traffic of processes, such as these: colonialism <-> neo-colonialism <-> neo-imperialism.

Alexander gave us three examples where this notion of time takes place: 1) the Balboan Carnage of Panama and its parallel to U. S. gays in the military, 2) the criminalization of lesbian sex in Trinidad and Tobago and its parallel to the US Defense Marriage Act passed into law in 1996,  and 3) the Neo-Imperial war moment and how sexuality is deployed in the formation of the enemy. She reminded us that all states have an investment in heterosexualization and that categories such as citizen, patriot, immigrant, carry ideological heterosexualism.

In one of her most poignant remarks, Alexander reminded us that academic disciplines are implicated in state violence. She noted that as intellectuals we carry ethics of accountability. Alexander asked, “We go along calling ourselves radicals, but are we complicit in the context of hegemony?”