Moving from David Eng’s examination into the discourses surrounding Lawrence v Texas as a legal success of the past and deeming sexual justice as the issue of the present in The Feeling of Kinship, Freedom with Violence continues this directed reading's trajectory of a coiling queer of color critique, one that engages with the epistemological foundations of our contemporary political practices. In the bounds of my directed reading, Reddy’s study is situated alongside Ferguson’s Aberrations in Black. Just as Roderick Ferguson simultaneously centers queer of color critique, critiques canonical sociology and calls for a more expansive American studies adept to assessing historical subjects and phenomena, Chandan Reddy moves us toward critical ethnic studies, an interdisciplinary examination that:
“deepens its comparative and intersectional work in a contemporary capitalist context characterized by a gendered transnationalization of previously national capitalist economic, institutional, and social practices” (19).
Rather than focus solely on the nation, Reddy calls scholars to think of the ways in which a transnational framing might offer us a more critical recounting of state-based violence. This move to the transnational is seen throughout the text, but comes up explicitly in the fourth chapter, “Moving beyond a Freedom with Violence: The Politics of Gay Marriage in the Era of Racial Transformation”. This chapter takes an incisive look at California’s 2008 Proposition 8. By employing a queer of color framework, Reddy argues that gay marriage in general and Prop 8 in particular are transnational projects that establish the state as a powerful apparatus with devastating normalizing controls. Looking at the “transnationality of Californian society”, Freedom with Violence’s fourth chapter argues:
“understanding the passage of the proposition as a moment within a transnational chain of events might actually afford the sexual progressive the possibilities of liberating the question of sexuality from its regulation by the nation-state, opening other horizons of political and collective agency that until now did not exist as normative social possibility” (217).
But these social possibilities come with consequences. One major offering I glean from this text is its constant interrogation with the state’s practice of legality through an engagement with history, haunting, and memory. I’m especially drawn to Reddy’s reminder that scholarly analysis must always be situated within its historical context. As Reddy historicizes his project within the contemporary politics of neoliberalism, specifically neoliberalism’s linkage of freedom, the pursuit of citizen rights, and state-based violence, he conveys a renewed practice of representing and remembering the past. Focusing on commemoration, Reddy asks us to complicate the legacies of Loving v Virginia, the legal battle that many gay marriage advocates cited as the precedent and example of which to proceed in LGBTQ civil rights. Rather that continue with “like race” analogies that both detach the nuance of race and sexuality and collude with linear progress narratives, Reddy insists that our memories of Loving must keep at the core a moral commitment to remember society’s victims. If, as Reddy suggests, history has both a redemptive and explanatory force (203) then commemorations are not simply tools of past memory, but, I would argue, are also acts of a present and active witnessing.