This article explores the shape of queer sexual habits and gendered forms of desire along the Jerusalem light rail, a route whose role in normalizing Israeli occupation and colonialism has been hotly contested during its construction and since its opening in 2011. Analyzing how this infrastructure can invite both colonial and sexual relations, which slip and slide into one another, the author argues that the train provides a shared setting to cruise for both security dangers and enticing strangers. The light rail—the national and security interests that went into producing it, the eventual material shape it took, and how it altered the colonial landscape—has entwined forms of surveillance, suspicion, and sexuality, deeply affecting how individuals gauge, judge, sense, watch, and seduce one another. Ideology, in other words, haunts pleasure as it lurks within and through built environments, the exact environments wherein sex rouses and arouses the senses. Danger and desire become kindred. Offering an ethics of cruising, the essay unravels how sexual, colonial, and racialized sensibilities take shape in tandem, sometimes through a single look or glance, to argue for abandoning the idea that cruising is always an idealized pursuit of pleasure.
Cruising the Jerusalem Light Rail
jake silver is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. His current project examines the atmospheric and extraplanetary scales of Israel’s occupation, lifting attention upward to the ways colonial and anticolonial conflicts extend into the sky and outer space through domains such as astronomy, gis, astrophysics, science fiction writing, meteorology, and space travel. A short dispatch on this research appears in “Wonder and the Life of Palestinian Astronomy” (Science for the People 23.1). His latest article, “Familiar Pixels: Imag(in)ing the Dead and the Political in Israel/Palestine” (American Anthropologist 122.3), attends to the scale of politics in Israel/Palestine through the intersections of digital media, sexuality, and cultural genealogies.
Jake Silver; Cruising the Jerusalem Light Rail. differences 1 September 2020; 31 (2): 115–151. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-8662202
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