Socialist Theory & Movements Network Seminar on Commonwealth ‘civil society’ and LBGTI movements, 5/2/19, 5.15-7pm, Lilybank Seminar Room, Bute Gardens

 matthew waites

Matthew Waites (University of Glasgow): ‘The Political Sociology of Commonwealth Civil Society: A “Gramsci-sensitised” Critical Analysis of the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as a Context for LGBTI Human Rights Claims’

A critical sociology of Commonwealth ‘civil society’ is offered through analysis of the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting of April 2018, in the conjuncture of Brexit Britain—leading to political conclusions.  A distinctive ‘Gramsci-sensitised’ methodological framework is used, drawing from the theoretical insights of Peter Thomas in The Gramscian Moment (2009) to problematise ‘civil society’, while also referring to Foucault’s governmentality. The methodology investigates ‘civil society’ overall while focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights claims, by groups including The Commonwealth Equality Network.  Four contexts are analysed: The Commonwealth People’s Forum; social media (Twitter); UK and international newspaper media; and ‘London Commonwealth civil society’ outside formal forums.  The analysis juxtaposes Commonwealth ‘civil society’ with ‘the political’ from Mouffe and Honig (and originally Arendt), to propose a move from staged conversations to substantial dialogues between opposing voices, including some homophobic voices. This is how Commonwealth ‘civil society’ and LGBTI movements can respond to right-wing populisms in what Mishra calls the Age of Anger.   

Matthew Waites is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow, and Co-Convenor of Glasgow Human Rights Network. He is co-editor, with Corinne Lennox, of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change (School of Advanced Study, 2013). Much of his research focuses on developing sociological and critical analysis of transnational lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex politics, problematising the British empire’s history of criminalising same-sex sexual behaviour and engaging the sociology of human rights with queer politics. In 2017, he was an invited speaker at the ground-breaking Intimate Conviction conference in Jamaica claiming decriminalisation of same-sex sexualities, and contributed a chapter to the conference volume Intimate Conviction (2018). His article ‘Critique of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Human Rights Discourse: Global Queer Politics beyond the Yogyakarta Principles’ (Contemporary Politics, Vol.15, no.1, 2009) has been translated for a special issue of the French journal Genre, Sexualité & Société (no.15, 2016), and reprinted in the Routledge Handbook of Queer Development Studies (2018). He has also published peer-reviewed articles in leading journals including SociologyThe Sociological ReviewContemporary PoliticsSocial and Legal StudiesSexualitiesParliamentary Affairs and the Journal of Genocide Research


First published: 31 January 2019