This scene, from Ana Kokkinos’s brilliant (1998) film Head On, astutely demonstrates how the drug search has emerged as a key technology for the instatement of white heteromasculinist sovereignty. But before watching, please be warned it’s disturbingly violent and depicts police brutality against vulnerably sexualised, gendered and racialised bodies.
“This room is so white!!!”
From the underpants inspections that NSW police used to conduct to harass cross-dressers and transgender people over the 1950s and 1960s in Sydney, to the NSW police use of sniffer dogs that continues to this day, stripping people bare – down to the bios of bare life – has a long history of use as a strategy of coercion, humiliation and violence, deployed most often against queers, blacks, immigrants and women in bids to assert particular forms of sovereignty and abjection.
To me, Kokkinos’s take on the intersections of nationalism, policing, ethnicity, sexuality and gender in this scene is incredibly incisive. It eloquently demonstrates why the police use of drug and other laws to intimate and harass people they don’t like the look of (with sniffer dogs for example) must be brought to an end now …..and why it requires an urgent counter-response from anyone concerned with the violent operations of racism, homophobia and transphobia in present day Australia
This is the new BSI 2016 outline for the large Undergraduate course I teach – essentially an introduction to queer theory with a progressively Australian spin as we dig down into local cultural examples. Can’t wait to work with students on it this year.