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Abstract

This article examines the issue of transnationality from the point of view afforded by a particular perspective—a bi-national queer couple—as brought into relief by three recent cultural texts: Philip Gambone’s novel Beijing (2003), a film by Israeli director Michael Mayer, Out in the Dark (2012); and a film by Spanish director Julio Medem, Room in Rome (2010). Whereas in bi-national opposite-sex unions each partner can become a sponsor of his or her spouse for immigration purposes, bi-national queer couples, due to the fact that the majority of nation-states in today’s world do not have provisions for same-sex unions, regularly face a sinister legal conundrum. Straddling two or more countries or even continents, these cross-border intimacies challenge the dominant logic of nation states by appearing “stateless” and “out-of-place,” exemplifying what Ulrick Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim call “distant love”—a technology-assisted intimacy without a shared domesticity—a type of intimacy that is becoming more and more widespread as a result of the transnationalization of labor economies. The three cultural texts brought together in this paper dramatize the injustice, spatial disorientation, and loss as the key features of the bi-national same-sex couple’s relationship to transnational spatiality forging an aesthetic of absence that contains a melancholy and a utopian dimension. While Beijing and Out in the Dark view national boundaries as insurmountable obstacles, Room in Rome positions itself as a cathartic cross-border project, a model utopian enactment that temporarily suspends the logic of nation-states as regimes of control over queer bodies. In Room in Rome, a queer country is inaugurated into existence in a manner similar to nation states—through an orthopedic erection of a symbol and by claiming representation on the map of the world (a Google map). The engagement with these texts makes evident that, due to its paradoxical position in the transnational milieu, a bi-national queer couple functions as a site of convergence and collision of multiple political, cultural, and legal forces, exemplifying a collision between the centripetal forces of globalization and the centrifugal forces of economic inequality and competing nationalisms.

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