Insurgent Aesthetics Security and the Queer Life of the Forever War

Ronak K. Kapadia

In Insurgent Aesthetics Ronak K. Kapadia theorizes the world-making power of contemporary art responses to US militarism in the Greater Middle East. He traces how new forms of remote killing, torture, confinement, and surveillance have created a distinctive post-9/11 infrastructure of racialized state violence. Linking these new forms of violence to the history of American imperialism and conquest, Kapadia shows how Arab, Muslim, and South Asian diasporic multimedia artists force a reckoning with the US war on terror's violent destruction and its impacts on immigrant and refugee communities. Drawing on an eclectic range of visual, installation, and performance works, Kapadia reveals queer feminist decolonial critiques of the US security state that visualize subjugated histories of US militarism and make palpable what he terms “the sensorial life of empire.” In this way, these artists forge new aesthetic and social alliances that sustain critical opposition to the global war machine and create alternative ways of knowing and feeling beyond the forever war.



  • $28.95 paper, 9781478004011
  • $104.95 cloth, 9781478003717
  • $28.95 ebook
  • 352 pages
  • 96 illus., 26 in color, 6 x 9 in.

about the author

Ronak K. Kapadia is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and affiliated faculty in Art History, Global Asian Studies, and Museum & Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. An interdisciplinary cultural theorist of race, security, sensation, and empire in the late 20th and early 21st century United States, Kapadia’s research and teaching fields include critical ethnic studies; race radical and transnational feminisms; queer of color critique; Arab/Muslim/South Asian diasporas; national security and surveillance; critical prison and military studies; visual and performance studies; affect and new materialisms; radical social movements; and US Empire. His writing appears in Asian American Literary Review, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Feminist Formations, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, International Journal of Cultural Studies, and edited volumes including: Shifting Borders: America and the Middle East/North Africa, Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader, and With Stones In Our Hands: Writings on Muslims, Racism, and US Empire. With Simone Browne and Katherine McKittrick, Kapadia is co-editor of the spring 2017 special issue of Surveillance and Society on race, communities, and informers. Kapadia has also begun work on his second book project, tentatively titled Breathing in the Brown Queer Commons, which develops a critical theory of healing justice in the wilds of imperial decline and ecological chaos. For updated links to his publications and upcoming talks, you can see his website and follow his twitter.

Kapadia has held leadership positions in the American Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies, and he co-coordinates the Newberry Library’s Seminar on Gender and Sexuality. Outside of academe, he is a former board member of FIERCE, a member-led community organization working to build the leadership and power of queer and trans youth of color in New York City and Sage Community Health Collective, a worker-owned health and healing justice collective in Chicago.