Security, sexuality, and the Gay Clown Putin meme: Queer theory and international responses to Russian political homophobia

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Focusing on the case of ‘Gay Clown Putin’, this article theorizes memes as visual interventions in international politics. While not all memes are political interventions, Gay Clown Putin is an iconic meme that is part of the international response to Russian state-directed political homophobia that emerged after the gay propaganda law was passed in 2013. How it has circulated and the attention it has received make it apt for exploring memes as visual political interventions that challenge national security discourses. Here, I provide three readings of Gay Clown Putin that suggest different possibilities for how the meme might work politically. In so doing, I deepen international relations’ engagement with queer theory by bringing in the politics of play that works through a queer epistemology that embraces deviance. Bringing memes to the study of international security, I show how the collection of images making up the Gay Clown Putin meme provides space for understanding the visual politics of security.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)302-323
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

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© The Author(s) 2022.

    Research areas

  • Critical security studies, memes, queer, sexuality, visual politics

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