World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010



· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI, 23 / 11.30 am - 1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Aymon Kreil (EHESS (Paris)/Institut d'ethnologie (Neuchâtel))

Paper presenter: Elham Etemadi (PhD Candidate, Catholic University of Leuven, KUL, Belgium), “Homosexuality Disclosed: Iconological Analysis of Sani' al-Molk's ‘The Two Young Lovers and a Coiffeuse’”
Studying the images of One Thousand and One Nights, painted in early Qajar period under the supervision of Sani’ al-Molk would undoubtedly gain considerably from an iconological study of the very same painter’s single paintings. Whereas in the illustrations of the book the paintings are limited by the narrative and extra-textual considerations limiting the iconographical possibilities of the paintings (for the sake of reproducibility and repetition), we come across self-contained independent usage of icons in a different mode of painting by the same painter; so, it is essential, in order to comprehend the mutual give-and-take of these two kinds of painting to study the single paintings along with other illustrations, my current PhD research project. ‘The Two Young Lovers and a Coiffeuse’ (1843) depicts a hetero-love scene between a young beardless man and a young lady standing in the middle of the scene. In this paper, through a semiotic study of the text of the painting and by an iconological interpretation of its elements, I argue that despite the first heterosexual reading, the painting also shows the secret homosexual desire of the painter/viewer, who is expected to be a man, for the young man in the visual text: in the painting the lady is looking at the painter/viewer and it seems that she is inviting the/a third watching person into the meaning of this visual text (Najm-Abadi P: 31); on the other hand, the young man’s look is not at the lady, as it is expected of a lover, nor outward. Najm-Abadi believes that in the female-male amorous couple we have triangles of erotic desire, which are circulating in and out of the text. She mentions Sedgwick’s homosocial construction between two male rivals for a woman through her ‘trafficking’ between them. She also notes that the heterosexual representation in the male-female visual text can be read as a homo-desire relationship between the young boy and the viewer/painter formed through the women. (P:27) In this line, an old lady, the only person who looks at the couple in the text, can also represent the position of the viewer/painter, the only person who is expected to look at the couple out of the text, as a subject of desire. The couple’s hands, the curious position of the young man’s leg, and also the handkerchief the lady has in hand are other signs of this claim.(I can't attach the painting here, unfortunately).I strongly believe that in order to understand the art of the Qajar era, we need to have a sound comprehension of both modes of painting (the dependent and the self-sufficient) and this paper tries to provide a rudimentary step for the comparison and contrast of the two; with both of them in view an almost complete picture of the painting art of the era crystallizes. This surely helps understanding the art of this fruitful period of the Iranian art history.

Paper presenter: Noor Al-Qasimi (Research Fellow, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK), “The Ghantout Case: Cyber Transmission of Queer Imaginings”
In 2005, a homosexual wedding ceremony in a hotel in Ghantout, Abu Dhabi, was raided by police and its participants were arrested. Although there was a question of the extent to which the media misrepresented the events that took place, what has become known as the Ghantout case exemplifies the imposition of gender hierarchy and the subalternization of queerness. Here, gender, the self-identity of the nation-state and human rights discourses on gender rights and freedom of speech in the media converged, drawing attention to the Emirates as an oppressor of freedom. With the Ghantout case garnering international media coverage, the nation-state’s image was put on trial, bringing to the fore issues of censorship, gender hierarchy, and the tension between Emirati societal concerns and the preservation of an external image in the international arena. This paper will examine the actual events of the ceremony, paying specific attention to its transmission and reception through mobile phones, video messaging, and the internet. I will also address the debate surrounding governmental implementation of hormone treatments and corresponding interventions by human rights discourses.

Paper presenter: Erica Li Lundqvist (PhD Candidate, Lund University, Sweden), “Linking Religion and Desire? Reconciling Sexuality with Faith among Young Non-heterosexual Muslims in Lebanon”
In recent times Muslim organizations and individuals have come out in favour of tolerance and even acceptance of gay and lesbian matters, mostly from a human rights perspective often avoiding addressing same-sex sexual intimacy from a religious perspective. Many Muslims believe that Islam prohibits any same-sex sexual activity and that homosexuality is irreconcilable with being Muslim. As a result, Muslim non-heterosexuals often struggle to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious identity. This paper as part of my PhD dissertation attempts to examine the ways in which young non-heterosexual Muslims in Lebanon reconcile their sexual orientation with their faith by using their own personal understanding of their religion. Exploring the strategies that young non-heterosexual Muslims develop to manage the lack of acceptance in their religious communities, and look upon how they reinterpret religious sources in order to create space for the reinforcement of their perceived deviant sexual orientation, may generate a better understanding of their religious practices and actions as well as their emotions and beliefs related to being non-heterosexuals and Muslims. Drawing upon my previous experiences in the field, one hypothesis is that non-heterosexual Muslims develops several strategies to manage the lack of acceptance experienced by them in their religious communities. While some hide their sexual orientation for fear of stigmatization, others attempt to minimize stigmatization by distancing themselves from religious communities, keeping their religious faith through privatized practices such as solitary prayer or try to abstain from their sexual practice. Another assumption is that non-heterosexual Muslims reveal “queer” meanings in religious texts for their own consumption and spiritual well being. There are many ways that young non-heterosexual Muslims deal with their sexuality and their faith as it becomes a source of conflict in everyday life, and this paper is an attempt to highlight and examine some of the ways that young non-heterosexual Muslims in Lebanon make sense of the world and their own place in it.

Paper Presenter: José Sánchez García and Lorenz Nigst (Associated Professors, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain), “The Phenomenon of the 'Boyat' in the Gulf”
In our contribution we would like to focus on the phenomenon of the ‘boy’t’, which has appeared in the Gulf States over the last years. Attention shall be paid to a number of important online sources which deal with the phenomenon, and the statements found there will be scrutinized. The boy’t are girls who deliberately dress and behave in a ‘masculine way’ and who seem to insist on an identity construction which contradicts the local standards of what befits a ‘female woman’. We would like to confront the following questions. First, what are the reactions with which these girls are met? Special attention shall be given to the discourse of their opponents, which includes arguments of both of a religious and a medical-scientific nature. Both sets of arguments shall be described in their broad outlines, and it shall be observed that also such arguments which are of a medical-scientific nature clearly seem to represent a conscious attempt to moralize the boy’t by means of declaring them as sick. Secondly, what seems to be the driving force and motivation for this identity construction of the boy’t? What seem to be their most important strategies of such girls? By means of exploring the arguments of the boy’ts’ opponents we would like to make some preliminary suggestions in how many these girls deliberately seem to oppose those social ideals which they perceive as oppressive. Thus, it is suggested that such girls are consciously trying to oppose the cultural limitations which their condition of being females entails, and that they are trying to break away from such cultural expectations which hold ready for them the position of females weak and tender whose natural role is that of mothers and wives. Finally, we will show that in the online sources the boy’t are being dealt with as representatives of a deviant sexuality. The question will be raised if it is possible or likely that this can serve as an all-encompassing explanation for the phenomenon.