The Center for Race & Gender Thursday Forum Series presents...
Visual Vocabularies & Queer Citizenships
Islamicate Sexualities: Locating Race and Gender within the History of Sexuality
Andrew Gayed, Art History & Visual Culture, York University
I will use visual art to investigate Middle Eastern homosexuality and focus on issues of Modernity, multiple Modernisms, and the Wests claim to Modernity. This discussion will have us thinking about Arab homo-sexualities in terms of desire and alternative masculinities rather than Western notions of visibility and coming out; narratives which are not conducive to understanding how Queer Arabs living in the West experience their sexuality. This is a discussion rooted in sociological ideas of gender, nationalism, and sexuality, and the triangulation of identity and oppression that could arise at their intersection. My intent is to see if we can reach a narrative of Western and non-Western Modernity that works beyond sexual oppression (Middle East) versus sexual acceptance (North America), and instead examines a negotiation of diasporic sexuality by incorporating different sociological strategies to help self-identification categories be less dichotomous.
Gay Arab societies enjoy subtle networks of expressing sexualities and identities, and these networks have been strongly influenced and changed by discourses of modernity and Western imperialism. Through case studies of visual art, this analysis will illustrate how the legacy of modernity has not yet erased these subtle networks of communication, and how diasporic subjects are conflicted by adhering to multiple identity narratives from multiple cultural sources. It is my contention that diasporic identity and sexuality can globally portray the culturally-specific local narratives of sexuality. In this way, we can see how local sexuality narratives are not passively being colonized by Western Queer discourse; instead, localized understandings of sexualities are being internalized and conceptualized by the diaspora, and the contemporary art they produce. The visual art of diasporic artists living in the West in conjunction with Queer artists living and working in the Middle East can contribute to understanding these local identity narratives, and how they manifest themselves in the lives of diasporic subjects globally
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Alan Pelaez Lopez, Comparative Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
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Marco Antonio Flores, Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley