Hanadi Al-Samman—Decolonizing Arab Queer Bodies

February 19, 2020
Wednesday, 5-6:15pm
New Cabell Hall 056
Refreshments available at 4:45pm

Decolonizing Arab Queer Bodies

Hanadi Al-Samman
Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Culture
Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Virginia

Arab queer subjectivity underwent local and global pressures intent on hijacking its essence. In response, LGBTQ members are determined to decolonize the Arab queer body through defying and redefining prevalent myths related to concepts of the closet, pride, piety, family, and coming out politics. This talk will explore sites of contestation and contamination resulting from Arab queers’ forced adherence to the politics of the Western “closet.” Through examining recent literary and cinematic queer representations, this talk will highlight the gains and challenges of adopting an international LGBTQ agenda. It will also explore how conflicts in gendered identity have been shaped and sharpened by the politics of authoritarian regimes, civil war, and failed revolutions. I argue that we must shift away from fixed, binary epistemologies of the closet discourse to dynamic models that can accommodate the stretching of the Arab closet borders to accommodate a “coming in” versus a “coming out” discourse, and to capture the Arab queer body’s movements and affects as it performs flexible, intimate models of decolonization, of citizenship and belonging in the era of globalization.

Hanadi Al-Samman is an associate professor of Arabic Language and Culture in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on contemporary Arabic literature, diaspora and sexuality studies, as well as transnational and Islamic feminism(s). She published several articles in Journal of Arabic Literature, Women’s Studies International Forum, Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, and various edited collections. She is the co-editor of an International Journal of Middle East Studies’ special issue “Queer Affects,” 2013, The Beloved in Middle Eastern Literatures: The Culture of Love and Languishing. London: I.B. Tauris, 2018, and author of Anxiety of Erasure: Trauma, Authorship, and the Diaspora in Arab Women’s Writings. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2015, Reprint 2019. Prof. Al-Samman has recently co-edited Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, Board Editor. New York: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2019, which covered over 56 entries on Middle Eastern LGBT issues and has won the prestigious Dartmouth Medal for Excellence in Reference Award in 2020. She has also served as the President of the Association of Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS, 2017-2019).