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The Professoriat Queers The Mideast

Seeing the whole wide world as the humanities faculty lounge

With the Middle East roiled with wars of religious and ethnic hatred, and once again serving as a proxy battlefield for the interests of Great Powers, as well as generating, through refugee flows, geopolitical changes that place the future of Europe in question, naturally American scholars will answer the call to bring their training and expertise to bear on understanding this dynamic, perilous situation. This morning, a call for papers has been sounded from the University of Chicago:

35th Annual Middle East History and Theory Conference

Theorizing Gender and Sexuality in the Historic and Contemporary Middle East

The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

May 1-3, 2020

Ah. Tell us more:

We also encourage submissions related to the theme of this year’s conference: Theorizing Gender and Sexuality in the Historic and Contemporary Middle East. The keynote speaker of this year’s conference will be Professor Paul Amar (University of California, Santa Barbara), author of The Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism.

For proposals related to the conference theme, questions of interest include the following:

  • How can theorizing about historic formations and articulations of gender and sexuality in the Middle East inform present day theory and praxis?
  • Can history serve as a reservoir of tools for contemporary revolutionary politics whose aims include gender and sexual emancipation?
  • How do we theorize gender and sexuality in the Middle East in a context of novel forms of global governance and security infrastructures?
  • What alternative geographies, vocabularies, and conceptual frameworks emerge in attending to particular historical struggles/movements that may not have had a lasting impact on contemporary politics or visions of state and society? What does reconstructing or recovering these struggles allow us to see?
  • What understandings of postcolonial state-formation emerge from moving beyond scholarly claims of “epistemic violence” in relation to matters of gender and sexuality in the Middle East?
  • How do feminist struggles within the Middle East inform, challenge, or compliment understandings of Western, rights-oriented political movements?
  • In what ways are categories of gender and sexuality deployed to police and regulate the boundaries of the nation? What new collective political identities emerge through the articulation of rights-claims on the part of gendered and sexual minorities? How are old collectivities activated and entrenched in the face of these rights-claims?

Where would we be without scholars to help us pay attention to what really matters? Why, the whole world is a humanities faculty lounge! How will we ever bring Drag Queen Story Hour to Raqqa if we don’t do the hard work of theorizing now? Surely the people of the Nineveh Plain shouldn’t have to go one more day without knowing how to use gender-appropriate pronouns in Arabic.

UPDATE: Reader Kgasmart:

Can history serve as a reservoir of tools for contemporary revolutionary politics whose aims include gender and sexual emancipation

Gender emancipation. Think about that. For the genderless or the genderqueer or gender-whatatever to be fully “emancipated,” the current binary thinking about gender must be abolished, perhaps punished; you, who celebrated the birth of a baby boy or girl, you are wrong and oppressing the child, and oppressing all who don’t fit into the binary.

It amazes me that the vast majority are now required to throw out the concept of “normal” on behalf of the vanishing few who don’t fit and abhor the mold.

Which is why, ultimately, Muslims and conservatives must make common cause. How interested, do you think, is the average Muslim in the Middle East in “queer” interpretations of his history? How many are interested in “gender and sexual emancipation?”

But it doesn’t matter what those conservative Muslims want, any more than it matters what traditionalists here want; what we have, in other words, is gender and sexual imperialism, both at home and abroad.



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