Richard Philips
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Drawing distinctions
Richard Burton’s interventions on sex between men
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In this chapter, Richard Francis Burton charted and deployed a series of sexual geographies. He asserted that men who have sex with men 'deserve, not prosecution but the pitiful care of the physician and the study of the psychologist'. The Sotadic Zone is distanced from England, and is both geographically and sexually disconnected. Most tangibly, Burton reproduces geographical and imaginative distance between contemporary constructions of Occident and Orient, by pinning his Sotadic Zone. By traversing a series of sexual cultures, accumulating a picture of diversity, he assembled a case against the moral universalism of his time. Most immediately, Burton spoke to sexuality politics in British colonies. English laws governing sex between men, like those on other subjects, were extended to some other parts of the Empire. The European sexualisation of Africans, central to colonial discourse, spoke to a wider set of colonial questions and relationships.

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Sex, politics and empire

A Postcolonial Geography


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