Queering Orientalism, Ottoman homoeroticism, and Turkishness in Ferzan Özpetek’s Hamam: The Turkish Bath (1997)
in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
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This chapter proposes that queer diasporas are inverted in Ferzan Özpetek’s debut feature film, Hamam (1997), exploring the experiences of an Italian man in modern Istanbul. This chapter undertakes a reading of Hamam which interrogates the film’s use of the Orientalist homoerotic spatial trope of the Turkish bath. Whilst the film has been deemed as perpetuating European imaginaries about the sensually and sexually alluring Orient and of the civilising ‘white saviour’, the analysis demonstrates that the homosocial spaces of the eponymous hamam remain micropolitically transgressive, productively re-inscribing same-sex desire onto contemporary Turkish culture. Character connect across ethnic and national divides, at a remove from the Italian protagonist’s inherited Catholicism, and from the clandestine workings of Kemalist and Islamist homophobia illustrated in the film’s denouement. The chapter suggests that Hamam does not victimise the figure of the abandoned wife whose husband has turned towards men, but that she continues the architectural restoration work her dead husband started in a manner that does not equate the film’s exploration of male queerness with a silencing or ignoring of women’s perspectives.

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