Literature and Theatre

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Gender, anti-Semitism and temporality in medieval biblical drama
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This book produces an important re-theorisation of the ways gender, time and Judaism have been considered in late medieval biblical drama. It employs theories of gender, performance, antisemitism, queer theory and periodisation to complicate readings of early theatre’s biblical matriarchs and patriarchs. It argues that the conflicts staged by these plays provide crucial evidence of the ways late medieval lay producers, performers and audiences were themselves encouraged to question, experience, manipulate and understand time. Interrogating medieval models of supersession and typology alongside more contemporary models of ‘queer’ and topological time, this book charts the conflicts staged between dramatic personae in plays that represent theological transitions or ruptures, such as the Incarnation, Flood, Nativity and Bethlehem slaughter. While these plays reflect a Christian preoccupation with what it asserted was a ‘superseded’ Jewish past, this book asks how these models are subverted when placed in dialogue with characters who experience alternative readings of time.

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Queering the Nativity in the Towneley Second Shepherds’ Play
Daisy Black

This chapter examines what happens when the Towneley Second Shepherds’ Play deliberately complicates the timeline of its biblical source and uses this play as a starting-point for a critical re-evaluation of current work on queer temporalities. Moving away from models of queer time which hinge on the presupposition of a normative, or homogenous, way of experiencing time, it suggests instead that a narrower idea of temporal queerness be deployed which constitutes the interruption of time directed towards (heterosexual) procreation. In so doing, it examines the Towneley Play’s delayed and inverted nativity in which a woman appears to give ‘birth’ to a sheep and in which the promised house full of children is curiously missing.

in Play time
Interstitial queerness and the Ismaili diaspora in Ian Iqbal Rashid’s poetry and films
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

This chapter examines the poetry and film of Canadian Ismaili Ian Iqbal Rashid. It argues that Rashid’s debut feature film, Touch of Pink (2004), queers the heteronormative genre of the Hollywood romantic comedy while focusing on an underrepresented community, namely the East African Ismaili diaspora in Canada and Britain. The chapter suggests Rashid’s characters are placed at the interstices between Ismaili traditionalism, colonial and postcolonial modernity, and diasporic postmodernity. It begins with an analysis of Stag (2002), a short film resonating with Rashid’s poetry, and its critique of the lingering legacies of colonialism in postcolonial Britain. It also analyses Rashid’s first short film, Surviving Sabu (1997), arguing that it rehearses a building of bridges between two generations of diasporic Muslims. Lastly, it undertakes a reading of Touch of Pink suggesting that it constructs migrant Muslim women as less imperviously traditional than Muslims brought up in the West would want us to believe. It is argues that Alim, the film’s protagonist, needs to outgrow the constraining colonial legacies of Western film, while his white British boyfriend Giles is required to become attuned to the cultural distinctiveness of Alim’s experience as a member of an ethno-religious minority.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
Queering ethnicity and British Muslim masculinities in Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil (2012)
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

This chapter explores Sally El Hosaini's My Brother the Devil (2012), after a preliminary analysis of Muslim female homosexuality in her fictional short Henna Night (2009). The chapter suggests that, while focusing on the relationship between two British brothers of Egyptian heritage living in East London, El Hosaini’s narrative interrogates intersecting issues of ethnicity, religion, national identity, gender, and sexual orientation in a manner that disorganises Western expectations about British Muslim youth. The chapter illustrates how the older brother’s same-sex relationship with a French Arab challenges European ethnic absolutism. In the face of the central youth gang’s conjoining of masculinity, violence, and criminality, it is suggested Islam provides competing versions of Muslim masculinity that gradually relinquish violence and prize interpersonal empathy, while resisting Western views on Muslim women as invariably repressed and segregated. Finally, the film’s dealing with queerness, which rejects a Westernised ‘coming out’ narrative arc, is shown as challenging homonationalist models of sexuality prescribing cultural and sexual assimilation to the West’s constructed ‘Other’.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
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Thinking across
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

The conclusion summarises the book’s findings about queer interethnic desire, Islamic femininities and masculinities, and the queer self in time and place. It suggests that none of the artists referenced in the book have the same relationship with Islam, and that their Muslim identity is a matter concerning their own relationship with God. It is suggested there is no queer Muslim diasporic community of writers and artists as such, but a variety of communities locally created. It is argued the work of the chosen artists is often not part of the cultural mainstream, so their visibility is still an ongoing issue. Finally, ways forward in the study of global Islam are sketched, particularly the recent flourishing of decolonial studies, with its specific focus on the role of Islam in the global South, as well as the possibility of non-literalist and mystical dimensions of Islam, such as Sufism, to offer the metaphysical conditions for decolonisation. It is finally proposed that for decolonial Islam to emerge fruitfully, it needs to remain intersectional and also transversal, uniting with heterodox Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the fight against Euro-American and Islamic hegemonies.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
Exploring gender, anti-racism, and homonormativity in Shamim Sarif ’s The World Unseen (2001) and I Can’t Think Straight (2008)
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

The first chapter in Part II offers an exploration of Shamim Sarif’s first novel, The World Unseen and its 2008 film adaptation, and of I Can’t Think Straight (2008) and its eponymous film version. The narratives are approached in light of intersecting issues of race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality in apartheid South Africa and contemporary Britain. It is argued that Sarif’s depiction of the romantic relationship between two Muslim women in South Africa, and of a British Muslim woman and a Christian Jordanian woman of Palestinian heritage in contemporary Britain, challenge the Western stereotype of submissive Muslim and Arab women and of their male relatives as universally patriarchal. Sarif’s reinscription of a female homosexual vocabulary onto Arab-Islamicate cultures offers an antidote the erasure of female Muslim homosexuality in contemporary Islamic discourses. The chapter probes Sarif’s critique of Muslim homophobia. It also suggests that Sarif’s configuration of same-sex desire in relation to the dominant Western model of ‘coming out’, is homonormative; yet, despite the limited vistas offered by her characters’ middle-class perspectives, Sarif’s deployment of queer female bodies forge clandestine countermemories in the face of discursive suppression of Muslim female homosexuality.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
Queering time, place, and faith in the diasporic novels of Rabih Alameddine
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

This chapter retrospectively explores Rabih Alameddine’s fiction dealing with the Lebanese diaspora in the USA: The Hakawati, I, the Divine, and KOOLAIDS: The Art of War. The chapter initially considers The Hakawati’s reinscription of homosexuality in Islamic (hi)stories and its problematic censorship in contemporary Lebanese communities. Such a disorientation of heteropatriarchal mores is rendered possible through Alameddine’s ‘druzification’ of history – a pun on Rushdie’s ‘chutnification of history’ – from his diasporic perspective, by adapting and interweaving stories, histories, and religious texts in a manner that syncretises them. It then examines the queering of gender performance in I, the Divine, a novel that critiques both Druze patriarchy and homonormativity in the West. It concludes by analysing the queering of time and place, via Judith/Jack Halberstam, in KOOLAIDS, a novel that, it is argued, assembles the Lebanese Civil War, the American AIDS crisis, as well as America and Lebanon, through a queer Muslim pseudo-prophetic narrator living with AIDS. It is proposed that Mohammad irreverently dismantles heteronormative scriptural exegesis and amalgamates sacred texts in order to defy literalist religious orthodoxies. It is also suggested that KOOLAIDS posits a form of queer family at a remove from the prescriptions of bloodlines.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
Unveiling American Muslim women in Rolla Selbak’s Three Veils (2011)
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

The last chapter of Part II explores Rolla Selbak’s Three Veils (2011). The religious symbol of the veil is analysed as standing metonymically for the film’s three American Muslim protagonists. The chapter suggests the film depicts the women’s struggles with familial and societal expectations about their Muslim femininity, particularly regarding arranged marriages, rape, domestic violence, and homosexuality. It is argued that the film’s protagonists struggle with inherited ideas of what constitutes a ‘good Muslim’ and Arab girl, as they find themselves grappling with the competing ideologies of American liberalism and Muslim traditionalism. The three girls are constructed as the good, the deviant, and the bad Muslim. Although Selbak tackles controversial topics regarding the American Muslim community, it is argued she does so in an attempt at dealing with real issues assailing Muslim women, yet she depicts an American Muslim community that is gradually becoming more attune to the plights of women. Amira, the homosexual Muslim, and Nikki, the queer Muslim, do not end up together, and Amira becomes a hijab teacher in Jordan, which constitutes Selbak’s admission that allegiance to faith and community can still impede the free expression of homosexual desire.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
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Queering Islam and micropolitical disorientation
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

This chapter contextualises the book’s scholarly contribution. The chapter begins with a critical survey of the complex historical relationship between Islam and homosexuality, with attention to the work of Scott Kugle, Samar Habib, and Khaled El-Rouayheb. The chapter establishes that the current Islamist dismissal of homosexuality does not hold when considering Islam’s deeply embedded cultural homoeroticism. In dialogue with Joseph Massad and Habib, the chapter furthers a blended model of sexuality which strategically adopts constructionist and essentialist perspectives. This is aided by the elasticity and multivalence of the term queer, which is offered as an anti-normative positioning against the strictures of both Western homosexual ethnocentrism and Muslim homophobia. Inspired by the work of Gayatri Gopinath, Sara Ahmed, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, this chapter coins the term queer micropolitical disorientation, arguing that queer Muslims in the diaspora disorganise both nationalist and diasporic ideologies with their dissenting sexualities. The chapter proposes an antithetical methodology, via the work of Edward Said, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin, which ‘writes back to power’ and which is attentive to cultural and political specificity.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
Queer phenomenology, and cultural and religious commodifi cation in Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and The Buddha of Suburbia (1990)
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

The book’s opening analysis of queer interethnic desire involves the work of Hanif Kureishi. The chapter undertakes a new reading of Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette under the auspices of ‘queer phenomenology’, probing the film’s blurring of private and public bodies and spaces and its assemblage of individual perspectives challenging racism and ethnic exclusivism. The chapter proposes that the film’s queer micropolitical disorientation challenges the essentialist identity categories dictated by mainstream dominant ideologies, as well as colonial social hierarchies and neoliberal Thatcherite ideologies. Meanwhile, it also focuses on how female Muslim sexuality and gender non-conformity also subverts Muslim and South Asian gendered spaces in the diaspora. It performs a queer phenomenological analysis of the film’s closing scenes, where the violence suffered by queer bodies in queer spaces generates trust between different factions of British society, hence micropolitically blurring the lines that segmentalise the nation’s ethno-religious communities. The subsequent analysis of The Buddha of Suburbia argues that queerness is forfeited for the sake of joining the dominant cultural mainstream, and that the truly transgressive queer characters are those who oppose normative values in the margins of British society.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film