Literature and Theatre

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Matrilinearity, Sufism, and l’errance in the autofictional works of Abdellah Taïa
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

The first chapter in Part III deals with Abdellah Taïa’s autofictional work: his short fiction collections Mon Maroc and Le rouge du tarbouche, and his novels Salvation Army and An Arab Melancholia, with due reference to Taïa’s debut film, Salvation Army. This chapter firstly explores Taïa’s chosen genre and its articulation of embodiment. It then links the writing of the self to Taïa’s postcolonial queer melancholia, conceptualised in dialogue with Jean Starobinski’s notion of l’errance – errancy – which performs an assemblage of temporalities validating his position as a gay, Moroccan, Muslim, Arab man. It is argued Moroccan society’s homophobia triggers religious doubt in Taïa’s autofictional self, and a desperate embrace of matrilineal and Sufi versions of Islam is posited at a remove from Islamist Sunni literalness. The chapter also analyses Taïa's critique of colonial social hierarchies in contemporary Western sexual tourism. It is suggested Taïa’s most hopeful episode of homoerotic connection is enacted in the representation of queer diasporas, where same-sex desire articulated in transit temporarily dissolves man-made geographical and personal borders. Finally, it is proposed that Taïa’s articulation of the legacies of pre- and Islamic poetry inscribes his queer sensibility within the long continuum of Arab cultural history.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film

This book explores representations of queer migrant Muslims in international literature and film from the 1980s to the present. It brings together a variety of contemporary writers and filmmakers of Muslim heritage engaged in vindicating same-sex desire from several Western locations. The book approaches queer Muslims as figures forced to negotiate their identities according to the expectations of the West and of their migrant Muslim communities. It coins the concept of queer micropolitical disorientation via the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Sara Ahmed and Gayatri Gopinath. The author argues that depictions of queer Muslims in the West disorganise the social categories that make up contemporary Western societies. The study covers three main themes: queer desire across racial and national borders; Islamic femininities and masculinities; and the queer Muslim self in time and place. These thematic clusters examine the nuances of artistic depictions of queer Muslims’ mundane challenges to Western Islamophobia and Islamicate heteronormativity. Written in a scholarly but accessible style, this is a timely contribution to the controversial topic of Islam and homosexuality, forging understanding about the dissident position of Muslims who contravene heteronormative values and their equivocal political position in the West.

Alberto Fernández Carbajal

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.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
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A queer and cartographic exploration of the Palestinian diaspora in Randa Jarrar’s A Map of Home (2008) and Him, Me, Muhammad Ali (2016)
Alberto Fernández Carbajal

This last chapter explores the construction of the queer female diasporic body in Randa Jarrar’s debut novel, A Map of Home, and in her short-story collection Him, Me, Muhammad Ali. It is argued that Jarrar constructs it as the simultaneous repository of Palestinian dispossession and of Arab and Islamicate homosexual repression. It analyses how Jarrar’s narrators express shame about their same-sex desire without knowing where it comes from, and it is argued it stems from internalised heteropatriarchal Muslim and Arab cultural values. In the face of Islamicate homophobia, Jarrar offers irreverent queer exegesis which contravenes the heterosexist bias of traditionalist religious interpretation. It is also argued that national maps are forfeited in favour of the mapping of queer subjectivities. The mapping of bodies against the prescription of nation-states helps us consider queer subjectivities in all their diasporic complexity, heeding, specifically, what it means to be queer, Arab, and of Palestinian and Muslim heritage, simultaneously. It is suggested Jarrar’s texts vindicate the queer female Muslim body as needing to claim ownership of itself, over and above inherited narratives of national dispossession and heteropatriarchal violence.

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
Tattooing, primitivism, class and criminality
Matt Oches

The mutiny against William Bligh’s command of the Bounty inspired numerous fictional adaptations; it also facilitated Euro-American primitivist and criminological discourses about tattooing. Many of the Bounty's crew were tattooed at Tahiti, including the majority of the mutineers. These tattoos can be read as specular markers of the destabilisation of the civilised/savage binary. Bligh compiled two descriptive lists of the mutineers, which produced a strong correspondence between tattooing, criminality and rejection of Western civilization. Two types of primitivist identification based on social class appear in the description; identification with the ‘noble savage’ by officers such as Christian and with the ‘racial Other’ by the ‘class Other’, the common sailors. Using primary historical research, this chapter explores how the documentation of the tattoos of the Bounty mutineers helped to facilitate emergent primitivist and criminological discourses on tattooing. Furthermore, this historical analysis provides an insight into the representations of the mutiny across literature and film with particular attention given here to Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall’s novelisation Mutiny on the Bounty (1932), Richard Hough’s Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian (1972/1979) and three American films (Lloyd 1935, Milestone 1962, Donaldson 1984).

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
Criminality and the function of bodily marks in the Harry Potter series
Lucy Andrew

This chapter explores the function of tattoos and scars in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and considers the contribution of these marks to the series’ overarching crime narrative. Focusing primarily on the final four books, the chapter addresses three major instances of tattooing and scarring: the Dark Mark – the brand of Voldemort’s Death Eaters; Harry’s lightning-bolt scar – the product of Voldemort’s failed killing curse; and the message imprinted on Harry’s arm through his use of Professor Umbridge’s ‘special’ quill to write lines during detention. This chapter considers the various conscious functions of these bodily marks – as a signifier of gang membership, a means of intimidation, a statement of possession and a punitive measure to control and modify behaviour through pain. It also examines the subconscious role of bodily marks in constructing the identities of and relationships between criminal, victim and seeker of justice. This chapter explores how the analysis of scars and tattoos illuminates the series’ treatment of crucial issues within crime literature, such as morality, criminal origins, the process of detection and the possibility of redemption.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
The portrayal of tattoos in Sarah Hall’s The electric Michelangelo and Alan Kent’s Voodoo pilchard
Hywel Dix

Drawing on Howard Becker’s classic sociological analysis of different art worlds, this chapter analyses the portrayal of tattooing as cultural practice in Sarah Hall’s The electric Michelangelo and Alan Kent’s Voodoo pilchard, and the portrayal of the sites in which that practice is situated both discursively and geographically. The portrayal of the tattoo in recent fiction points to a radical instability in the perceived status of tattooing as social practice. The social practice of tattooing is situated in the context of rapid commercial development on the one hand; and of the activities of a ‘criminal’ underworld on the other. The chapter considers the legitimacy of tattoos as serious art in the early twentieth century and today, and the effects of this on the politically transgressive potential of the practice.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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Tattoos, transgenics, and tech-noir in Dark angel
Will Slocombe

This chapter examines the ways in which the two seasons of James Cameron’s Dark Angel series (2000–2002) hybridise elements of the film noir and science fiction genres. The central character, a bio-engineered soldier called Max Guevara, solves crimes and rights wrongs, but also attempts to evade capture from military and civilian authorities. As such, Guevara’s character is hybridised through her roles, simultaneously acting as both criminal and detective, and embodying elements of the femme fatale. More importantly, however, throughout the narrative arc of the series, what becomes clear is that notions of purity – genetic as well as generic – are not valorised but contested, and generally lean towards favouring the traditionally monstrous ‘hybrid’. As a genetic chimera with a brand – a tattooed barcode imprinted within her DNA – Guevara serves as a bodily locus for this collapsing of categories and demonstrates the ways in which Cameron’s own category of ‘Tech noir’ (named after a nightclub in his 1984 Terminator) is imprinted both internally and externally upon the series through a mix of tropes and generic signifiers.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
Tattoos, the Mark of Cain and fan culture
Karin Beeler

The fantasy detective series Supernatural has generated interplay between production elements, ‘inter-texts’ (Hills) and fans. One key illustration of the show’s connection to other texts is evident in the way the series incorporates the trope of the tattoo. The tattoo is a strong thematic thread in the series that links the two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester, to both radical and ritual elements. Diegetic tattoos have gone beyond the boundaries of the show’s storyline and have become a brand by entering the realm of fan space, as fans copy the tattoo designs. Supernatural also continually engages with other detective stories or texts associated with the tattooed body in a self-reflexive way. The ninth and tenth seasons of the series link the concept of the tattoo with criminal or morally questionable elements through the introduction of the mark of Cain. The consumer 'branding' of Supernatural’s Mark of Cain reveals how this ‘tattoo’ has travelled beyond the boundaries of this fantasy detective show and achieved cult status. The contexts of fashion and fandom make the diegetic tattoos or supernatural marks in the series available to fans of Supernatural in extratextual and tangible ways, thus extending the life of these televisual images.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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Memory and identity in Christopher Nolan’s Memento
Peter Figler

In Christopher Nolan’s noir film Memento, Leonard’s tattoos rationalise his crime(s). They exemplify what Slavoj Žižek terms 'ideological fantasy', which 'consists in overlooking the illusion which is structuring our real, effective relationship to reality' and allows individuals to rationalise beliefs and behaviours through intentional self-deception. Previously depicted as an ‘regular Joe’, a man operating in the criminal milieu in order to avenge the brutalisation of his wife, Leonard’s character is radically reinscribed through the film. This chapter’s focus on whether Leonard suffers from retrograde or anterograde amnesia is instructive here. A detailed examination of Leonard’s medical condition introduces significant doubt as to who the criminals are in Memento as the viewer is forced to question the host of tattoos already on Leonard that he refers to as 'The Facts'. This chapter explores the cultural conflation of tattoos and crime in Memento, and examines the intersections of tattoos and psychological permanence relative to the body as a locus of ideological identity and truth.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives