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The Homoerotics of Orientalism [Hardcover]

Joseph Allen Boone

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Book Description

2 May 2014
One of the largely untold stories of Orientalism is the degree to which the Middle East has been associated with "deviant" male homosexuality by scores of Western travelers, historians, writers, and artists for well over four hundred years. And this story stands to shatter our preconceptions of Orientalism. To illuminate why and how the Islamicate world became the locus for such fantasies and desires, Boone deploys a supple mode of analysis that reveals how the cultural exchanges between Middle East and West have always been reciprocal and often mutual, amatory as well as bellicose. Whether examining European accounts of Istanbul and Egypt as hotbeds of forbidden desire, juxtaposing Ottoman homoerotic genres and their European imitators, or unlocking the homoerotic encoding in Persian miniatures and Orientalist paintings, this remarkable study models an ethics of crosscultural reading that exposes, with nuance and economy, the crucial role played by the homoerotics of Orientalism in shaping the world as we know it today. A contribution to studies in visual culture as well as literary and social history, The Homoerotics of Orientalism draws on primary sources ranging from untranslated Middle Eastern manuscripts and European belles-lettres to miniature paintings and photographic erotica that are presented here for the first time.


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A masterpiece and rare achievement; a completely new and convincing reading of a body of politicized knowledge that has dominated much of the field in the last thirty years. The entire concept of Orientalism will have to be totally rethought following Boone's book. -- Moshe Sluhovsky, Vigevani Chair in European Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem This book offers an erudite and timely interpretation of the phenomenon of homoeroticism in orientalism in the Near and Middle East. Treating a broad range of Western representations of the "Orient", Boone provides an important corrective to Edward Said's Orientalism by addressing the powerful ways in which Europeans writers' and artists' representations of homoeroticism in the "Orient" have covertly enabled the appeal of orientalism as a predominantly male mode of discourse. -- Ali Behdad, John Charles Hillis Professor of Literature at UCLA; author of Belated Travelers and A Forgetful Nation. Joseph Boone has opened a triple dialogue between Western perceptions (and fantasies) of Middle-Eastern homoeroticism, queer theory as it has evolved over the past decade, and the growing field of sexual studies in the Islamic world. Read The Homoerotics of Orientalism and discover that Boone has taken the necessary steps in offering oneself up to unsuspected, multiple ways of being. As he says, "how might the terms 'homoeroticism' and 'Orientalism', the two operative words of my title, each find itself refigured, wrenched apart and re-conjoined to create new meanings? -- Richard Howard, Poet, Columbia University A veritable tour de force. Boone's groundbreaking, timely book challenges us to revisit a wide range of orientalist visual and textual artifacts produced over the last four hundred and fifty years in which the recurrence of homoerotic desire contests heterosexual norms, colonial control, and race and gender hierarchies. The wealth of textual and visual materials and the broad selection of figures are, in and of themselves, extraordinary contributions to scholarship. A must read for scholars both of Anglo-European-American and Middle-Eastern and Islamicate gender and sexuality studies. -- Sahar Amer, Professor of Arabic and Islamic studies, University of Sydney Orientalism will never be the same after Boone's extraordinary book, which disrupts the heterosexual template implicit in Edward Said's Orientalism and refashions the cultural traffic between East and West as inescapably reciprocal, dialectical, and multiple -- in a word, global. As much an intervention in visual culture as it is a revelatory history of the literatures of both West and East, The Homoerotics of Orientalism with its staggering erudition and critical finesse courageously recasts the stark divide of Occident and Orient that produced Orientalism as mutually constitutive, creative, and informing as it has been destructive, and it does so in the form of a critical gift -- a book of utmost generosity, judiciousness, and political imagination -- that carries its own charge of love. -- Jennifer Wicke, Professor of English, University of Virginia Boone shatters the old binaries of Western Orientalist discourses AND the field of postcolonial studies and offers much needed insight for the field of sexuality studies in the Muslim world. A remarkable achievement! -- Janet Afary, Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion and Modernity and Professor of Religious Studies and Feminism, University of California, Santa Barbara Once every decade or so, a book appears that revolutionizes the field of GLBT studies... [ The Homoerotics of Orientalism] is a book that post-colonialists will seize immediately and argue over endlessly--but one that will also permeate the wider GLBT intellectual landscape. Every reader will benefit... Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 7/1/14

About the Author

Joseph Allen Boone is a professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California and the author of Libidinal Currents: Sexuality and the Shaping of Modernism and Tradition Counter Tradition: Love and the Form of Fiction. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Huntington, and the American Council of Learned Societies and has been in residency at the Liguria Center at Bogliasco, the Rockefeller-Bellagio Center, and the Valparaiso Foundation.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars blah blah blah 12 May 2014
By othoniaboys - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A century ago, an Orientalist would have been a European savant who had deeply studied the cultures of Asia and North Africa. Since 1978 or so, an Orientalist is now a European bigot with a load of misconceptions about the Islamic (or, as Boone puts it, the "Islamicate") world. I am an elderly gay man who lived in Morocco in the 1960s, so this world is not simply something that I have read about, it is something that I experienced -- and no, not as a sex tourist. I am very widely read, and yet Boone taught me a thing or two. He has certainly done his homework, and he cast his nets wide. So far, so good; but I am no friend of academic jargon or of trendy leftism. Here Boone and I part ways. I don't like people who use silly words like "heteronormativity." I have no use for feminism or Queer Theory. I don't believe in equality of any sort. I think that Gerome's painting 'The Snake Charmer' is a masterpiece and not something to dissect or complain about. There is the usual padding of the text with surplus wordage, a common fault among people who write 250-page books and then fatten them up like geese until they reach 500 pages. A book is all the better for being lean and mean. I liked the section on Safavid miniatures, but what has this to do with Orientalism? The black-and-white pictures tended to be difficult to examine. Oh, and Thesiger wrote to me long ago and ranted about how much he despised gay men. The Suaid boy whose picture graces page 391 was in fact a skilled dancer and catamite, as one might glean from Thesiger's 'Marsh Arabs' but Boone missed this one.
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