University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Hanadi Al-Samman

Associate Professor, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures
"Queering the Arab Closet"

Project Summary:  “Queering the Arab Closet" explores sites of contestation and contamination resulting from Arab queers' adherence to the politics of the Western “closet.” The project examines three historical moments in Arabic literature and culture which articulate differing relationships of same-sex individuals to the concept of the closet (inside the permissive closet, out of the closet, or beyond the closet):  poetry in the pre-modern era, modern novels and plays, and contemporary visual culture.   In each moment, the book highlights the gains and challenges of adopting an international LGBT agenda.  It also explores how conflicts in identity have been shaped and sharpened by the politics of authoritarian regimes, civil war, and failed revolution.  I argue that we must shift away from fixed, binary epistemologies of the closet discourse to dynamic models that can capture the Arab queer body’s movements and affects as it performs new, intimate models of citizenship and heterogeneous belonging in the era of globalization.”

Project Update/Status:  Currently, I am tracing Middle Eastern queer refugee experience in the US and Europe as they negotiate their placement vis-à-vis the Gay International closet.