[P2749] Mediating Desire: Female Homosociality in the Modern Middle East

Created by Tahereh Aghdasifar
Sunday, 12/04/11 11:00am


This interdisciplinary panel brings attention to the political and social significance of female homosociality in the Middle East. Through sites such as the art world, the urban spaces of Cairo and Tehran, and attention to both official state discourse as well as the voices of women engaging with homosocial spaces, we aim to further a conversation about the historical and contemporary importance of female homosociality in the Middle East, as well as where slippages between the homosocial and homosexual may or may not occur. There has been a recent increase in both popular and scholarly literature on homosexuality in the Middle East. Within these discourses, however, homosociality often gets enveloped within homosexuality, and the importance of homosocial bonds and spatial formations are frequently erased. Presenting the work of scholars across disciplines, this panel considers the significance of female homosociality in the Middle East, and also explores the role of desire and how it is mediated in different spatio-temporal realities.

The first paper examines the Iraqi government’s framing of homosocial leisure practices after the 1958 revolution as un-productive and wasteful. This paper examines why homosociality was interpreted as threatening by an Iraqi government focused on rapid economic development and the depoliticization of the Iraqi public sphere. The second paper concentrates on the intersections of art and homosocial space in Abu Dhabi by examining governmental construction of homosocial spaces in order to view art. This paper explores how government-sanctioned homosocial space is presumed to be emptied of desire, and thus "safe" for the viewing of artwork deemed sexual. The third paper examines how the diminishment of particular sites of female homosociality in Tehran may strengthen U.S. GLBT "rescue" narratives that aim to both construct sexual identities for people, and simultaneously inform them of their oppression because of those identities. This paper explores how these two processes combine to shrink the spheres of possible female desire. The fourth paper considers how women who desire women sexually in Cairo construct their desires through homosocial spaces they choose to engage with or create. Through the use of eleven life histories, this paper explores the multitude of sexualities that women create and identify with that do not always correspond with U.S. understandings of homosexuality.


Association for Middle East Women's Studies (AMEWS)


Anthro; Hist



Sara Pursley

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Tahereh Aghdasifar

(California State University, Dominguez Hills)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;