[P6416] Decolonizing Desire in the Middle East: Incentives from Lebanon, Kurdistan and Turkey

Created by Isabel Käser
Tuesday, 11/30/21 2:00 pm


The recent scholarship on sexuality and gender in the Middle East successfully shows the empirical and theoretical gains to be made from an inter-disciplinary and at times experimental reading of desire, body, belonging, sexuality and intimacy, beyond the conventional paradigms of state, legal, military or religious institutions, important yet fluctuating arenas whose boundaries, significance and scope must be regularly re-assessed (Deeb 2010; Hasso 2011, 2014; Jabiri 2016). It is our belief that experimentation is part and parcel of decolonizing work, because it is capable of accounting for new ways of “sentipensar” or think-feeling (Escobar 2020), an intellectual exercise that encompasses the full sensorial spectrum on the human experience, and whose scope is necessarily for successful “epistemic de-linking” (Alexander & Mohanty 2010; Bacchetta & Haritaworn 2016; Falcon 2016; Lugones 2010; Mohanty 2003; Quijano 2007; Mignolo 2007; Santos 2014).

This panel revisits and retheorises gender and sexuality ‘from’ the Middle East, rather than applying existing theoretical paradigms ‘to’ the region. It is particularly interested in asking what a decolonised reading of body, desire and intimacy can add to the existing body of theory and understanding of the fluid boundaries between the military/civil, public/private, violence/resistance, and organised/everyday binaries. In order to address these questions, the papers complicate the concepts of celibacy in the context of Kurdish guerrillas, singledom in Lebanon, transgender daughterhood and motherhood, and exercise and self-making in Turkey, in order to provide a decolonized reading of each.

We theorize desexualization as a form of liberation in an armed struggle and place the concept of singledom in conversation with liberal interpretations of asexuality as identity politics, respectively. We also look at how trans people remake the violent conditions of their everyday lives by analysing the intimate boundaries between family, kinship, and friendship, and look at the process of making selfhoods as a relation recalibration, rather than an emancipation in Turkey. We do this by activating the full potential of desire, instead of the more conventional tropes of shame/honour in relation to society and nation. Our panel, then, rethinks the lexicon of desire while viewing it as a link in a complex map of intersecting power dynamics that operate at the micro (individual), meso (relational) and macro (institutional) levels. By doing so, it seeks to reassess simplistic identitarian interpretations of desire by relegating it to a structural analysis, without losing track of individual agency.


Anthro; Anthro; Anthro; Anthro; Anthro




Asli Zengin

(Rutgers University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sertaç Sehlikoglu

(University College London)
Sertaç Sehlikoglu is a social anthropologist specialised on issues related to subjectivity, intimacy, and desire. Her work often focuses on intangible aspects of human subjectivity that enables humans to change and transform social life. She analyses...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sabiha Allouche

(University of Exeter)
Sabiha Allouche is a third year PhD candidate in Gender Studies at the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS, University of London, from where she obtained her MA in Gender Studies (2012). Her current research examines the emergence of ‘dissident bodies’...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Sophie Chamas

(SOAS, University of London)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;