Brigands, Poets, Assassins, and Queens

MAR 28, 2014 | 6:30 PM TO 8:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




March 28, 2014: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM





MEMEAC co-sponsor: Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS)


This paper traces a queer Arab narrative of exile and estrangement back to pre-Islamic times. It starts with the brigand-poets of ancient Arabia who, pushed to starvation in the desert, swore to take vengeance upon their tribes. It then moves on to the Book of Strangers from medieval Baghdad, which can also be read as a queer narrative of estrangement. Finally, with the Lebanese Civil War and its production of queer exiles, the paper focuses on Hoda Barakat’s Stone of Laughter, which is set in Beirut, and Rabih Alameddine’s Koolaids, the events of which unfold between Beirut and San Francisco, war and the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s. Rather than simply representing these queer characters as victims of discrimination, this paper focuses on them from a broader perspective as they angrily fight and write back.

Tarek El-Ariss is Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to Trials of Arab Modernity, he is editor of The Arab Renaissance:  Literature, Culture, Media (MLA Book Series, Texts and Translations, forthcoming 2014). El-Ariss also co-edited a special issue of the International Journal of Middle East Studies on Queer Affects and contributed an article (May 2013). His new project examines intersections of digital activism and experimental writing in the Arab world.

Dr. Jack Drescher will be in the discussant. A psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City, Dr. Drescher is author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man (Routledge) and Emeritus Editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health.