Monday, June 05, 2006

dishonest attacks

Homosexuality is not natural (prediscursive), but discursive (social, cultural, constructed), since 1985 I say that again and again. I agree with Massad's basic premise, that there was "originally" a different conceptualization of things homosexual in "Arabia", but I doubt very much that Ramzi and Faisal are responsible for the emergence of Arab gays and their repression.
Since before the Tanzimat of the Ottoman Empire the West is encroaching on the Middle East, North Africa and India. There is a material transformation (steam boat, rail way, streets), European products are flooding the markets (textiles, cheap soap, for a time even tarabush, keffiye and mocca cup), Western schools spread Western ideas (cf. Edward Said's autobiography) (and alienate children from their parents), state bureaucracies reach to the villages, new methods and new machines are introduced in agriculture and industry, the population grows enormously, the Bedouins come under state control or pushed to the margins, cities expand, housing changes, tribal structures loose in importance, slaves (and eunuchs) disappear (later appear srilankan maids), the role of Christians (and Jews) changes, nationalism, liberalism, feminism, socialism gain adherents; thanks to oil revenue and (SU–US rivalry fuelled) aid the state sector expands, girls attend state schools and universities, salaried jobs for young men and women, the printing press, radio, cinema (Hollywood), (satellite) TV, McDonald and jeans, condoms and contraceptives change the relations between the sexes.

Compared with these forces ILGA and AI are weak. I guess, I am more of a materialist, and Joe more of an idealist – just like his guru Ed. Said.
Could this be the reason for Massad hiding his text from me during 30 months? Could it be the reason for attacking me?
Purportly his article is aimed at the Gay International and those who share their essentialists view of things sexual ("a certain ontology and epistemology are taken as axiomatic by all of them").
But neither Bruce Dunne nor myself are affiliated with the Gay International, nor do we share the ontology/epistemology of the GI. There is no good reason for Massad to attack us in an article on gay missionaries of the American way of being a visible/out/marriage rights demanding gay.
Massad writes:
Schmitt asserts that in the Muslim world "male-male sexuality plays an important role. But in these societies there are no 'homosexuals'–there is no word for homosexuality–the concept is completely unfamiliar. There are no heterosexuals either."
Very similar to Massad's description of Arabia before the machinations of the GI: lots of male-male sexual practise but no gay identity.
Schmitt makes the essentialist claim that the absence of these categories in the Muslim world is a phenomenon that remains constant over time ... Schmitt's ahistoricism
I never made such a claim for the Muslim world, I think I never used the term. I made the claim for Arab, Turk and Persian societies before WWI–claiming that the words we now have were coined under Western influence. My view is neither essentialist, nor ahistorical.
Schmitt, tend to extend whatever judgment ... to the whole of Arab Muslim history
Quite wrong. I say that between Aleander the Great and the arrival of the steam boat there is neither a basic change in the mode of production nor in the gender organization of society. But I stress that the societies do change now, that the old gender system is on the retreat, that it is still strong on the country side, but vanishing in the urban middle class.
Massad is ahistorical. He does not give dates for any of his asserations. He claims there must have been change in "Arabia" because there was change in Europe. Could one be more euro-centric?
The language-based errors and mistakes in Schmitt's books are too numerous to list here.
This is libelous – if they are that numerous give two grave ones in the text and an other five in the notes. But Massad gives none, and the journal did not ask for a list for them to see the well-foundedness of his claim.

Before you read Massad's attack on Bruce Dunne's essay "Power and Sexuality in the Middle East" you might want to read it – it still on the net.
Bruce Dunne asserts that "sexual relations in Middle Eastern societies have historically articulated social hierarchies, that is, dominant and subordinate social positions: adult men on top; women, boys and slaves below". Presumably, in non-Middle Eastern societies such hierarchies did not "historically" exist except in the celebrated cases of "Greek and late Roman antiquity," but certainly not in the medieval, let alone the modern, "West." The "Middle Eastern" case is contrasted with the West; according to Dunne, the "distinction made by modern Western 'sexuality' between sexual and gender identity, that is, between kinds of sexual predilections and degrees of masculinity and femininity, has until recently, had little resonance in the Middle East".
Massad misreads again: Although Dunne sees differences between modern and pre-modern, Massad tries to paint him as an Oritentalist who contrasts an unchanging East with the West
This judgment is further illustrated by quotes from the two Egyptian native informants whom Dunne cites. The conclusion is inescapable: "Western notions of sexuality offer little insight into our contemporary young Egyptian's apparent understanding that sexual behavior conforms to a particular concept of gender". Dunne's approach is to demonstrate that in "Middle Eastern" society, unlike Western society, non-"egalitarian sexual relations" predominate and sexuality is seen as gender determined.
Massad chooses his words to denounce Dunne as an Orientalist, but Dunne does not only allow for recent changes in the Middle East (why in quotation marks?) but says that a certain form predominates, is hegemonic, but not pervasive.
Dunne's work exemplifies a type of anthropology that fails to problematize its own mythical idealized self, that continues to view the other as all that the self does not contain or condone, namely, nonegalitarian sexual relations, the oppressive rule of men, gender-based sexuality, patriarchy, and so forth. An anthropology that cannot abandon the mythological West as a reference point will continue to use it as the organizing principle for all of its arguments.
A grave attack, but it is unsubstantiated. The strange thing about it, is that Massad paints a picture of the idillic pre-GI East in which gays do not have to make do with gays (as in the West), but where "receptive parties in male-male sexual contacts ... have access to [their prefered] sex­ual object choice (i.e., exclusively active partners)" and where "the „active“ partners are [not] forced to limit their sexual aim to ... women or men ... [and can] see themselves as part of a societal norm."
Most I add that Massad did not give the URL where everyone could read Dunne's article and see whether his attacks were well founded or not?

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