Between Banat

In celebration of Arab American Heritage Month, this week's review utilizes "queer Arab critique" to unpack queer Arab experiences in literature, film, and art.

Between Banat: Queer Arab Critique and Transnational Arab Archives

Shomali, Mejdulene Bernard. Duke, 2023
224p bibl index, 9781478016649 $99.95, 9781478019275 $29.95, 9781478023906

Between Banat: Queer Arab Critique and Transnational Arab Archives book cover.

This groundbreaking work charts new territory in gender studies. In Between Banat Shomali (Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County) “develops [a] queer Arab critique grounded … in attentiveness to the between: desires between bodies, bodies between nations, words between languages, nations between one another” (p. 3). In chapter 1 she examines how the character Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights limits discourses for Arab American authors, hedged in by heteronormativity, assimilation, and state violence. Chapter 2 hearkens back to the golden age of Egyptian cinema. While Shomali acknowledges that the stories end in heterosexual pairings, she argues that dance within homosocial environments, homoerotic desire, and close female relationships dominate the space of the films. Chapters 3 and 4 examine queerness in fiction and non-fiction through novels and essay collections, respectively. The concluding chapter calls upon readers to literally “smash” or “grind” the patriarchy with a look to the future through a critical reading of the film Bar Bahar (2016), an examination of the feminist Nöl Collective fashion line, and a discussion of some of the publications from Maamoul press. The film, the fashion line, and the press all “imagine transnational Arab communities and collectives [and] reject respectability” (p. 172).

Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers, advanced undergraduates through faculty, and professionals.
: M. L. Russell, East Carolina University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Middle Eastern Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Studies
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – Middle East & North Africa
Choice Issue: Mar 2024

Enjoy this week’s review? Check out more reviews of related titles: