Constructions of Masculinity in the Middle East and North Africa (AUC Press)

Constructions of Masculinity in the Middle East and North Africa: Literature, Film, and National Discourse, Edited by Mohja Kahf and Nadine Sinno

Cover of Constructions of Masculinity anthology

Constructions of masculinity are constantly evolving and being resisted in the Middle East and North Africa. There is no “before” that was a stable gendered environment. This edited collection examines constructions of both hegemonic and marginalized masculinities in the MENA region, through literary criticism, film studies, discourse analysis, anthropological accounts, and studies of military culture. Bringing together contributors from the disciplines of linguistics, comparative literature, sociology, cultural studies, queer and gender studies, film studies, and history, Constructions of Masculinity in the Middle East and North Africa spans the colonial to the postcolonial eras with emphasis on the late twentieth century to the present day. This collective study is a diverse and exciting addition to the literature on gender and societal organization at a time when masculinities in the Middle East and North Africa are often essentialized and misunderstood.

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I contribute Chapter 5: “Mahfouz, Al-Mutanabbi, and the Canon: Poetics of Deviance from the Masculine Nationalist Discourse of Al-Sukkariya” (pp. 103-119). The chapter deconstructs the East-West binary that proliferates in academic discussions on sexuality in Arabic literature, to argue that Nobel Prize Winner, Naguib Mahfouz confounds a simple reduction of sexual nonconformity in his canonical Trilogy (1956-57). Instead, he posits exclusively homosexual attachment as “deviance” from Egyptian nationalist norms of sexual behavior, meanwhile accessing a premodern poetic lexicon to represent political and homoerotic affiliations. By distinguishing a textually-authorized Arabic tradition (turāth) from nationalist jargon of cultural authenticity (aṣālah), Mahfouz’s work signals a critique of the discourse that finds its legitimacy in their congruence.