Sexual sovereignty from Hawaii to Lebanon

 Last week, the Center for American Studies and Research hosted a conference program on sexual sovereignty focused on the issues of citizenship, governmentality and territory with relation to the state and its affairs.

  Queer theorist, author of the controversial “Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times” and one-year visiting professor teaching a class in American studies at AUB, Jasbir Puar opened the floor for the many speakers. The three days had no discourses and presented a weighty diversity of refreshing ideas.

  The first day of the conference, moderated by Alex Lubin, Elena Glasberg and Omar Al-Dewachi of AUB, was mainly centered on nation building and the process of disciplining sex discourses.

   Scott Morgensen of Queen’s University discussed the rapidly prevailing issue of pinkwashing in Israel, which suggests that Israel’s promotion of gay rights makes it seem highly liberal, masking the inhuman violations of Palestinian rights.

  Tamer Shrinian of Duke University also discussed the protection of Armenia from its homosexual “enemies.”

  The keynote speakers of the day were Sima Shakhsari of Wellesley College, who spoke about the issues of transgender refugees of Iranian nationality, and J Kehaulani Kauanui of Wesleyan University, who talked about state sovereignty and sexuality in Hawaii.

  The second day had an even more varied platform that focused on the highlighted issues of sexual lawfare and the remaking of kinship. Adam John Waterman, Lisa Hajjar and Puar of AUB moderated the conference.

  Maya Mikdashi of New York University spoke about the controversy that exists in Lebanon, while Emily O’Dell of AUB spoke about transexuals and the issues of the Iranian Islamic law.

  In addition, the first keynote speaker, Peter Coviello of Bowdoin College, had a highly entertaining and enlightening talk on Mormons, while second keynote speaker Elizabeth Povinelli of Columbia University spoke about queer objects.

  The final day’s discussions, moderated by Nadia Cheikh and Mona Fawaz of AUB, revolved around political movements in the Arab world with relation to Palestine, the ongoing revolutions, homosexual movements in Lebanon and many more.

  For instance, Monica Smith of the National University of Singapore spoke about how homosexual or transgender Sri Lankan workers leave their homeland due to its mistreatment of gays, and do not have to hide their orientation due to their invisibility.

  Smith talked about how during her research, one of the domestic workers told her, “I never admitted my birth gender. I always thought something was wrong with me.”

  Rasha Moumeh, a Lebanese activist, also spoke about the core problems with the penal code in Lebanon and the mistreatment of homosexuals here. She expressed how appalled she was at the forensic anal practice in Lebanon that was done to check if a person has participated in homosexual acts.

  Paul Amar of UC Santa Barbara gave the final keynote speech, in which he focused on Egypt’s revolution and how it affected the state with accordance to sexuality.

  “The conference was much more diverse than I had anticipated,” said AUB student Judy Baho. “There were speakers from all over the world and we discussed issues from Hawaiian independence to the rights of Lebanese woman.”


Nur Turkmani
Staff Writer

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