Between Validation and Emasculation: Paradox of the West as Architect of Queer Autonomy in Rabih Alameddine’s The Perv

Sleiman El Hajj

Abstract


Unlike his more recent novels such as The Hakawati (2006) and An Unnecessary Woman (2013), which also lambast patriarchy, but not from a queer perspective, the early fiction of Rabih Alameddine, Lebanon's only openly gay writer to date, seeks to destabilize hetero-normative boundaries by a critical engagement through creative narrative with the homo-politics of diaspora. In resisting the coercion of the Lebanese and, to a certain extent, the Arab or Middle Eastern homosexual into calibrated, conformist social moulds, his narratives present the West as a plausible refuge in which his exiled gay characters can thrive.


In this article, I argue that a nuanced reading of this refuge is needed since the exilic sanctuary in Alameddine's The Perv (1999), his only short story collection to date, is paradoxical. Its illiberal sexualized response to queerness as a form of otherness is extrapolated to similar issues of marginalisation and sexualized abuse enacted by the patriarchal polity that has othered Alameddine’s queer(ed) exiles in the first place. The Western sanctuary’s seemingly antithetical notions of emasculation and empowerment become, ultimately, the very qualities factoring into his usage of strong sexual language in his explicit depiction of the coercive sexuality into which the encounter with the gendered and/or queered other has been relocated in different texts and cultural contexts in The Perv.


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