This issue started with a writing workshop, titled “Queer Feminisms,” that took place in the midst of a revolution. In its tangible form, it continues to contemplate ways to engage with queer feminisms as they have been conceptualized and experienced in Arabic-speaking countries in particular, as well as transnationally. Our understanding of “queer” – as a contextual political positioning that brings social justice struggles together, rather than an “imported” theory that exists in isolation – has informed the many processes of assembling this collection.
Arab camp is excessive, is subversive, is emancipatory, is visceral. Arab camp is queer and kitschy; it is at once naïve, self-conscious, and reflexive. Arab camp is self-Orientalisation, it is belly dance outfits worn by Khansa or The Darvish. Arab camp is golden framed mirrors hung on velvet textured wallpapers in the bathroom. It is so much terter, face coverings, and bustiers. Arab camp is textures, and bright clashing colors, it is knockoff Gucci T-shirts sold on sidewalks in downtown where lining the street mannequins clad in costumeish lingerie watch. It is somehow at once both Gadhafi, a military dictator with an eccentric wardrobe and the blossoming drag scene in Beirut; both distinct from the canonical Western kinds of camp, but also othered to each other, unequal in their affluence.
Returning to Palestine functions as not only the point of origin for how Palestinians come to identify themselves, but as an activator for aesthetic production as it reflects conditions of exile. Expressions of return in all its dimensions have become the prevailing cultural discourse for engagement with Palestine and Palestinian-ness, especially for Palestinians in diaspora. When Palestinians’ common capacity to engage with themselves exists mainly through this framework, how does this shape Palestinian diasporic ontologies? What happens when this concept of return is no longer the exclusive departure point?
It is with this in mind that I posit what I call authoritarian heterosexuality as a particular and particularly potent political regime, one that is entangled in colonial legacies and local sedimentations that inform the contemporary Egyptian state’s attitudes towards queers specifically, and towards its citizenry more broadly. By engaging in a structural analysis of diverse articulations and experiences of queerness, I am simultaneously engaging in an analysis of the ways in which authoritarian regimes, in their efforts to eradicate queerness, end up producing it along lines that are perhaps illegible when read with the optic of traditional queer theory.