Between Banat: Queer Arab Critique and Transnational Arab Archives

Regular price $ 25.95

by Mejdulene Bernard Shomali

Duke University Press

2/17/2023, paperback

SKU: 9781478019275


In Between Banat Mejdulene Bernard Shomali examines homoeroticism and nonnormative sexualities between Arab women in transnational Arab literature, art, and film. Moving from The Thousand and One Nights and the Golden Era of Egyptian cinema to contemporary novels, autobiographical writing, and prints and graphic novels that imagine queer Arab futures, Shomali uses what she calls queer Arab critique to locate queer desire amid heteronormative imperatives. Showing how systems of heteropatriarchy and Arab nationalisms foreclose queer Arab women's futures, she draws on the transliterated term "banat"— the Arabic word for girls— to refer to women, femmes, and nonbinary people who disrupt stereotypical and Orientalist representations of the "Arab woman."

By attending to Arab women's narration of desire and identity, queer Arab critique substantiates queer Arab histories while challenging Orientalist and Arab national paradigms that erase queer subjects. In this way, Shomali frames queerness and Arabness as relational and transnational subject formations and contends that prioritizing transnational collectivity over politics of authenticity, respectability, and inclusion can help lead toward queer freedom.


"Mejdulene Bernard Shomali's Between Banat will shatter everything you ever imagined you wanted out of a queer archive. Rejecting hetero-Orientalist binaries, Between Banat creates an epistemology of 'between'--a generative way of being, knowing, and desiring that constantly moves toward joyful freedom by sidestepping demands for legibility and authenticity. Theorizing intimacy outside of hetero- and homonormative frameworks, Between Banat is a long-awaited, lyrical love letter that invites us to forge collective, liberatory, queer Arab futures." — Amira Jarmakani, author of An Imperialist Love Story: Desert Romances and the War on Terror

“In this engaging, astute, and necessary book, Mejdulene Bernard Shomali expands understandings of queerness and femininity by working through the expansive transnational category of Arab identity. Enlarging the scope of queer of color critique by adding new vocabularies and applying innovative methods of close reading to an interdisciplinary and intergenerational archive, Shomali makes an enticing set of arguments for thinking with Arab femme-ness.” — Amber Jamilla Musser, author of Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance

About the Author:

Mejdulene Bernard Shomali is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.