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Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literatureby Stephen Ellis
Synopses & Reviews
The dramatic impact of Islamic fundamentalism in recent years has skewed our image of Islamic history and culture. Stereotypes depict Islamic societies as economically backward, hyper-patriarchal, and fanatically religious. But in fact, the Islamic world encompasses a great diversity of cultures and a great deal of variation within those cultures in terms of gender roles and sexuality.
The first collection on this topic from a historical and anthropological perspective, Homosexuality in the Muslim World reveals that patterns of male and female homosexuality have existed and often flourished within the Islamic world. Indeed, same-sex relations have, until quite recently, been much more tolerated under Islam than in the Christian West.
Based on the latest theoretical perspectives in gender studies, feminism, and gay studies, Homosexuality in the Muslim World includes cultural and historical analyses of the entire Islamic world, not just the so-called Middle East. Essays show both age-stratified patterns of homosexuality, as revealed in the erotic and romantic poetry of medieval poets, and gender-based patterns, in which both men and women might, to varying degrees, choose to live as members of the opposite sex. The contributors draw on historical documents, literary texts, ethnographic observation and direct observation by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors to show the considerable diversity of Islamic societies and the existence of tolerated gender and sexual variances.
For the last decade Liberia has been one of Africa's most violent trouble spots. In 1990, when thousands of teenage fighters, including young men wearing women's clothing and bizarre objects of decoration, laid siege to the capital, the world took notice. Since then Liberia has been through devastating civil upheaval and the most feared warlord, Charles Taylor, is now president. What began as a civil conflict, has spread to other West African nations.
Western correspondents saw in the Liberian war a primeval, savage Africa-a "heart of darkness." They focused on sensational "primitive" aspects of the conflict, such as the prevalence of traditional healers and soothsayers, and shocked the international community with tales of cannibalism, especially the eating of the body parts of defeated opponents, which was widespread.
Eschewing popular stereotypes and simple explanations, Stephen Ellis traces the history of the civil war that has blighted Liberia in recent years and looks at its political, ethnic and cultural roots. He focuses on the role religion and ritual have played in shaping and intensifying this brutal war.
About the Author
Will Roscoe is the award-winning author of The Zuni Man/Womanand Queer Spirits: A Gay Men's Myth Book and the editor of Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology and Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder by Harry Hay.
Stephen O. Murray is a comparative sociologist who lives in San Francisco. He is the author of American Gay, Latin American Male Homosexualities, Oceanic Homosexualities, and a half dozen other books.
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