"Queer Strai(gh)t?: The Liminal Space of the Strait of Gibraltar and the Hybrid Space of Tangiers in Juan Goytisolo and Abdellah Taïa."
Thu, March 22, 2012 • 4:00 PM • BEN 2.104
Lecture by Professor Gema Pérez-Sanchez (The University of Miami)
Spanish cultural representations of the encounter between recent Moroccan immigrants and Spaniards betray a number of racial, sexual, and cultural anxieties the cannot be understood without a simultaneous intersectional analysis of race, sexuality, and gender. In her larger book project, Prof. Pérez-Sánchez addresses the cultural manifestations of Spanish racism and argues that they are often intricately enmeshed in forms of Spanish homophobia and sexism that can be traced back to Spain¹s first major historical encounter with North African migration in the medieval period. Most Spanish literary and filmic works about the crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar dramatize heterosexist anxieties underpinning Spanish masculinity. These anxieties are projected, often violently, onto the bodies of immigrants, as Carlos Molinero demonstrates in his 2001 film, Salvajes. Underlying these homophobic and racist representations is an imaginary projection of Morocco ("the other side of the Strait/ la otra orilla"), as a threatening space of sexual ambiguity.
By contrast, gay Moroccan Francophone writer, Abdellah Taïa (in his novel, L¹armée du salut  and other works), queers Spaniards and Moroccans¹ imaginary and real relations to the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangiers, and migration to the Iberian Peninsula, thus sometimes challenging and other times reinscribing prevalent Spanish anxieties about those liminal and hybrid Maghrebian spaces. Also, veteran gay Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo (famously inspired by Jean Genet), a long-time resident of Morocco‹has taken upon himself, both as a literary-autobiographical project and as a political mandate, the queering of Spain from the other side of the Strait. Famous for giving voice to the voiceless (not just gays and lesbians but, particularly, illiterate immigrants from the Maghreb, and political dissidents), Goytisolo, nevertheless, reinscribes Orientalist tropes about the Maghreb. In the tortured voyage of self-discovery he unfolds in his memoirs, Goytisolo comes to terms with his desires for a very particular kind of men: working class, illiterate, hyper-masculine men from, what he calls, following British Orientalist Sir Richard Burton, "The Sotadic Zone."
In this paper, Professor Pérez-Sanchez will contrast the Taïa¹s representation of those liminal and hybrid spaces that have been key to Spanish-Moroccan relations with those representation of the same spaces by Goytisolo, exploring along the way the complex interplay of French-Arab-Spanish literary expression and gay identity.