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Sexuality and War

Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East

Evelyne Accad
Copyright Date: 1990
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    Sexuality and War
    Book Description:

    "A courageous analysis of Arab writers, addressing the connections between masculinity, violence, and nationalism." - Robin Morgan, Ms.."Rarely have sexuality and war been treated with such poignancy and historical concreteness .... The force of these often intertwined phenomena endemic to the human condition are considered with incisive and wrenching specificity from within one of the most baneful convergences of sexuality and war in recent history." - Djelal Kadir, editor, World Literature Today."Personal, powerful, passionate, uncensored." - Fedwa Malti-Douglas, The Journal of Women's History.A welcome departure from stereotypical nationalist conceptions from which no solutions to the current impasse can possibly emerge." - Joel Benin, The Middle East Report.Accad's extraordinary pacifism is deeply compelling to women as it is deeply challenging to men." - Andrea Dworkin.A splendid book. Drawing on interviews with Lebanon's village women and her close readings of Lebanon's contemporary novelists, Accad manages to pull back the veil that has shrouded so many conventional nationalisms, revealing their roots in men's effort to control women's sexuality." - Cynthia Enloe, author of Does Khaki Become You?"Extraordinary in weaving together literature, feminist theory, and theories of war and violence. Her analysis of the relationships between sexuality, war, and nationalism is stunning in its frankness and importance." - Berenice A. Carroll, Purdue University."It is in the women's writings on the Lebanese civil war that Accad discerns alternative visions that could shape a non- violent reality." - Miriam Cooke, The Middle East Studies.This book should remind us how patriarchies can operate similarly in societies we most often define through difference .... [Accad's] forthright, critically respectful, caring treatment of Lebanese lives and worlds resonates as we engage with the longterm repercussions of the Gulf War. - Marilyn Booth, Women's Review of Books.This compelling book offers an exploration of the indissoluble link between war and sexuality based on over twelve years of interviews by the well-known Lebanese expatriate teacher, critic, and writer.Evelyne Accad explores what she calls the indissoluble link between war and sexualtiy. She refers to sexuality as the physical and psychological relations of men and women, and examines Middle Eastern customs involved in defining such relationships. She argues that many of the problems faced by societies at war stem from the way male sexuality is viewed and imposed and from the oppression of women within cultural parameters. For twelve years Professor Accad interviewed women throughout the Middle East about their sexuality and relationships with men. On the basis of these interviews and a close study of six novels written by both men and women on the subject of the Lebanese war, she explores the connection between sexualtity and war and contrasts the reactions of male authors with those of their female counterparts. Each author views war as having roots in sexuality.Evelyne Accad concludes that "there is a need for a new rapport between men and women, women and women, and men and men: there is a ned for relationshops based on trust, recognition of the other, tenderness, equal sharing, and love devoid of jealousy and possession. Since the personal is the political, changes in relationshops traditionally based on domination, oppression, and power games will inevitably rebound in other spheres of life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0544-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Kathleen Barry

    Evelyne Accad’s study of sexuality and war in the Middle East brings to the surface once again the most basic assumptions of international feminism: confronting the issues particular to any group of women is in the best interest of the liberation of all women, and in the very particularities of race, culture, and national identity there is commonality to women’s experience of oppression. Under patriarchal power, sexuality constitutes one of the most personalized forms of domination, ranging from sexual objectification to violence. Sexuality is fundamental to women’s control of their own bodies, and how it is socially constructed will in...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    And this city, what is it? A whore. Who could imagine a whore sleeping with a thousand men and continuing to live? The city receives a thousand bombs and continues its existence nonetheless. The city can be summarized by these bombs. … When we had destroyed Beirut, we thought we had destroyed it. … We had destroyed this city at last. But when the war was declared finished and the pictures of the incredible desolation of Beirut were broadcasted, we discovered we had not destroyed it. We had only opened a few breaches in its walls, without destroying it. For...

  6. PART I Unveiling Sexuality in War

    • ONE Sexuality and Sexual Politics: Conflicts and Contradictions for Contemporary Women
      (pp. 11-26)

      Sexuality seems to have a revolutionary potential so strong that many political women and men are afraid of it. They prefer to dismiss its importance by arguing that it is not as central as the economic and political factors that are easily recognizable as involving the major contradictions—such as class inequalities, hunger, poverty, lack of job opportunities—that produce revolutions. But sexuality is linked to all these other factors and to get at the roots of the important issues confronting us today, it can no longer be ignored.

      I would like to suggest the importance of sexuality and sexual...

    • TWO An Occulted Aspect of the War in Lebanon
      (pp. 27-38)

      The importance of incorporating a discourse on sexuality when formulating a revolutionary feminist theory became even more evident as I started analyzing and writing about the Lebanese war. The war itself seems closely connected with the way people perceive and act out their sense of love and power, as well as their sense of relationship to their partners, to the family, and to the general society. The argument has often been made that women’s issues detract from the war effort, that wars create such conditions of despair that women’s issues are unimportant within this context, and that if the “right”...

  7. PART II Women Unmask War

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 39-42)

      InThree Guineas, Virginia Woolf writes about war and how women and men relate to it. She felt herself a victim of both male culture and its outcome in war, two of which she witnessed in her lifetime. In Woolf’s view, it is very difficult for women to understand and write about war since it is an experience foreign to them; fighting has been the man’s habit, not the woman’s: “The vast majority of birds and beasts have been killed by you, not by us; it is difficult to judge what we do not share. How then are we to...

    • THREE Hanan al-Shaykh: Despair, Resignation, Masochism, and Madness
      (pp. 43-63)

      Hanan al-Shaykh was born in 1945 and grew up in a strict Shiʿite Muslim family from the South of Lebanon. She studied in Beirut and later attended the American College for Women in Cairo, where at the age of twenty-two she wrote her first novel,Intihar rajul mayit(Suicide of a Dead Man). She then returned to Beirut, working as a journalist at two magazines,Al Hasnaʾ (Beauty), the major women’s magazine, andAn Nahar(The Day) newspaper supplement. On her marriage, she moved to the Arabian Gulf, where her husband worked, and there she wrote her second novel entitled...

    • FOUR Etel Adnan: Courage, Engagement, and Self-Sacrifice
      (pp. 64-77)

      Lebanese poet and painter, Etel Adnan wrote her first novel,Sitt Marie-Rose, during the siege of the Palestinian camp of Tel al-Zaatar in the summer of 1976. Adnan tells us that Marie-Rose, the main character of her novel, “was not a friend of mine. She was a person I knew. I met her. She was sometimes on Lebanese television” (quoted in Judith Pierce, p. 51). As Miriam Cooke notes, the novel is based on the true story of a Syrian woman who taught in a school for mentally retarded children, but was murdered for her support of the Palestinian cause...

    • FIVE Andrée Chedid: Determination, Vision, Endurance, and Belief in Humanity
      (pp. 78-90)

      Novelist, poet, and dramatist, Andrée Chedid is an outstanding international literary figure. Of Egyptian-Lebanese origin, she was born in Cairo in 1920, attended boarding schools in Cairo and Paris, received a B.A. from the American University in Cairo, and married Louis Chedid, a medical student, at the age of twenty-one. They spent the next three years (1942–1945) in Lebanon, then moved to Paris in 1946.

      Chedid is an extremely prolific writer, having published more than nine novels, sixteen collections of poems, two collections of short stories, two plays, and two essays. Her work has been adapted for the cinema,...

    • SIX Active Nonviolence Versus Victimization
      (pp. 91-94)

      If we apply Virginia Woolf’s ideas on war to the novels analyzed in this section, what conclusions can we reach? What choices do women have in their lives and in the face of war? Can they influence their society and change the cycles of violence in which the world seems hopelessly entangled? Or are they forever trapped, victims of situations over which they have no control?

      Zahra, inThe Story of Zahra, enters the world of men by having a relationship with a sniper, one of the worst perpetrators of the violence ripping her country apart. She cannot change such...

  8. PART III War Unveils Men

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 95-98)

      Throughout the ages, men have been fascinated with war. At some very deep level, it has been for them a way to prove their existence, an expression, according to Adam Farrar, of “male desire” (pp. 68–70). Desire closely linked to sexuality and the death instinct has been much written about by famous authors such as Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, to name only a few, and lesser-known ones. Sexuality connected with war, oppression, power, aggressiveness has been analyzed in works by a great many authors ranging from Wilhelm Reich to Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault, Henri Laborit, and René Girard....

    • SEVEN Tawfiq Yusuf Awwad: Revolution, Ethics, Revenge, and Destiny
      (pp. 99-110)

      Tawfiq Yusuf Awwad was born in 1911 in the village of Bharsaf, Lebanon, where he experienced the Ottoman occupation and the famine of World War I, the subjects of two of his important works, a volume of short stories entitledAl-sabi al-aʿraj(The Handicapped Boy) and the novelAl-raghif(The Loaf). He studied at St. Joseph University in Lebanon and graduated with a law degree in 1934. He founded a journal,Al-Jadid(The New), between the two world wars, was a leading advocate of independence for Lebanon under French mandate, and was placed in detention in 1940 because of his...

    • EIGHT Halim Barakat: Despair, Fear, Revolt, Tradition, and Heroism
      (pp. 111-134)

      Halim Barakat was born in Kafroun, a Syrian village near the Mediterranean and Lebanese border, in 1933, the son of Christian parents who moved to Lebanon when he was still a child. Barakat attended school in Lebanon and earned a degree in sociology from the American University in Beirut. He pursued his studies in the United States, obtaining a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Michigan. He taught at the American and Lebanese universities in Beirut for several years, served as a research fellow at Harvard University, and is presently teaching and doing research at Georgetown University in...

    • NINE Elias Khoury: Ambivalence, Fear of Women, and Fascination with Death and Destruction
      (pp. 135-159)

      Elias Khoury, a Christian Lebanese, was born in Beirut in 1948. Student and professor of history and sociology, he has taught these subjects at the Lebanese University in Beirut and at Columbia University in the United States. He participated in the creation of several literary reviews and has contributed to the daily Lebanese Arab newspaperAl Safir(The Ambassador). He has written three novels on the Lebanese war which have had quite an impact in the Arab world. Among his publications are three novels—Fima yataʿalak rawabit al-nitak(Concerning the relations of the Circle, 1975),Abwab al-madinat(The City Gates,...

    • TEN War/Masculinity Versus Life/Freedom
      (pp. 160-164)

      In the war novels written by men, war reveals man’s nature as marked by what has typically been considered masculinity. Male authors construct images of war inscribed by codes of masculinity learned from their culture. Masculinity involves aggressiveness and violence, which are directly linked with political and personal exploitation of nature and women. Exploitation takes on various forms, from exhausting and misusing the world’s resources, to oppressing other races, sexes or ages, to invading and/or dominating other countries or continents, to running the arms race. The consequences of such values are death, destruction, and more violence and death. It is...

    • ELEVEN Personal and Political Action for the Transformation of Society
      (pp. 165-174)

      This book is a result of my emotional and intellectual commitment and history of the last twenty years. It has grown out of my condition as an Arab woman, which made me leave my country of birth, Lebanon, at the age of twenty-two, in order to free and assert myself as an autonomous human being. It has come out of my anguish and pain at seeing my beautiful country destroyed senselessly over the last fourteen years. It is also the development of previous studies I did on the role of women in North Africa and the Middle East through sociological...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-194)
  10. Index
    (pp. 195-198)