With this scholarly, intellectual history, Columbia professor Massad critiques how Arabs have narrated their sexual desires in scholarship and literature and attempts to explain recent changes in such narratives as a response to, and to some degree an internalization of, pervasive and pejorative Western views of Arab sexual desire. Collecting a number of modern Arab scholars' thoughts on sexuality, Massad initially analyzes how these scholars have described nonnormative or "deviant" sexual behavior in an effort to teach their contemporaries about the often fluid sexual mores of earlier civilizations. He then notes that, starting in the late twentieth century, racist representations of Arab sexual desire and chauvinistic Western notions of human (and gay) rights began to permeate the discourse and transform cultural notions of deviance in the Arab world. Finding that recent Arabic novels reflect a "sexual taxonomy" that ultimately represses nonnormative sexual behavior by anchoring it to binary notions of hetero and homo, Massad urges resistance to narrow Western notions of sexual identity and encourages fresh consideration of the relationship between sexual activity and sexual identity in Arab culture. Driscoll, Brendan
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"A pioneering work on a very timely yet frustratingly neglected topic.... I know of no other study that can even begin to compare with the detail and scope of [this] work." - Khaled El-Rouayheb, Middle East Report "In Desiring Arabs, Edward Said's disciple Joseph A. Massad corroborates his mentor's thesis that orientalist writing was racist and dehumanizing.... Massad brilliantly goes on to trace the legacy of this racist, internalized, orientalist discourse up to the present." - Financial Times"