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Arabian Uranianism: T.E. Lawrence's rendition of homoerotic desire in the Arab East

posted on 2023-06-09, 21:14 authored by Feras AlkabaniFeras Alkabani
T.E. Lawrence's views on gender and sexual relations in the Arab East are documented in his literary and biographical accounts. Scholar, antiquarian, poet, soldier and imperial diplomat, Lawrence experienced various parts of the Levant and Arabia before and during his engagement in the Arab Revolt (1916-18). This paper explores Lawrence's depiction of same-sex relations and homoerotic desire through analysing certain anecdotes in his literary and documentary writing about gender and same-sex relations in the Muslim Arab East. Highlighting the significance of the figure of the 'blond beduin', or 'Lawrence of Arabia', the paper exposes Lawrence's manipulation of his positioning: as an 'English sheikh' and a British imperial officer attracted to themes of Uranian love, seemingly more freely available in the Arab East. Lawrence's love and devotion to Dahoum, a Syrian 'donkey-boy', who accompanied him on his scholarly pre-War travels in the Levant is juxtaposed with other accounts in Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his 'personal narrative' of the Arab Revolt and the 'War on the Eastern Front'. Lawrence's rendition of the Arabian youthful boy-to-boy love will be highlighted in his depiction of Farraj and Daud, the two Arabian boys who join the Arab Revolt uninvited. Finally, Lawrence's own self-fashioning as Prince Feisal's aide-de-camp will be analysed vis-à-vis certain passages in Seven Pillars in which Lawrence's depiction of Prince Feisal is imbued with homoerotic tension highlighting Lawrence's attraction to Feisal and the way in which he positioned himself in relation to him. The paper situates Lawrence and his interest in 'Other' sexuality within Orientalist discourse and highlights the role of the Arab East as a 'liberating' platform for Orientalist sexual wish-fulfilment.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

Interfaith Love: Love, Sex and Marriage in the Islamicate World from the Middle Ages to the Present

Event location

Leiden University

Event type


Event date

22 June 2016 - 24 June 2016

Department affiliated with

  • Sussex Centre for Language Studies Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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