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Between the past and the future: modern political liaisons & homoeroticism in T. E. Lawrence’s Oriental masquerade

posted on 2023-06-09, 18:31 authored by Feras AlkabaniFeras Alkabani
This paper explores the changing trajectory of T E Lawrence’s interaction with the Arab East on the eve of modernity. I aim to juxtapose Lawrence’s pre- First World War scholarly attraction to the antiquity of the ‘Unchanging East’ (his archaeological expeditions in Syria) with his subsequent military engagement in the Arab Revolt, which redrew the map of much of the region and changed it since. Critically, the paper analyses this shift in Lawrence’s largely self-allocated roles in light of his inclination to Oriental disguise. By examining Lawrence’s various forms of Oriental attire, the paper attempts to provide a narrative of the events that led to Lawrence’s metamorphosis from a passive scholar into an active soldier fighting for the Arab national cause (among other agendas). By so doing, the paper highlights homoerotic strands in Lawrence’s adoption of Oriental masquerade and exposes its functional and metaphorical significance. For Lawrence’s masquerade was not merely a way of becoming or being the Other; it also represented the short-lived metaphorical marriage of imperial interests and the ambitions of anti-Ottoman Arab nationalism at the time. This modern (and modernist) liaison of interests between the British and the Arabs in the First World War was to have one of the most dramatic consequences in the history of the Arab Orient - a major political change, which ushered the region into the modern era and significantly impacted Lawrence’s (and other Orientalists’) views of the ‘Unchanging East’, which had now - thanks to Lawrence’s efforts - changed beyond recognition.


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

BRISMES Annual Conference 2014: The Middle East in Global Perspective: Interactions Across Time and Space

Event location

University of Sussex, Brighton

Event type


Event date

16-18 June 2014

Department affiliated with

  • Sussex Centre for Language Studies Publications

Research groups affiliated with

  • The Middle East and North Africa Centre at Sussex Publications

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