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Video Recording | Working Paper Series | Noor Bhangu: The Homoerotics of Haram Life

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Archive/Counter-Archive is delighted to share the recording of Noor Bhangu's Working Papers Series talk, "Homoerotics of Haram Life," which took place on Tuesday, February 28th, 2023. See below for Noor's abstract, bio, and the recorded video of her talk!


In recent Islamicate historiography, the haram has emerged as the dominant site through which to engage discussions of gender, power, and sexuality in the Islamicate world. Feminist historians like Ruby Lal and Subhadra Sen Gupta have assumed the task of de-mystifying haram life as written by European orientalists through a counter-discourse of domesticity and kinship. In trying to make visible the political lives and domestic careers of haram women, they have effectively snuffed out questions of sexuality in the archive. In effect, the feminist decolonization of the Islamicate archive has adopted forms of contemporary homophobia to legitimize and sanitize haram life and women’s history.

In this talk, Noor Bhangu will share her research on the historiography of female same-sex desires in the Mughal, Qajar, and Ottoman harams, from autobiographies of Mughal princesses, the writings of Indologists and Orientalists in the 18th and 19th century to the decolonial and feminist narratives produced in the last two decades. This research follows Barbara Harlow’s assertion that “[The future vision] must not only restore the interrupted history but reorient it in terms that take into account the intervening developments of colonialism, revolution, and independence, as well as the combined influences of the Third World,” and argues that our work of reorienting past losses into a future vision must also orient towards the complex developments in historical and contemporary Islamic sexualities. This talk pertains to the third chapter of Bhangu’s dissertation on the relationship between Islamic Art History and Islamicate sexuality.

Noor Bhangu is a curator and scholar, whose practice employs cross-cultural encounters to interrogate issues of diaspora and indigeneity in post- and settler-colonial contexts. Through curatorial intervention, she hopes to involve politics of history, memory and materiality to problematize dominant histories and strategies of presentation.

Bhangu completed her BA in the History of Art and her MA in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices. Her written work has appeared in academic and public journals, including Black Flash, gal-dem, Moveable Type: The University College London English Journal, Public Parking, Uncommon Sense, and C Magazine. Her curatorial practice includes projects: Overlapping Violent Histories: A Curatorial Investigation into Difficult Knowledge (2018), womenofcolour@soagallery (2018), Not the Camera, But the Filing Cabinet: Performative Body Archives in Contemporary Art (2018), and Digitalia (2019). Her projects have been exhibited in Toronto, New York, Berlin, Prague, and more. In 2018, she began her PhD in Communication and Culture.