Sexual Desire, Modesty and Womanhood: Somali Female Hybrid Subjectivities and the Gabar Xishood Leh Discourse
Extending work that examines Somali female identity, this thesis addresses how gendered subjectivity is articulated and performed within the Somali social imaginary vis-à-vis notions of “tradition,” modernity, colonialism, and post-colonialism. The project starts with the construction of an idealized Somali womanhood (what I refer to as gabar xishood leh, a modest girl), the affective pull and attachment of this identity formation, and the compulsion to perform it. In part, I illustrate how this gendered paradigm lays the conditions for being and belonging within the Somali collectivity. As the gabar xishood leh discourse is embedded with a particular conception of modesty, female desire and agency is bracketed outside the gabar xishood leh ideal. As such, this distancing precludes collective belonging and opens up real possibilities of unbelonging. The negotiation of modesty and female sexual desire is the focus of this project. I ask: how do women exert sexual agency, ‘voice,’ and modesty in ways that allow them to participate fully in the (various but often silenced) performances of Somali womanhood? In looking at classical Somali female poets (1899-1944 in pastoral lands of Northern Somalia) and modern Somali female poets (1969-1989 in the urban centre of Mogadishu, Somalia), I argue these poets have hybrid subjectivities that allow the expression of sexual desire thorough the subversion of normative codes of modesty. In addition to re-signified codes, specific spaces such as alternative publics, and the agentive acts of speaking through codes and performative listening, open up the different trajectories of how classical and modern Somali female poets creatively, socially, and politically participate in the Somali public sphere. Using theories of affect, hybridity, in-between space, and public culture, among others, I question how the nexus of modesty, sexual desire, and Somali femininity not only exposes lacunae in the Somali collective imagination but creates an unconventional map of Somali womanhood—a map that re-imagines gabar xishood leh in its complexity.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/15381
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