Literature and gender: understanding identity

Karim Maroun, 17/12/2016

It is wildly accepted that change can only start through education. The core of any human thinking lies in the education he is exposed to. One man who acknowledges this fact and works actively towards achieving not only an individual change but also a social one is Dr. Omar Baz Radwan, poet and professor at several renowned universities in Beirut.

The link of Dr. Omar Baz Radwan poetry blog

Omar recently received his PhD in Comparative Literature at the Dublin City University where he also earned his MA degree in Sexuality Studies. His stay in Dublin allowed him to collaborate with numerous scholars, activists and cultural organizations who advocate human rights, sexual freedom and intercultural communication through Art. With a thesis that focused on Performance Poetry/ Activism and Identity Construction in post-9/11 Arab-American ethnic studies, it is easy to understand why Omar chose to incorporate sexuality in his courses syllabi.

The professor aims at developing knowledge regarding the working diversity of sexual cultures, identities and the gender role formation in Lebanon. By including LGBT studies through Literature, in a country that controversially falls under Arab countries, he hopes to gear the Lebanese youth with the required tools to engage in socio-political and ethical debates and equip them with the right knowledge to make them more competent in their encounters with issues related to sexuality. With the use of a thorough and diversified bibliography including: Borderlands/La Fontera: The New Mestiza by G.E. Anzldua, Pop Out: Queer Warhol by Doyle, Munoz, J.E. and Flatley and What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now? by Halberstam, Munoz, J.E. and Eng., Dr. Radwan strives to create a community where initiative and creativity are fostered and where students share experiences and cross-disciplinary approaches from each other in order to better our society.

Photographer Zanele Maholi, Faces and Phases, 2010 / 2011

The signs of a rising awareness do not lie, however, in the works of the professor alone. It is rather an even bigger sign of success that the students, from different social, economical, religious and sexual backgrounds are actually well-read and open to the subject. The topic serves as a platform for a healthy debate over issues of freedom of expression and sexual orientation in Lebanon. And it is on that latter point especially that the educator stresses as a step towards a revolutionary process that carries our country towards social change and awareness.

Photographer Sarah Deragon, The Identity Project, 2014