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Queering Paradigms VIII

Queer-Feminist Solidarity and the East/West Divide

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Edited By Katharina Wiedlack, Saltanat Shoshanova and Masha Godovannaya

Queering Paradigms VIII brings together critical discourses on queer-feminist solidarity between Western, post-Soviet and post-socialist contexts. It highlights transnational solidarity efforts against homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. It engages grass-roots activists and community organizers in a conversation with scholars, and shows that the lines between these categories are blurry and that queer theorists and analysts are to be found in all spheres of queer-feminist culture. It highlights that queer paradigms and theories are born in street protests, in community spaces, in private spheres, through art and culture as well as in academia, and that the different contexts speak to each other.

This anthology presents some of the radical approaches that emerge at the intersection of activism, community organizing, art and academia, through transnational exchange, migration and collaborations. It is a celebration of alliances and solidarities between activism, community building, art, culture and academic knowledge production. Yet, the collected work also brings forward the necessary critique of Western hegemonies involved in contemporary queer-feminist solidarity activism and theory between the ‘East’ and ‘West.’ It is an important thinking about, thinking through and thinking in solidarity and the East/West divide, setting new impulses to fight oppression in all its forms.

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3 Queering Sodomy: A Challenge to ‘Traditional’ Sexual Relations in Russia (Nick Mayhew)

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Nick Mayhew

3 Queering Sodomy: A Challenge to ‘Traditional’ Sexual Relations in Russia

The assumption that the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a tale about the sinfulness of homosexuality has long been a primary feature of Christian homophobia. Similarly, the derivative assumption that the Latin word sodomia meant ‘homosexuality’ has solidified the idea that homosexuality was not tolerated by Christians in premodern Europe. Fortunately, scholars of Latinate Christianity have shown beyond any reasonable doubt that ‘sodomy’ did not unambiguously mean ‘homosexuality’ in the Bible or in the medieval period (Jordan 1997; Burgwinkle 2004).

Such an intervention has not been staged in the Russian context. There are two words for ‘sodomy’ in Russian, if one understands ‘sodomy’ according to its popular definition, as a disparaging, generic, religiously charged term for gay sex. The most obvious word is содомское/sodomskoe and its variants (most commonly содомский грех/sodomskij greh [sodomitic sin]), a term now used to denote both female and male homosexuality. The second word is мужеложство/muželožhstvo, which literally means ‘man-lying,’ now used to refer to male homosexuality in particular. Both terms are used as homophobic slurs. Whilst the word содомское has already been effectively problematized by medieval Slavonic historian Eve Levin, the term мужеложство is still widely understood as unproblematically connoting anal sex between men. This chapter revises our understanding of both terms, in an attempt to show that Russian Orthodoxy may not have been hostile towards homosexuality in the premodern period. Primarily, I argue...

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