Over two sunny days in Paris, participants at the conference “Les mots du désir” (“Words of Desire”) shared thoughts, hypotheses, prejudices, assumptions, and conclusions about how premodern, modern, and contemporary Arab societies have discussed eroticism in literature, song, film, dance, quasi-scientific discourse, and everyday speech. European and North American academic interest in the sex lives of Arabs living and dead, as well as in the sexual identities, representations, mores, and behaviors prevalent in past and present Arab societies shows no sign of abating, but one way in which the organizers of this conference attempted to avoid the trap of the colonial gaze that continues to color most such analyses was to focus on the languages in which desire, behavior, repulsion, and other emotions are expressed. Not every paper was devoid of orientalist prurience, but most were serious attempts...

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