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Lecture | Leiden Queer History Network

Frank Scholten in Mandate Palestine: Biblification, Orientalism, and the Classical Body

Thursday 6 February 2020
Free entry, no registration required. The talk is followed by a reception.
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Room 2.03

Please join us on February 6 for a presentation by Sary Zananiri (Leiden University) on the life and work of the Dutch amateur photographer, Frank Scholten. The lecture will be based on Zananiri’s research into the photographs that Scholten left to NINO, the Netherlands Institute for the Near East.

British Mandate Palestine

In 1920, Frank Scholten left Amsterdam, travelling for a year through Italy and Greece, before arriving in British Mandate Palestine in 1921. He would spend over two years in Palestine working towards the production of a photo-illustrated bible. While the collection Scholten left to NINO deals with many themes, from post-Ottoman communalism to archaeology to religious narrative, his documentary style gives us an important view of social life in the Mandate period, which is particularly interesting given its queer subtext. The selection of found images Scholten included in the archive further reinforces the queer subtext of his own photographic work, interweaving aspects of the biblical, classical and oriental. This provides us a transnational cultural insight into the use of art historical methodologies to legitimate homosexuality, connecting Europe to the Middle East culturally.

The period in which Scholten was in Palestine was a formative one on multiple levels. On the one hand, the opening years of the British Mandate saw the shift from military to civil administration. The shift from Ottoman sexual permissiveness (sodomy had been decriminalised in 1858) to the increasing British regulation of sexuality through the late 1920s and 30s makes it an interesting juncture to consider, beyond the broader ramifications of British influence. On the other hand, late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century developments in sexology had begun to fix sexual identity with terms like “urning,” “invert,” and “homosexual”—in contrast to the fluidity of the Arab world, as argued by Massad (2002).

The Scholten collection is unusual in dealing with the scope of Palestine’s diverse communities, but it is particularly interesting in the ways it negotiates transnational networks of (male) sexuality, giving us a rare insight into the queer milieus of early 1920s Palestine.

Sary Zananiri

Sary Zananiri is an artist and cultural historian. His interests sit at the intersection of religion, colonialism and visual culture with a focus on the ways in which social and cultural histories can explicate the political. He completed his PhD at Monash University looking at the confluence of 19th-century Western imaging of the Palestinian landscape and Zionist narrative. He is working with NINO, through the Frank Scholten fund, and on the NWO project ‘CrossRoads: European Cultural Diplomacy and Arab Christians in Palestine 1918-1948,’ led by Dr Karène Sanchez. He is currently researching the Frank Scholten photographic collection, investigating the impacts of the British Mandate on communalism in post-World War I Palestine, and also the transformations of Modernist Palestinian art and its confluence with iconography and Orthodox networks.

Leiden Queer History Network

This event is part of series of talks hosted by the Leiden Queer History Network, a new initiative co-convened by Dr. Andrew Shield (History) and Dr. Ann Marie Wilson (Leiden University College).

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