Sunday, March 22, 2009



I am writing this blog as a diaristic account of my thinking and experiences, particularly regarding religion, philosophy, theory, culture, and my recent engagement with Islam. Other related topics might include aesthetics and art, gender and sexuality, the body, subjectivity, and social and material relations.

I have titled this blog Desiring/Submitting. I have recently been struggling with two categories. I hope that my thinking through some issues relating to these categories may create a conversation with other readers in the blogosphere.

Both of these terms are complex and polysemous, inflected with numerous connotations.Desiring and desire are terms that have been in circulation in anglophone and francophone queer theory and history of sexuality academic circles. In common parlance, desire can signify any need or want or craving. Desire can connote a bodily hunger, a refined and educated taste, and a complex cultural field. The material and cultural production of desire and the history of desire are important areas of study that I wish to engage as part of this blog. I also describe some of my own interests, wishes, and desires in my everyday interactions.

"Submission" is the literal translation of the Arabic word "Islam". To be a Muslim is to be one who submits to the will of Allah. "Submission" is also a term in circulation in the BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadomasochism) community and culture, in which submission virtually always means a consensual and negotiated submission to a particular person or people in an erotically charged context. Both Islam and BDSM are constellations of knowledge about which I have been learning and communities in which I have been participating in the past several months.

I do not present desiring and submitting as two poles of a binary opposition. Desire does not entail a libertarian-hedonistic worldview of "I do what I want". Submission does not require a denial or destruction of the self. Rather, desiring/submitting constitutes a troubled und unstable dialectic of sorts. Desiring and submitting are each techniques of affirming and closing off possibilities.

Both desiring and submitting are relational processes. Desire frequently invokes a desiring subject and a desired object. Submission requires a submittor and that to which the submitter submits. Paradoxically (and fabulously), in submission, the power to which the submitter submits--who may be God or some worldly power--is actually the grammatical "object".

I put these terms in the presenting progressive--"desiring" not "desire"; "submitting" not "submission"--because these are active and ongoing engagements in my life. Rather than seeing either desire or submission as a fixed momentary action, I see these as continuous practices and challenges. In that spirit, this blog is an unfolding conversation.

Islamic studies, queer theory, and Euro-Marxian critical theory are not theoretical approaches that have frequently found a comfortable home together in the blogosphere or other forums. inshaAllah this blog can be one small forum for such a critical project.

Thank you for reading. I welcome comments.


  1. Wow, what a great start on this blog! Nice writing, and you bring up fabulous points. One question I have is, why is desiring/submitting a "troubled and unstable dialectic"? For example, if one desires to submit, then there is no paradox, no illogical aspect -- it all fits. Do you believe it is possible that desiring to submit is a paradox? I'm looking forward to your answers! :)

  2. desiring and submitting are not necessarily polar opposites. however, they can become mutually exclusive for people who convince themselves that the two are inherently incompatible.

    and so i think desiring to submit is only a paradox to those who believe that fulfillment of desires cannot be found through submission. from a muslim perspective fulfillment is only worthwhile if pursued through submission.

    the islamic idea of submission is powerful because it does not belittle, ignore or vilify desires. rather fulfillment is made possible, lawful and is moreover encouraged through proper channels.

    desires are seen as creative forces leading to good when they are pursued in a lawful manner. religion ensures that we maintain the balance between the rights of individual and society, between man and nature, and between the worldly and the spiritual while we go about seeking fulfillment.

    when the limits of religion are transgressed fulfillment can lead to injustice, and exploitation.