Thursday, 10 May 2007

Men of Afghanistan

Wartorn Afghanistan has, in my opinion, some of the most handsome men (and, certainly, women) in the world.

Photographer Michael Luongo has a website with portraits of Afghani men, with the mission of "challenging media sterotypes".

Visit Luongo's website to see more portraits like these: They are all available for purchase. He also has a site with more general photographs from Afghanistan.


Talibonita said...

There are many issues with Michael Luongo's photos of Afghan men. He has a site that is part of this series -- Gay Afghanistan -- and it promises a gay adventure through Afghanistan which echoes other earlier works of homoerotic orientalism. Masood Kamandy, a young Afghan American, photographed Kabul during its reconstruction era and has many beautiful photos of Afghans, Afghan men, and I find them more nuanced that Luongo's work. He also worked with young Afghans at Kabul University (he set up the photography dept) and had them photograph themselves. The photos that came out of Kamandy's classes were amazing!

Tinet said...

Thanks for your comment, Talibonita! I think the Chirayliq blog itself is treading the explosive borderlands between "erotic (hetero- or not) orientalism" and genuine sympathy for people in these regions. We have a special interest in the regions we are writing about, and part of our own roots are in these regions, and we also like looking at beautiful men.

I don't think it's problematic - yet - to just show photos of attractive Afghani men, even if they were made with the sole purpose of capturing their attractiveness.
I looked at the Gay Afghanistan website, and to me it seems like a mix of, indeed, homoerotic orientalism, but also building bridges between cultures and learning to appreciate and sympathise with people from other parts of the world. I have noted that there is specific fear and tension in the Western gay communities regarding Islamists, oppressive Middle Eastern regimes that outlaw homosexuality and also Middle Eastern/Muslim people in general. And if you think of it from a point of view within this community, the non-orientalist part of the message he conveys can be seen as an attempt to break up those fears and tensions.

Anyway, thank you for your tip about Masood Kamandy! His projects are indeed very interesting. I have to find out more about his work ...

Talibonita said...

Nice response! Yes, I did worry at first that Chirayliq Men was a bit on the orientalist tip but your own backgrounds make it entirely different. There is a big difference when women objectify male bodies and when white men objectify men or women of other cultures. Also, you both have such a great sense of humor about this that I wouldn't compare your work with Luongo's work. I don't think he means anything mean by it. But one can be an orientalist and not mean any harm at all and actually have very good intentions. An orientalist may even have friends and say he is part of that community but still the work strikes a person odd.

However, all that said, I do love your blog and think that it is fantastically done! I admire the chirayliqs on this site as well ;) Thank you for doing this!

Tinet said...

Thank you! :o)

I guess this topic can be discussed endlessly. There are several layers, a complex structure, of oppression and power relations. Homosexual white men are still in many ways in an inferior position to heterosexual white men, many heterosexual non-white men, and also heterosexual women. But I guess women by average are in an even larger number of inferior positions in relation to other groups.

Objectification of genders today is still almost always about objectifying and beautifying women for the "male gaze" - and this is done by both men and women. So it can be progressive and refreshing if men are objectified and beautified for the "female gaze". And here my opinion is that it also doesn't matter much whether it is done by men or women.
But of course, I admit that today it is most commonly done by homosexual white men. But we as women can follow their spearheading example and make our own objectifications and beautifications of men, the way we like it ...

Yes, endless discussions. :o)

Talibonita said...

I recommend a reading of "Homoerotics of Orientalism" by Joseph Boone. There are some interesting comments about empire and homosexuality or homosexual experiences. However way you cut it, gay or straight, America has colonized Afghanistan. Discourse about Afghanistan by Americans, particularly when they recommend travel to a place that offers a gay adventure that is rougher than sipping cosmos has the tinge of dangerous exoticism that is a luxurious fantasy of empire. Yes we can talk about it forever. But that relationship is what I should have clarified when talking about power dynamics. I don't want to compare gay men to women to play a game of who is more oppressed. There is more than this issue.