The University of Wisconsin Press

Cultural Studies / Gay & Lesbian Studies / Literature & Criticism

Colonial Affairs
Bowles, Burroughs, and Chester Write Tangier
Greg Mullins

Colonialism and desire in the novels of Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, and Alfred Chester

A North African port city that was home to as many Europeans as Moroccans, postwar Tangier was truly an international zone, a place where the familiar boundaries of language, culture, nationality, and sexuality blurred, and anything seemed possible. In the 1950s and 1960s three leading American writers settled in Tangier, where they were able to find critical new ways of living and writing on the margins of society. A subtle literary portrait of Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, and Alfred Chester, Colonial Affairs is also a complex and perceptive account of the ways colonialism and sexuality structure each other, particularly as reflected in the literature written in postwar Tangier.

Sexual commerce and culture flourished in Tangier during these years, as gay expatriates fled repressive sexual norms at home. Greg Mullins explores the covert and overt representations of sex, fantasy, desire, and sexual identity in the literature of Bowles, Burroughs, Chester, and Moroccan authors who collaborated with Bowles. He argues that expatriate writing in Tangier articulates the desire to exceed national and other forms of identity through representations of sex, especially marginalized forms of sex and sexuality. The literature that emerges variously celebrates, critiques, and attempts to evade the double bind of colonial sexuality.

Framed in relation to queer and postcolonial theory, Mullins’s work is grounded in contemporary debates about sex, race, and desire. His sophisticated yet nimble analysis establishes beyond any doubt the central importance of colonialism and sexuality in the fiction of these writers working at once at the center and the margins of tradition—and reveals to contemporary readers the queer angles of their distinctly original work.

Greg Mullins is a member of the faculty of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

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October 2002
LC: 2002004269 PS
184 pp.   6 x 9   7 b/w photos

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Paper $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-17964-9
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The cloth edition ISBN 978-0-299-17960-1 is out of print.

An excellent critical account of the work of three American expatriate authors, Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, and Alfred Chester, all of whom lived in Tangier during the post-World War II era. Mullins's key theme is the sexual politics of their fictions and its relation to colonialism. The theme is fascinating, and Mullins handles it with subtlety and thoughtfulness."
—Henry Abelove, Wesleyan University

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