A History in the Making
: Muslim Sexual and Gender Diversity between International Human Rights Law and Islamic Law

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis offers a critical historical analysis of the discourses on sexual and gender diversity related to international human rights law and Islamic law, as well as an ethnographic account of contemporary Muslims in Lahore, Pakistan whose pluralist sexual and gender experience defies the punitive gaze of state law.

The central hypothesis of this project is that critical - and parallel - examinations of the legal, social and political genealogies of human rights law and the Islamic legal tradition, as they relate to human sexual and gender difference, can reveal some salient patterns of insurrectionary vernacular discursive practices. It is, moreover, posited that sexually diverse and gender-variant Muslims already engage in such practices, which help them to negotiate their legal, political and social positions. The ethnographic part of this thesis, then, documents and interrogates those practices, while the concomitantly pursued historical analysis provides a broader background for understanding their invaluable role.

Thereby compiled and recounted, a history - of sexual and gender plurality amidst the umma (1) past and present - is always already in the making. Whilst its roots - and rites­ run deep into the idiosyncratic forms of Muslim sociality, that narrative is now increasingly seen as a part of larger human rights and sexual/gender reforms. This thesis, thus, also endeavours to contextualise and historicise the treatment of sexual/gender diversity in international law- epitomised in the (legal) ascendance of the notions of sexual orientation and gender identity - by retracing, inter alia, the making of the sexual and gendered subject of Christian and European law.

Ultimately, this thesis is an interdisciplinary account of Muslim sexual and gender diversity, and of the attempts of historical and contemporary legal systems at its regulation.

1 Umma denotes the Muslim community as a whole.

Date of Award1 Jun 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRobert Wintemute (Supervisor), Penelope Green (Supervisor) & Maleiha Malik (Supervisor)

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