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Sex, Knowledge, and Receptions of the Past$
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Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199660513

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199660513.001.0001

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Hybridizing Past, Present, and Future

Hybridizing Past, Present, and Future

Reflections on the ‘Sexology’ of R. F. Burton

(p.135) 6 Hybridizing Past, Present, and Future
Sex, Knowledge, and Receptions of the Past

Joanna de Groot

Oxford University Press

This piece analyses the genealogical and discursive hybridity of the approaches to sexual knowledge taken in the ‘sexological’ work of the traveller/scholar Sir Richard Burton (1821–90). It focuses on the erotic, ethnographic, and exotic features of his presentation of sexuality in The book of one thousand nights and a night (1885–8), locating it within his general involvement with such discourses, within histories of homoerotic subcultures and ‘obscene’ publication, and within histories of science, empire, and ethnography. It argues that Burton’s treatment of sexuality combined powerful tropes established over two centuries of orientalist practice with mid-nineteenth-century cultural concerns, and with emerging innovative trends of the 1880s. Close reading of the text suggests that its many-sided and inconsistent approaches to sexual matters express unresolved negotiations between long-standing sexualized conventions of exoticism, contemporary raced, classed, and gendered cultural practices, and new ‘scientific’ or ‘modern’ thinking.

Keywords:   sexuality, hybridity, orientalism, race, obscenity, The Arabian Nights, Sir Richard Burton

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