By way of a public provocation, Republic of Body stakes its claim to the streets of Amman. This Republic, a nation constructed of and by precarious sexual bodies, unveiled its spatial autonomy in the schema of Hashemite nation-building narratives and through symbols of power borrowed from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as a memetic sovereignty—symbols which in turn were borrowed from the colonial residue of the British Mandate. New performances costumed by multi-symbolic objects are enacted by Republic to disrupt these inherited symbols. In doing so, they can more fully express the intersection and mutual construction of queer, Arab, and gender identities, and assert their right to spatial inclusion and legitimacy under the persistently masculine hegemony over the public sphere.
The sovereign symbols analyzed and appropriated in the Republic are drawn from a nascent Jordan, where the Hashemite royal family attempted to assert its own sovereignty and integrate itself into Jordan’s de facto narrative. They historicized the countries invented traditions, wrote themselves as direct descendants of prophetic truth, and assumed their rightful place on the throne of Arab nations. They produced and embodied the ‘essence’ of Jordanian people—the nation incarnate. Prior to the formation of Republic of Body, an exercise in image-making put this production of nation under scrutiny. Its sovereign symbols appear in photographs which stage them at the scale of the particular body that interrupts the two-state corporeal narrative asserted by the Hashemites, and thus highlights its instabilities and constructed history.
The archival and visual investigations prefigured a curated public performance to inaugurate the Republic of Body: a march comprised of marginalized bodies infiltrating a region at the edge of the economic divide in Amman. Modeled after Hashemite royal processions, the march is ritualized as an extension of royal ceremonies and consequently legitimizes the bodies interrupting gendered expectations for public space.
The performance paraded bodily armatures—guarded by the very state that continuously delegitimizes them—housing local feminist and queer performers as they assumed visible orientation on the street: a queer body is veiled and externalized by his accusatory soundbite; a materialization of the elusive modern Arab woman, who otherwise exists only on virtual stages; the Jordanian scarf takes on the femininity that it denies. Through the exploitation and queering of state power symbols—memetic power, transitional power and sermonic speech—Republic instantiated a transitory space of visibility for bodies that are otherwise cast outside the domain of Arab subjectivity.