A Muffled Scream: Queer Affects in Abdellah Taïa’s Salvation Army

A child in the portuguese district of El Jadida, Morocco
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A child in the portuguese district of El Jadida, Morocco

This paper reads Abdellah Taïa’s Salvation Army, a semi-autobiographical film that chronicles the coming of age of a Moroccan boy through its queer affects. Set in both Morocco and Switzerland, Taïa’s protagonist is neither a victim nor oppressed by the socio-economic and patriarchal conditions of his existence. His sexuality is naive and perverse, exploited and exploitative. Queer knowledge in this film breaks down at many levels. The effect of this confusion is the film’s insistence on reading the narrative outside of easy sexual epistemologies.

This paper defines queer not simply in terms of sexual orientation but as an affective relationship to loss. Borne from the traces of sexual being, queer affects resist the domestication of the sexual for social recognition. They are the parts of us that refuse to be colonized into affable, upright subjects. In Salvation Army, the protagonist grows up to be gay, as we have come to understand this word, but his subjectivity remains ambivalent and in mourning.

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