From Disgust to Humor
Rahab’s Queer Affect
Keywords:Joshua 2, Rahab, disgust, humor, nonheteronormative racialization, affect
This paper argues that contemporary disgust toward nonheteronormative sexuality in the U.S. is conditioned by racialized representations of Canaanite sexuality in the Bible, even where that biblical heritage is no longer obvious. Using queer theory and recent cultural studies analyses on affect, it suggests that the well-recognized humor in the story of Rahab in Joshua 2 might intervene in the usual circuits of disgust. A humorous earlier indigenous tale can be discerned that undercuts the affective values of the story’s colonial final form, especially as they circulate around the Canaanites, the divine warrior, holy war, and even Rahab’s own heroism. It is in the final form of the story, however, that Rahab is the most queer. Though resistant, she is neither fully transgressive or heroic, but she is funny. That hilarity revalues the usual emotive response to Canaanite sexuality, allowing affective bodily energies to turn the repulsion of disgust into the inclusion of pleasure.
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