Voices from the margins: Islam, queer identity, and female agency in Rayda Jacobs’s Confessions of a Gambler

DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2018.1537043
Author(s): Barrington MaraisDepartment of Language and Literature, South Africa, Cheryl StobieEnglish Studies, South Africa


This article foregrounds the intersection between queer Islamic masculinity and Islamic female identity in Rayda Jacobs’s Confessions of a Gambler, and shows how these two identity categories are subjugated in light of dominant expressions of Islamic masculinity. The novel’s action takes place within a traditional Cape Muslim community and employs, among other literary strategies, the main protagonist’s vice of gambling and her son’s sexuality as tools to illuminate the interstitial and perilous social space occupied by women and gay men in South African Muslim society. The research dissects the poignant picture that Jacobs paints of marginal identities as they exist at the intersection of religion, gender identity and sexual identity, and ultimately exhibits that homophobia and gender inequalities are not necessarily intrinsic to Islam. The article adopts a cultural studies style literary analysis. In light of this theoretical approach, this article evaluates Jacobs’s novel in a manner that goes beyond its literariness and shows how it also acts as a form of social commentary. This article also shows how the novel problematises hegemonic representations of gender and sexuality within Islam by giving voice to women and gay men: identity categories which remain largely voiceless in the dominant representations of Islam.

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