Here is my review of a recent book edited by David A. B. Murray, Homophobias: Lust and Loathing Across Time and Space (Duke, 2009).
There is a clearly a need for a comprehensive study of homophobia on a worldwide basis. Regrettably, this book fails to achieve that aim.
The essays in this book treat only a few countries, notably Australia, Greece, India, Indonesia, and Jamaica. The information offered is mainly anecdotal and little effort has been made by the editor to knit the contributions together into some sort of integrated whole.
Highly present-minded, the book is geared towards the concerns of the guild of academic anthropologists. The writers have neglected to avail themselves of the work of historians with regard to same-sex behavior and homophobia in non-Western countries. This effort began a century ago with the massive study of Ferdinand Karsch-Haack, not cited in this book.
Examination of the larger picture disclosed by this diachronic approach shows that over time homophobia has largely thrived in countries dominated by the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. There are four exceptions to this generalization: ancient Iran under Zoroastrianism; the Manchus of East Asia; and the Aztecs and Inca in the New World. Why? Recognition of this larger pattern would have gone a long way to fostering an understanding homophobia worldwide.
The essay on Jamaica does acknowledge the role of Christian churches in the intense antihomosexual attitudes that have emerged there. However, there is an almost total blackout on Muslim homophobia. The contributors seem to think that raising this issue is politically incorrect. Yet what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
In short, this book is disappointingly patchy and limited. The need for a worldwide analysis of homophobia must still be met.