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Queer Beirut: Social transformations in a war-torn citySofian Merabet
This doctoral dissertation analyzes the human geography of queer identity constructions and the social production of queer space as constitutive features of wider class, religious, and gender relations in the Lebanese capital Beirut. While I situate the formations of socially marginalized gender identities in urban Lebanon as a crucial locus for reconsidering conventional understandings of culture, Islam, and the state in the Arab world, I provide an ethnography of the city through the margins. The dissertation pays close attention to colonial histories of urbanism in the region in order to trace the genealogy of contemporary constructions of norms and forms of social exclusion and urban environment in Beirut. In particular, the work develops a critical socio-cultural paradigm for the study of sexuality and religion that examines the formations of Lebanese queer identities in relation to global processes of circulation and translation of gender models and ideas. Furthermore, my interdisciplinary research positions the importance of gender identities at the center of an often over-simplified political understanding of the very notion of identity in Lebanon that, traditionally, has been defined exclusively on the basis of sectarian/religious affiliation. Instead, I provide a critical standpoint from which to deepen our understandings of gender rights and citizenship in the structuring of social inequality within the larger urban context of the Middle East. My dissertation is based on more than two and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork in Lebanon and foregrounds various manifestations of public culture as they take form in daily processes of identity formations. This framework enables me to explore the performative practices of gendering for young Lebanese gays and lesbians as they formulate their sense of what it means to "exist" in an urban context. My ethnographic research and theoretical analysis contribute to the anthropological reformulation of both Middle East and Urban Studies. They also suggest a critical theory of gender and religious identity formations that can disrupt conventional anthropological premises about the contingent role that particular urban spaces have in facilitating the emergence of various subcultures within the city.
Social sciences; Beirut; Lebanon; Space; Middle East; Queer; War; Cultural anthropology; Gender studies; 0326:Cultural anthropology; 0733:Gender studies
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