Disruptive Situations: Fractal Orientalism and Queer Strategies in Beirut
(Temple UP, 2020) challenges representations of contemporary Beirut as an exceptional space for LGBTQ people by highlighting everyday life in a city where violence is the norm. Ghassan Moussawi
, a Beirut native, seeks to uncover the underlying processes of what he calls “fractal orientalism,” a relational understanding of modernity and cosmopolitanism that illustrates how transnational discourses of national and sexual exceptionalism operate on multiple scales in the Arab world.
Moussawi’s intrepid ethnography features the voices of women, gay men and, genderqueers in Beirut to examine how queer individuals negotiate life in this uncertain region. He examines “ al-wad’,” or “the situation,” to understand the practices that form these strategies and to raise questions about queer-friendly spaces in and beyond Beirut.
Disruptive Situations also shows how LGBTQ Beirutis resist reconciliation narratives and position their identities and visibility at different times as ways of simultaneously managing their multiple positionalities and al-wad’. Moussawi argues that the daily survival strategies in Beirut are queer—and not only enacted by LGBTQ people—since Beirutis are living amidst an already queer situation of ongoing precarity.
Alongside the main contours of the book, our conversation covered discussions of “queer flexible methodology,” navigating disruption throughout fieldwork, and assumptions accompanying “insider/native ethnography.” This book will be of interest to those interested in gender and sexuality studies, sociology, anthropology, and urban studies.
This interview is part of an NBN special series on “Mobilities and Methods
Ghassan Moussawi is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Alize Arıcan is a PhD candidate in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses on urban renewal, futurity, care, and migration in Istanbul, Turkey.