Disruptive Situations

Fractal Orientalism and Queer Strategies in Beirut

Ghassan Moussawi
Book Cover

PB: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1850-0
Publication: Jul 20

HC: $94.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1849-4
Publication: Jul 20

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1851-7
Publication: Jul 20

210 pages
6 x 9
1 tables, 2 figs., 3 halftones

The first comprehensive study to employ the lens of queer lives in the Arab World to understand everyday life disruptions, conflicts, and violence

Read a blog entry by the author

Read an excerpt of the Introduction (pdf.)


Disruptive Situations 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.


“Disruptive Situations is an eye-opening exploration of LGBT lives in times of war, conflict, and instability! It innovates a roadmap for how to document and conceptualize queerness and geopolitics in contemporary Beirut. Moussawi’s distinctive, timely contribution will surely leave its mark on transnational sexuality, gender, and queer studies.
Jyoti Puri, Hazel Dick Leonard Chair and Professor of Sociology, Simmons University, and author of Sexual States: Governance and the Struggle over the Antisodomy Law in India

Disruptive Situations is a lucid and elegant inquiry into how LGBT and genderqueer Beirutis make sense of lives and identities forged through the multiple, unstable, and overlapping modernities of the city. Moussawi eschews Orientalist constructions of Beirut as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’ to explain these lives and their presence in the region. Instead, he turns our attention to the importance of the everyday—where city life is unstable, felt, and temporally marked—for 'queer' Beiruti flourishing. By teaching us how to think without the presumption of normal lives or stable times as anchors, Disruptive Situations is a work that arrives just in time.
Chandan Reddy, Associate Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington, and author of Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality, and the U.S. State

Ghassan Moussawi’s conceptualization of queer tactics in the context of local, regional, and global politics provides an urgently needed alternative to modern liberal concepts of queer life in Beirut and the Arab region more broadly. This brilliant and pioneering ethnography is uniquely and importantly interdisciplinary, bringing together critiques of space, global politics, race, class, and sexuality. Disruptive Situations will change the way people think about the global politics of gender and sexuality.
Nadine Naber, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Global Asian Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism

Table of Contents


Introduction: While “the World Is Beiruting Again”
1. From Binaries to Fractals: “Glitter and Fears of Gay Life in Beirut”
2. “Because Lebanon Is Not Kandahar”: Beirut as Queer Exception
3. Against Reconciliation
4. Always Visible
5. The Bubble
Conclusion: Feeling Exceptional and Queer (Dis)Locations

Appendix: Methodology and Beirut Neighborhoods

About the Author(s)

Ghassan Moussawi is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.


In the Series

  • Sexuality Studies edited by Janice M. Irvine and Regina G. Kunzel

    Sexuality Studies, edited by Janice Irvine and Regina Kunzel, features work in sexuality studies broadly construed, in its social, cultural, and political dimensions, and in both historical and contemporary formations. The series includes titles located within disciplinary and interdisciplinary frames that combine theoretical methodologies with empirical research.