Fractal Orientalism and Queer Strategies in BeirutGhassan Moussawi
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 genderqueer persons 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.
“ 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
"Disruptive Situations will have wide appeal across queer and sexuality studies, queer theory, urban studies, sociology, postcolonial theory (or more broadly colonial studies), and Middle East studies. Scholars will glean valuable theoretical tools that enable the reworking of conceptual limitations across disciplines. While Moussawi concludes that the queer strategies and tactics of the LGBT interlocutors have purchase across the Global South, these everyday strategies of navigating al-wad’ find resonance with the everyday strategies of navigating the sedimented histories of anti-Black and homophobic violence that pervade the institutions and streets of Louisville as much as in London or Cairo. Indeed, considering the current moment of COVID-19, ongoing racial and homophobic violence, and the corruption that led to Beirut’s August 4, 2020 explosion, Moussawi’s intervention feels both prescient and urgent."
"Disruptive Situations is a timely critique of queer theory as uncritically applied to the Arab Middle East as well as a methodological intervention into feminist research methods. By contextualising precarity in Beirut, Moussawi also re-centres the geopolitical in the study of gender and sexuality more broadly, insisting on the entanglement of the local with the transnational. Moussawi’s monograph might appear especially poignant in light of the explosion at Beirut’s port on 4 August 2020."
—Women's Studies International Forum
"The real tour de force in Ghassan Moussawi’s work is, scholarly contributions aside, his ability to relate in simple terms dense theoretical knots without losing sight of any of their complexities. This makes his book a must-read for academics and students who are interested in issues related to gender and sexuality in the Lebanese context, and a friendly one for the lay reader too....
Moussawi does an excellent job in linking the intimate to the global."
—Politics, Religion, and Ideology
" (W)ell-written and timely…. Moussawi’s creative theorization around fractal Orientalism and queer strategies for dealing with ongoing everyday conditions is a powerful and innovative contribution with broad applicability. Moussawi deftly uses an intersectional and transnational approach to build a multiscalar argument grounded in everyday experiences and voices of his interlocutors."
—Gender & Society
"Moussawi contributes to the social scientific literature on transnational politics and queer communities through his focus on queer women and genderqueer or bigender individuals.... Moussawi’s decision to prioritize the stories of other queer subgroups is an urgent and much-needed intervention in the field.... (Disruptive Situations) meaningfully expands the range of lives and experiences covered by queer sociological analysis.... (T)his book will be a welcome resource."