Queering Beirut, the 'Paris of the Middle East': Fractal Orientalism and essentialized masculinities in contemporary gay travelogues

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Abstract

In this article, I analyse discourses that have been circulating in a number of Euro-American journalistic articles, gay travelogues and an international gay tour guide since 2005, which present Beirut as a new gay tourist destination. Since representations in gay travelogues often trade in imagined 'sexual utopias', promise encounters and the 'discovery' of unfamiliar and 'exotic' settings with other non-heterosexual men, I explore how both Beirut and the Lebanese are represented and made intelligible. I argue that even though these representations depart from a binary distinction between East/West and Self/Other, they are still premised on Orientalist depictions of both place and people. However, these depictions are complex as they rely on and produce what I call 'fractal Orientalism', or 'Orientalisms within the Orient', and essentialized, yet relational, understandings of both 'tourists' and 'locals'. Hybridity and liminality become central, whereby Beirut is presented as safe but dangerous, and glamorous but war-torn, and the non-heterosexual Lebanese are racialized and represented as sexually available (in private) but discreet (in public). These representations rely heavily on linear narratives of progress, where progress is assessed in terms of 'tolerant' attitudes towards homosexuality, the presence of a Western-constituted 'gay identity', gay-friendly spaces and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer organizations. Finally, I argue that these depictions, despite attempting to make Beirut and non-heterosexual Lebanese men intelligible, produce monolithic and essentialist understandings of both, which fail to take into account the complexities and intersections of gender, race, class and sexualities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)858-875
Number of pages18
JournalGender, Place and Culture
Volume20
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Beirut
  • fractal Orientalism
  • gay travelogues
  • gendered representations
  • masculinities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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