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Family and nation as thought and lived by young LGBQ+ adults in Lebanon

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Title: Family and nation as thought and lived by young LGBQ+ adults in Lebanon
Author(s): Menard, Haru
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Area and Cultural Studies
Specialisation: Middle Eastern, Islamic and Jewish Studies
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Abstract Faculty of Arts Master’s Programme in Area and Cultural Studies, Middle Eastern Studies Haru Menard Family and nation as thought and lived by young LGBQ+ adults in Lebanon Master’s thesis May 2022 48 pages Keywords: Lebanon, family studies, post-colonialism, LGBTQ Supervisor: Hannu Juusola Abstract: While the idea of the Middle Eastern family is often invoked as an orientalist stereotype, the local everyday family practices are less examined. Similarly, a wealth of literature on Middle Eastern nationalisms and nation-states exists (from ‘women’s’ perspectives and otherwise). Yet ethnographic research on how local people negotiate identity and belonging in their daily interactions vis á vis the state has remained scarce until recently. This empirical research contributes to the growing body of research on contemporary everyday practices of family and kinship in the Middle East. In this thesis I study the Middle Eastern family and nation in Lebanon as conceptualised and practiced by local young adults who identify as LGBQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Queer or other). I focus on the family and nation as historically constructed (tradition vs. present), politically applied (East vs. West) and yet corporeally and socially lived everyday practices. Family as a social category both maintains and has the power to challenge the social order. I approach “family” and “nation” from the vantage point of marginalised LGBQ+ persons in Lebanon, because I argue that they inhabit the double position of being rooted in the local socio-political order, while also resisting and reformulating it from the inside. Guided by postcolonial theory and methodology, my methodological aims are to reflexively explore how researcher positionality informs my research. Theoretically I aim to shed light on the young Lebanese LGBQ+ adults’ ways of negotiating everyday family and national belonging in Lebanon, as well as analyse at how they actively construct their future in Lebanon. My data consists of thirteen ethnographic conversations with Beirutian LGBQ+ young adults. Methodologically, the conversations were informed by post-colonial approaches to knowledge production and researcher positioning, while the data was analysed using a narrative method. In our conversations the participants described their social lives from multiple perspectives, including personal reflections about Lebanese sectarianism, norms and values as well as the recent developments in Lebanese society. They highlighted the need for a more just society that would be freed of sectarian loyalties as a basis for material wellbeing and civil rights. They often positioned themselves in places of in-betweenness, both in terms of personal identity constructions and politically, as this allowed them room to navigate the diverse and ever-changing socio-material circumstances. They creatively and in a multi-sited fashion engaged with the social and material resources available to them in the Lebanese state by refusing to identify with discourses of cultural authenticity as well as those of the “gay international”.
Keyword(s): Lebanon family studies post-colonialism LGBTQ

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