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Non-cockfights: on doing/undoing gender in Shatila, Lebanon

Baptista Barbosa, Gustavo (2013) Non-cockfights: on doing/undoing gender in Shatila, Lebanon. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis investigates the extent to which acting as a male provider remains an open avenue for coming of age and displaying gender belonging for the shabāb (lads) of the Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon. The literature on Palestinians prior to 1948 suggests that a man would come of age by marrying at the appropriate age and bearing a son. For the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, and throughout the 1970s, acting as a fidāʾī (fighter) worked as an alternative mechanism for coming of age and displaying gender belonging. Accordingly, the central question of this thesis is how the shabāb today come of age and display their gender belonging, when on the one hand, Lebanese legislation, through forms of institutional violence, bars their free access to the labour market, forcing them to postpone marriage plans, and on the other hand, participation in the Palestinian Resistance Movement, at least in its military version, is not an option anymore. Through a plethora of investigative techniques – participant observation, questionnaires, focus groups, and open-ended interviews – I have registered the differences between the fidāʾiyyīn and their offspring in their coming of age and gender display. While the fidāʾiyyīn bore pure agency – understood as resistance to domination – and displayed their maturity through the fight to return to their homeland, their offspring have a far more nuanced relation to Palestine and articulate their coming of age and gender belonging in different ways, such as building a house and getting married. Effectively, by observing how the shabāb do their gender, it is not only the full historicity and changeability in time and space of masculinity that come to the fore, but also the scholarly concepts of agency and gender that can be transformed and undone. The tendency in studies of the Middle East to define gender strictly in terms of power and relations of domination fails to grasp the experiences of those, like the Shatila shabāb, with very limited access to power. It is not that the shabāb are emasculated, but rather that defining agency only in terms of resistance to domination and gender in terms of relations of power alone is rather restrictive. Throughout my fieldwork, I have also become acutely aware of anti-state forces at play in Shatila. Accordingly, this study portrays the (dangerous) liaisons between gender and agency as concepts and state machines. Thus, I reflect on what happens to gender (and agency) when state effects organizing and attempting to solidify a sex-gender system at the local level are of limited purchase. Ultimately, this ethnography points to an economics, a politics, a citizenship and sexes-and-genders of another kind, beyond the state.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Gustavo Baptista Barbosa
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Mundy, Martha and Sayigh, Rosemary

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