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"And they say there aren’t any gay Arabs…": ambiguity and uncertainty in Cairo’s underground gay scenes

Zaki, Mohamed (2013) "And they say there aren’t any gay Arabs…": ambiguity and uncertainty in Cairo’s underground gay scenes. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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This thesis explores issues of subjectivity, collective identity, relatedness and class among young men on Cairo’s underground gay scenes. My thesis, based on 18 months of ethnographic research (November 2009-March 2011) among in Cairo, focuses on the diversity of ways in which ‘gay’ identities are embraced, questioned, and critiqued through the day to day activities of life in the city, and the construction of spaces in which the men move. The thesis analyzes various forms of instability and ambiguity relating to men’s sexuality both on the individual and scene levels. I argue that while a sense of precarity and ambiguity permeates the scene because of security concerns, the elusiveness of recognition both in relation to the state and the family, as well as internal fragmentation along class lines, it allows for a certain creativity as men cultivate and continually invest in the sociocultural maintenance of a ‘gay scene’. Through an examination of performance styles that are heavily influenced by a scene-specific form of camp aesthetics as well as scene-level narratives, I argue that such efforts are attempts at creating a sense of collective identity and permanence on a scene that is all too often experienced as unstable and ephemeral. While this project addresses the very real difficulties men face as homosexuals in Egypt (prosecution, social ostracism and harassment) it illustrates how men take hold of the liminal positions they occupy and experience, and in the process raise important questions about articulations of sexuality, class, and national positioning vis-à-vis a global imaginary.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Mohamed Abbas Zaki
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Engelke, Matthew and Allerton, Catherine

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