“Not the Paradise We Imagined”: The Discursive Politics of the “True Self” in Queer Middle Eastern Refugee Migrations
The use of “true self” in western media coverage of queer Middle Eastern refugees is a contradictory, unattainable identity for queer Middle Eastern refugees. This “true self” suggests that queer Middle Eastern refugees are only able to live out their essential queer selves after receiving asylum and moving to the west. This narrative of true selfhood ignores the rupturing, transformative process of refugeehood, as well as the geographical-historical conceptions of identity, and relational, place-based making of self in which refugees become refugees. True selfhood, disguised as western freedom, serves as merely another normative script in which queers in the west must present their identities as legitimate to a heteronormative, cisnormative society that does not conceptualize of other formations of self. Here, the contradiction between true selfhood and queer Middle Eastern refugeehood becomes a site where the logic of political asylum regimes breaks down, and where other understandings of queer Middle Eastern refugee selfhood may start to emerge.
Chan, Kenneth. “Recent Gay Syrian Refugee Now Helping Other LGBTQ Refugees.” Daily Hive Vancouve. 31 July 2016. https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/danny-ramadan-syrian-gay-refugee.
Culcasi, Karen. "‘We are women and men now’: Intimate Spaces and Coping Labour for Syrian Women Refugees in Jordan." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 44, no. 3 (2019): 463–478.
Espiritu, Yên Lê. “Toward a Critical Refugee Study: The Vietnamese Refugee Subject in US Scholarship.” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1, no. 1–2 (2006): 410–33.
Gallagher, Margaret. “Gay Syrian Refugees Start New Lives in Vancouver.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News. 10 September 2014. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/gay-syrian-refugees-start-new-lives-in-vancouver-1.2762217.
Hodge, Edwin, Helga Hallgrimsdottir, and Marianne Much. “Performing Borders: Queer and Trans Experiences at the Canadian Border.” Social Sciences 8 (2019).
Holmes, Seth M. and Heide Castañeda. “Representing the ‘European Refugee Crisis’ in Germany and Beyond: Deservingness and Difference, Life and Death.” American Ethnologist 43 (2016).
Kallio, Kirsi P., Jouni Häkli, and Elisa Pascucci. “Refugeeness as Political Subjectivity: Experiencing the Humanitarian Border.” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 37, (2019): 1258–76.
Lewis, Rachel. “Deportable Subjects: Lesbians and Political Asylum.” Feminist Formations (2013): 174–94.
Loyd, Jenna M., Patricia Ehrkamp, and Anna J. Secor. "A Geopolitics of Trauma: Refugee Administration and Protracted Uncertainty in Turkey." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 43, no. 3 (2018): 377–389.
Luibhéid, Eithne and Lionel Cantú Jr. Queer Migrations: Sexuality, U.S. Citizenship, and Border Crossings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.
Muna S. Tareh, "On the Violence of Self-Determination: The Palestinian Refugee as the Ontological Other," Arab Studies Quarterly 42, no. 3 (2020): 181-225.
Murray, David AB. “Real Queer: ‘Authentic’ LGBT Refugee Claimants and Homonationalism in the Canadian Refugee System.” Anthropologica 56, no.1 (2014): 21–32.
Nguyen, Mimi Thi. The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012).
Ozkaleli, Umut. "Displaced Selves, Dislocated Emotions and Transforming Identities: Syrian Refugee Women Reinventing Selves." In Women's Studies International Forum (2018): 17¬23.
Peña, Susana. “‘Obvious Gays’ and the State Gaze: Cuban Gay Visibility and US Immigration Policy during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16, no. 3 (2007): 482–514.
Puar, Jasbir K. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.
Saleh, Fadi. "Queer/humanitarian visibility: The Emergence of the Figure of the Suffering Syrian Gay Refugee." Middle East Critique 29, no. 1 (2020): 47-67.
Saleh, Fadi. “Transgender as a Humanitarian Category: The Case of Syrian Queer and Gender-Variant Refugees in Turkey.” Transgender Studies Quarterly 7 (2020): 37–55.
Sari, Elif. “Lesbian Refugees in Transit: The Making of Authenticity and Legitimacy in Turkey.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 24 (2020): 140–58.
Sari, Elif. “Unsafe Present, Uncertain Future: LGBTI Asylum in Turkey.” in Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Illegalization, Detention, and Deportation. Ed. Luibhéid and Chávez, 90–105. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2020.
Shakhsari, Sima. “The Queer Time of Death: Temporality, Geopolitics, and Refugee Rights.” Sexualities 17 (2014): 998–1015.
Tewolde, Amanuel Isak. "‘My race is Habesha’: Eritrean refugees re-defining race as pan-ethnic identity in post-apartheid South Africa," Ethnicities (2020): 1468796820931369.
Tourism Vancouver. “You Belong . . . in Vancouver: Meet Danny Ramadan, Author and Former Syrian Refugee.” 20 June 2018. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3lF6XzRje4&t.
White, Melissa Autumn. “Archives of Intimacy and Trauma: Queer Migration Documents as Technologies of Affect.” Radical History Review (2014): 75–93.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.