“Not the Paradise We Imagined”: The Discursive Politics of the “True Self” in Queer Middle Eastern Refugee Migrations


  • Suad Jabr University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill




Authenticity, Selfhood, Media, Asylum, Queer Refugees


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.

Author Biography

Suad Jabr, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Suad Jabr is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Their current research focuses on how queer Middle Eastern refugees tell their narratives to navigate global systems of asylum and immigration. Drawing from queer and feminist geographies, as well many other fields, Suad’s work examines how the tensions of selfhood, subjectivity, authenticity, and legibility in queer Middle Eastern refugee narratives provide insights into state power and the gendered and sexualized geopolitics of global asylum.


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2021-08-31 — Updated on 2021-08-31




Special Section: Queering Middle East Migrations