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Accepted Paper:

Gender troubles in Shatila, Lebanon: bodies that matter (the Fidāʾiyyīn's heroism) and undoing gender (the Shabāb's burden)  
Gustavo Barbosa (Universidade Federal Fluminense)

Paper short abstract:

The paper shows that, differently from their forebears, who were fighters, today's shabāb from Shatila come of age by attempting to start a family.

Paper long abstract:

The paper asks how today's lads (shabāb) from the Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, in southern Beirut, come of age and display gender belonging. In Palestine prior to 1948, men came of age by marrying, bearing a son and providing for their families. For the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, throughout the 1970s, acting as a fidāʾī (fighter) worked as an alternative mechanism for coming of age and displaying gender belonging. Currently, however, both the economic and political-military avenues have ceased to be options open for the Shatila shabāb.

I register the differences between the fidāʾiyyīn and their offspring, the shabāb, 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 more nuanced relation to Palestine and articulate their coming of age and gender belonging in different ways, such as building a house, attempting to get married and starting a family.

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. Indeed, defining 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 - a lesson to be learned by those studying gender in the Middle East and beyond.

Panel P001
Anthropology of the "New Arab Man"
  Session 1