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Accepted Paper:

Whose knowledge, whose ethnography: humanitarian knowledge/power and Syrian queer/LGBT refugees   
Fadi Saleh (University of Göttingen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects on the nexus of humanitarian knowledge/power and the ways it complicates the dynamics of (ethnographic) knowledge production on queerness within the context of the recent global, humanitarian attention towards Syrian queer/LGBT refugees, specifically in Istanbul, Turkey.

Paper long abstract:

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Istanbul, Turkey, August until December 2015, with the Syrian queer refugee communities, I want to expound upon the difficulties I had in the field as a "friend-ethnographer"; not only as an academic-activist, but also Syrian, gay, and a close friend/friend/acquaintance of many of the subjects of my research. Against the backdrop of an overwhelming lack of ethnographic accounts of queerness in MENA and a rise in the production of superficial, sensational, journalistic accounts of sexuality and gender variance across the region, a different set of ethical responsibilities face the "simultaneously insider and outsider" ethnographer when it comes to knowledge production on gender and sexuality within the Syrian refugee context. Caught between the constant urge to tell me the "truth" about how they constantly perform what they believe will secure humanitarian benevolence and the "fear" of having their concerns and critique of these same institutions discovered, the classical tension of what to make public and what not has intensified. I wish to reflect on the challenges and limitations on knowledge production within MENA and by MENA academic-activists this tension creates within the highly-politicized question of Syrian LGBT refugees. My aim is not to contemplate the role of the ethnographer in general; rather, I want to delve into the problematic and the ethical challenges of being a Syrian, gay ethnographer, writing about Syrian gay refugees, who are restricted in their ability to speak by the very institutions that claim to want to liberate them.

Panel P140
Connection and contestation in queer anthropology [ENQA]
  Session 1