Mathew Gagné/ University of Toronto: Expanding Queer Spaces in Beirut: Mobile communications technologies and contestations to heteronormative space

Friday, 13 December 2013, Panel II: Between Public and Private, 15.00-18.30 @ Zico House

Recent histories of neo-liberal governance and reconstruction in Beirut have created new types of public, commercial, and virtual spaces that have opened up to new forms of queer sexualities. Emergent forms of queer practices and socialities enabled through new Internet technologies render public spaces semi-private queer spaces, including commercial bars, restaurants, and clubs, as well as queered public areas. Appropriations and contestations of public spaces are expanding due to the growing popularity of mobile communications technologies. Smartphone applications, like Grindr and Scruff, disrupt the binaries of private and public, virtual and real by enabling men to connect, flirt, and enjoy intimacies woven between stratified urban spaces and virtual and physical worlds. This paper explores this process by looking at how these technologies imbue public space with private queer intimacies as well as new modes of recognition of queer others in the movements between online and offline social worlds. The suturing of ordinary activities and these technologies produces an expansion of queer spaces and visibilities that mounts contestations to heteronormative space while producing new types of politicized queer subjects. The conditions of heteronormative public space in Beirut are disrupted as these semi-private intimacies and forms of queer recognition take hold in spaces around the city.


Mathew Gagné is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. His work focuses on the ways queer dating technologies impact the formation of queer subjectivities and socialities in Beirut.