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Peril, privilege, and queer comforts: the nocturnal performative geographies of expatriate gay men in Dubai

Centner, Ryan ORCID: 0000-0002-3295-3186 and Pereira Neto, Manoel (2021) Peril, privilege, and queer comforts: the nocturnal performative geographies of expatriate gay men in Dubai. Geoforum, 127. 92 - 103. ISSN 0016-7185

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2021.09.007


This article investigates the intersection of expatriate experiences, queer men's lives, and nocturnal geographies within the transnational Middle Eastern setting of Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although narrowly focused on cisgender men who self-identify as “Western” and “gay,” the study addresses a lack of research about LGBT+ presence among expatriates globally, and poor coverage of queer residents in Gulf cities generally. Using ethnography and in-depth interviews among this segment of men who have come to Dubai to work in relatively privileged professional roles for at least two years, we illuminate the shifting, performative geographies of queer belonging in which these men engage to distinguish spaces that can be embodied in different moments with degrees of comfort and caution. Despite their imperiled position in an officially homophobic territory, these men use their various privileges (economic, social, cultural, and sometimes phenotypic) to counter peril in performing transnational identities that reaffirm their own senses of self (as gay), forge new collectivities (as Western), and distinguish themselves from others deemed suspect (potentially anyone “non-Western”). Findings point to the uneasy dynamics of inclusion/exclusion in this kind of unfixed gay nightlife geography, and the need to study queer expatriates in other world settings, as well as queer lives in Gulf cities more broadly, from a further intersectional perspective: beyond nocturnal geographies, and encompassing the range of queer denizens, not just this relatively privileged subset.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2021 15:21
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 19:18

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