12 November 2019

Contested belonging: the meanings of home for Arab LGBT refugees in Amsterdam

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How do Arab LGBT refugees look back at their old-homes? How do activist/cultural spaces in Amsterdam influence this sense of belonging? And can we learn anew from Arab LGBT refugees what ‘feeling-at-home’ in today’s world may mean? These questions are central to a new research project of the Dutch Research Council, executed by Nisrine Chaer (Media and Culture) and supervised by Prof. Berteke Waaldijk and Dr Layal Ftouni: "Contested belonging: the meanings of home for Arab LGBT refugees in Amsterdam".

Background

Arab LGBT refugees occupy a peculiar position in Dutch society, where dominant narratives of Western sexual freedom intersect with the demonization of refugees. To succeed in their asylum claims, Arab LGBT’s are often expected to choose between two supposedly incompatible ‘homes’. This may lead them to subscribe to narratives of victimization and non-belonging to their old-home while affirming their new-home as more accepting. Yet, little is known about their actual home-making processes.

Feeling-at-home

How do Arab LGBT refugees look back at their old-homes? How to they relate to asylum centers? How do love and romance inform their feelings of belonging? Finally, how do activist/cultural spaces in Amsterdam influence this sense of belonging? These questions are answered in this research, which investigates how Arab LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) refugees in Amsterdam negotiate feelings of belonging in their daily lives. It explores how gender and sexuality impact processes of migration and integration, with the ultimate question: can we learn anew from Arab LGBT refugees what ‘feeling-at-home’ in today’s world may mean?

The project

In existing refugee studies scholarship, the role that gender and sexuality play in negotiating belonging within the new host-cultures remains largely under-researched. This interdisciplinary project contributes to the fields of Arab studies, refugee studies, queer studies, and geography. It combines ethnographic methods (interviews, participant-observation), with those of queer geography and textual analysis. It also includes workshops, network-building, and media production which will be useful to educators, community organizers, and policymakers working on LGBT refugees’ inclusion.