Feeling at home? : Middle class youth in Beirut and their sense of location

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Title: Feeling at home? : Middle class youth in Beirut and their sense of location
Author: Lähteenaho, Samuli
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiaalitieteiden laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för socialvetenskaper
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2016
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703273667
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Social and Cultural Anthropology
Sosiaali- ja kulttuuriantropologia
Social- och kulturantropologi
Abstract: This is a study on sense of location and relative location. It examines how a group of young middle-class adults in the Lebanese capital Beirut form a sense of their relative location in the world. The study is located in Beirut, a Mediterranean city with a distinct history of connections to places including Europe and the Arab world. The study focuses on how research participants are located through different regimes such as border bureaucracies and their own connections and disconnections to different places in the world, and how they make sense of their location through a process of social poetics. The study analyses how the participants use stereotyping in comparison of places to form a sense of their own location. This study is a contribution to understanding youth in todays Middle East and to the anthropological examination of Beirut, Lebanon, and the Levant. It also contributes to the growing literature on anthropology of movement and transnationalism, discussed also under such names as globalization and cosmopolitanism. The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Beirut between August and December 2015. The study is based on participant observation and semi-structured interviews with a core group of middle class anglophone research participants. Participant observation and interviews were supplemented by media follow-up including both Lebanese traditional and social media, and attending academic events in Beirut. The research participants were all educated, between 20 and 35 years of age, and had experience of travel or life outside of Lebanon, but otherwise their life histories were divergent. There were a total of 14 core research participants (6 male, 8 female). This thesis analyses relative location and sense of location utilizing multiple theoretical discussions, including anthropological discussions on location, social poetics, value, state, the affective turn, and cosmopolitanism. The analysis suggests that the research participants use stereotypes of places that serve as examples of values, in a process that serves to configure the participants sense of location. It further suggests that encounters with state, political mobilization, and border bureaucracies serve as important nodes in forming ones sense of location. The analysis also points out that encounters with borders and travel are affective experiences, and that therefore the formation of a sense of location is not only cognitive and conceptual, but also bodily and emotional process. Finally, this thesis suggests that the sense of location of the research participants is not a question of identity, and that even crossing borders does not necessarily imply shifts in identities of the research participants. The thesis concludes by claiming that while cosmopolitanism works as an emic political category in Beirut, it also has analytical weight in understanding how the research participants form as sense of their location in a complex situation where national borders are only one of many mechanisms at work.

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