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Theses Doctoral

Shifting Selves: Queer Muslim Asylum Seekers in the Netherlands

Brennan, Sarah French

This dissertation explores the potential of the queer Muslim asylum seeker to confront the Dutch national imaginary. An archetype of homonationalism, the Netherlands faces rising tides of Islamophobia, waters which queer Muslims must learn to navigate. An asylum seeker’s success in the system depends on their “credibility”, hinging on the consistency of their self-representation which is constantly being reconstructed. These constant reconstructions, what Ewing (1990) refers to as “shifting selves”, are not conscious or noticed by the individual; yet, in the context of asylum claim-making, reconstitutions of the self may rise to the surface, asylum seekers then engaging in conscious strategizing. I analyze these contexts ethnographically through informal interviews and participant observation, at the height of the so-called “Refugee Crisis” of the mid-2010s in Europe.

I find that as the figure of the queer Muslim asylum seeker confronts the Dutch national imaginary, it both confirms it—representing national commitments to human rights, to tolerance, and to protection of sexual minorities—and challenges it—embodying impossible identities, and evincing a failure of the nation to live up to its ideals: What is “tolerance” when it is weaponized against minority groups? What kind of queerness is being protected if deviation from a cultural norm is disqualifying? Whose human rights are being protected by a system that demands the subject of those rights conform to formulations inconsistent with lived experience?

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Anthropology
Thesis Advisors
Ewing, Katherine
Varenne, Herve H.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 4, 2020