Reading Marx in Beirut: Disorganised Study and the Politics of Queer Utopia

  • Sophie Chamas University of Oxford
Keywords: utopia, leftism, Lebanon, Marxism, queerness, study

Abstract

This article draws on ethnographic research carried out with Marxist reading groups run by a Lebanese revolutionary socialist organization. I examine the labor that Marxist theoretical practice was doing in a political conjuncture widely viewed as post-Marxist , discussing the relationship between theory and affect, and the role that affective infrastructures play in maintaining and reproducing social movements and political organisations. Drawing on Moten and Harney, I frame this intellectual labor as a form of dissonant , disorganized study - a mode of preparing for revolution by being together in brokenness and routinely generating a commitment to a particular political horizon. This form of political praxis as study unfolded within a
Lebanese activist scene dominated by a pragmatic conception of politics, within which the critical labor of the radical and revolutionary left was largely considered sterile , mired in something akin to what Berlant calls cruel optimism. Drawing on Munoz, his conceptualisation of the politics of queer utopia, and his defence of utopian imaginativeness, I argue that for radical and revolutionary leftists in counter-revolutionary times, cultivating solidarity and camaraderie by maintaining a space of study that could enable technologies of both self and collective constituted a productive political act.

Author Biography

Sophie Chamas, University of Oxford

Sophie Chamas
is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS, University of London. As an anthropologist of social movements, she is interested in thinking through the life, death and afterlife of the radical political imaginary in the Middle East and beyond.

Published
2020-07-13
How to Cite
Chamas, S. “Reading Marx in Beirut: Disorganised Study and the Politics of Queer Utopia”. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Vol. 14, July 2020, pp. 143-59, doi:10.17192/meta.2020.14.8021.
Section
Off Topic