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"In Defense of Specters: Ambivalent Mourning as Queer Affect" by Ghassan Moussawi

Ghassan Moussawi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Recently, Dr. Moussawi had an article published in the journal Feminist Formations titled "In Defense of Specters: Ambivalent Mourning as Queer Affect". To read the full article, click here.

Abstract: In this paper, I argue for theorizing ambivalent mourning as a queer affect and practice, opening up the possibility of sitting and reckoning with past and ongoing state-sanctioned violence, war, disorder, and mass deaths. To do so, I use a hybrid text—employing auto-ethnography and an analysis of three Lebanese films from three different junctures in Lebanese history. Each film represents a different genre: Hamasat (1980), a documentary by Maroun Baghdadi; Beirut Phantom (1998), a fiction narrative by Ghassan Salhab; and Bailey's Beads (2020), a short film by Georgio Nassif. A close reading of these films reveals that the characters conjure specters of war, violence, the dead, and the disappeared to mourn, yet they respond and dwell with them in ambivalence. Employing women of color feminisms, queer of color critique, and affect theory, I defend and welcome specters as potential companions and figures that allow some people to not mourn alone. Rather than rejecting or suppressing memories and experiences of violence and war, I argue that the invocations of ghosts and ambivalent mournings are queer acts that reshape how we think of normative affective registers in narratives of war, violence, disaster, and personal encounters with death.