In & Out: Negotiating Ethnicity and Whiteness in Berlin Lesbian and Gay Communities
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The aim of this complementary research is to understand experiences of ethnicity, whiteness and sexuality in the lives of people who identify as lesbian and gay in Berlin. The research question of this thesis is: “How is ethnicity, and specifically whiteness, constructed by people who identify as lesbian and gay, and how is this related to experiences of in- and exclusion in Berlin lesbian and gay communities”. Based on three months of extensive anthropological fieldwork in Berlin this thesis focuses on the following topics in order to answer the research question: 1) ‘Differentiating tactics related to in and exclusion; 2) ‘Racialized (and gendered) ethnicities and whiteness’; 3) ‘Racialized sexuality and sexualized racism’. This thesis argues that ethnicity and therefore whiteness as well, is constructed through identifying the Other as ‘ethnic’ and the Self implicitly as white. The categories ‘us’ and ‘them’ gain meaning through intersections of ethnicity, gender and sexuality. The us-them-categorization is inflicted with social hierarchies, associating ‘us’ with social norms: masculinity, whiteness and occasionally heterosexuality. However, the social hierarchies are not only a top down construction, as a subordinate position can be used in order to create a sense of belonging and inclusivity. Constructions of ethnicity and whiteness have a lot of similarities between lesbian and gay communities, as this construction is also part of German national identity building. Furthermore, this research shows that processes of in- and exclusion based on ethnicity, are played out differently between lesbian and gay communities in Berlin. In- and exclusion are not static categorizations, some people are included but differently alongside gendered and racial hierarchies. In short, thesis demonstrates how representations of ethnicity, whiteness and sexuality are strongly related to stereotypes and objectifications based on racialized ethnicities, which form us-them-divides. These divides are played out differently within and between lesbian and gay communities in Berlin, however the divides are constructed alongside dominant broader social hierarchies.