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Under Bright Lights

Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene

Bobby Benedicto
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Under Bright Lights
    Book Description:

    Gay-friendly dance clubs, upmarket bars, and party circuits-such commercial venues evoke the image of a gay globe, but what happens when they are bound to a landscape of disorder, mass poverty, and urban decay? Vividly describing this world of contradictions through the prism of twenty-first-century Manila,Under Bright Lightschallenges popular interpretations of the "third world queer" as a necessarily radical figure.

    Drawing on ethnographic research, Bobby Benedicto paints a remarkably counterintuitive portrait of gay spaces in postcolonial cities. He argues that Filipino gay men's pursuit of an elusive global gay modernity sustains the very class, gender, and racial hierarchies that structure urban life in the Philippines. Benedicto examines, for example, how practices such as driving enable the emergence of a classed gay cityscape, and how scenes of networked global cities engender discourse that positions Manila within a global system of "gay capitals." And yet he also analyzes how the fantasy of gay globality is imperiled when privileged gay men from Manila, while traveling abroad, encounter Filipino labor migrants and come face-to-face with the exclusionary racial orders that operate in gay spaces overseas.

    Unique in its methodological approach,Under Bright Lightsemploys affective, first-person storytelling techniques to capture the visceral experience of Manila and gay life in a third world city.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4334-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PROLOGUE: City of Contradictions
    (pp. vii-xx)

    When I think of gay life under the bright lights of Metro Manila, I think of nights spent standing outside the dance clubs, and especially of the quieter moments during unusually slow Friday or Saturday nights, when I found myself out on the street trading stories and smoking cigarettes with other gay men who were taking breaks from the music or from dancing. It was during those moments that I heard many of the stories I recall in these pages—stories about everyday life, nights on the town, images stuck in people’s minds, adventures and misadventures over the years, and...

  4. INTRODUCTION: Making a Scene
    (pp. 1-24)

    If I were to map gay Manila as I recall it, it would appear not as an enclave but as a series of privileged sites pieced together, vaguely cast against the noise and squalor of the third-world city. This map would include not only the gay clubs where my informants and I spent many weekend nights and the homes where private parties were occasionally held but also bars, clubs, and commercial developments that were not identified as “gay” and yet served as routine destinations for gay men. The lines that link these places and that we ourselves traced whenever we...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Automobility and the Gay Cityscape
    (pp. 25-44)

    Metro Manila has no gay village, no neighborhood or individual street seen and identified as gay. There are those who would claim that the formerly bohemian district of Malate, in the old City of Manila, has become such a place, but such claims are contentious and belied by the emergence in recent years of what I have begun to describe as a bright lights scene that resists straightforward mapping.¹ This is a scene that appears only in the form of nodes scattered across the megacity, including transient nodes, as in the case of the circuit parties that occasionally inhabit Manila’s...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Elsewhere, between Palawan and the Global City
    (pp. 45-72)

    I have begun to track the way gay life in Manila takes form as an intraurban network, a series of sites brought together, if loosely, through ways of navigating and inhabiting the city streets. In the previous chapter, the automobile, what might be regarded as both a metaphor for and an avatar of modernity, appears as the iron manifestation of ideals of progress, mobility, speed, and freedom.¹ It takes form as a “machine dream” that enables acceleration, elevation, swerves, fleeting contacts, and other spatial practices that subject the contradictions on the streets to the possibility of elision.² These spatial practices...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Specter of Kabaklaan
    (pp. 73-92)

    “Time is out of joint.” This line fromHamlet, quoted repeatedly by Jacques Derrida inSpecters of Marx, reminds us of the instability of the present, its openness to ghosts or those figures that can “disembark from the past and appear in a time in which they clearly do not belong.”¹ For Derrida, the figure of the specter provides a means to speak of that elusive space between presence and absence, life and death, “the non-contemporaneity with itself of the living present.”² It is that which disrupts the dream of leaving the past behind—of time as linear, of planetary...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Transnational Transit and the Circuits of Privilege
    (pp. 93-112)

    Unlike most airports servicing major cities, Metro Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is not located on the outskirts of town but inside the megacity, a few kilometers from the Makati Central Business District (CBD), near the invisible border that splits Parañaque City and Pasay City. Like most of my informants, I have lost countless hours on the road to NAIA, stuck in the standstill traffic at the southern end of Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) or on the streets that branch to the east, the ones lined with sagging electrical wires, inexpensive streetside restaurants, gas stations, and old businesses...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE White Noise and the Shock of Racial Shame
    (pp. 113-140)

    The last chapter ended with the story of Eric, who entered a gay club in London only to come face-to-face with the fact of his difference, his otherness, his unbelonging in gay globality. There, in a distant city, on “a world map on a dance floor,” he saw men sticking to “their own” and found himself going home with a man who represented “home.” Faced with the exclusionary logics that govern gay life overseas, Eric was able to open a gap in the borders of the bright lights scene, to occupy a space that cut across the boundaries of class...

  10. CODA: Nowhere to Go
    (pp. 141-146)

    At the beginning of this book, I described Manila’s bright lights scene as a world in the making—a pulsing, living, imagined space that one can be “in,” a tangle of connections that demarcates, if always haphazardly, the contours of a way of life. This life, I have argued, cannot be disarticulated from the hierarchies, violences, and cultures of domination that operate in the third-world city. It is moved by the force of fantasy, marked by yearnings, and pulled by a trajectory that directs imaginations outward toward the global, forward toward modernity, and upward toward higher states of class privilege....

    (pp. 147-150)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 151-180)
    (pp. 181-198)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 199-214)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)