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Under Bright Lights

Gay Manila and the Global Scene

2014
Author:

Bobby Benedicto

Under Bright Lights

Reassessing gay globalization as seen and lived by third world gay men of means

Bobby Benedicto draws on ethnographic research and employs affective, first-person storytelling techniques to capture the visceral experience of Manila, painting 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.

Under Bright Lights is a sophisticated, energetic, and highly engaging meditation on the practices of world-making undertaken by what Bobby Benedicto describes as contemporary privileged gay men in Manila.

Martin Joseph Ponce, author of Beyond the Nation: Diasporic Filipino Literature and Queer Reading

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 Lights challenges 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 Lights employs affective, first-person storytelling techniques to capture the visceral experience of Manila and gay life in a third world city.

Under Bright Lights

Bobby Benedicto is an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the humanities at McGill University.

Under Bright Lights

Under Bright Lights is a sophisticated, energetic, and highly engaging meditation on the practices of world-making undertaken by what Bobby Benedicto describes as contemporary privileged gay men in Manila.

Martin Joseph Ponce, author of Beyond the Nation: Diasporic Filipino Literature and Queer Reading

Benedicto’s deep ethnographic engagement, careful conceptual argument, and lucid prose make this book a critically important contribution and a truly enjoyable read.

Environmental and Planning D: Society and Space

A landmark offering and a marvelous achievement.

American Anthropologist

Under Bright Lights

Contents

Prologue: City of Contradictions
Introduction: Making a Scene

1. Automobility and the Gay Cityscape
2. Elsewhere, between Palawan and the Global City
3. The Specter of Kabaklaan
4. Transnational Transit and the Circuits of Privilege
5. White Noise and the Shock of Racial Shame

Coda: Nowhere to Go

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index