Second Pre-Class Thread: May 8th: Place-Making, i.e. the Bar, the Institution, and the Space Between

The assorted collection of bars, bathhouses, restaurants, clothing stores, community centres, sports clubs and professional offices provided gay movements and gay activists with a ready-made, concentrated constituency available for political and social organizing  [in the 1970s]… (Nash 2005, 115)

The variety of places key to lgbtq life in the popular lgbtq imagination remains similar to the list described in geographer Catherine Nash’s quote regarding 1970s’ lesbian and gay spaces and places, as well as homes. The more recent additions include many virtual and online places, and, I add, places that many lgbtq people go to find connection or solace like a book or piece of music. There are also more temporary locations that many scholars refer to as “gay times” (Markwell 2002; see also Freeman 2000; 2005; 2010). Placed events are places without a permanent physical location but which are iterated in certain or certain types of locations, like the annual Dyke March down Fifth Avenue or traveling parties that rent or use space in gay men’s bars, church basements, dungeons, or community centers.

Contrary to the way that “place” is often thought of as fixed Cartesian coordinates, in practice, place is more processual than a static node, and it defines and is defined by social, cultural, economics, and political dynamics (see Pred 1984; Massey 1994). People’s relationships to place change over time, particularly as people age and are able to have more control of the production of places in their lives. These attachments to and memories of place contribute to forming their identities and navigating experiences, both just and unjust (see Altman and Low 1992; Hayden 1997; Casey 2000).

Our Discussion Questions

Are bars, the purported quintessential lgbtq place, still the hub of queer life? Bars and many of these public or for pay places close within a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer person’s lifetime–where does the essence of these places go? As increasing acceptance towards lgbtq people grows, many ask if these places are even important anymore–do you agree? As you reflect on these questions, remember that theory is divined from experience so share as much as you wish about you wish of your ideas and experiences to reflect on this.

*See the Further Recommended Readings for this week to see the citations for the works mentioned here.

2 thoughts on “Second Pre-Class Thread: May 8th: Place-Making, i.e. the Bar, the Institution, and the Space Between

  1. Jenna Danchuk

    In 2013, is the bar the essential queer space? My feelings are mixed. Given the fact that we gather at an academic institution (and had to kindly be instructed to join our classmates at the bar after our discussion this evening), I’d like to draw attention to the ways in which these types of spaces are the new queer hubs. Coming from Toronto, I knew I’d find engaged, intellectually minded queers at the Graduate Center at CUNY, just like I found them at York University in the Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies Department. These places also give way to a type of generic self-identification that is almost a given – we assume anyone who enter into these types of discussions about queerness must relate to the topic in some sort of personal way. I found myself eyeing a hot queer outside of the CUNY building a few nights ago (blush): so far the closest thing to cruising I’ve experienced in the city since I arrived.

    What are the problematics of these spaces being designated for queers? We face the burden of institutionalization and its restraints – the ways in which universities can exploit and benefit from the knowledge produced by their students and teachers, and at the same time control the types of information, discussion and actions occur in these buildings. Where has the sexuality, the rebellion, and the otherness of queerness gone? As one of our fellow classmates mentioned the other night (I didn’t catch your name, so I apologize for not being able to attribute this quote to you) “It’s so sickening to be gay these days, you’re so popular.” So popular, and even scarier, so proper.

    Furthermore, who gets left out of this ‘elite’ type of queer space? Anyone who doesn’t have the time to dedicate to reading and discussing like we do, or the ability to for any number of reasons. We are in a place of privilege (of which I am both critical of and thankful for) in this institutional setting.

    Lauren Berlant recently gave a talk in Toronto in which she took up the ‘bracketing’ of (sex) in queer theory. Places which forefront practice (by which I mean, fucking) rather than theory are sexual spaces like bars, piers, dungeons, bathhouses etc. Given the problematic ways in which queerness is often bankrupt of the sex act, are these places also not essential for enacting queerness (the sexual kind) in public? Too often are our sexualized bodies and their actions confined to the privacy of the home. In institutions as well, sex is often discussed (if at all) in very abstract and sanitized ways.

    To conclude, while I appreciate the space queer academic environments provide (I feel as if its one place where I am more ‘out’ about my sexual identity) I can see the benefits of spaces designated for social/sexual practices. It’s also interesting when these two worlds meet – a great example of this is a section in Shannon Bell’s Fast Feminism (2010) in which she takes up the crossover between her academic life and sexual life at a Pussy Palace Women’s Bathhouse event in Toronto. I highly recommend the title – an interesting and experimental read and takes up space, bodies, and their actions in a very cool (queer) way.

  2. Pingback: Second In-Class Thread: May 8th: Place-Making, i.e. the Bar, the Institution, and the Space Between | Queer(ing) New York

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