The Paradoxes of Queer Memorial Activism

Authors: Martin Zebracki*, University of Leeds
Topics: Sexuality, Cultural Geography, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Queer, activism, memorials, memorialisation, queer memorial activism, heteronormativity, homonormativity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper focuses on the nature of place-based activism that specifically revolves around the commemoration of the lives and identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, particularly those subject to gender and sexual prejudice, stigma and violence. Such ‘queer memorial activism’ may cover a networked amalgam of objects (e.g., permanent monumental structures), practices (e.g., marches, temporary installations), and interventions mediated through both offline and digital spaces. Queer memorials, and acts of memorialisation, broadly aim to challenge heteronormative sexualisations and hegemonies in order to advocate futures that are more inclusive of sexual and gender variant communities. However, sites of LGBT activism may equally well, as conveyed by Johnston (2006; in PiHG 41[5]:648), buttress sexual and gender norms and hierarchies, both within and beyond practised places of activism. Against this background, this paper probes into the paradoxical sexualised and gendered performances of queer memorial activism, drawing from preliminary insights from a Research Council-funded project on Queer Memorials with case studies in New York, Amsterdam and Warsaw http://www.queermemorials.org This paper contributes to this special session’s rationale to radically engage positionality and placemaking: how can we critically examine the powerplays embedded in specific uses, but also misuses, of queer memorials/memorialisation, which may ambiguously (in)visibilise particular ‘others’. Hence, this paper employs queer memorial activism as lens for producing new conceptual and empirical scholarship on prevailing queer critiques of (a) hetero-/homonormativity, (b) hetero-/homosexualised performances, (c) homonationalism, -capitalism and –entrepreneurialism, and (d) intersectionality at the interface of processes of inclusion/exclusion of sexual and gender minorities.

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