Queer Memorialising and the Sexual Politics of Gentrification

Authors: Emma Spruce*,
Topics: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: sexuality, gentrification, memory, LGBT life
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

Over the past half century, Brixton - a neighbourhood in South London most commonly associated with Black British life and, more recently, rapid gentrification - has been home to gay and lesbian squats, radical drag discos, queer cruising sites, erotic literature readings, Pride marches, and much more. In an apparent contradiction of the trend towards the commodification of LGBTQ visibility for neighbourhood development, however, the dominant pattern of memorialisation in Brixton appears to be one of forgetting: there are no plaques or statues commemorating this heritage, and Brixton's official history is as likely to decentre LGBTQ memory as the neighbourhood is likely to be displaced from an account of London's LGBTQ geographies. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted on LGBTQ life in Brixton (2012-2015), this paper interrogates the relationship between queer (un)remembering and ideologies of gentrification. I explore the potential that memorialisation holds for challenging the 'common-sense' relationship between urban development and gay flourishing, and propose that queer memorialisation can mobilise urban counter-cultures and enact an LGBTQ 'right to the city'. The memorial practices of local LGBTQ residents also reveal, however, that forgetting can be strategic: a deliberate refusal to remember in ways that might strengthen the logics of gentrification. Attending to the political polysemy of queer memorialisation is, I argue, crucial to the pursuit of LGBTQ place-making practices that are less amenable to classism, racism and Islamophobia, and the impact of these logics on the fabric of urban life.

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