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Place-making of queer politics through appropriation: a case of Gwangju, Korea

Authors: Yeryun Hong*, Seoul National University
Topics: Political Geography, Sexuality, Asia
Keywords: queer festival, politics of place-making, appropriation, Gwangju, human rights city
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This study seeks to analyze the politics of queer place-making through appropriating public space from the case of the Gwangju Queer Cultural Festival. Gwangju is renowned for its politics of memory and place-making built upon ‘Gwangju Uprising (May 18 Democratic Uprising)’. This historical event and its aftermath mainly compose the discourse of urban politics in Gwangju. The city promotes slogans of ‘Democratic city’ and ‘Human right city’ as a city branding policy. Under those slogans, memories of the uprising lead the city’s reconstructing plans, and gain places to be embodied in. Sexual minority or “the queer”, a newly emerged political issue in the city, intervenes into this political arrange. ‘Gwangju Queer Cultural Festival (GQCF)’ is a milestone that represents this intervention. The first festival, held in 2018, occupied Asian Cultural Center (ACC) as the venue for the event. ACC is one of the most symbolic places for commemorating Gwangju Uprising, as it was the former Jeollanam Do provincial government building and the last battleground during the uprising. Although it is a public space built for cultural purposes, families of the deceased have primary power over the memorial places, including ACC. Through the queer festival, the unexpected bodies permeate into the politics of memory, and appropriate the place which has been constructed on ‘5.18 memories’. Queer’s temporal place-making encompasses political settings for enabling appropriation. This research connects the preceding politics with the new political agenda, and expand the spatial politics of Gwangju.

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