Queer Geographies and the Deconstruction of Utopia in Reparative Historiography: An Inquiry into New York City

Authors: Stefanos Milkidis*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Queer and Trans Geographies, Sexuality, Urban Geography
Keywords: queer spaces, New York City, representational practices, historiography of geographies of sexuality, queer utopias, reparative reading
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


From the celebrated legacies of the gay liberation movement in the 1970s and the AIDS activism in the 1980s through the assimilationist politics of marriage equality in the first two decades of 2000s, New York City has been exemplified by both popular culture and academic texts as the crucible of variegated queer spaces and communities. More recently, however, a flurry of work by scholars from different disciplines, writers, and curators often cast New York as a lost-queer geography. This emphasis irrevocably contrasts an idealized or romanticized framing of the past to the neoliberal/desexualized/apolitical reorganization of queer spatial formations in our post-marriage equality era. As such, the dominant narrative keeps returning to the liberatory discourse of sexual emancipation and the utopianism of the post-Stonewall era, while loss and recovery have become the two primary vantage points through which queer spatialities from the past are contextualized. The question remains for us to answer: is the enterprise of recovery doing justice to spaces defined by other analytical narratives, and how can all be integrated within the larger operations of historiography? I utilize the literary critique of “reparative reading,” developed by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick against to what she defines as “paranoid reading,” to propose a more nuanced reclamation of the past that leads towards a robust understanding of New York’s lost queerscape. This counternarrative, I argue, deconstructs the dominant and paranoid ways through which history is told by resisting the lure of queer utopian imagination.

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