Making New Ground: Black Queer Women's Geographies of Neoliberalism

keywords: quotidian performance, neoliberal urban governance, racialized queerness, social dance

 

This ethnography of the embodied, aesthetic, and affective tactics black queer women have for taking pleasure in and from the neoliberal landscapes of USAmerican cities. It documents how they intervene upon the networks of racialized queerness that prop up the white sociality of gentrification—how they physically dismantle soundsystems, DJ jarring music to produce disjointed movements, refuse to dance themselves, and more. These direct irruptions into the expected arrangements of racialized queer aesthetics, movement, and pleasure produce awkward angles, counterintuitive choreographies, altered speeds, and, at times, bad feelings.

 

Making New Ground is organized specifically around these choreographies of being because they reveal how neoliberal urban governance shapes the entire sensorium in direct conversation with the mapping of blackness and queerness onto the literal and metaphorical grounds of Chicago. At the same time, Black queer women's negotiations of, and interventions into, the aesthetic production of racialized queerness in gentrifying neighborhoods reveal the often-ambivalent attachments racial and sexual minorities have in and to neoliberal landscapes. The askew and akimbo embodiments that black queer women generate reveal apathy, disaffection, and disorientation (affective stances uniquely structured by the precarity generated under neoliberal urban governance) as key to the performative labor that black queer women undertake as they assert their complex right(s) to the city.

 

Through this understanding that black queer women's geographies of neoliberalism are palpable in the realm of affect as well as embodiment, Making New Ground complicates the very question of "rights" animating studies of urban placemaking. These discussions focus on juridico-economic analyses that rarely figure blackness and queerness into them, yet they are analyses that are only made possible through the specific disavowal of the very black and black queer people around whom questions of land/territory, subjectivity, and rights have been historically structured in the United States. Far from making a plea for black queer women as preeminent neo/liberal subjects, however, Making New Ground argues their critical, black queer geographies reshape the physical landscape and the social interactions it structures as much as they pressure the academy's analytical methods of inquiry. The project takes black queer women's inventive performance practices seriously as altering the terrain of the gentrifying landscape-the built environment as well as the meaning-making social practices therein-while also rectifying the under-theorization of black queer women as subjects in and of the neoliberal world.

 

 

© Kemi Adeyemi 2018

Making New Ground: Black Queer Women's Geographies of Neoliberalism

keywords: quotidian performance, neoliberal urban governance, racialized queerness, social dance

 

This ethnography of the embodied, aesthetic, and affective tactics black queer women have for taking pleasure in and from the neoliberal landscapes of USAmerican cities. It documents how they intervene upon the networks of racialized queerness that prop up the white sociality of gentrification—how they physically dismantle soundsystems, DJ jarring music to produce disjointed movements, refuse to dance themselves, and more. These direct irruptions into the expected arrangements of racialized queer aesthetics, movement, and pleasure produce awkward angles, counterintuitive choreographies, altered speeds, and, at times, bad feelings.

 

Making New Ground is organized specifically around these choreographies of being because they reveal how neoliberal urban governance shapes the entire sensorium in direct conversation with the mapping of blackness and queerness onto the literal and metaphorical grounds of Chicago. At the same time, Black queer women's negotiations of, and interventions into, the aesthetic production of racialized queerness in gentrifying neighborhoods reveal the often-ambivalent attachments racial and sexual minorities have in and to neoliberal landscapes. The askew and akimbo embodiments that black queer women generate reveal apathy, disaffection, and disorientation (affective stances uniquely structured by the precarity generated under neoliberal urban governance) as key to the performative labor that black queer women undertake as they assert their complex right(s) to the city.

 

Through this understanding that black queer women's geographies of neoliberalism are palpable in the realm of affect as well as embodiment, Making New Ground complicates the very question of "rights" animating studies of urban placemaking. These discussions focus on juridico-economic analyses that rarely figure blackness and queerness into them, yet they are analyses that are only made possible through the specific disavowal of the very black and black queer people around whom questions of land/territory, subjectivity, and rights have been historically structured in the United States. Far from making a plea for black queer women as preeminent neo/liberal subjects, however, Making New Ground argues their critical, black queer geographies reshape the physical landscape and the social interactions it structures as much as they pressure the academy's analytical methods of inquiry. The project takes black queer women's inventive performance practices seriously as altering the terrain of the gentrifying landscape-the built environment as well as the meaning-making social practices therein-while also rectifying the under-theorization of black queer women as subjects in and of the neoliberal world.