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Home All Events ‘Wilding’ in the West Village: Queer Space, Racism and Jane Jacobs Hagiography

‘Wilding’ in the West Village: Queer Space, Racism and Jane Jacobs Hagiography

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Johan Andersson, Department of Geography, Kings College London Johan-Andersson-stylised-140x180  

In urban studies, New York’s West Village is famous for two principal reasons: as the paradigmatic ideal neighborhood in Jane Jacobs’s influential The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and as the site of one of the 1960s great urban uprisings, the Stonewall riot in 1969.  Today – largely because of the mixed-use urban qualities celebrated by Jacobs – the West Village is one of New York’s most desired residential areas, yet it also remains an essential part of the city’s queer geography. In this talk, I analyze the persistent demonization of the area’s queer youth of color by local neighborhood groups to argue that Jacobs’s celebrated notion of natural surveillance (or what she called “eyes on the street”) is fundamentally unsuited for a fluid queer space like the contemporary West Village. I will begin by historicizing the current neighborhood tensions in the context of racialized media reporting on homophobic hate crime and then look  at contemporary discourses of “wild” youth running amok on Christopher Street. Finally, with reference to the forced closure of the African-American gay bar Chi Chiz in 2011, I illustrate how the symbolic nightlife economy remains a key target in the city’s regulation of queer space.


September 12, 2014
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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CHAT Lounge, 10th Floor Gladfelter
1115 Polett Walk Philadelphia, 19122
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