Queerspaces and sexpublics: desire, death, and transfiguration
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The dissertation brings together queer theory, oral histories, poetics, and autoethnography to track queerspaces and sexpublics indirectly and from multiple angles through stories about sex, race, spaces, publics, addictions, fantasies, and violence. Queerspaces and sexpublics emerge as real, virtual, and affective sites and circulations that accrete and produce same-sex desires and practices. Based on five years of ethnographic research conducted among queer men in Austin, Texas and via the Internet, Queerspaces and Sexpublics argues that fears about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Texas antisodomy laws, and urban redevelopment efforts which hoped to refigure Austin as a high technology center, a “Silicon Valley of the Southwest,” pressured queerspaces out of public spaces and into commercial and/or virtual private spaces. Insofar as the project looks to the ways virtual worlds impact and are impacted by same-sex identifications, institutions, practices, and politics, it makes a case for the cultural importance and ethnographic use of the Internet. Queerspaces and Sexpublics looks in particular to the ways virtual queerspaces are linked to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, to the complex ways race articulates with desire in chatrooms and personal ads, and to the ways online queerspaces reflect broader processes of the commodification of queer lives and cultures. In addition to archiving real and virtual spaces, the dissertation also tackles an altogether more ephemeral archive: an archive of feelings. Queerspaces and Sexpublics thus brings ethnographic practice into dialogue with contemporary feminist and queer theories that trace the ways passionate feelings trouble the lines of public and private cultures and the taxonomic divisions—of sex, class, and race, among others—these lines enable. The dissertation therefore attends to the intimate feelings of love, loss, mourning, melancholia, desire, and death that constitute and emanate from queerspaces and sexpublics and that circulate in ways that are simultaneously public, private, and intimate. The value of such an effort is not determined by its ability to fix intimate feelings of desire in particular times or places. Instead, the value of Queerspaces and Sexpublics lies in its willingness to dwell in the question of desire itself, in desire’s unstable and mysterious intensity.