Topography of Race and Desire in the Global City
June 8, 2011 § 1 Comment
Today we are discussing an excerpt from Martin Manalansan’s Global Divas. His discussion of overlapping gay topographies throughout New York approaches the various ways that culture–namely race, gender, class, and ethnicity–produce multiple queer spaces throughout the city. Although he refers to contemporary New York as a gay mecca popularly associated with whiteness, this image of the homosexual community omits much of the diversity characteristic of the metropolis. Illustrating the ways that urban geography, historical specificity, and US-based notions of race produce various fantasies, desires, and cultural expressions, Manalansan reminds readers of the heterogeneity of the city’s queer community.
However, he argues that queers of color map this global city in different ways than their white counterparts while navigating the social hierarchies of race, class, and gender identity. While Manalansan’s book primarily focuses on men who are part of a Filipino gay diaspora, his spatial and social mapping of NYC negotiates a cultural environment in which polarized racial categories of Black and White dominate (which should not be a surprise, given the US’s history of hypodescent). Though there are certainly queer spaces in the city that are not simply divided along these racial lines, these alternatives tend to reflect white male desire while objectifying men who may be Asian, immigrants, and working-class.
One commonly referenced example of Black queer culture in New York is Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning (embedded below). The film was praised for its examination of Black and Latino gay culture, which was (and is) frequently overlooked by mainstream audiences. Of course, there are stimulating critiques of the film, but I won’t talk about them here. If you would like to read about them, you can do a quick search in your favorite search engine (or click here).