Memory, Activism and Social Justice NUBS 2.05
Jul 06, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230706T1100 20230706T1230 Europe/London 6.10. Feminist, queer & intersectional memory activism NUBS 2.05 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023
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Queer Monumentality and the Great Wall of Los Angeles
Individual paperMemory, Activism and Social Justice 00:00 Midnight - 11:00 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/05 23:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 22:00:00 UTC
This essay contributes to debates swirling around one relatively new way of representing the LGBTQ past: the monumental. This form--which applies "a weightiness, timelessness, and grandeur" to its subjects--only began to be available to queer Americans and Western Europeans in the 1980s. Before then, LGBTQ people in these regions primarily interacted with their pasts in tactical and ephemeral ways. Queer monumentality has proven to be a powerful tool for queer activists. It has helped them to overcome specific memory challenges that LGBTQ communities face, like erasure and pathologization, and to forward queer causes like the expansion of civil rights. The author demonstrates that there are serious dangers in applying monumentality to the queer community, however. For example, queer monumentality help create a new harmful normativity, a homonormativity, that erases or disciplines some members of the queer community while it represents and empowers other members. These dangers have led some queer theorists and practitioners to disavow the form altogether. Some LGBTQ activists have even vandalized queer monuments--like the Gay Liberation Monument in New York City--in protest. Rather than rejecting the form, the author joins those scholars and practitioners that argue that it is possible to create a robust queer monumentality that overcomes these dangers and retains the form's potency. Her intervention is to propose monumental muralism as one compelling way forward. Specifically, she argues that designers of future queer murals should look to The Great Wall of Los Angeles as a model. This mural, the longest one in the world, is a revisionist history of California from prehistorical times to the 1950s from the perspective of ethnic minorities, women, and gays and lesbians. Originally completed in 1984 by Judith Baca and a diverse team of young people, the mural is the recipient of a 2021 Mellon Foundation grant to extend its timeline up to 2020. The author demonstrates how this mural's intersectional content, polyangular perspective--which was inspired by David Alfaro Siqueiros--, and collaborative production are all worth emulating in future queer murals. These elements, along with the nature of muralism in general, address the serious dangers associated with queer monumentality while still powerfully aiding LGBTQ activists.

This paper addresses the MSA's call for papers by examining a major change in the way that LGBTQ communities interact with and represent their past. The change from tactical and ephemeral strategies to monumentality in the 1980s is a significant one that scholars are only beginning to analyze. The author gives a concise overview of current scholarship on this change and offers her own intervention. Additionally, this change is notable because of how it literally reshapes public space. Queer monuments not only add new forms to the landscape, but their very presence also inflects what is already there with new meanings. Finally, the paper engages the call by examining how material representations of memory participate in a specific social justice movement--the LGBTQ rights movement. The author takes special care to highlight this movement's complex racial and gendered dimensions.
Presenters Ella Myer
Doctoral Student, Emory University
Feminism(s), memory and heritage in ‘inner city’ London and Paris
Individual paperMemory, Activism and Social Justice 00:00 Midnight - 11:00 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/05 23:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 22:00:00 UTC
Whether it is Brixton craft beer, sportswear collaborations between Nike Air Jordan and the Parisian boutique 'Maison Château Rouge', arty postcards of 'ethnic' street markets or guided walks of historic black neighbourhoods, iconic signs of the twentieth-century 'inner city' are ubiquitous in contemporary culture. But how we curate the urban past is a contentious process. Here, we examine how women's histories and histories of feminism are being incorporated into the 'living archive' and more formal archives of the city; and how 'things'-for instance, tangible things such as books, buildings or sound recordings; and intangible entities such as memories or sentiments-are presented or repurposed as part of a burgeoning field of urban memory and urban heritage, a development which raises further questions regarding how interpretations and performances of 'the past' may be linked with processes such as gentrification, marginalisation and displacement. Drawing on empirical research in Brixton, London and La Goutte d'Or / Château Rouge in Paris, this article focuses on the overlapping of feminist curatorial approaches to urban history and the heritagisation of Black, Maghrebi and radical feminism/s that are flourishing in these spaces. Women's claims to urban history in each location are the result of agitation for greater inclusion and consideration of the achievements, aspirations and values of women in Brixton and La Goutte d'Or. In addition to presenting empirical examples from each city, we critically analyse these in relation to (i) urban governance, the density of associational networks and the availability of funding streams; (ii) the transition between feminist curatorial activism and heritagisation and what is gained or lost in this process; and (iii) the importance of localised feminist memory and heritage projects for fostering an inclusive and egalitarian public culture in cities. 
Co-authors: Miranda Armstrong, Aurélien Mokoko Gampiot
Gareth Millington
Reader, Sociology, University Of York
Ayshka Sene
Research Associate, Sociology, University Of York
Lesbian Activists and the Start of AIDS Care Advocacy in Fresno, California
Individual paperMemory, Activism and Social Justice 00:00 Midnight - 11:00 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/05 23:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 22:00:00 UTC
When HIV was first identified in 1981, American gay men began experiencing a tidal wave of stigma, discrimination, and homophobia that rolled back some of the progress made towards gay liberation. Shamed for their sexuality and viewed as vectors of disease, gay men struggled with family rejection and a lack of basic medical care and treatment. In the absence of traditional caring systems, lesbians stepped up to play key roles as activists, advocates, and caregivers during the AIDS epidemic. Previous studies have highlighted the key roles American lesbian women played as activists during the AIDS pandemic, however much of this research has focused on large metropolitan areas such as New York City and San Francisco (e.g. Brier, 2007; Hutchison, 2015). The complex stories outside of these metropolitan regions have often been undocumented and remain largely unknown. This exploratory paper is part of a larger project on the history of the AIDS epidemic in Fresno, an impoverished and highly diverse city in Central California. Following Diedrich (2007), this paper explores how lesbians in Fresno offered 'queer love' to their gay brothers as health advocates by creating an agency to support people living with HIV at the advent of the AIDS epidemic (Diedrich, 2007). Using in-depth and unstructured interviews of lesbian activists, this paper examines how these activists created spaces for "queer love" in the socially conservative city of Fresno in the 1980s. Lesbian activists created the first AIDS information, prevention and support services when there was no funding in a strongly homophobic atmosphere. Through unstructured interviews, this paper engages with the participants' narrated life histories to better understand how the meaning of care and activism emerged during the AIDS epidemic.
Presenters Kris Clarke
Associate Professor, University Of Helsinki
Christopher Sullivan
Associate Professor, California State University Fresno
Truth-telling from below in the face of Belgium's parliamentary Congo Commission
Individual paperMemory, Activism and Social Justice 00:00 Midnight - 11:00 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/05 23:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 22:00:00 UTC
All over the world, post-colonial nations develop strategies to deal with the difficult legacies of their colonial pasts (Rothermund, 2015). In Belgium, the federal parliament decided to install a special parliamentary 'Truth and Reconciliation' commission to deal with its responsibility for Belgium's colonial past. Immediately after its installment, however, various afro-diasporic memory activists in Brussels started to question the legitimacy of this commission. Some formed what they called 'counter-truth' commissions, i.e. conscious efforts to challenge the narratives and institutional arrangement of the commission. This paper explores how official political mechanisms for dealing with the colonial past impact the strategies and narrative choices of memory activists. I will do this by providing an in-depth analysis of one such counter-truth commission: 'Les Assises Décoloniales', launched by the afro feminist organization Bamko-Cran. 

Drawing on extensive fieldwork during the meetings of Les Assises Décoloniales between June 2020-June 2021 and in-depth interviews with its members, I argue, firstly, that the activists of Les Assises Décoloniales have a fundamentally different understanding of the function of 'truth telling' in postcolonial contexts than the one promoted by the Congo Commission. Not 'the right to truth' is called upon, but rather 'the right to be taken seriously' (Walker, 2010). Secondly, I claim that this demand 'to be taken seriously' creates a dilemma. On the one hand, Les Assises needs to claim moral authority for its own communities by stressing political independence, while on the other it wants to claim 'official' epistemic authority by copying the narrative templates and institutional model provided by the Congo Commission. In my analysis of this dilemma, I show that the interaction between memory activists and established institutions requires a nuanced examination that allows us to understand how political mechanisms 'from above' dynamically shape the strategic choices memory activists make 'from below' (Gutman & Wüstenberg, 2021). 
Eline Mestdagh
PhD Researcher , Ghent University
Doctoral Student
Emory University
Sociology, University of York
Research Associate
Sociology, University of York
Associate Professor
University of Helsinki
PhD researcher
Ghent University
 Clara  Vlessing
Utrecht University
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