Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Working to Appear: The Plural and Uneven Geographies of Race, Sexuality, and the Local State in Sydney, Australia

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Working to Appear: The Plural and Uneven Geographies of Race, Sexuality, and the Local State in Sydney, Australia

Article excerpt


This paper mobilizes an Arendtian understanding of politics emphasizing plurality and appearance in order to examine a series of projects convened by the City of Sydney council between 2010 and 2013 that were intended to address issues faced by queer people from "culturally and linguistically diverse" communities. Drawing on interviews with participants, as well as archival materials, I argue that these efforts carved out spaces in which racialized queer people in Sydney could appear politically and in which the uneven geographies produced by the mutually constitutive regimes of sexuality and race could become an object of differentially shared concern. Yet, these projects were themselves necessarily shaped by the very dynamics of racialization and normativity to which they responded, and the paper asks how we might differently live with and beyond the fantasy of multicultural queer inclusion at work in these efforts. In doing so, this paper suggests a different way of relating to the binaries (radical/ assimilationist, disruption/recognition, state/non-state) that have informed many queer analyses and also contributes to literatures in critical urban and political geography that seek to develop contextually-sensitive understandings of politics that can account for more modest forms of political engagement with existing orders.


Queer of color, LGBTQI, Arendt, sexual citizenship, multiculturalism, urban politics

In 2010, the City of Sydney recognized queer people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds as an "emerging community" potentially in need of council support. (City of Sydney, 2010a: 1). While Sydney's culturally and linguistically diverse communities and queer communities had long been considered important but distinct groups for social planning purposes, this recognition marked an explicit effort to address issues faced by people at the intersection of sexuality and cultural difference. (1) Toward that end, council staff produced a needs analysis, entitled Torn between Two Worlds. Drawing on academic and policy research, as well as a consultation with community groups, this report characterized queer people from ethnic and migrant communities as beset, on the one hand, by homophobia from families and communities and, on the other, by discrimination and cultural misunderstandings within queer communities. In response to this consultation, the City formed a steering committee bringing together council staff, service-providers, and representatives from community organizations. (2) This committee organized a forum called Sharing Our Stories with more than 200 participants to "celebrate and give voice to diverse identities and experiences within GLBTIQ and multicultural communities" (City of Sydney, 2010b: 8). Pride in Colour--a semi-independent working group--was later established to carry on the work of raising awareness and facilitating dialogue around "sex, sexuality, and gender diversity within Sydney's multicultural communities". (3) Between 2010 and 2013, this group pursued a number of projects, including producing educational materials, planning social events, supporting arts-based programs, and conducting outreach at community events, such as Mardi Gras and the city's Living in Harmony festival.

These efforts were targeted toward "culturally and linguistically diverse" communities, who continue to face racialized exclusions in a context shaped by the legacies of "White Australia" (Hage, 1998). This racialization has a mutually constitutive relationship with heteronormative and homonormative formations in which understandings of Australian national identity and culture are increasingly and contradictorily linked to "inclusive" sexual and gender politics (Nicoll, 2001)--often set against orientalized others, imagined to be illiberal or even essentially homophobic (Abraham, 2009; Yue, 2012). As programs of inclusion focused specifically on issues faced by racialized queer people, these state-convened efforts in Sydney are uncommon, if not unique, and examining them is important as antiracist queer political organizing continues to stake new ground (Tauqir et al. …

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