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The Gentrification of the Mind

The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination

Sarah Schulman
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Gentrification of the Mind
    Book Description:

    In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with vivid memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider. Interweaving personal reminiscence with cogent analysis, Schulman details her experience as a witness to the loss of a generation’s imagination and the consequences of that loss.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95233-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Making Record from Memory
    (pp. 1-20)

    It’s 2001. I am in Los Angeles trying to break into film or television. It’s been a tough day. I had a “meeting” with a film producer/agent/manager that was not encouraging. In New York, people have meetings because they have something to accomplish together. They need to sit down and work out the details, or else they are hoping to find a place in each other’s lives: as lovers, collaborators, friends. But LA is different. People have meetings so that, if one of them should ever become famous in the future, the other will have “met” them. I know this...


    • CHAPTER ONE The Dynamics of Death and Replacement
      (pp. 23-35)

      We could argue about which American cities are the most gentrified, but high up on everyone’s list would be New York and San Francisco.

      The most gentrified neighborhoods of Manhattan? East Village, West Village, Lower Eastside, Harlem, and Chelsea.

      The National Research Council’s 1993 report on the social impact of AIDS recorded Manhattan’s highest rates of infection in Chelsea (1,802 per 100,000), Lower Eastside East Village (1,434 per 100,000), Greenwich Village (1,175 per 100,000), and Harlem (722 per 100,000—clearly underreported). As compared to the Upper Eastside, for example (597 per 100,000).

      As soon as the question is posed, one...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Gentrification of AIDS
      (pp. 36-52)

      Key to the gentrification mentality is the replacement of complex realities with simplistic ones. Mixed neighborhoods become homogenous. Mixed neighborhoods create public simultaneous thinking, many perspectives converging on the same moment at the same time, in front of each other. Many languages, many cultures, many racial and class experiences take place on the same block, in the same buildings. Homogenous neighborhoods erase this dynamic, and are much more vulnerable to enforcement of conformity.

      AIDS, which emerged as gentrification was underway, is an arena where simple answers to complex questions have ruled. “Keep it simple” only works if you are an...

    • CHAPTER THREE Realizing That They’re Gone
      (pp. 53-78)

      When novelist Kathy Acker died in 1997 at the age of fifty-one, she was poised to become recognized as America’s leading experimentalist. Her predecessors William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg had recently passed away, and it was—in effect—her turn. Shortly after her death, a conference was organized in her honor at New York University by her friends Avital Ronell, Carla Harryman, and Amy Scholder, and some of her works were reissued. But, truthfully, Kathy has quickly fallen off the radar. Her books are rarely taught, and younger writers seem unaware of her huge influence. What I tend to tell...


    • CHAPTER FOUR The Gentrification of Creation
      (pp. 81-110)

      Why do artists move to cities? Because they want to be part of the creation of new ways of thinking. One of the reasons I have always loved being an artist in New York City is that we get to hear some kinds of ideas before they are widely available. We get to invent and hear new approaches as they are rawly, freshly born. And then we get to be part of the development of those ideas through conversations in living rooms, on subways, in the audiences of live presentations, in artists’ studios, looking at works in progress, watching rough...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Gentrification of Gay Politics
      (pp. 111-132)

      Election Day, November 2008. It’s a new dawn for America. Barack Obama has triumphed at the polls and every constituency of people without rights in this country is united in the hope and determination that our system can work for them. Except one. While most of America is literally cheering, literally dancingin the streets, tears streaming down their faces, thirty-six thousand gay people who got married in California are devastated. On the same date that Obama was elected, four state ballot measures passed banning gay marriage, and two of those states—California and Florida—went for Obama. Arkansas, the...

    • CHAPTER SIX The Gentrification of Our Literature
      (pp. 133-153)

      The first gay book I ever saw was calledCycle Suck. It was on a shelf at the Oscar Wilde Bookstore on Christopher Street in 1975, next to some mimeographed pamphlets with titles like “The Woman-Identified Woman.” From the beginning, I have always known that this is as it should be. Separating distinctions between the sexually explicit and the politically necessary would never make sense. Yet, as I am writing this in 2009, a scandal erupts—first online and then in the mainstream print media., the mail order bookseller mega-monster, got caught in what it called a “glitch.” In...

  7. CONCLUSION: Degentrification—The Pleasure of Being Uncomfortable
    (pp. 154-179)

    As a nation we have long understood the conformity of the 1950s partially as a consequence of the trauma of World War II. Our young men signed up and were drafted out of their provincial towns and neighborhoods and witnessed/experienced/committed large-scale violence. They came home wanting stability of status, a known world. Back in the United States, veterans were offered the G.I. bill. Now they could go to college for free and get low-interest loans on suburban homes. While these significant advantages allowed many men to move from the working to the middle class and beyond, it also gave them...

  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 180-180)