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Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries

Karen Tongson
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 299
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    What queer lives, loves and possibilities teem within suburbia's little boxes? Moving beyond the imbedded urban/rural binary, Relocations offers the first major queer cultural study of sexuality, race and representation in the suburbs. Focusing on the region humorists have referred to as Lesser Los Angeles - a global prototype for sprawl - Karen Tongson weaves through suburbia's nowherespaces to survey our spatial imaginaries: the aesthetic, creative and popular materials of the new suburbia.Across southern California's freeways, beneath its overpasses and just beyond its winding cloverleaf interchanges, Tongson explores the improvisational archives of queer suburban sociability, from multimedia artist Lynne Chan's JJ Chinois projects and the amusement park night-clubs of 1980s Orange County to the imperial legacies of the region known as the Inland Empire. By taking a hard look at the cosmopolitanism historically considered de rigeur for queer subjects, while engaging with the so-called New Suburbanism that has captivated the national imaginary in everything from lifestyle trends to electoral politics, Relocations radically revises our sense of where to see and feel queer of color sociability, politics and desire.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6967-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries
    (pp. 1-27)

    THIS BOOK FLOWS from beginning to end through the freeway tributaries that tenuously bind the sprawling counties of Southern California’s suburban landscape. We enter these counties that glow at night like neat sherbet grids from the twisted surfaces of concrete cloverleaves, the elaborate off-ramps that spiral toward “home” past earnestly edged lawns, big-box shops, and tawdry strip malls looking wan beneath layers of worn stucco, yet teeming with more than mere commerce. Contained in these boxes, little and large, are the unacknowledged urgencies, desires, and encounters meant to be kept out of these meticulously planned geographies: queers, immigrants, “gangstas,” minimum-wagers,...

  6. 2 Relocating Queer Critique: Lynne Chan’s JJ Chinois
    (pp. 28-70)

    A lot has been said about JJ Chinois since I first presented a paper about his website at the 2002 Modern Language Association Annual Convention in New York City.¹ JJ Chinois is an alter ego, superstar avatar, and long-term artistic endeavor of Lynne Chan, a queer Asian American multimedia artist based in New York but originally from Cupertino, California. The irony that this entire project on queer suburban imaginaries began, in effect, about an artist currently living and working in New York, and on a panel about “Gay New York” hosted in the proverbial belly of the beast, is not...

  7. 3 Behind the Orange Curtain
    (pp. 71-111)

    ON MEMORIAL DAY weekend 1984, only five months before Ronald Reagan won Orange County by four hundred thousand votes in his landslide reelection over Walter Mondale (the largest margin of victory of any county in the nation),¹ a state-of-the-art teen club designed to showcase break-dancing crews opened at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.² Though these historical incidents are generationally incongruous, one might even say worlds apart, they exemplify the contradictions and odd convergences that have come to define Orange County in the American national imaginary. Orange County is at once a conservative hotbed, an immigration hot zone, and...

  8. 4 Empire of My Familiar
    (pp. 112-158)

    Before the mid-1950s and the televisual emergence of Disneyland and Orange County, there existed another Orange Empire crafted by gentleman farmers from the East, and cultivated by immigrant laborers from Mexico and the Far East. It all began in a place they once compared to the Garden of Eden: Riverside, California, approximately sixty miles east of Los Angeles, and (depending on how you measure the distance) about thirty miles northeast of Orange County. In his expansive chronicle of the Orange Empire, the historian Douglas Cazaux Sackman explains how the orange, which “most likely originated in the Malay-East Indian Archipelago some...

  9. 5 The Light That Never Goes Out: Butchlalis de Panochtitlan Reclaim “Lesser Los Angeles”
    (pp. 159-202)

    This musical citation from twenty-five years ago might feel like yet another spasm of memory born of the bustling nostalgia industry epitomized by the endless loop of commemorative programming on cable networks like VH1, MTV’s more mature and sentimental sibling network. Thanks to these clever manufacturers of memory, everything that has made us feel good, guilty, tingly, or strange from the “Totally Awesome 80s” all the way up to just this past week (vis-à-vis the rapid-fire reflections on the now-defunct pop culture digestBest Week Ever) is available “on demand” in the flickering, ephemeral archives of our televisions sets, made...

  10. 6 Coda: Love among the Ruins: Contact, Creativity, and Klub Fantasy
    (pp. 203-214)

    AS WE MERGE once again on the road to nowhere in particular, we find ourselves seeking contact through the definitive mode of transport in Southern California—our cars. These moving isolation chambers are what purportedly keep Southern Californians, and anyone else in the country bereft of public transportation, from truly experiencing “contact,” the transient encounters with strangers that make urban life vibrant and queer cruising possible. Vibrant street life, incidental contact, and the expression of sexual liberty remain the cornerstones of the queer spatial imaginary, even as the corporate redevelopment of emblematic cities like New York threatens to eradicate and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 215-272)
  12. Index
    (pp. 273-282)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 283-283)