CA Conrad and the Queering of Urban Boundaries

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 9:30am
Urban Studies Office: Room 130 McNeil Building
Presenter: Davy Knittle, PhD Student in English, and current member of the Urban Studies Graduate Certificate Program

Breakfast included.

Discussant: Jennifer Ponce de Leon, Assistant Professor of English


This paper reads the poetry of CA Conrad as a site in which to consider recent conversations in queer geography about how queer populations develop urban boundaries that fall outside of the municipal organization of space, and how a reading of urban form as queer form might change the range of spaces and interactions that are legible in cities. 

I read poems that detail interactions with urban space from CA Conrad’s 2010 collaboration with Frank Sherlock, "The City Real and Imagined," and "Soma(tic) Exercises" from Conrad’s 2014 collection Ecodeviance, which provide instructions for readers’ participation in the built environment, often in modes that target public expectations of participation in the public sphere, appearing concurrently as performance art, political demonstration and public nuisance.

I put Conrad’s poems into conversation with recent work in queer geography on the production of urban boundaries by Jack Gieseking and Natalie Oswin, and I use Conrad’s modes of participation – those he describes and those he recommends – to read conversations between queer geography and queer planning theory in order to consider what queer spaces are, how they are made and who participates in them. 

As I take up Oswin’s interest in queer geography as a site in which “a queer approach can be deployed to understand much more than the lives of ‘queers,’” I am interested in what a reading of Conrad’s work can elucidate about the queerness of the quotidian practices of living in and interacting with cities. I read Conrad’s work to consider what it is that is inherently queer about cities, and how those modes of queerness appear in the systems and behaviors of daily urban life.