November 24: The Queen City Comes Out: An Historical Geography of Gay Seattle

*Please note: This talk was cancelled due to travel problems resulting from bad weather.

The Queen City Comes Out:  An Historical Geography of Gay Seattle

Michael Brown
University of Washington


Queer Geography is often quite a theoretically intense area of study. Informed by quite academic Queer Theory from the humanities, and part of the theoretical turn in critical human geography, it can sometimes seem far away from “the real world” to students and lay folk. In an attempt to counter this disconnect, I show how queer geography can be quite down to earth and applied through my volunteer work with the Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project. This group is dedicated to researching, interpreting, and communicating the histories of lgbtq people in the region for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment. In this talk, I’ll show how Seattle queer history can be enriched by queer theory, and vice versa.

An interview with Michael Brown:

  1. Could you briefly talk about how a historical geography is constructed?

    Historical geography looks not just at the way things unfolded in time, but also at where those events occurred. It stresses how space and time (or place and era) are always inseparable. So rather than just saying "a bunch of things happened way back when here", historical geographers emphasize where those things occurred (or didn't occur). It makes for a less linear tale, full of simultaneity, spatial interaction. Geography is more than the stage on which history unfolds!
  2. How would you characterize the work which you'll be lecturing on at City Talks?

    My intellectual roots are in Queer Theory, which can be very abstract and ivory tower. My volunteer work is very down-to-earth: trying to preserve the historical geographies of lgbtq Seattle. I do both and this talk is my attempt at integrating these often quite distinct spheres of my life.
  3. Could you share a few tidbits about your lecture plan? 1-2 is fine.

    Well, if you've ever been on the Seattle Underground tour, I'm going to give you a very different reading of that neighborhood!

    I hope the talk will be as interactive as possible. It's not just a lecture; it's a data-gathering exercise too. If we don't share our memories they get lost and go unrecorded. So if you ever spent any time in Gay Seattle, I want to hear about it!

Michael Brown is a professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington, Seattle. His research interests focus on political geographies of sexuality and the body, queer studies, AIDS activism, radical democracy, and cultural geographies. He is the author of various publications on the geographies of sexuality, including RePlacing Citizenship: AIDS Activism and Radical Democracy (1997) and Closet Space: Geographies of Metaphor from the Body to the Globe (2000). He has also published widely in journals such as Urban Geography, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Society and Space, Political Geography, Cultural Geographies, and the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. His recent work explores the historical geographies of queer politics and culture in 20th century Seattle. He is currently the editor of the journal Social & Cultural Geography.