Tongson’s talk explores the tangled histories of empire and queer sexuality in Southern California’s aptly named Inland Empire (I.E.) – a place once described as ‘the Garden of Eden’. From the Cold War-era military bases and defense industries that once resided there, to the re-creations of Spanish missionary culture in its old downtowns, to the genteel, citrus-era Victorianism still discernible in its oldest houses and civic landmarks, Tongson argues that surveying the empire’s stubborn monuments today affirms that the I.E. was never just a homogeneous assortment of little boxes, but truly the crossroads of empire and sexuality. The talk also features a discussion about a certain utopianism in a methodology of suburban cultural studies, since Tongson’s work on the Inland Empire combines history, critical geography, queer theory, literature, popular music and memoir.
Excerpted from her book Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press, 2010).
Karen Tongson is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. Her book on race, sexuality, popular culture and the suburbs, ‘Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries‘ (New York), was published in 2011. She is co-series editor for Postmillennial Pop, and is also co-editor-in-chief of The Journal of Popular Music Studies.
Evening lecture in the context of the conference Utopia/Wreckage, organized by Brigitte Bargetz, Ben Dawson, Kit Heintzman, Christine Hentschel, and Gal Kirn.
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