Queer Movement

Authored by: Gavin Brown

The Ashgate Research Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409457091
eBook ISBN: 9781315613147
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042914


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Queer activism is distinct from lesbian and gay activism as a result of its celebration of difference and challenge to normative social relations. This chapter examines the emergence, development and diffusion of queer social movements since the late 1980s. It takes a sense of movement seriously, not only studying queer as a social movement, but tracing the movement of the concept of “queer” activism across time and space from its development in the metropolitan centers of North America. From its origins in the AIDS direct action activism of ACT UP (New York) in the 1980s, to queer anarchist gatherings in Europe in the 2000s, queer has sought to challenge and question regimes of the normal. This chapter cannot offer a comprehensive history and analysis of all self-proclaimed queer activism around the world over the last quarter of a century; but, what it attempts to do is chart and critique key moments in that history. It also considers how queer activism and academic queer theory have related to each other in different periods and in different places. From the very beginning, the development of Queer Theory was entangled with the new breed of queer activism. There were direct overlaps in personnel between the graduate students and early career academics developing queer theoretical approaches and those strategizing and participating in queer direct action on the streets. Queer Theory was rooted in this broader radical project of contesting heteronormative social relations. In the intervening two decades, the relationship between Queer Theory and radical street-based activism has become more tenuous and more strained, but has never been entirely broken. Queer activism has, of course, also changed significantly in this period; and, as the concept has travelled, has been adapted to new circumstances.

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