‘A Nostalgia For The Mud?’
MA Thesis (2019)
“They can just about still make out the towering cranes, concrete cores, and tops of glass towers that hope to define the city just a kilometre away. Scrambling between discarded refrigerators and adolescent birch trees, he picks a blackberry produced by this fecund wasteland and puts it in the other’s mouth. As they kiss, a cement mixer arrives at the island’s farthest tip, waiting to pour foundations that will smooth over a century of sublime degeneracy.”
This thesis examines the ways in which many cities have become increasingly less inclusive environments over past decades as a result of market driven property development, and the subsequent onset of the urban condition known as the ‘smooth city’. After deconstructing how the smooth city employs urban design to generate a normative and exclusive experience of public space, queer theory is introduced as a lens through which to analyse the contemporary urban context. Focusing on examples of cruising and other queer uses of space, the text delves into examples of how some the most historically marginalised inhabitants of cities have been able to appropriate the urban realm, and the subversive effects that this has had towards existing power structures – consequently, the extent to which queering of space might play as a model for destabilising normative power structures in cities is considered. Finally, the relevance of looking to the past for examples of friction in the urban environment to help imagine a different form of publicness amidst the constraints of today’s cities is questioned.
The academic structure of the text is interspersed with narrative interludes, which illustrate the ambiguous thresholds between ‘the smooth city’ and elements of ‘queer space’.