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Japonica Brown-Saracino, How Places Make Us: The Origins of Novel LBQ Identities in Four Small Cities.
We like to think of ourselves as possessing an essential self, a core identity that is who we really are, regardless of where we live or work. But, drawing on an extensive ethnographic study of lesbian, bisexual, and queer individuals in four small cities, Brown-Saracino's lecture will reveal that places make us much more than we think. Taking us into Ithaca, New York; San Luis Obispo, California; Greenfield, Massachusetts; and Portland, Maine; the lecture will demonstrate that LBQ migrants craft a unique sense of self that corresponds to their new homes. Despite the fact that the LBQ residents share many demographic and cultural traits, their approaches to sexual identity politics and to ties with other LBQ individuals and heterosexual residents vary markedly by where they live. Subtly distinct city ecologies shape what it feels like to be a sexual minority and how one “does” LBQ in a specific place; there isn’t one general way of approaching sexual identity because humans are not only social but fundamentally local creatures. The study calls us away from strictly temporal and demographic explanations for identity formation, as well as from a spatial map that only recognizes variation across red and blue states, rural and urban locales, and coastal and inland cities. Interactions and self-understanding respond to even very subtle differences in city conditions, creating city-specific identities and communities.
Japonica Brown-Saracino is Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston University. She is the author of A Neighborhood That Never Changes: Gentrification, Social Preservation and the Search for Authenticity (University of Chicago 2009), which received the Urban Affairs Association Best Book Award, and How Places Make Us: Novel LBQ Identities in Four Small Cities (University of Chicago 2017). She is editor of The Gentrification Debates (Routledge 2010), and her articles on urban change, culture, identity, and city ecology have appeared in journals such as City & Community, Sexualities, American Journal of Sociology, Theory & Society, Social Problems, and Annual Review of Sociology.