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Over the past few months Kane Race and I have started a working group in our department called "Sexuality and Space". The idea is to develop an archive and a network of resources, ideas and events about the politics of urban space in Sydney, particularly as this relates to gender and sexuality.

The group builds on the foundation laid by Kane's fabulous book, Pleasure Consuming Medicine,and recent work I've done on the night-time economies of Australia's inner-cities. It is also a chance for us to work collaboratively with students in the department who are leading the way in researching these issues locally.

In my case the project continues a set of concerns I began to investigate in Brisbane through essays like 'Normal Homes', which deals explicitly with city space, sexuality and ideas of kinship. It also develops from writing I did at the outset of my forthcoming book, which describes changes to Brisbane in the wake of the creative industries policy drive. In that context, Fortitude Valley was just one area to be transformed from eccentric haven to jewel in the crown of a new leisure economy marketed to wealthy locals, cosmopolitan tourists and interstate migrants. In a further paper I co-wrote with Jason Wilson, these transformative acts of urban entrepreneurialism are described as a "cultural economy of infamy" - its ultimate manifestation being the Underbelly franchise.

The S&S project is an attempt to chart these trends in Sydney specifically, answering questions like these that Kane has summarised:

*How do strategies of city branding appeal to, and repackage, histories of subcultural and illicit activity in their attempts to market the city? What are the implications for sexual minorities and how are sexual subcultures transformed in this process?

*What are the effects of current policing initiatives (drug dog operations, patrolling of beats, etc.) on the shape and social possibilities of sexual communities in cities like Sydney?

*How is the night-time economy represented, marketed, and governed? What forms of consumption (licit and illicit) does it depend upon - explicitly and tacitly - and what relations are there between them?

*How do we resist the sanitization of sexual cultures as these cultures begin to feature in more extensive networks of commerce, government, and public representation?

At the moment we're meeting fortnightly to discuss readings that set up our aims for the group. Later in the semester this will expand to include a selection of guest speakers from scholars, activists, community and council reps and more.

One of our researchers, Viv McGregor, has started a tumblr blog featuring images of sexuality and space. It's a work of art in itself! Well worth a bookmark. Viv has also started a delicious page for relevant links - feel free to link to us and add more with the sexualityspace tag.

We welcome involvement from anyone interested in cultural economies, consumer culture, cultural geography, criminology and urban governance... and most of all those whose precious intimacies and alternative forms of sociability are increasingly subject to arbitrary surveillance and suspicion.

The Facebook page is one of the easiest ways to keep in touch.

Cross-posted at Home Cooked Theory

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About the Blog

This is the blog for thinking and talking about culture, Cultural Studies and cultural analysis at the University of Sydney.