Pride, protest and playfulness: Rethinking urban activism

Date Wednesday 2 September 2020
Time 1pm - 2pm
Where Zoom (Once you have registered you will receive a Zoom URL link to join the online event with a passcode)
Presenter Professor Lynda Johnston
Contact Olive Zhong
Contact email
Admission Cost Free

This presentation extends discussion of urban activism through paying attention to the emotional and embodied politics of a sports event. Professor Johnston worked with Professor Gordon Waitt (University of Wollongong) to conduct research about the ‘Proud to Play Games’, an inaugural regional multisport event held during the Auckland Pride Festival in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2016. Feminist and queer theories of emotion and affect – particularly Sara Ahmed's (2010) promise of happiness - produces nuanced understandings urban gay pride events. Qualitative performative methodologies – including interviews, surveys, and participation in the games – show that during Proud to Play Auckland performed as ‘happy queer city’, encouraging participants to mingle sporting pleasure with consumerism while concealing inequalities and oppressions. It is in these urban Pride sport spaces where normative notions of gender, sexuality and ethnicity are reproduced, challenged and felt. Adopting Ahmed’s (2010) ‘unhappy queer’ concept allows us to critically consider not just happiness, but also the negative, shameful and difficult feelings that circulate in and through bodies and places during urban Pride events. We focus on the experiences of three Proud to Play participants as they illustrate the tensions of play / protest, happy / sad, and pride / shame in Auckland. The portraits highlight: a homonormativity pursuit of happiness and youthful masculine athleticism; precarious happiness and oppositional lesbian desire; and, the pursuit of Indigenous happiness. Through attention to affective and emotional politics, we demonstrate that Proud to Play can challenge heteronormative urban space by simultaneously fighting for a better future and making a claim for the right to be unhappy.

Professor Lynda Johnston is a professor of Geography at the University of Waikato, Tauranga, with research interests in embodied, feminist and queer geographies. For almost two decades Lynda has pursued research and conducted activism on the challenges and spatial complexities of inequalities. Lynda is the Chair of the Gender and Geography Commission for the International Geographical Union (2016–2020) and the immediate Past President of the New Zealand Geographical Society (2020–2022).

Once you have registered you will receive a Zoom URL link to join the online event with a passcode.

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