Enacting Politics through Art: Encounters between Queer and Trans of Color Organizers and the Canadian City

by Matthew D Chin

Institution: University of Michigan
Year: 2016
Keywords: This study examines the role of the arts in the relationship between queer and transgender of color organizers and urban government institutions; Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Studies; Humanities (General); Women's and Gender Studies; Anthropology and Archaeology; Social Sciences (General); Social Work; Humanities; Social Sciences
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2121388
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/120709


This ethnographic study investigates the role of the arts in the relationship between urban governmental institutions and queer and transgender people of color (QTPOC) community organizations. Toronto is a fitting site for this project given that the city is intensively mobilizing the arts to foster urban economic development and that it is uniquely emblematic of Canada’s regulatory embrace of racialized, gendered and sexual minorities. The findings from this study are derived from two years of ethnographic fieldwork and 63 semi-structured interviews carried out between 2012 and 2014 among state arts institutions, funding bodies and community arts initiatives. Drawing from the fields of social work, anthropology, queer studies, and critical ethnic studies, I argue that the arts operate as a means of constructing the neoliberal welfare state through the incorporation of QTPOC. These inclusionary creative citizenship practices enable QTPOC to engage in a feelings-based mode of community development in ways that are nevertheless constrained by how state institutions administer the programs that fund these initiatives. Each chapter of this dissertation is organized around an ethnographic dilemma that brings into focus how the arts surface as the solution to the diverse challenges that government institutions and minority community organizations face. As a uniquely elastic mode of social action, the arts serve as the linchpin between QTPOC efforts to counter the intertwined mechanisms of racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia, and municipal imperatives to promote economic growth and address the social exclusion of marginalized populations. By using the arts to explore the interrelated workings of urban government and grassroots collectives, this study demonstrates how questions of space, time, feelings, humanity and political economy are deeply implicated in the politics of making racialized, gendered and sexual difference. Advisors/Committee Members: Gutierrez, Lorraine M (committee member), Partridge, Damani James (committee member), Tolman, Richard M (committee member), Roberts, Elizabeth Fs (committee member), Lemon, Alaina M. (committee member).