Reflections on Mapping the (Queer) Personal Past


The  Graduate Center Library and the Futures Initiative regret that this event has been canceled. We hope to reschedule very soon and will post details on once they are confirmed.

On May 23rd 2008, a call for participants arrived in my inbox. It read:

Living in an (In)Visible World: Lesbians and Queer Women’s Spaces and Economies in New York City (1983-2008)

Since I was around, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer as a human subject. As a participant, I had the opportunity to “share my stories and insights” since I came out “between 1983 and 2008 and spent the majority of that time in New York City.” Participation involved three meetings including three focus groups, or two focus groups and a one-on-one interview.

On Thursday, July 10th 2008, at the Graduate Center, 8-10pm, I had my first focus group. I recall the rectangular table and the large map. Around the table sat myself and a handful of other self-identified lesbians. Initially, I felt hesitant as the youngest of the bunch. Having come out at 16, I didn’t find my teen years a valid mapping point. It was Geiseking’s direction, prompting, and theoretical underpinnings of making our experiences tangible through mapping that led me to consider the worth of my personal past. I understood that my memory had a visual queue, which led to a point on a map. Unlike any of the other dykes in the room, I had to mark down “Little West 12th Street,” – where I made my first queer friends, or certain spots on the Christopher Street Pier (before the renovation) – where I watched the houses battle, or the original location of the New Neutral Zone – where I organized FIERCE campaigns. And then there was the spot of my first kiss, against the Hudson… I placed point after point after point. We all did. Together, in that room, we created a queer constellation on the New York City stratosphere.

Reflecting on the mapping of my queer personal past is why I’m particularly interested in this upcoming presentation by Jen Jack Geiseking. I can’t help but wonder, what happened to all of those stories and insights? Years later, what is the imprint of this mapping? Next Thursday, February 19th we find out! Jack is going to come full circle and discuss “Queering the Map.”

Below is the official description. I hope to see you there!
Eventbrite - Queering the Map (Jen Jack Gieseking)

In The Practice of Everyday Life, de Certeau writes that “What the map cuts up, the story cuts across.” But what if the everyday stories you seek are already cut up by centuries of structural inequality and oppression, such as those of lesbians and queer women?

In this talk on “Queering the Map,” Jack Gieseking investigates what can be gained for the study of queer lives and spaces by bringing together the isolated but overlapping stories of lesbians and queer women in maps, from the hand-drawn to the most technologically advanced and interactive.

Drawing upon qualitative and quantitative work on lesbians’ and queer women’s spaces and economies in New York City from 1983 to 2008—including multi-generational focus groups and mental maps, archival research and GIS—Gieseking works through three different types of mapping methods and platforms within a participatory action research framework. Through a close analysis of mental maps, QGIS, and TileMill/Mapbox, they suggest that the spatial and verbal can both obfuscate or illuminate understandings of everyday life. It is the queer practice of holding these seeming binaries in tension that reveals the most rich and complicated knowledge.

Jen Jack Gieseking is a sociocultural geographer, feminist and queer theorist, and urban environmental psychologist. S/he is engaged in research on co-productions of space and identity in digital and material environments, with a focus on sexual and gender identities. Jack’s work pays special attention to how such productions support or inhibit social, spatial, and economic justice. S/he is working on his first monograph, Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queer Women, 1983-2008. S/he is New Media & Data Visualization Postdoctoral Fellow at Bowdoin College where he is helping to found the entirely new interdisciplinary program of Digital and Computational Studies.
Jack’s first book is The People, Place, and Space Reader, co-edited with William Mangold, Cindi Katz, Setha Low, and Susan Saegert, and recently out with Routledge. S/he has held fellowships with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as German Chancellor Fellow; The Center for Place, Culture, and Politics; The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies; and the Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Dissertation Fellows Program. Jack has published inJournal of Urban Affairs, Qualitative Inquiry, Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy, Antipode, and Radical History Review, and has contributed to HASTAC as well. S/he also writes about her research as a blogger with the Huffington Post Gay Voices.

About the Author

Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz is an Assistant Professor and Head of Reference at the Graduate Center Library.