on black queer women’s geographies of neoliberalism

keywords: dance, performance studies, queer studies, black feminist geography

Making New Grounds: Black Queer Women’s Geographies of Neoliberalism


Making New Grounds is an ethnography of the physical and affective tactics black queer women have for taking pleasure in neoliberal Chicago. The book brings performance studies together with black feminist geography to specifically argue that black queer women’s practices of inhabiting the dance floor reveal their complex theorizations of the city’s neoliberal governance as an explicitly racialized regime of territorializing pleasure. The city is increasingly built around zones that fortify the good feelings of cisheteromasculine white people: gentrifying landscapes that accumulate value through conditional proximity to black and black queer people and aesthetics. Black queer women take the dance floor up as a site re-negotiate the racialized networks of aesthetics, movement, and feeling in the gentrifying neighborhood. They assert themselves by dismantling soundsystems, refusing to dance, physically pushing white people off the dance floor, and more. They also do so by coming together in cyphers, by hyping twerking friends and strangers alike, and returning month after month, week after week, to sweat it out.

Making New Grounds argues these performative interventions redirect the racialized queer contours of leisure and pleasure that neoliberal urban governance produces and rewards away from affluent white people—and white men, in particular—and toward themselves. Pleasure, in other words, is a set of physical and affective experiences that black queer women take from white gentrifiers and from the landscape alike.As black queer women move on and off the dance floor, they articulate their right to the city as not merely a right to exist, but a right to feel and feel good therein.