Thursday 4/12/12: Kwame Holmes Talk, “Planning Around ‘Queer Time’”

Rethinking the Problem of Racial Nostalgia Along the Shaw Cultural Heritage Trails in Washington, D.C.

When:       Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 4pm

Where:     1101 Holzapfel Hall

The Cultural Landscapes Working Group has organized a visit by Dr. Kwame Holmes to give a talk, “Planning Around ‘Queer Time’: Rethinking the Problem of Racial Nostalgia Along the Shaw Cultural Heritage Trails in Washington, D.C.”

In 1996 the D.C. Humanities Council, Washington Historical Society and the D.C. Preservation Office joined with over 15 preservationist groups to promote “the city beyond the monuments” by marking cultural heritage trails that would attract tourists into the District of Columbia. In marketing Shaw as a “historic” attraction, planners crafted a vision of the neighborhood’s past that emphasized its ethnic diversity and black civic, educational, and religious institutions.  Missing, however, were the experiences of black entrepreneurs like Odessa Madre, a major figure within D.C.’s policy game and a purported lesbian or artists like Essex Hemphill, whose poetry takes readers on an alternative, queer tour of Cardozo’s Meridian Hill, after dark, in the 1980s.  This presentation employs Judith Halberstam’s theory of queer time to illuminate the problem of racial nostalgia within the planning and production of the “Heritage Trails” within the Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C.  It would be a mistake to suggest that “homophobia” explains these exclusions.  Rather, this talk argues that African American queer bodies like Madre and Hemphill operated outside of the normative times signatures that organize contemporary preservationists’ commitment to promoting particular kinds of economic growth in neighborhoods like Shaw; territories that often contain an unruly past.

Dr. Holmes is currently postdoctoral fellow of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia.

This event was co-sponsored by the Departments of American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Anthropology and by the LGBT Studies, Historic Preservation, and Urban Studies and Planning Programs.  Please contact Dr. Christina Hanhardt or Dr. Mary Corbin Sies for more information.