The floating city : carnival, Cape Town and the queering of space

Van der Wal, Ernst (2009-03)

Thesis (MA (VA)(Visual Arts))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


In this thesis I examine the phenomenon of carnival for its corporeal and spatial expressions of fluid identity formations. The visual constitution of multiple gay/queer identities during carnival is commonly regarded as transgressive of the normative order that is ideologically and physically imbedded in the structure of city. I suggest, however, that the various local performances of homosexuality that are mobilised during the Cape Town Pride Parade can be interpreted as simultaneous reinforcements and contestations of sexual stereotypes. By tracing discursive and spatial shifts that have occurred within the South African sexual landscape, I demonstrate how this carnival both transgresses and bolsters heteronormativity. In addition, I explore how race and gender play decisive roles in the constitution of a homonormative gay identity, and investigate how these male, white homonormative assumptions are challenged by a minority of black and lesbian participants. In the process of deconstruction, I also reveal how the interaction between spectator and carnival participant blurs binary constructs of stasis/mobility, subject/object, private/public, and 'normal'/'abnormal'.

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