The Gentrification of the Mind – Outburst Book Group

22nd April 2021

**reading and talking together**

Yes, Outburst already has a book group where we read the best in queer fiction, but we also now have a reading group where we dig into theories that help us to see the world around us, and our place in it, in a different way (we can see queerly now!).

These reading group events will provide an informal, friendly and social atmosphere in which to explore challenging and compelling texts and ideas, There’s no need to prepare in advance. We will read and discuss one short text (e.g. one chapter of a book, an essay, etc.) together for each session.

We’re kicking this group off on 22 April with Sarah Schulman’s ‘The Gentrification of the Mind’…a vivid and accessible account of what queer culture has lost in recent decades.

“In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism.”

“‘The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination’, reckons with the intellectual and spiritual consequences of this displacement… “Gentrification,” Schulman said recently in an interview on WNYC, “was not caused by individuals. It was the process of city policy.” A moratorium on construction of low-income housing and tax incentives for luxury developers combined to create severely class-stratified neighborhoods where anyone with less than significant wealth has limited options for where to live. For white newcomers to the city who can’t afford much, that often means renting an apartment in a neighborhood that doesn’t have many people who look like you.

But in Schulman’s telling, the struggle over real estate is only the most obvious side of the story. As gentrification reshapes people’s understanding of the urban experience, the damage goes deeper; the mind itself, she argues, becomes gentrified. “Spiritually,” she writes, “gentrification is the removal of the dynamic mix that defines urbanity — the familiar interaction of different kinds of people creating ideas together.” That lost mix was once the fuel for new art and new politics. Gentrification restricts the availability and viability of new and inventive forms of thought, art, and politics.” – Emily Douglas, LARB

Image credit: David Wojnarowicz, ‘Burning House’, 1981
Spray paint on cardstock stencil

Image description: A stencil of a simplified image in red and white of a small house with flames coming out of the windows.

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