ERG SES D 05, Parallel Session D 05
Research on space and its relation to sexuality have mainly been conducted during the last two decades within critical geography (Hubbard, 2001; Binnie & Valentine, 1999). All these studies have demonstrated that space is both sexed or sexualized and actively produced by the dominant discourse, which is heteronormative (Oswin, 2008). Most scholars that have studied the interconnection of space and sexuality have built their notion of actively produced space on queer or feminist theory, rejecting essentialism and arguing instead that just as individual persons do not have pre-existing sexual identities; neither do spaces (Oswin, 2008; Hubbard, 2001; Binnie, 1997; Bell, Binnie, Cream & Valentine, 1994). According to them, space, both public and private, is not naturally “straight”, but a heterosexualized production. It has been produced actively as heterosexist, heterosexual and heteronormative. In addition the structure and the organization of space in western societies have the purpose to naturalize heterosexuality.
The process of heterosexualization can manifest itself in various ways, for example through images, legal and moral regulations, behaviour, repeated spatial performances and body appearance, encouraging people to adopt heterosexual identities and performances (Nast, 1998).
In the lecture I will build on the above mentioned theoretical perspective about space and its contribution to the process of heterosexualization. I will discuss the first results of a study on the role of space, both objective and subjective in an Icelandic upper secondary school, when it comes to heterosexism and the well being of queer students.
This study focuses on three themes or research questions: Firstly the various types of public spaces in the upper secondary school under investigation and how they intersect with sexuality and gender. Secondly it will map the manifestations of heterosexism within different spaces and thirdly it will explain how queer students negoiate their existence and adapt their bodies to these heterosexual spaces.
The objectives of the study are mainly three: descriptive,informative and emancipatory. These objectives are interwoven in the sense that by describing and analyzing the role of space in (re)producing heterosexism in upper secondary school, will give educators and policy makers a better understandings (information) of the nature and manifestations of institutionalized heterosexism. This will then contribute to the academic and educational discourse on social (un)justice of LGBTQ students in upper secondary schools. In that way the study is emancipatory, i.e. has the aim of giving LGBTQ students a voice within the heterosexual space of the upper secondary schools.
The results of the study should have interests outside of Iceland for several reasons: Firstly it should contribute to the growing body of research within critical educational research. Secondly its results could give researchers indications of what could be expected in other European upper secondary schools when it comes to linking space to sexuality and gender. This could then stimulate further research within education in Europe and contribute to changes of policy, i.e. putting this issue on the agenda for policy makers. Thirdly the concept of space has an international reference that gives this study an international perspective.
Bell, D., Binnie, J., Cream, J., & Valentine, G. (1994). All hyped up and no place to go. Gender, Place and Culture, 1, 31-47. Binnie, J. (1997). Coming out of geography: towards a queer epistemology? Environment and Planning A, 29, 237-248. Binnie, Jon & Valentine, Gill (1999). Geographies of sexualities – a review of progress. Progress in Human Geography, 23 (2), 175-187. Hubbard, P. (2001). Sex zones: Intimacy, citizenship and public space. Sexualities, 4(1), 51-71. Jagose, A. (1996). Queer Theory. Melbourne Melbourne: University Press. Linville, D. (2009). Queer theory and teen sexuality. Unclear lines. In J. Anyon (Ed.), Theory and Educational Reserch. Toward critical social explanation (pp. 153-177). New York: Routledge. Nast, H. (1998). Unsexy geographies. Gender, Place and Culture, 5(2), 191-206. Oswin, Natalie (2008). Critical geographies and the uses of sexuality: deconstructing queer space. Progress in Human Geography, 32, 1, 89-103.
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