"Alive & Kicking": Queer Cultural Memory of Toronto's Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement Through Photographs of Violence and Protest in The Body Politic (1971-1987)

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Wilton, Jessica
cultural memory , Canada , queer , Toronto , visual history , sexuality studies , Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement , photography , protest , violence , collective memory
This thesis examines the collective memory of Toronto’s Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement (GLLM) in the 1970s and 1980s through queer cultural memory. This queer cultural memory is informed by photographs and articles of protest and violence in the gay liberation magazine, The Body Politic (1971-1987). The thesis first develops the theory of queer cultural memory as a type of collective memory specific to queer communities. This memory takes a redemptive form and is informed by “figures of memory” including texts and photographs which have a unique relationship to ephemeral records in queer community archives. Crucially, these texts and photographs inform different queer cultural memories; the texts communicate the textual metanarrative (dominant narrative of the GLLM), while the photographs show the visual narrative. Both comprise the movement’s collective memory. To analyze these photographs, this thesis establishes a visual methodology based on techniques in cultural history and visual anthropology. Using these techniques, it performs a quantitative analysis of 165 images and qualitative analysis of 40 images to establish the visual form of queer cultural memory. Subsequently, it compares the visual narrative to the textual metanarrative in order to reveal the obscured and excluded narratives. Overall, it argues that in the queer cultural memory, the textual metanarrative of the movement differs from the visual record in the magazine. Furthermore, it contends that queer cultural memory, as a tool, can be used to reveal voices and experiences obscured by the dominant narrative, which is largely a reflection of white, cis, gay, men.
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