Que(e)rying Urban Justice
What does it mean to map space in ways that address histories of displacement? What does it mean to regard Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (QTBIPOC) as geographic subjects who model different ways of inhabiting and sharing space? These are some of the questions that Jin Haritaworn, Associate Professor of Gender, Race and Environment, and the Marvellous Grounds collective – Haritaworn’s team of FES and York graduates and grad students, which includes Ghaida Moussa, Syrus Marcus Ware, Rio Rodriguez, Alvis Choi and others – seek to document in their research, teaching, and activist scholarship.
With ancestries in Thailand, China and Germany, Haritaworn has written extensively on issues of gender, identity, justice, race, and space. Their two recent research projects, a SSHRC IDG called ‘Marvellous Grounds’ and an Early Researcher Award project called ‘Taking Space, Making Space,’ strive to document ways that QTBIPOC create communities, innovate projects and foster connections within Toronto/Three Fires Territory and beyond. Both have resulted in numerous further publications, including the two 2018 anthologies Marvellous Grounds: Queer of Colour Histories of Toronto and Queering Urban Justice: Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto, both co-edited with collective members Ghaida Moussa and Syrus Marcus Ware, the latter with Rio Rodriguez.
2018/19 was a busy year for the team, including five book launches and five keynotes. In addition to a joint keynote invitation to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences conference on Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes (June 2019 in Vancouver), Haritaworn gave keynotes at the American Sociological Association Preconference, Sexualities Section (August 2018 in Philadelphia) and at the University of Copenhagen conference on Borders, Affects, Biopolitics (August 2019, Denmark). Haritaworn’s latest article “On These Bones: The Queer Regenerations of the Toronto Gay Village,” on the urban developments surrounding the well-mediated case of the serial killer Bruce McArthur, is in print with Topia.
The two books and blog that Haritaworn has co-edited with the Marvellous Grounds collective are written in the spirit of activist scholarship and involve over fifty authors from QTBIPOC communities. Queering Urban Justice foregrounds visions of urban justice that are critical of
racial and colonial capitalism. The anthology describes city spaces as sites where bodies are exhaustively documented while others barely register as subjects. Marvellous Grounds focuses on QTBIPOC archives and histories and tells the stories that have shaped Toronto’s landscape, but are frequently forgotten or erased.
“Toronto has long been a place that people of colour move to in order to join queer of colour communities. Yet the city’s rich history of activism by queer and trans people who are Black, Indigenous or of colour remains largely unwritten and unarchived. While QTBIPOC have a long and visible presence in the city, they always appear as newcomers in queer urban maps and archives in which white queers appear as the only historical subjects imaginable,” the blog states. “These book collections feature artistic and activist works and writings by queer and trans Black, Indigenous and people of colour in Toronto,” it adds.
In addition to the ERA and the SSHRC, the Marvelous Grounds team has been nominated for the 45th Toronto Heritage Awards for their anthology Queering Urban Justice. The Toronto Heritage Awards is the city’s premier heritage event and celebrates outstanding accomplishments, exciting opportunities and new projects in the field as well as honouring individuals, groups and organizations for their efforts and extraordinary contributions to the conservation and promotion of Toronto’s heritage.
For more information about Marvellous Grounds, visit their blog at http://marvellousgrounds.com/.