A Queer Geography: Journeys Toward a Sexual Self

A Queer Geography: Journeys Toward a Sexual Self

by Frank Browning
     
 
What is the gay identity? Do gay people even exist? The bestselling author of The Culture of Desire journeys into the minds of gay men in America and elsewhere to discover how their lives are shaped by time, nation, and desire. In a brilliant argument, Browning shows how and why the gay movement could have only arisen in America.

Overview

What is the gay identity? Do gay people even exist? The bestselling author of The Culture of Desire journeys into the minds of gay men in America and elsewhere to discover how their lives are shaped by time, nation, and desire. In a brilliant argument, Browning shows how and why the gay movement could have only arisen in America.

Editorial Reviews

Roberto Friedman
Browning investigates the idea of a gay identity as just one point on a global spectrum of homosexual lives and behaviors. -- Washington Post Book World
Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
In an often provocative personal exploration of homosexual identity, National Public Radio reporter Browning (The Culture of Desire) argues that gay activism in the U.S. has taken on a communitarian, almost religious character, shaped by a Protestant belief in spiritual rebirth that is central to American culture. In transforming subterranean desire into a political movement, gay and lesbian activists have made coming out a ritual akin to being 'born-again,' he contends. By contrast, the gay-straight divide is much more fluid and bridgeable in Naples, Italy, where Browning's encounters with a gay doctor and transvestites lead him to situate homosexual identity in a web of family relations and social codes. To buttress his thesis that experiencing being gay is shaped by one's culture, Browning looks at the ritualized gay sex of Sambia tribesmen of New Guinea and at homosexuality among middle-class Brazilians and Filipinos. The search for a responsible, liberated sexuality, he insists, can serve as a model for political activists working to achieve an inclusive, pluralistic, democratic society.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In an often provocative personal exploration of homosexual identity, National Public Radio reporter Browning (The Culture of Desire) argues that gay activism in the U.S. has taken on a communitarian, almost religious character, shaped by a Protestant belief in spiritual rebirth that is central to American culture. In transforming subterranean desire into a political movement, gay and lesbian activists have made coming out a ritual akin to being "born-again," he contends. By contrast, the gay-straight divide is much more fluid and bridgeable in Naples, Italy, where Browning's encounters with a gay doctor and transvestites lead him to situate homosexual identity in a web of family relations and social codes. To buttress his thesis that experiencing being gay is shaped by one's culture, Browning looks at the ritualized gay sex of Sambia tribesmen of New Guinea and at homosexuality among middle-class Brazilians and Filipinos. The search for a responsible, liberated sexuality, he insists, can serve as a model for political activists working to achieve an inclusive, pluralistic, democratic society. Author tour. (Apr.)
Charles Harmon
Browning's "Culture of Desire" (1993) regarded modern gay American culture as having evolved out of sexual desire. His new book goes beyond sexual desire to answer the question, Does a specifically gay identity exist? He begins with the premise that general society's depiction of gays is based on the mores and archetypes of the predominantly young inhabitants of urban gay neighborhoods. He leads us beyond this rather narrow sampling of all gays to see whether Stonewall veterans (the now middle-aged generation of 1970s gay activists) have anything in common with today's teen and twenty-something queers and, if so, whether that common something is shared by gays in Nepal, New Guinea, and Kentucky, or in different ethnic groups. Browning importantly contributes to gay studies by moving beyond sexual politics to look at other forces--economic, aesthetic, historical, etc.--that drive gay "outness" (his term). Not as tightly focused as "Culture", "Queer Geography" in many ways mirrors what some may consider the present state of gay culture in the more developed parts of the globe.
Robert E. Bauman
Don't misunderstand the meaning of geography here. There are no maps. What the author seeks is a delineation of the constituent elements of being gay, as the subtitle says: Journey Towards a Sexual Self.

In his first book, Browning writes here, he asked "a single question: Had gay men succeeded in the radical, utopian dream of constructing their own social world based on the exigencies of desires?" Now, he argues, we"re moving beyond the desire to define ourselves at all. His new question, says Browning, is "Do gay people [as we once defined gay] exist?" That a "gay community" has evolved, no one denies. Exactly what that community's components may be is wide open to question.
The Advocate

Kirkus Reviews
A murky collection of essays about varying strategies for gay male self-definition.

National Public Radio reporter Browning (The Culture of Desire, 1993, etc.) theorizes that in America the "search for place is at the heart of the gay faith of coming out and being reborn into our own queer culture." While his discussion of how this process mirrors the Puritans' original impulse in settling America is occasionally provocative, he confuses the point by noting that many gay men flout the idea of, and the need for, a queer culture. In anecdotes drawn from his own life and many contacts, professional and romantic, Browning finds that the perspectives of men who desire men are so divergent that, especially across generations, they often don't share anything like the same "interior geography." Browning discusses an obscure New Guinea tribe whose boys perform fellatio on their elders for a time, then become heterosexual; he holds up this provisional brand of sexuality, which is ritually bound up with communal identity, as a contrast to Americans' insistence on sexuality as a matter of individual identity. A chapter on transvestite prostitutes in Naples reinforces the unoriginal point that other cultures take for granted ambiguities most Americans have trouble confronting. Browning questions whether the process of coming out doesn't so much liberate the individual as commit him to an unnecessarily formulaic category, and explains that Michel Foucault didn't publicly avow his homosexuality for this reason; the argument is clever but barren. And like many of Foucault's less brilliant disciples, Browning constantly lards his prose with specious analytical language; for instance, explaining his "open relationship" and how gay men acquire extended networks of friends through sex, he says such a social system "values a dynamic ethics of human interaction over an inherited rule of domestic exclusivity."

Yes, plus, you get all that sex.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307818737
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
01/02/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Frank Browning is an American author and correspondent for National Public Radio. His books include The American Way of Crime, The Culture of Desire, and Apples. He lives in Paris.

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