The spectacle of gay suffering: gay victimhood and the making of secular publics in Amsterdam and Berlin
Paul Mepschen (University College Utrecht)
Paper short abstract:
The paper engages with the formation of gay and LGBTIQ heritage, which involves the transformation of the suffering of sexual Others into spectacle: events to be regarded and enjoyed by spectators that turn into publics. This demonstrates a religious dimension in contemporary secular culture.
Paper long abstract:
As secular ideologies and practices have grown increasingly important within practices of belonging in Western Europe, the religious has become framed as out of sync with liberal, secular moralities, as 'Other'. Muslim citizens have been the most conspicuous objects in recent years of 'secular nostalgia' (Bracke, 2012). Religious Others are framed as trespassing on a sacrosanct moral landscape, distorting the dream of a unified, secular, and 'progressive' nation. Simultaneously, sexual alterity has come to play a central role in the politics of secular identity construction. In this paper I zoom in on the heritagization of gay suffering in Amsterdam and Berlin, as materialised in the famous Amsterdam 'homomonument' and several monuments and places of remembrance in Berlin; in art and historical expositions, and in plays and books. I propose to discuss how these practices of heritagization bring into being different publics - gay and straight - with complex relationships to religious, secular, and sexual histories, starting with the conviction that one of the central aspects of the politics of heritagization is cultural and social self-regard. The formation of gay and LGBTIQ heritage in many cases involves the transformation of the suffering of sexual Others into spectacles: events to be regarded, experienced and enjoyed by spectators that turn into (durable) publics. This can also be said to demonstrate a religious dimension in contemporary culture. When it comes to the suffering of Others, to 'the most terrible matters of history, we're all supposed to act as if we're in church' (Robin, 2016).
Tangles of late liberalism: sexuality, nationalism, and the politics of race in Europe [EASA ENQA and ARE networks]