University of Illinois at Chicago
BLAIR-DISSERTATION-2018.pdf (29.74 MB)

Machine of Desire: Race, Space, and Contingencies of Violence in Chicago's Boystown

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posted on 2019-02-01, 00:00 authored by Zachary Shane Kalish Blair
This dissertation critically examines gay neighborhoods as spaces that produce racial violence. While both popular and scientific understandings of modern gay neighborhoods position these spaces as sites of resistance, equality, sexual citizenship, and utopian desires, I argue that gay neighborhoods have historically operated, and continue to operate, as productive sites of violence and, particularly, as mechanisms of racial violence. Using Boystown—Chicago’s gay neighborhood—as a lens, I merge Foucauldian and Marxian frameworks to analyze the relationship between gay neighborhoods and racial violence within the context of racial capitalism and biopower. Specifically, I weave historical research and ethnographic fieldwork to demonstrate the ways in which four distinct aspects of the gay neighborhood work synergistically to reproduce racial violence. First, I examine how the popular narrative of Boystown’s formation was constructed through exclusions based on race, class, gender, and sexuality and perpetuates these exclusions from gay neighborhood space. Second, I explore how Boystown's formation narrative works in conjunction with its built space to drive racialized violence through its social and material landscape. Third, I analyze the violent territorialization of Boystown within the context of ongoing gentrification as resident subjectivities are shaped by discourse, material space, and processes of urban development. Lastly, I examine community policing and surveillance within the context of neighborhood crime as practices of ongoing racial violence upon which the gay neighborhood depends. It is through this comprehensive analysis that I posit the gay neighborhood as a machine of racial violence.



Reddy, Gayatri


Reddy, Gayatri



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

D'Emilio, John Doane, Molly Liechty, Mark Stewart-Winter, Timothy

Submitted date

December 2018

Issue date