IMPOSSIBLE DANCE: Club Culture and Queer World Making

Fiona Buckland, Author . Wesleyan Univ. $55 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6497-9 ISBN 978-0-8195-6498-6

Charting the significance of gay and lesbian clubs in the formation of personal identity and community, Buckland, a senior editor at Amazon.co.uk, constructs a history of gay night spaces in Manhattan and uses performance theory and queer theory to explicate their importance. Structuring her argument around the joint propositions that "our lives are defined by the limits of our imagination" and that dancing "is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire," Buckland mixes first-person narratives of club goers with social and cultural theory (from Jürgen Habermas, Walter Benjamin and Edward Soja, among others) to look at how the existence and "social production" of queer clubs resist what theorist Michael Warner calls "heteronormativity." Less about a specific identity or community politic, the clubs do what she describes as "world making"—"a production in the moment of a space of creative, expressive, and transformative possibilities, which remain fluid and moving by means of the dancing body." Drawing upon a wide range of venues, from the AIDS organization Body Positive's T-Dance for HIV-positive men to Latino dance clubs in Astoria, Queens, Buckland presents a broad cross-section of queer life. Counterpointing this material with critiques of gay demimonde nightlife (by Rudolph Giuliani and conservative homosexuals Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer, among others), Buckland exposes the cultural tensions that both attack and reinforce the need for such gathering places. (Jan.)

Forecast:Written in a dense postmodern jargon, Buckland's insightful book will appeal mostly to queer theorists and other academics, but not those looking for exuberant firsthand descriptions of club experience, though Buckland does present her experiences and those of her informants with energy. With Giuliani's term ended, a resurgence in New York underground nightlife is in the air, but this is one for the stacks rather than the club goer's knapsack.

Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
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