This talk uses a literary and cultural archive to explain how urban and environmental change have shaped the core questions of queer and trans studies in the U.S. since the 1950s. In the talk I argue that an urban environmental history of queer and trans studies is useful for explaining the tools that queer and trans critique offers to an analysis of how ideas of race, gender, sexuality, and kinship shape advocacy for environmental justice amid climate emergency. To illustrate this argument, I focus on trans and Two-Spirit poet Julian Talamantez Brolaski’s 2011 collection gowanus atropolis in the context of the Superfund remediation of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, a project ongoing in the 2020s. I set Brolaski’s collection in conversation with the history of the Superfund program to argue that Superfund has been integral to shaping how remediation projects in the U.S. have equated environmental repair with racialized and gendered social normativity. I use a queer and trans approach to reframe how designers, urbanists, and environmental advocates might approach remediation projects that seek to sustain a narrative of normative growth compatible neither with the lives of marginalized residents nor with adaptation in the face of climate change.
Davy Knittle (he/they) is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Delaware. In 2022, he was HMEI/Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Environment at Princeton University. Davy works at the intersection of urban studies, queer and trans studies, and the environmental humanities. He is at work on a book project entitled “Urbanist Desire and the Ecology of Queer and Trans Survival.” Davy’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Perspecta, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Planning Perspectives,