Sex, Drink, and State Anxieties: Governance Through the Gay Bar
Gay bars have been central to the social and cultural geography of queer folk throughout the twentieth century. In North America, Liquor Control Boards have been important in governing homosexuality. In order to explore the spatial governance of homosexuals, this paper uses a Foucauldian governmentality perspective to analyze data from Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) enforcement and hearing files between 1934 and 1971. While the WSLCB governed heteronormatively, it did so with a relatively light touch through the deployment and selective enforcement of often vague administrative rules. Adherence to the rules, meanwhile, relied upon an ability and willingness to understand authorities’ intentions and imaginations and to self-govern accordingly. Gay bars were somewhat privileged vis-à-vis neighboring straight bars, due to the unintended consequences of certain state practices, a desire by state authorities to closet homosexuality generally, and a propensity for self-governance on the parts of gay bar owners, managers, and patrons. Our findings add nuance to work on Foucauldian studies in geography, work on licensing and regulation, and urban gay histories.
Social and Cultural Geography
pre-print, post-print (with 12 month embargo)
Brown, M. and Knopp, L., "Sex, Drink, and State Anxieties: Governance Through the Gay Bar" (2016). SIAS Faculty Publications. 552.