Village People: critical reflections on a gay-branded space of leisure in Rome
Gay Village is a three-month-long summertime festival, organised in the capital of Italy: Rome. It was created in 2002, after the success of the 2000 World Pride, and has quickly turned into a key event in Rome’s summertime entertainment. Ethnographic work at the Gay Village 2017 edition revealed a significant presence of heteronormed cisgender young men among the festival crowd; their experience of and practices throughout the dancing nights often turned into forms of aggressive spatial appropriation, which easily produced a sense of discomfort and lack of safety among women and queer subjectivities. The case study aims at understanding how this form of heteronormed colonisation has come about, in an effort to revive the intellectual debate on gay-branded spaces of consumption. While scholarly work has thoroughly investigated the progressive ‘straightening’ of mainstream gay-connoted venues, Rome’s Gay Village appears to be an urban artefact that not only does not convincingly challenge spatial heteronormativity, but to a certain extent it also fails to successfully replicate a classic paradigm of ‘urban gay-friendliness through consumption’. And this happens in a metropolitan context that is fully integrated within the common notion of ‘West’. Consequently, Rome’s Gay Village challenges, from within, assumptions on the uniformity of the geopolitical construct of ‘West’ in terms of gender and sexual matters, while also echoing the scholarly problematisation of urban models attempting to conjugate queer liberation with capital accumulation.
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