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    "Gay Times": identity, locality, memory, and the Brixton squats in 1970's London

    Cook, Matt (2013) "Gay Times": identity, locality, memory, and the Brixton squats in 1970's London. Twentieth Century British History 24 (1), pp. 84-109. ISSN 0955-2359.

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    Through a thick description of a gay squatting community in south London in the 1970s, this piece explores the ways in which local histories complicate broader accounts of gay life, politics, and culture. Such a focus alerts us to the impact of personal encounters, of local politics, and material circumstances, of coincident local communities, of jobs (or the lack of them), and of major local events (like the Brixton riots of 1981). The local focus and the oral history sources also illuminate the complex ways in which unspoken and often unconscious imperatives associated with ethnicity, class, and the familial, social, and cultural contexts of our upbringings are played out under new and changing circumstances. Taking this approach fractures homogenizing assumptions about gay identity and community—even of a self-identified gay community like this squatting collective. It can also decentre sexuality as a primary category of identity and analysis as other factors come into sharper focus and shed light on the ebb and flow of identification and on the ways in which broader histories are woven into everyday lives. The piece thus considers different scales of analysis, the limits of identification, the inclusions and exclusions enacted when communities come together and identities coalesce, the continuities and discontinuities between broader and counter cultures (especially in relation to ideas and lived experiences of home), and the way memories of the squats and of the 1970s are modulated by subsequent national and gay politics, by AIDS, and by a profound sense of loss.


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