Queer Pop-Ups: A Cultural Innovation in Urban Life

PhD student Ryan Stillwagon, with his advisor Prof. Amin Ghaziani, publishes his research about temporary spaces in City & Community, the official journal of the Community and Urban Sociology section of the American Sociological Association.


Research on sexuality and space emphasizes geographic and institutional forms that are stable, established, and fixed. By narrowing their analytic gaze on such places, which include gayborhoods and bars, scholars use observations about changing public opinions, residential integration, and the closure of nighttime venues to conclude that queer urban and institutional life is in decline. We use queer pop‐up events to challenge these dominant arguments about urban sexualities and to advocate instead a “temporary turn” that analyzes the relationship between ephemerality and placemaking. Drawing on interviews with party promoters and participants in Vancouver, our findings show that ephemeral events can have enduring effects. Pop‐ups refresh ideas about communal expression, belonging, safety, and the ownership of space among queer‐identified people who feel excluded from the gayborhood and its bars. As a case, pop‐ups compel scholars to broaden their focus from a preoccupation with permanent places to those which are fleeting, transient, short‐lived, and experienced for only a moment. Only when we see the city as a collection of temporary spaces can we appreciate how queer people convert creative cultural visions into spatial practices that enable them to express an oppositional ethos and to congregate with, and celebrate, their imagined communities.