Geographies of sexuality and gender 'Down Under'



Publication Details

Gorman-Murray, A. W., Waitt, G. R. & Johnston, L. (2008). Geographies of sexuality and gender 'Down Under'. Australian Geographer, 39 (3), 235-246.


This special issue derives from specialist sessions on 'Geographies of Sexuality and Gender "Down Under"' at the 2007 Institute of Australian Geographers' conference (University of Wollongong, 2-5 July), sponsored by the IAG Cultural Geography Study Group. Geographical analysis of gendered and sexualised space emerged in Anglo-American (UK, US and Canadian) geography in the 1980s (Johnston and Sidaway 2004). However, it was not until Dowling and McGuirk's 1998 special issue in Australian Geographer 'Gendered Geographies in Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific' - that an edition of an Australasian (Australian and New Zealand) geographical journal was devoted solely to geographies of gender.1 Ten years on, while extending the gendered focus, the present issue is also the first Australasian journal explicitly to foreground geographies of sexuality, thus making a key intervention. In this introduction we will not extensively pre-empt the papers - they speak for themselves - but contemplate what this special issue adds to geographical knowledge.

Over the past decade or so there has been something of a 'sex craze' in the social sciences. Geographers, sociologists, psychologists, and scholars in gender, cultural and health studies have shown a growing interest in the gendered and sex(ualis)ed body as an important co-ordinate of subjectivity. Relationships between space, place and (gendered) sex(uality) have been and continue to be explored in specialist conference sessions, articles in scholarly journals dedicated to issues of gender, sexuality and subjectivities (e.g. Gender, Place and Culture; Social and Cultural Geography; Body and Society) and academic books (e.g. Bell and Valentine 1995; Hawkins and Scott 2005; Johnston 2005a; Waitt and Markwell 2006; Browne et al. 2007). In short, since the late 1990s there has been a burgeoning of scholarship on 'space, place and sex'. In Australia and New Zealand there is a small community of scholars working on gender, sex and sexuality, and many publish in journals beyond our countries. We suspect, therefore, that many geographers with whom we share our national and regional spaces may (still) be surprised to read about these topics and wonder what sexuality and gender has got to do with geography. In what follows we first provide some context to thinking spatially about sexuality and gender. Second, we reflect on how the aims of the conference sessions and this special issue address gaps and absences in geographies of sexualities. Third, we assert the need to speak from an 'Australasian' perspective, outlining some contextual differences between Anglo-American and Australasian geographies of sexuality and gender. But there are also important connections between these traditions that this issue advances; therefore, in the final section we explicate these contributions before introducing the papers.

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