The Gentrification of the Mind – Witness to a Lost Imagination

Sarah Schulman masterfully reclaims and re-narrativises the AIDS crisis in 1980’s-90’s New York, and the myriad ways in which it has been whitewashed and purified since. She makes sense of how this trauma relates also to the process of gentrification itself; how things are increasingly professionalised and depersonalised, how dangerously bland things are becoming. Her writing is lucid and personal and incredibly moving, characterised in part by an academic grappling without theorising or moralising – Schulman here recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and vibrant downtown arts movements vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. The consequences of that loss are of course difficult to account for in full, and Schulman’s cogent analysis and observations of the generational dissonance that ensued are now painfully relevant as the conversation resurfaces in contemporary cultural dialogue. The recent publication of Kathy Acker’s diary as edited by Chris Krauss, the forthcoming exhibition on AIDS at the Hayward Gallery, and Olivia Laing’s re-edited and reissued publication of David Wojnarowicz’s autobiography Close to the Knives are good examples – there are many more.

Memoir, criticism
University of California Press
Sarah Schulman

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