Relocations by Karen Tongson

Introduction by
Kai Squires

Meredith Raimondo and Lorena Muñoz each offer a review of Karen Tongson's Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries. They were part of an author-meets-critics panel organized by Jasbir Puar at the 2012 Association of American Geographers meeting in New York. Relocations was published in 2011 by New York University Press.

Review by Lorena Muñoz Relocations is an exciting, witty, complex, captivating read that it is as pleasurably disorienting as it is temporally grounded in subaltern spaces in the Los Angeles Megalopolis. As a geographer, Tongson had me at ‘relocations’ but ‘queer suburban imaginaries’ sealed the deal. Tongson offers geographers a beautifully interwoven historical analysis of the production of the Los Angeles suburbs that sings off the page. Literally, as I found myself singing to “don't stop believing” (page 32) and “back to life, back to reality” (page 74) while situating my own lived experiences in yearnings of the cloverleaf interstate. Hence, I too, like Chan’s JJ Chinois “dykeaspora” (page 54) grew up navigating my own sexuality by “perpetual reimaginings of global migration” (page 54) traveling through southern California’s highway system from ‘lower’ California (Mexico).

Review by Meredith Raimondo To this point, queer spatial imaginaries have largely been thought through an urban/rural binary. Karen Tongson’s Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries offers many elegant and playful challenges to this logic, but one of my favorites is this: “And yet these little boxes, these micro-parcels of contact and commerce, teem with lives cosmopolites won’t deign or dare to imagine” (page 154). This incitement captures so much about what’s important about Tongson’s intervention: its reparative engagement with the unlovely, unlovable suburb as a place not of normativity’s triumph but as a site of queer possibility (suburbs here are not metronormative geographies of shame, but spaces of complex affective relations that cannot be productively understood through simple binaries); its engagement with the soundscapes so central to suburbia’s queer aesthetics (here, the citation of Malvinia Reynolds’ “Little Boxes” invokes not just the televisual productions of suburban excess in show like Weeds, which borrowed the song from ’60s protest culture, but also its staple role in the anti-suburbanism of lesbian feminist women’s music); and its commitment to what might be thought, through its exploration of “lesser Los Angeles” (page 162), to lesser geographies (geographies that Tongson shows are not so distant from empire as urbanites used to a more vertical imperial architecture might think). 

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Relocations Review: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, by Lorena Muñoz

"Relocations" is an exciting, witty, complex, captivating read that it is as pleasurably disorienting as it is temporally grounded in subaltern spaces in the Los Angeles Megalopolis. As a geographer, Tongson had me at ‘relocations’ but ‘queer suburban imaginaries’ sealed the deal.

Relocations Review by Meredith Raimondo

Tongson’s interest in empire asks the reader to situate southern California’s suburbs globally, and in doing so offers an important demonstration of the centrality of gender and sexuality to the politics of post-urbanization.