9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

A Space for Queer Place in Zagreb: 1970-2009

A Space for Queer Place in Zagreb: 1970-2009

This paper examines queer place in Zagreb, Croatia, comparing two decades before independence in the early 1990s and two decades as a post-socialist society. Our research explores the question: "How do places come to be the way they are, and how do places matter for social practices and historical change?" We examine queer place in Zagreb for what it can tell us about the influences on sexualities of nationalism, religion, and the transition of a socialist society to a market economy. By "queer place" we include not only physical and cultural spaces created by sexual minorities like gay men. We also include the material locations created for any expression of non-dominant sexual and gender formations in Zagreb.
An examination of queer place in Zagreb is instructive because of the profound social changes undergone in Croatia over the last two decades. A former republic of Yugoslavia, Croatia was likely the most westernized post-1945 communist country. However, after a devastating war for independence from 1991 until 1995, there ensued a corrupt privatization, increases in poverty and unemployment, a rise of nationalism, and a renewal of the Catholic Church. This cultural turmoil was conducive to new discrimination against those considered to be threatening to the new national tissue. There was no space for sexual minorities or queer sexualities in this order of dominant national values. All this contributed to the distinct ways sexual spaces were organized. Our aim in this paper is to map and describe these queer places, show how and why they emerged and declined over time, and assess the transformations of meanings in these sexual spaces in the capital city of Zagreb over the last four decades. We examine how sexualities in the Croatian transition to democracy were affected by the wider political, cultural, and economic shifts. Insights into the social organization of sexual spaces can aid our more general understanding of the way post-communist societies in transition deal with sexual difference.

Gieryn, T. F. (2000). A Space for Place in Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology 26: 463-96.