John Paul Catungal
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Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
This thesis introduces race into the academic conversation around dark tourism, where it has hitherto been overlooked or ignored. It highlights the extent to which phenomenologies of whiteness (following Ahmed, 2007) are supported and facilitated at racialised sites of dark tourism, through methods of ‘phantoming’ (enhancing or falsifying emplaced resonances of memory). Through two case studies I identify two distinct, though related, techniques of site management that accommodate the white body into racialised space - ‘narrative becoming’, and ‘narrative containment’. First, I lay out academic foundations for my fields of study through a discussion of dark tourism literature, highlighting key debates that relate to race - authenticity, morality, commercialisation, ‘otherness’ - but never quite name it. I also discuss psychoanalytical theory on the spectral as an interruption on the present, before outlining my own definition of the phantom as the physical resonances of place-memory. In my case study centred on Prison Escape game in The Netherlands, I theorize ‘narrative becoming’ as a process through which the white tourist self is offered a temporary experience of stereotyped Black criminality. I analyse the branding and marketing of the site to reveal how the prison is abstracted from geographical space, allowing it to become a playground of alternative desire for the white-lensed tourist. In my second case study, the reading of ghosts becomes much more literal. The Myrtles plantation in Louisiana, USA is touted as one of America’s “most haunted homes”. Here I read the site contrapunctually in order to highlight the various ways in which issues of race, white supremacy and anti-Black violence are omitted from the story told through the site’s ghosts. I frame this silencing as ‘narrative containment’, showing how the site’s managers control the narrative in ways that allow them to retain a public image of pure-intentioned, even honourable, heritage preservation. I do not reconceptualise dark tourism away from its association with death and towards racially-charged encounters, but rather argue that tourists, site managers and dark tourism scholars must begin to consider what it means for sites of racialised suffering to be marketed towards a white audience as ‘attraction’.
Taking a sociological approach grounded in intersectionality and queer theory, this thesis traces and investigates online asexual discourse and identity politics in order to critically investigate the way that asexual culture and Western culture more broadly understands the intersections of friendship, kinship, adulthood, and intimacy. Recognizing the ways that asexual discourse has uncritically taken up problematic nationalist, neoliberal, and racialized understandings of romantic kinship in its identity politics is necessary in order to shift asexual discourse from a respectability and visibility politics with the aim of neoliberal assimilation to a political consciousness that queerly reinterprets the role of sexuality in forming kinship. I begin by tracing the history of online asexual discourse, situating the importance of this specific online culture to asexual worldmaking in a North American context. Here, I situate asexual theory in the context of amatonormativity and compulsory sexuality and find that asexual struggles for public recognition and legitimacy often rely on a problematic respectability politics based on notions of biologized, racialized, and gendered normalcy. Next, I investigate the deep cultural entanglements of the sexual and the romantic, calling into question the ontological underpinnings of the Split Attraction Model by investigating the category of the ‘romantic’ as a culturally mediated, gendered, racialized, and classed historical construction. Here, I draw on philosophical work on the nature of romantic love and on the historical and political role of marriage, and on scholars of queerness from Black, Indigenous and Asian-American contexts to inform a decolonial and racially nuanced understanding of the SAM’s political underpinnings, noting how social control in the form of sexual romantic norms is exerted differently on gendered, sexualized, and racialized bodies. Finally, I ask what it means to practice nonsexual kinship, and how asexual/aromantic identity gets deployed in practice, drawing on the literature of polyamory to think through the difference between identity and practice. By tracing different examples of asexual/aromantic kinship practice that is not necessarily grounded in asexual or aromantic identity, I pose a new paradigm for thinking nonsexual kinship, opening asexual/aromantic kinship rather than identity as the grounds for thinking both asexuality and queerness.
This thesis looks at how settler-colonialism materializes through the conjoined city-making projects of image-making, tourism and homelessness regulation in Juneau, Alaska. Using the analytic method of haunting, I examine how these urban processes bring historical tactics of violence and erasure from the past into the present. By bringing literatures on settler-colonialism, place-making, and homelessness in conversation, I examine the urban boosterist imagining of Alaska as the Last Frontier as a practice of colonial violence and discuss how this imaginary produces conditions and practices of harm, particularly ones that target Tlingit people and place. I argue that this imaginary is positioned within a logic of elimination that seeks to undermine Indigenous ways of knowing and being on the land and seeks to further construct structures of settler hegemony in Juneau and elsewhere. The purpose of this project is to understand the relationship between settler-colonialism and the settler imaginary of place-making in Southeast Alaska. By specifically tracing these ideas through processes of unsettling in the city through the regulation of homelessness and the project of tourism, I identify how these explicit materializations of settler-colonialism in Juneau, Alaska are tied up in “imagining”. This project is about how settler space-making through the settler-imaginary is a specific tool of settler-colonialism that continues to produce Juneau and dispossess Tlingit people.
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