Queer Tourism and Late Capitalism: San Francisco’s Fillmore and Castro

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:20 AM
Midtown Suite (New York Hilton)
Nan Alamilla Boyd, San Francisco State University
This project studies neoliberalism in San Francisco at two different phases of development, using tourist economies as a point of entry.  Tourist economies signal the emergence of neoliberalism in mid-20th century global cities like San Francisco, and sex and race play an important role in this economic shift. A transformation in the social uses of sexual and racial meanings occurred with post World War II economic restructuring in that industrial capitalism turned from the production of goods to an increased dependence on transnational service industries.  In San Francisco, highly paid service workers serve the needs of high-finance industries like legal services, banking, and insurance, but tourist economies grew into an important and, now, primary market for the production of new capital.  Meanwhile, as high-finance service workers sought out housing close to the central business district, real estate entrepreneurs used the redevelopment agency (US postwar redevelopment funds) to transform racialized/sexualized neighborhoods, which often house low-income service workers, into gentrified urban spaces. At the same time, the social uses of sex and race shifted from being a tool for organizing industrial labor to an easily commodified and, often, fetishized set of social and cultural differences.  My larger project explores the historical transformation of four San Francisco neighborhoods into tourist districts over the course of the twentieth century: Chinatown, North Beach, the Castro, and the Fillmore.  Each neighborhood has mobilized to claim/retain space and resources within the city.  In the process, each has become a thriving tourist destination, crucial to San Francisco’s post-industrial economy.  This paper comparatively analyzes the development of the Fillmore and the Castro into tourist districts. The historical trajectory of these neighborhoods illuminates the way trasnational tourist economies pacify or placate the domestic racial and sexual anxieties that underlie urban politics, planning, and redevelopment.