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This chapter explores the temporalities of gentrification, arguing that promises of inclusion can work to keep us hooked to a version of the present that actually forecloses an alternative vision of the future. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork and reflections collected after the redevelopment project’s ultimate approval, the chapter mobilizes temporality as a conceptual framework to focus on the active construction of multiple temporalities and the political work these do in (un)tying the past, present and future of the pub in the service of the normalization of dominant social relations. At the same time, I also argue that the kinds of socialities, relationships and friendships developed in trying to survive a violent present can lead to the creation of alternative queer utopias. These do not emerge from seeking inclusion within the dominant institutions and processes of capital accumulation, but from daring to imagine a queer future that overcomes the limits of the past and the up-beat, optimistic futures offered by gentrification.

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This chapter sets the stage for the ethnographic work by following the emergence of corporate investments in LGBTQ+ diversity in tandem with a story about the gentrification of east London. I read investments in diversity made by east London’s wealthiest dwellers against the backdrop of growing inequalities, austerity policies, the closure of queer spaces and the exclusionary tendencies of neoliberal processes of capital accumulation for some of the area’s most marginalized inhabitants. In the chapter I bring these threads together in order to reconcile corporate investments in LGBTQ+ diversity with a broader critique of capitalism and its crises.

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This chapter traces the emergence of a new brand of corporate diversity politics which, rather than requiring queer subjects to appear ‘virtually normal’ (Drucker, 2015), actually addresses them in their difference. I examine the emergence of queer difference as something that adds value not simply to the corporation but to the entrepreneurial queer self. The chapter documents fieldwork experiences at corporate LGBTQ+ networking events and, in particular, at the London chapter of the Lesbians Who Tech conference, a networking event catering to lesbian and queer women working in the world of tech. I argue that such events enshrine the neoliberal reconfiguration not only of queer labour but of queer life itself: the social, affective, inter-personal relations around which queer organizing unfolds. Ultimately, rallying queer people’s aspirations in capitalist economies, I argue that queer and lesbian tech CEOs and the corporate LGBTQ+ networking events that spawn them should be read as part of broader CEO-ization of the LGBTQ+ movement, whose interests have become increasingly aligned with those of corporations.

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This chapter builds on the findings presented in the previous chapters to argue in favour of an approach to the politics of diversity that reconciles contemporary corporate investments in queer inclusion with redistributive demands. Drawing from Samuel Delany’s (1999) distinction between ‘networking’ and ‘contact’ in the city, I suggest that diversity politics, in its current neoliberal formulation, works against spaces of queer interclass contact in favour of more sterile queer networking spaces. I also argue that queer activists should care about the disappearance of queer spaces not simply as memories of a riotous past but as spaces of queerness and interclass contact for the future, rejecting claims that doing so is either backwards-looking or mere nostalgia. While the book is critical and pessimistic of diversity politics in its current neoliberal formulation, the stories of the participants featured in the project also reveal that queer subjects remain engaged in various struggles to make their lives more liveable and to acquire resources that enable the successful performance – and, sporadically, resistance to – the various norms and normativities underpinning promises of inclusion.

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This chapter traces the ways in which diversity is ‘put to work’ in supposedly LGBTQ+ inclusive corporations, asking when this labour turns into a direct resource for labourers and/or for the corporation, and how and when it does not. I build my arguments by drawing from ethnographic interview encounters with employees in engaging in diversity work in supposedly inclusive workplace contexts. Focusing on the ways in which diversity work is experienced, negotiated and engaged, I problematize managerial readings of inclusivity by showing how doing diversity work comes with expectations about how differences are supposed to be laboriously performed and put to work in ways which are valuable to the corporation. I also problematize critical readings of inclusivity by arguing that queer subjects are not merely subordinate to diversity management but actively, creatively, strategically, exhaustingly and reluctantly engaging the politics of LGBTQ+ diversity in order to become included. Here distinctions between the cultural recognition of diverse gender/sexual subjects (inclusion) and economic matters of workplace redistribution (labour relations) are collapsed, exposing how managerial control in inclusive contexts is at once cultural and economic, operating through the labour involved in reproducing ‘queer value’.

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Diversity Politics and the Promise of Inclusion in London

In the 2010s, London’s LGBTQ+ scene was hit by extensive venue closures. For some, this represented the increased inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in society. For others, it threatened the city’s status as a ‘global beacon of diversity’ or merely reaffirmed the hostility of London’s neoliberal landscapes.

Navigating these competing realities, Olimpia Burchiellaro explores the queer politics of LGBTQ+ inclusion in London.

Drawing on ethnographic research conducted with activists, professionals and LGBTQ+ friendly businesses, the author reveals how gender and sexuality come to be reconfigured in the production and consumption of LGBTQ+ inclusion and its promises.

Giving voice to queer perspectives on inclusion, this is an important contribution to our understanding of urban policy, nightlife, neoliberalism and LGBTQ+ politics.

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The book locates promises of inclusion in a longer trajectory of neoliberal capitalist accumulation, gentrification, and the emergence of an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) industrial complex which seeks to extract the productive value of differences in pursuit of profit. Bringing together findings emerging from participant observation and open-ended interviews with queer activists and anti-gentrification campaigners, as well ‘career queers’ working in some of the world’s most powerful corporations, the book tells an ethnographic story unfolding across disparate queer worlds in London, offering a situated account of how queerness is currently becoming incorporated into the dominant institutions of capitalist modernity, and what goes into enabling certain inclusive openings for some while closing down others. Using the tension between new openings promised by LGBTQ-friendly corporations and the closure of LGBTQ+ spaces in London as its driving force, the book suggests that neoliberal promises of inclusion engender forms of gentrification – both of queer activism and of queer spaces – that are ultimately at odds with a genuinely transformative vision for queer leftist politics. In so doing the book joins discussions in queer studies, organization studies, urban planning, anthropology and LGBTQ+ studies on the relationship between queerness, identity politics and capitalism. It tries to convince critics of capitalism that following these queer discussions is important and urgent, and attempts to give radical, queer and LGBTQ+ activists the tools to locate opportunities for resistance, co-optation and doing inclusion otherwise in the pursuit of alternative (queer) futures.

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This chapter shifts the analytic lens from the corporate world to the social world of queer anti-gentrification activists and their struggle to resist the closure of a local gay pub as part of a redevelopment project. The chapter traces how a promise to reinclude a replacement LGBTQ+ venue on the site of the pub became such a site of contention. I draw from fieldwork conducted with the Friends of the Joiners Arms to trace the ‘straightening’ tendencies that inclusion has on queerness. Such ‘straightening tendencies’ work to bring queer desire and ways of inhabiting space and time back into line with the normative spatio-temporal logics of capital. The pub’s queerness was rendered unintelligible by the celebratory rhetoric of LGBTQ+ inclusion and the broader process of gentrification through which the pub was intended to be redeveloped. I argue that the story shows how inclusion can involve a merely instrumental recognition of difference which limits who and/or what can be(come) included according to capitalist logics. The chapter sheds light on the class politics of inclusion as well as some of the limits of doing inclusion within a broader context of gentrification.

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Chapter 4 critically analyzes the existing census and data collection methods in France, highlighting the contradictions and paradoxes related to a colorblind system that denies the presence of racial categories on the one hand while using proxies to account for the diversity of its residents’ identities on the other. The chapter also offers an alternative to previous explanations of France’s refusal to include race and ethnicity in its census. Finally, the chapter offers sociological research on comparative case studies in Europe, examining the way other countries classify, adopt, deny, or negotiate racial categories.

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Chapter 3 explores the contemporary demography of France, underlining the issues that French scholars face when trying to provide an accurate account of the diversity of the French population in the absence of racial statistics. The chapter also examines the antidiscrimination and diversity structures and legal system currently in place in France, as well as the existing patterns of racial discrimination and racism in different sectors and institutions of French society, namely employment, education, housing, health, and the police. In particular, the chapter exposes the problematic effects of colorblindness and the French government’s reforms and policies that use a culturalized narrative (or ethnicity) as a proxy for race, which still has consequences in the 21st century, notably with regard to discrimination patterns against racial minorities.

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