I have been hesitant to present at a conference because of you know, imposter syndrome and questions of how much I want to humiliate myself in the name of academia. However, I have submitted and been accepted to a graduate conference at Concordia University and I think it will be ok. I am going to rage about queer subjects, colonial ontologies and invasive species! My favourite (truly). Below is my abstract. Now only to parse a 8000 word essay into 2500 word count.
ABSTRACT: Title: “Toxic Shocks to a Settler-making Project: A Queer Ecological Reading of Mount Royal Park”
This paper employs a queer ecological lens forwarded by Mortimer-Sandilands and Erickson in their influential book Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire (2010) to investigate ecological stories of settler-colonial heterosexual place-making projects. I will examine two ‘toxic stories’ (Mel Chen, 2012) to the Mount Royal Park in Montreal, that involve transformations of the landscape in the form of tree removal programs. This paper handles two pillars of reproduction that impact the desired heterosexual settler-identities; the first being the ‘non-reproductive queer’ couples and the second existing on the opposite side of the continuum, the invasive species that reproduce too abundantly. Reading the mountain as a text and focusing on two queer actors that sparked these actions, I argue that what was and is at stake in these stories is the preservation of a single narrative of the mountain that depends on the reproduction of settler-national identity that vindicates heterosexual notions of reproduction.
To arrive at this claim I will trace the history of the parks creation as place-making initiative to establish the park as a site of settler-colonial heterosexual performance that is central to park-making in general. Frederick Law Olmstead was requested in the 1870’s to design the park in part because of his sociological and aesthetic assumptions that were committed to counter the urban environment and its encroaching ‘disturbances’. This leads my paper to the first ‘toxic story’ of Mayor Drapeau in the 1950’s and his relationship with ‘The Civic Action League’ (CAL) that was a loose coalition of individuals with a shared mandate to rid the city of sin. For the purposes of this paper, I examine one initiative they worked on together, which was too clean-up the mountain in reference to gay cruising and queer sex in public; what is now considered Drapaeau’s “balding of the mountain project”. The CAL removed roughly 30,000 trees in an area referred to as “the jungle” that has been since understood through the work of queer historians in Montreal as a first place for queer identity to be informed in the 1950’s. Forwarding many decades, the mountain is being subjected to another mass-tree removal project. This time, the ‘toxic story’ involves invasive species. 2014 marked the arrival of the emerald ash borer beetles into Montreal and since then they have been consuming ash trees, planted in the 1800’s, resulting in the death of some and municipal plans to pre-emptively cull ash trees. What is interesting here is that this ‘invasion’ represents an attack on what is imagined as native and natural about the mountain.
Brining both of these stories together through a queer ecological framework allows for me to investigate how larger projects of heterosexual settler-colonial nature and place-making projects unfold on the mountain. I conclude arguing these ‘toxic stories’ are rich in queer futures, futures that diverge from and unsettle settler-colonial understandings of futurity.