Publics in line : the spatial organization of the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival



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The Austin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (aGLIFF) is the largest film festival of its kind in the Southwest and the oldest film festival in the city of Austin. An organization that purports to build community among Central Texas gays and lesbians, aGLIFF offers a unique archive for investigating the relationship between queer individuals and public cultures. Using media accounts of the organization and my own ethnographic experiences as a volunteer and patron in 2005 and 2006, this thesis addresses the tensions between aGLIFF’s increasing commercialism and its ability to create a counterpublic sphere. aGLIFF’s commercialism problematizes its counterpublic mission to represent the diversity of its constituency and combat the circulation of stereotypical and exclusive representations of queers in public culture. This thesis then focuses on four components of the festival’s organization: the program, parties, badges, and lines. Each component affects the festival’s constitution of a (counter)public and the spatialization of patrons. aGLIFF’s spatial organization of patrons underscores the relationship between publics and patrons and amplifies paradoxes of desire and visibility. Coupled with its commercialism, aGLIFF’s spatial organization of patrons broadens our understanding of film festivals as counterpublics.