Insurgent City: Performance, Radicalism, and Queer Liberation in 1970s San Francisco


This project is a history of queer performance in San Francisco throughout the 1970s, as citizens fought for political, economic, racial, and gender justice, as expectations of sexual behavior collapsed, and as the political wave of queer Leftism crested across the West Coast. The project uses archival materials as well as contemporary reportage and subsequent theory to construct a narrative of queer life in San Francisco in the decade of queer liberation.


The performance groups the project examines have largely not been subject to scholarly study, and this project both mines their work for extant information on their lives and communities and argues for the significance of these radical artists. Through contextualization and analysis of the artistic work of these marginalized artists, this dissertation argues that a coherent, complete art movement, propelled by the twinned forces of queer liberation and Leftism of a brand particular to San Francisco, created theatrical possibilities unique in performance history. In situating this development alongside the more-studied artists of the New York performance tradition, it exposes not only a distinct politic and articulate it fully for the first time, but to demonstrate the historicity of this moment and argue for its place in the narrative of avant-garde art.

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