This article examines the role of strategic appropriation of public urban space for Vietnamese lesbian (les) community formation in contemporary Saigon. Through twenty-one months of ethnographic research of les events that are “hidden in plain sight,” contingent invisibility is theorized as a threefold process of appropriation for les community formation and individual maneuvering around social stigma. By contingent, this article refers to invisibility that is “dependent” on a postsocialist state policing of urban space and “strategic” for les who gatekeep events. Contingent is also used as a double entendre—through familiarity and use of les spaces, a contingent becomes a “community.” Contingencies of invisibility for les are demonstrated through ethnographic analysis of open-air sidewalk cafés in which les congregate, rented space for a les event, and a les-only café in Vietnam's largest metropolis. Queer invisibility is theorized as contingent and intentional, rather than a symptom of social marginalization.
Natalie Newton; Contingent Invisibility: Space, Community, and Invisibility for Les in Saigon. GLQ 1 January 2016; 22 (1): 109–136. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-3315253
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