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Brent Pilkey

Research Subject

Queering Heteronormativity at Home in London

First, second and honorary supervisors 

Dr. Barbara Penner, Dr. Ben Campkin & Dr. Andrew Gorman-Murray

Abstract

This thesis offers a London-based contemporary study of sexuality at home. I draw from architectural history, theorised feminism, queer theory and human geographies of sexuality to interrogate the stability of domesticity. Highlighting everyday homemaking practices of more than 40 non-heterosexual households in London, I seek to complicate one overarching regime of power that dominates our cultural value system: heteronormativity – the idea that heterosexuality is the default sexuality to which everyone must conform or declare themselves against. 

The project is a response to decades of academic research that has looked at the spatialised ways in which sexual identity unfolds in, for the most part, peripheral zones in the Western metropolis; spaces beyond the domestic realm. This thesis takes a different architectural approach; one where through interviewing 47 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Londoners, as well as eleven domestic tradespeople that work in these homes, agency is given to small-scale domestic interventions and everyday actions. The concept of ‘queering’ is important to the framework, which, in the context of the thesis, is understood as an on-going process that LGBTQ people are engaged in through homemaking and daily living. Although some participants may not see this as a political act, I argue otherwise and suggest queering is a form of domesticated political activism. Through mundane domestic actions the overarching structure of heteronormativity might be challenged. Important to my argument is that queering the home unfolds in various, complex and conflicting ways.

The thesis seeks to provoke both queer politics and queer theory, by opening up existing approaches and remits to allow room for a domesticated method. In addition, the thesis seeks to challenge assumptions within architecture but also in the wider sense. I aim to break down stereotypes surrounding non-heterosexual homemaking practices that architectural studies and media representations problematically reproduce.

Biography

Prior to joining the Bartlett as a doctoral student, Brent Pilkey completed a Honours Bachelor of Arts, with distinction, (First Class Honours) in architectural design and art history and a Master of Arts in art history at the University of Toronto, Canada. Brent also holds a Honours Diploma in architectural technology from Fanshawe College, London, Canada. In the past Brent has worked for several years at a Canadian architectural firm. He has held various research assistant posts at the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Bartlett School of Planning. In addition he is a teaching fellow and teaching assistant on the architectural history BSc programme. 

Sources of Funding:

UCL Overseas Research Scholarship

UCL Global Excellence Scholarship

Teaching Fellow

Teaching Assistant