Race, Space and Sexuality: Historical Studies prof explores belonging and identity through the lens of Pelau MasQUEERade

Professor R. Cassandra Lord
Friday, November 25, 2016 - 7:17am
Carla DeMarco

It was standing room only at the latest Feminist Lunch Hour series, which featured Professor R. Cassandra Lord from the Department of Historical Studies delivering her talk, “Sensations of Moving Across Space and Time: Black Queer Diasporic Desire ‘On De Road.’”

Race, space and queerness were just some of the topics that she covered in the hour-long lecture, which outlined the themes of her current book manuscript Performing Queer Diasporas: Friendships, Proximities and Intimacies in Pride Parades. Focusing on the Pelau MasQUEERade, a Caribbean queer diasporic group that includes black, Asian and Indo-Caribbean members, who takes part in Toronto’s annual Pride Parade. Lord examined the members’ motivations for joining and the feelings of belonging, joy, reflection and freedom that come with participating.

Pelau is a cooked rice dish, similar to paella, and you can add anything you want to it,” says Lord. “This name invokes a larger discussion in thinking about Caribbeanness and identity.”

“Pelau MasQUEERade’s participation in the Pride Parade draws on the traditions of the annual Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and Toronto’s Caribana Parade as a transmitter of culture and a way to form connections. It also invokes larger questions such as ‘how do enslaved people find joy?’ And ‘how carnivals can be used to counter oppression?’”

Lord gave an overview of her methodology for the research of her manuscript and the aim to “go beyond the narrative” of a given image or text to uncover hidden histories, practices and meanings using a black, queer feminist reading practice. She narrowed down the four main themes that emerged from her work: Movement, ‘De Road,’ Sensations and Promises of Freedom. All of these motifs are linked through the filters of belonging, connection, community, support, identity, and an outlet to freely express one’s self through dance and music. She explained that soca, a type of calypso music with a disco beat, features prominently in these gatherings, and the dance, referred to as wining, is a rhythmic gyrating of the hips, not to be confused with ‘twerking.’

“The dance of wining is a celebration but also a gesture of defiance,” says Lord.

Lord says participating in Pelau MasQUEERade serves as way to bridge race and sexuality for members of the group, but additionally to feel connected to their roots, to celebrate their respective histories, and to help shape the path for liberation and freedom.