‘Lady Austin’s Camp Boys’: Constituting the Queer Subject in 1930s London
Article first published online: 16 DEC 2002
Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2002.
Gender & History
Volume 14, Issue 1, pages 31–61, April 2002
How to Cite
Houlbrook, M. (2002), ‘Lady Austin’s Camp Boys’: Constituting the Queer Subject in 1930s London. Gender & History, 14: 31–61. doi: 10.1111/1468-0424.00251
- Issue published online: 16 DEC 2002
- Article first published online: 16 DEC 2002
- Cited By
In December 1932, police raided a private ballroom in Holland Park Avenue. They found almost sixty men dancing, many in female clothing and make–up. An ongoing encounter between the police and working–class queer social worlds drew the ballroom into a public domain within which masculine sexualities were contested, produced and consumed. The ensuing trial gripped metropolitan opinion, becoming the most notorious and widely reported ‘pansy case’ of the 1930s. This paper explores the complex nexus of spaces and practices that cohered in the case as a site at which the queer subject was definitionally produced. During the trial both legal authorities and newspapers and the defendants sought to produce a stable contradistinction between queer and normal, though the meanings they invested in that difference diverged radically. Yet focusing upon the intersecting sites through which this queer subject was constituted – the city, the body and the police/policed interface – suggests the unsettling ambiguities undermining the stability of that difference. Throughout the case, the difference between queer and normal often seemed anything but self–evident, and the arrested men appeared an electric threat to the metropolitan cultural landscape.