Cite as: Karen Tongson, ‘Inland Emperors: Sexuality at the End of the Suburbs’, lecture presented at the symposium Utopia: Wreckage, ICI Berlin, 16 June 2011, part 1, mp4, 17:03 <>
16 Jun 2011

Inland Emperors

Sexuality at the End of the Suburbs
By Karen Tongson

Tongson’s talk explores the tangled histories of empire and queer sexuality in Southern California’s aptly named Inland Empire (I.E.) – a place once described as ‘the Garden of Eden’. From the Cold War-era military bases and defense industries that once resided there, to the re-creations of Spanish missionary culture in its old downtowns, to the genteel, citrus-era Victorianism still discernible in its oldest houses and civic landmarks, Tongson argues that surveying the empire’s stubborn monuments today affirms that the I.E. was never just a homogeneous assortment of little boxes, but truly the crossroads of empire and sexuality. The talk also features a discussion about a certain utopianism in a methodology of suburban cultural studies, since Tongson’s work on the Inland Empire combines history, critical geography, queer theory, literature, popular music and memoir.

Excerpted from her book Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press, 2010).Karen Tongson is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. Her book on race, sexuality, popular culture and the suburbs, ‘Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries‘ (New York), was published in 2011. She is co-series editor for Postmillennial Pop, and is also co-editor-in-chief of The Journal of Popular Music Studies.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)
Evening lecture in the context of the conference Utopia/Wreckage, organized by Brigitte Bargetz, Ben Dawson, Kit Heintzman, Christine Hentschel, and Gal Kirn.

Video in English

Part 1

Format: mp4
Length: 00:17:03
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Symposium

Utopia: Wreckage

The lesson taught by every historical attempt to construct society in accordance with an idea: where utopia is, wreckage will follow. So we have been told, and do, in large part, believe. The empire of capitalist parliamentarism, sovereign police, and conventional skepticism rises from the ruins of futures past.

This symposium invited four inventive, provocative, and engaged thinkers to reflect upon utopia and its wreckages, to help us understand the valences of realization and ruination, of wreaking and wrecking, within socialist/post-socialist, sovereign/post-sovereign, imperial/post-imperial, feminist, and queer political programmes.

Boris Buden is a writer and cultural critic. He studied philosophy in Zagreb and cultural theory at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Among his many publications are Barikade (Zagreb 1996) and Zone des Übergangs. Vom Ende des Postkommunismus (2009). Among his translations into Croatian are two books of Sigmund Freud.

Bini Adamczak is an unstable alliance of everyday reproduction modes, unwanted heritages, and quarrelsome spectres, such as deconstructivist feminisms and the orthodox critique of value. She’s a performer, visual artist, and independent author of borderlining texts such as Kommunismus. Kleine Geschichte wie alles anders wird (2004) and Gestern Morgen. Über die Einsamkeit kommunistischer Gespenster und die Rekonstruktion der Zukunft (Münster, 2007).

Daniel Loick teaches social and political philosophy at Goethe University Frankfurt. His book on sovereignty, Ironien des Politischen. Elemente einer kritischen Theorie der Souveränität (2011) will be published this fall. He is also co-organizer of the international conference Re-Thinking Marx at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Karen Tongson is associate professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. Her book on race, sexuality, popular culture, and the suburbs, Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, will appear in August 2011. She is on of the editors of the series Postmillennial Pop and is also co-editor-in-chief of The Journal of Popular Music Studies.


15:00 Welcome

15:30 Introduction

16:00 Boris Buden (Berlin): Dislocation of Utopia. In-between Capitalism and Socialism

17:00 Bini Adamczak (Frankfurt): The Feeling of Revolution. Queer Questions of 1917

18:00 Break

18:30 Daniel Loick (Frankfurt): Post-Sovereign Politics. Lessons from Benjamin

19:30 Keynote: Karen Tongson (Los Angeles): Inland Emperors. Sexuality at the End of the Suburbs


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)


Boris Buden
Bini Adamczak
Daniel Lock
Karen Tongsen

Organized by

Brigitte Bargetz
Ben Dawson
Kit Heintzman
Christine Hentschel
Gal Kirn
An ICI event