Jerry T. Watkins III
Queering the Redneck Riviera
Sexuality and the Rise of Florida Tourism
University Press of Florida 2018
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network May 21, 2019 Isabel Machado
As the title suggests, Jerry T. Watkins III’s Queering the Redneck Riviera: Sexuality and the Rise of Florida Tourism (University Press of Florida, 2018) re-queers this North Florida tourist destination showing how people who defied gender and sexual normalcy found their space in the “Sunshine State” after the Second World War. Despite concerted efforts to police and control what was perceived as sexual deviance in the region, the tourism economy also created opportunities for queer socialization, while queer people played a crucial role in making the Redneck Riviera (now the Emerald Coast) a major tourist destination. Watkins re-creates queer life during this period, drawing from a variety of sources including newspaper articles, advertising, oral history narrations, government documents, and interrogation transcripts from The Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (The Johns Committee), uncovering stories of queer beach parties, bars, and friendship networks. The book clearly places this story in broader national, regional, and local contexts while telling touching personal stories with fascinating characters, making it accessible for a broader audience. It also includes rare photos from the Emma Jones Society, a Pensacola-based group that boldly hosted gatherings and conventions in public places which would eventually lead to one of the most important events in the country’s LGBTQ calendar. By showing how the Redneck Riviera become the Gay Riviera and the role of pink money (or the “flaunting of gay capital”) played in that process, Queering the Redneck Riviera offers new insights about the relationships between sexuality and capitalism.
Isabel Machado is a Brazilian historian, living and teaching in Mexico, while writing about U.S. Carnival. She is currently working on Now You Do Whatcha Wanna: Marked Bodies and Invented Traditions in Mobile’s Mardi Gras, which uses Carnival as a vehicle to understand social and cultural changes in that U.S. southern city. Her new project is an investigation of different generations of artists and performers who challenge gender normativity in Monterrey, Nuevo León Mexico. She also works as an Assistant Producer for the Sexing History podcast.