by Christina B. Hanhardt

About Christina B. Hanhardt

Christina B. Hanhardt is Associate Professor of American Studies at University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence.


The word safe is both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, the word names an object, a locked box, often containing valuables; as an adjective, it describes the property of a subject or object, its value being a condition or a feeling. Like many affective attributes, to be safe is relational, and often defined by what it is not: one is safe from a specific harm or makes a safe choice rather than a risky bet. In this way, the word safe can index something fixed in place (have you ever tried to lift a safe?) or difficult to pin down (feelings are often undermined by their lack of surety). But insofar as the word suggests a desired good, it offers a helpful vantage point to analyze aspirational ideals that respond to danger, uncertainty, and inequality.