- "The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling: Race, Affect, and Disaffection"
Wed 2 October 2019
(presented in collaboration with the English Colloquium and the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Studies Working Group; introduced by Elle Whitcroft)
What does it mean to be unfeeling despite the biopolitics of feeling, to withhold from the intimacies of four continents, to no longer buy into the unfinished business of sentimentalism? According to Denise Ferreira da Silva, “affectability” is constructed as the intrinsic property of non-white others. This talk takes an antisocial approach to affect theory. Drawing from queer of colour critique, I suggest that reclaiming unfeeling demonstrates disaffection in the political, causal, and affective senses. To begin, I question why we fixate on Bartleby, not Babo, as a universal figure of dissent. To be unsympathetic, as Babo and the other Africans were, is to forfeit sympathy. Following Sylvia Wynter’s critique of the supposedly universal category of the human, what are the implications for universal sympathy and the insistence on affect’s unavoidable attachments?
Affect studies has a race problem. Reading Benito Cereno, I trace how vilified “unfeeling” can act as an index of dissatisfaction and resistance, masking other forms of feeling that fail the politics of recognition.
- "Willam Belli and the Fully Commodified Self: Femininity, Visibility, and Precarity in Social Media and RuPaul's Drag Race"
Wednesday 9 October
(presented in collaboration with the English Colloquium; introduced by Flora Dunster)
- "Reparative Reading and Other Drug War Fictions"
Dr Patricia Steulke (Dartmouth)
Wed 23 October (with the English Colloquium)This talk explores the relationship between reparative reading and drug war histories in the Americas, as well as how a few works of contemporary African American fiction —James Hannaham’s novel 2015 Delicious Foods and Barry Jenkins’ 2016 film Moonlight in dialogue with Octavia Butler’s 1992 novel Parable of the Sower—reimagine the 1980s crack epidemic in relation to questions of bodily integrity, queer intimacy, and labour.
- "Gender Transitions & Intersex Identities: Communities, Consciousness & Social Reproduction"
(presented jointly with the Centre for Global Political Economy)
This talk will provide an introduction to queer social reproduction, resistant consciousness, and community ethics as they have been developed by transgender and intersex communities. It will be an overview of my recent work, and situate it within the broader context of Marxist feminist inquiry.Jules Gleeson is a gender historian, communist, and Londoner based in Vienna. Her published work addresses transfeminist ethics, embodiment struggles, and Byzantine monastic masculinities. She is co-editing a new essay collection, Transgender Marxism, with Elle O’Rourke. She co-founded the Leftovers communist discussion group in 2015 as a venue to develop unitary theories of social oppression and revolutionary thought, and more recently helped establish the New Critical Approaches to the Byzantine World research network.
- "Why Karen Carpenter Matters"
Prof. Karen Tongson (University of Southern California)
Monday 10 June
Tongson will discuss her new book, Why Karen Carpenter Matters (UT Press, 2019).
- "Walking Desires, Writing Queer: Readings of the City through Intimacy and Dialogue in Delhi"
Dr Dhiren Borisa (University of Leicester)
Thursday 9 MayNavigating through the deeply associated contours of the imaginary and the geographical real- the paper attempts to understand and map cities and its discontinuities as ‘safe’ spaces of expression of sexuality and freedom. From ‘milder’ forms of name calling to extreme forms of physical and sexual assaults, queer subjects face diverse forms of violence- within homes, classrooms, workspaces, streets etc. The study maps through ‘walking the city’, the space created through queer performativity (Gender non-conforming person not necessarily hijra)) as a challenge to heteronormative imagination through crowded streets and public transport in Delhi. While a hijra is a common sight on Indian streets often at traffic signals- begging; an educated gender non-conforming person (the one that can speak in a language forbidden rather inaccessible, or carries markers of modernity and global imaginaries as contradiction to the understood reading of the gendered negotiation of that body and its sexuality) becomes an interesting and intersecting tool to assess the way the imaginations of city spaces are at the same time being challenged and changed.In this process of mapping the everyday production of imaginations and repulsions to those imaginations and re-reading of the cities, how is the distance between the researcher and the subject moderated? Both of which being carved through unique forms of gendering processes given the spaces they inhabit and the varied social locations they embody- often simultaneously. Can one truly translate the experiences of a non-conforming body by virtue of walking with/as it? while the ‘gaze’ that visualizes the body might not be the same through which the cis-gendered researcher is being read by the city? How the queerness of the researcher gives a certain access to the experiential map of the fellow friend being read however might leave so much misread and misinterpreted in terms of gendered negotiations within the same drawings and re-drawings of the city? The paper attempts to problematize this negotiation both between the one that is being read and the one who reads on the one hand and the ways in which the city itself reacts to presence or absences of what it deems conforming to its ideal imagination using Intimacy and dialogue as modes of negotiating the erotic transactive economy of space.
- "Language variation and social meaning: Gender and sexuality in sociolinguistics"
Thursday 7 March 2019The past few decades have seen a shift in sociolinguistics away from thinking of gender as a deterministic social category and towards seeing gender and language as mutually constitutive: our gendered self emerges through what we say and how we say it. Linguists interested in the intersection of language and gendered identities have developed a range of approaches to interrogate this relationship, and the study of language variation in particular has provided powerful tools for examining how linguistic resources are deployed in the construction of particular social identities.Drawing on speech data from queer, trans, and straight people in Canada and New Zealand, this talk will look at some of those tools, and the kinds of questions they’re well-suited to tackling. With one eye on issues of sexualities, stereotypes and performativity, and the other on issues of social change and collective identities, we will explore the non-linguistic possibilities of sociolinguistics.
In collaboration with ROLLS (Research on Language and Linguistics)
- The New Woman: Literary Modernism, Queer Theory, and the Trans Feminine Allegory
Dr Emma Heaney (William Paterson University)
Wednesday 21 November 2018The New Woman traces the development of medical and criminological knowledge that claimed to explain the existence of trans femininity in the late nineteenth century. The book suggests that this process produced a fissure between trans feminine meaning as established by doctors who considered themselves experts on the phenomenon of trans femininity and trans feminine existence as it was lived and understood by trans women. The New Woman traces the parallel historical development of expert and vernacular knowledge into two domains that staged the encounter between what cis experts say trans women mean and what trans women say about their experiences: works of Literary Modernism and works of Queer Theory. These novels and theoretical texts help us to understand the development of conceptual forms through which cis people have consistently --- and with intermittently renewed vigor as we’ve seen in the recent spate of anti-trans legislation --- identified trans women’s existence as a topic that can be debated and should be disallowed. This book talk will describe the genesis and development of this project, present its argument with passages from the book, and suggest connections between The New Woman and other recent books.
Co-sponsored with the School of English Colloquium and Centre for Modernist Studies
- Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers' Rights
Juno Mac and Molly Smith, in conversation with Alison Phipps
Wednesday 14 November, 3-5pm
It’s been called ‘essential reading for feminists in sex work and those studying it’ (Kathi Weeks). Come and listen to Juno Mac and Molly Smith, authors of the new Verso book Revolting Prostitutes, discuss issues of sex work and labour rights from an insider’s perspective.
Co-sponsored with Centre for Gender Studies
- LGBTQ+ leaders in the anti-fascist fightback: A conversation with Luma Nichol, co-founder of the 1988 United Front Against Fascism
Friday 5 October 2018
A discussion with Luma Nichol, co-founder of the 1988 United Front Against Fascism in the Pacific Northwest, and lesbian Marxist-feminist with the San Francisco Freedom Socialist Party. Nichol will highlight the historic role of LGBTQ+ people in defending migrants and all targets of neo-Nazis bigotry, from the 1980s to the Trump Era. Hosted by Dr Sam Solomon.
- Sheiks, Sweetbacks, and Harlem Renaissance Sexuality, or The Chauncey Thesis at Twenty-Five
Dr Benjamin Kahan, Louisana State University
Tuesday 2 October 2018
This talk revisits George Chauncey’s claim, in his field-defining text Gay New York (1994), that a unity exists between same-sex cultures of working-class immigrants and African-Americans. The talk reads across a range of Harlem Renaissance texts by Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, E.M. Hull, and Jean Toomer to argue that the intimate relations and sexual cultures of black New Yorkers differed substantially from those of their immigrant counterparts. Building on Hortense Spillers’ understanding of black sexuality as being “ungendered,” Kahan argues that black sexuality is not organized around gender status and gendered sexual acts in the way that the figures of Chauncey’s world—trade, wolf, jocker, punk, fairie—are. This talk instead recovers a cast of Harlem Renaissance sexual figures— focusing on the sheik and the sweetback— to posit an alternative account of their public cultures of intimacy.
Co-sponsored with the School of English Colloquium, the Centre for Modernist Studies, and the Centre for American Studies
- Gender, Sexuality, and the "Hostile Environment
Saturday 12 MayThis special event will bring together scholars and activists to discuss how the government's policy to maintain a “hostile environment” for migrants intersects with gender, sexual, and racial oppression. Borders are increasingly inserted into the mechanisms of the social state, and we will investigate the complex interweaving of the hostile environment with struggles around sex worker’s rights, asylum claims, reproductive justice, trans liberation, and free and accessible education. The day will feature panel discussions and workshops.
The event will feature members of Unis Resist Border Controls, Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement, and Sogica - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Claims of Asylum, as well as other local migrant rights organizations.
- Making Arrangements: The Limits of Love in the ‘War on Terror’
Dr Sita Balani (King's College London)
Thursday 3 May
Love and war, militarism and heteronormativity, have always been intertwined in the cultural imaginary, whether through love of country or war time romance. I suggest that the ‘War on Terror’ foregrounds a conception of love, based on marriage, which sits at a key intersection of the two crosscutting discourses of ‘love’ and ‘terror’; bringing together and holding apart crucial ideas about the concept of choice. Critiques of marriage are a staple of queer theory, and became particularly prominent inside the academy and in activist circles as the campaigns for gay marriage gained in power and visibility across parts of Europe and the Americas. We can, in fact, go as far as to say that a critique of marriage has become the key determinant in distinguishing ‘queer’ from a more mainstream LGBT politic.
I propose that the practice of arranged marriage is a structuring absence in the discourse around gay marriage, from advocates and critics of gay marriage, and from across the political spectrum. In this paper, I will address this absent presence and its animating force to suggest some submerged ways that arranged marriage is deployed in the global project of the ‘War on Terror’. Through an examination of Orientalist depictions of ‘marriage markets’, we can see the long legacy of Occidental imaginings of its ‘Others’ and their models of kinship. I will suggest that arranged marriage challenges (neo)liberal ideas about choice, and that a queer-feminist analysis is vital to identifying this challenge. By forging a new understanding of marriage that puts gay marriage in dialogue with arranged marriage, we can confront the ways that both circulate in the ‘War on Terror’. Further, this critique poses a challenge to the assumptions much queer and feminist theory shares with liberalism, particularly in regard to love and choice.
Sita Balani is a lecturer in contemporary literature and culture at King's College London. Recent work has focussed on sexuality and the 'War on Terror'. She has contributed to Feminist Review, Open Democracy, Ceasefire, Photoworks and the Verso blog.
- Textual constructions of desire: or, what to do with 1.4 billion words of online erotica
Dr Kat Gupta (University of Sussex)
Tuesday 10 April
(A presentation by Dr. Kat Gupta of an ongoing collaborative research project with Dr Alon Lischinsky.)
Erotica has a complex relationship with reality: writers may write about interactions obviously based in fantasy, write about sexual acts that they have not (yet) experienced but would like to, or explore themes or sexual acts that they definitely do not want to happen in real life. However, erotica is written in a sociocultural context which is reflected in the dynamics between characters and types of sexual acts.
We use a corpus of 1.4 billion words organised into 31 genres which was collected from one of the internet’s oldest repositories of online erotica. Using keywords and mapping techniques, we identify some of the relationships between genres, and we examine agency to get a better sense of who does what to whom in these texts. Our current work with this corpus examines body part nouns to gain an insight into the kinds of emotion present in the texts, and we are starting work on how safer sex practices are enacted within erotica.
We argue that written online erotica is not homogenous, and that looking at stylistic detail and distinctiveness offers intriguing possibilities.
- Textiles, Queerness, Politics
Professor Julia Bryan-Wilson (UC Berkeley)
Thursday 23 November
In this lecture, Julia Bryan-Wilson discussed how textiles inhabit the broad space between artistic and political poles, high and low, untrained and highly skilled, conformist and disobedient, craft and art. Elaborating on "craftivism" and the queer politics and social practices associated with handmaking, this lecture explored textiles and their role at the forefront of debates about process, materiality, gender, and race in times of economic upheaval.Julia Bryan-Wilson is professor of modern and contemporary art at UC Berkeley, where she is also the Director of the Arts Research Center. Her research interests include theories of artistic labour, feminist and queer theory, performance, production/fabrication, craft histories, photography, video, visual culture of the nuclear age, and collaborative practices. Bryan-Wilson has held fellowships from the Clark Art Institute, the Henry Moore Institute, the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, and the Getty Research Institute. She is the author of Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (University of California Press, 2009); Art in the Making: Artists and Their Materials from the Studio to Crowdsourcing (with Glenn Adamson, Thames & Hudson, 2016); and Fray: Art and Textile Politics (University of Chicago, 2017).
- 'Typesetters grow more capillaries': the labour of queer literature
Dr Samuel Solomon (Sussex)
Wed 11 Oct
Part of the School of English Colloquium series.
This talk asks how LGBTQ+ people and other feminists navigated late twentieth-century changes in print technology in the period from roughly 1965-1990, a period during which typesetting was first computerized and then all but abandoned as part of the pre-print process. I do this by way of an encounter with the writings of Marxist-feminist poet Karen Brodine. The labor relations that surround the typesetting computer are part and parcel of the revolutionary working-class and queer socialist feminism that Brodine elaborates across her writing and that she worked for tirelessly in her life. Through a reading of her poetry, journals, and political activities, I argue that late-twentieth century US gender and sexual categories, as well as novel forms of queer intimacy, were forged through the material relations of print-related wage work.
Dr Samuel Solomon is lecturer in English at the University of Sussex, where he is co-director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence. He is author of Special Subcommittee (Commune Editions, 2017) and co-translator of The Acrobat: Selected Poems of Celia Dropkin (Tebot Bach, 2014). He is currently working on a book titled “Poetry and Social Reproduction.”
- Anti-Gravitas: The Politics of Queer Levity
Professor Gavin Butt (Sussex)
Wed 26 April
Part of the School of English Colloquium series.
“One of the greatest weapons that people use on you to get you to conform”, the playwright and theatre-maker Charles Ludlam wrote, “is ridicule. However, if you take the position that you are already going to be ridiculous, they are powerless”. This lecture explores this provocation about the politics of queer self-mockery and asks whether or not it still rings true for contemporary queer and trans performers, as it did for some underground artists of the 1960s and 1970s. From theatre and performance art, to mainstream TV personalities, what does it mean for queer people to accept, or flaunt, a lack of seriousness today? Does it suggest that in times of LGBT “equality” queer people are still suspected of being somewhat less than equal, and that homo- and transphobia reserve acceptance only for queer persons marked as comic? Or does the refusal of gravitas by contemporary performers highlight a complaint with being taken seriously itself, pointing to more irreverent queer modes of self-esteem?
Gavin Butt is Attenborough Chair in Drama: Theatre and Performance in the School of English, working across the intersecting areas of performance studies, queer studies, and visual culture. He is currently completing a book, “Anti-Gravitas”, which explores the challenges to cultural seriousness presented within queer art and performance. He is co-editor of Post-Punk Then and Now (2016) and co-director of Performance Matters (2009-2014), a creative research project which explored ideas of cultural value in contemporary performance and live art.
- Patrick Kelly Loves... Transcoding Black Queerness on the Runway
Sequoia Barnes (Brighton)
Tuesday 14 February
Patrick Kelly is best known as the kitschy fashion designer who was the first American to be accepted into the Chambre de Syndicale of Paris. However, he is also remembered for his use of controversial racial imagery, and many of the symbols he used were replete with historical tension, namely, the golliwog, the mammy, the watermelon, and images of Josephine Baker. Patrick Kelly loved using emblems to communicate his identity as a black gay man who was raised by women in Mississippi. This talk will frame Patrick Kelly as a tactical transcoder, a producer of symbols for communication, spectacle, and consumption. We will translate his symbols into a discourse about how Patrick Kelly visualizes Patrick Kelly.
Sequoia Barnes lectures at multiple universities, including the University of Brighton where she teaches history and critical theory in fashion. She is American, raised in Alabama, and received her first master’s at the University of Delaware in fashion and apparel studies. She also has a master’s from the University of Brighton in history of design and material culture. Her areas of interest are transcoding the black image, racial, gender, and class cross-dressing; as well as the “quareness” of black fashion. She is properly obsessed with Patrick Kelly and his subversion of the white gaze through kitsch.
- Every Little Thing He Does: Entrepreneurship and Appropriation in the Magic Mike series
Dr. Broderick Chow (Brunel)
Wed 26 Oct, Jubilee 144, 5pm-7pm
Co-sponsored with the Department of Drama. Part of the School of English Colloquium series.
This paper analyses the theatricalized performance of male sex work, specifically stripping, in the popular films Magic Mike (2013; dir. Steven Soderbergh) and its follow-up Magic Mike XXL (2015; dir. Gregory Jacobs). The films align making oneself an object of desire with an ideology of the ‘entrepreneurial subject’—a subject equipped with flexibility and versatility for a post-Fordist economy—principally through the figure of ‘Magic’ Mike, a charismatic contemporary factotum, played by the charismatic Channing Tatum. Following a critical dance studies approach that attends to the intersection of body and gesture with socio-political, historical, and economic structures, I suggest theatricalized sexual labour in these films reveals the racial exclusions from the ideology of entrepreneurial subjectivity. Key to my reading is the concept of ‘magic’, which is of course part of Mike’s nom de strip but also indexed everywhere in the films. Mike, the hegemonically masculine, heterosexual, white male protagonist, is magic because he is charismatic, magnetic, and effortlessly talented, in such a way that even the material world seems animated by his thrusting pelvis. Magic thus functions as an ideological device that attempts to hide the labour of training and performance as well as the larger structures and modes of production in which this labour takes place. Considering the appropriation of black aesthetics in the Magic Mike XXL’s performances of striptease, what the film seeks to evaporate is the spectre of race, the way the white fantasy of the entrepreneurial subject is supported by the appropriation of racialized and especially black labour. While the narrative (and inclusive ideology of entrepreneurship) of Magic Mike XXL cannot confront the appropriation of black labour directly, an analysis of the performance of male striptease shows the film working through the issue on another level, in the complex entanglement of flesh and fantasy, agency and objectification, and racial and gendered desire.
Broderick D.V. Chow is a researcher and performance maker. He is currently Senior Lecturer in Theatre at Brunel University London and Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Dynamic Tensions: New Masculinities in the Performance of Fitness. He has published in a wide range of journals including TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Research, and Contemporary Theatre Review, and is coeditor of Performance and Professional Wrestling (Routledge 2016). Broderick is an amateur Olympic Weightlifter and a BWL Level 1 Qualified Weightlifting Coach.
- An Evening with Dennis Cooper
Wed 5 Oct, Jubilee 144, 5pm-7pm
Co-sponsored with the University of Sussex’s Centre for American Studies. Part of the School of English Colloquium series.
Dennis Cooper, God help him, is a born writer. – William S. Burroughs
If Jean Genet and Paul Bowles could have had a child together, he might have grown up to be a writer like Dennis Cooper. – Michael Cunningham
Dennis Cooper goes to the limit of what can be exposed, described, represented, and shunned. – Avital Ronell
The Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence and the Centre for American Studies are delighted to welcome Dennis Cooper, celebrated and controversial American writer and artist, to talk about punk poetry, transgressive literature, and being Google’s most hated blogger.
Cooper, who Bret Easton Ellis once called “the most dangerous writer in America”, will read excerpts from his books and speak with Sussex’s Dr. Diarmuid Hester, who has written extensively on his work. Hear about Cooper’s notorious career and the death threats his writing provoked; why New York School poetry needed Joy Division; what it was like to be LA’s first punk poet; and how you write a novel in GIFs (and why you’d give it away for free). A Q&A session will follow.
Dennis Cooper is a major experimental poet, novelist, and filmmaker. His life and work have intersected with almost every significant figure and movement in late-twentieth century American writing, art, and rock music. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the American post-War avant-garde through the eyes of one of its most infamous and charismatic icons.
- Who is the Queer Consumer? Homosexuality and Capitalism in Twentieth-Century Britain
Justin Bengry (Birkbeck, University of London)
Wed 9 March, Jubilee 155, 4pm-6pm
Since the onset of the Gay Liberation Movement from the 1970s, queer men and women have been increasingly targeted as an identifiable market segment assumed to have higher incomes and lower financial responsibilities, greater interest in leisure services and related products, and to act as early adopters of new consumables. But the virtually exponential growth of recognition and interest in queer consumers over the last decades of the twentieth century and first years of the twenty-first has actually elided the existence of a long and vibrant relationship between queer people, homosexuality and consumer capitalism since the late nineteenth century and the emergence of mass markets, modern retailing strategies, and target marketing. Using sources ranging through early men’s magazines and queer erotic publications, film and theatre regulations, tabloids and popular newspapers, sources on fashion and retailing, government documents and parliamentary papers, business archives and oral histories, my work asks who benefited from commercial interest in homosexuality? And who was the queer consumer?
Justin Bengry completed a PhD in History and Feminist Studies at the University of California in 2010 after which he held fellowships at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada and McGill University, Montreal. He is a researcher on the Historic England public and digital history initiative ‘Pride of Place: England’s LGBTQ Heritage’, which uses crowdsourcing to map locations of LGBTQ heritage across England. His is also a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London working on the AHRC-funded project ‘Sexualities and Localities’ which explores queer history beyond London from the 1960s to the present. Justin is founder and managing editor of the collaborative, international history of sexuality blog NOTCHES and an Associate of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. His research has appeared in History Workshop Journal, Socialist History, Media History, and several international edited collections. He is completing a manuscript on The Pink Pound: Capitalism and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Britain.
- Queering Knowledge: Analytics, Devices and Investments after Marilyn Strathern
E.J. Gonzalez-Polledo (LSE), Silvia Posocco (Birkbeck, University of London), Paul Boyce (University of Sussex)
Mon 22 February, Arts C175, 4pm-6pm
Co-sponsored with the School of Global Studies.
This panel draws on the significance of Marilyn Strathern’s work in respect of its potential to queer anthropological analysis and to foster the reimagining of the object of anthropology. Strathern’s ethnographic contributions to studies of personhood, kinship, gender relations and reproduction in Melanesia and Britain have achieved wide recognition in anthropology, gender and science studies. Her analytic devices, rhetorical forms and figurations, such as (partial) relations, binaries, scales, homologies and analogies, and her strategy to conflate conceptual and empirical ontologies, have had profound effects on anthropologists’ responses to the crisis of representation, especially for those who have drawn on the productive, transformative and subversive capacities of her analytic thinking to conjure up the ethnographic present. Against this background this panel focuses on how, and to what effects, Strathern’s analytic forms might inform, reverberate and refract the object of anthropology through and against the constitution of queer subjects and objects, nature-cultures and forms of desire – rendering these as ‘newly’ unfamiliar.
EJ Gonzalez-Polledo: 'Wild gender'
Silvia Posocco: 'Postplurality'
Paul Boyce: 'Property, substance, queer affects'
E.J. Gonzalez-Polledo has a PhD in Social Anthropology from Goldsmiths, and joined the FP7 project MEDEA (Models and their effects on development paths, an ethnographic and comparative approach, www.medeasteelproject.org), which looked at the effects of economic models on development paths, knowledge transmission and livelihood strategies associated with the steel industry. She is currently using ethnography and agent based simulation to explore the relations between the emergence of local and regional political ontologies through practices of measuring, modelling and forecasting and the making of industrial cultures. Papers include 'Industrial work and global markets: A comparison of two Spanish steel plants' (with I Sabate), in V Goddard (ed): Special Issue: Cultures of Work: Industrial Futures in Post-Industrial Capitalism, Focaal: Journal of Historical and Global Anthropology (2013), and 'Politics for industrial machines. Techno-political transitions in a Spanish steel plant', in Goddard, V and Narotzky S (eds.) Envisioning the future: models and ethnography in times of change (Routledge, 2013).
SilviaPosocco is the programme director of the MA in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck. Her work focuses on a theoretically inflected ethnographic approach to the study of relations and relational categories - notably 'gender', 'sexuality' and 'secrecy' - through research on socially, culturally and historically situated practices. She is also concerned with the intersections between anthropology and queer studies. Her first research monograph on histories of violence and socialities of secrecy in Petén, northern Guatemala, was published in January 2014 by Alabama University Press. Secrecy and Insurgency: Socialities and Knowledge Practices in Guatemala deals with the experiences of guerrilla combatants of the Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes (Rebel Armed Forces) in the aftermath of the 1996 Peace Accords. The book focuses on 'secrecy' as both sociality and knowledge practice, and demonstrates the relevance of thinking 'gender' in the coalescence of novel objects of analysis in a broad field of contemporary theory. Silvia is also involved in the Decolonising Sexualities Research Network.
Paul Boyce is a lecturer in Anthropology and International Development in the School of Global Studies at the Universoty of Sussex. His research has predominantly focused on sexual and gendered subjectivities, seeking to relate theory to practice. Doctoral research at the London School of Economics (ESRC funded) took place in West Bengal, India, and explored same-sex sexualities and transgender experience in respect of social change and modernity, and as contrasted to the represeentation of sexuality in HIV prevention discourse and practice. This work also critically explored conceptual absences in anthropological approaches to sexualities (in India) and considered the heteronormative implications of such absences. He is one of the co-conveners of the European Network for Queer Anthropology (ENQA), a network affiliated to the Euroepan Association for Social Anthropologists (EASA). He co-convenes two MAs at Sussex - the MA in Sexual Dissidence (convened with the School of English) and the MA in Media Practice for Development and Social Change (convened with the School of Media, Film and Music).
- Queer Fragilities
Sara Ahmed (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Tue 2 February, Creativity Zone, Pevensey III, Room C7, 5pm-7pm
This lecture offers a meditation on how fragility as a thread, a queer connection, between what is deemed breakable. I will be sharing some shattering stories. In a shattering story there is often a too, a too that falls on what falls: fragility as the quality of being too easily breakable. The lecture explores how queerness is understood as self-shattering, how clumsiness can provide an ethics, and offers some reflections on how queer crip politics can affirm fragility as a source of militancy as well as connection.
Sara Ahmed is Professor of Race and Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths. Her recent publications include Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (2006), The Promise of Happiness (2010), On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (2012) and Wilful Subjects (2014). Her lecture is drawn from her book Living a Feminist Life, which is forthcoming with Duke University Press in Spring 2017.
- Emerging Trans Practices: Creative and Critical Explorations
Juliet Jacques, Olga Lidia Saavedra Montes de Oca, Nat Raha
Wed 2 December, Fulton A, 4pm-6pm
Current Sussex PhD candidates Juliet Jacques, Olga Lidia Saavedra Montes de Oca and Nat Raha present and frame their recent cutting-edge work in fiction, poetry and performance. The showcase will be followed by a critically engaged open discussion.
- Informatic Opacity
Dr. Zach Blas (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Fri 15 October, Arts A103, 4pm-6pm
This talk will focus on a developing concept, ‘informatic opacity’, and masked protest as means of defeating surveillance technologies. ‘Informatic opacity’ is an aesthetico-political practice that resists emerging modes of digital capture (such as biometric recognition) and insists on an embodied dimension of life that cannot be fully abstracted by technical processes of calculation and visualisation. Through engaging with Eduoard Glissant’s writings on opacity and transparency, Blas uses his own artwork Facial Weaponisation Suite, a community-based mask-making project that creates ‘collective masks’ for public intervention. These masks elude recognition by facial detection technologies, responding to the pressures of surveillance and resistance.
Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose work engages with technology, queerness and politics, and is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Blas has exhibited and lectured internationally, most recently at Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; e-flux, New York; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; New Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; and the 2014 Dakar Biennale. Books: Escaping the Face (Rhizome at the New Museum and Sternberg Press, 2016) and Informatic Opacity: The Art of Defacement in Biometric Times (forthcoming). His work has been featured in Artforum, Frieze, Art Papers, Mousse Magaxine, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, Wired, and Art Review, in which Hito Steyerl selected him as a 2014 FutureGreat. During Autumn 2015 Blas is a resident at the Delfina Foundation, London.
- Race, Sex, Gender, and Space in Gentrifying Los Angeles
Dr. Craig Willse (George Mason University)
Wed 1 April, Jubilee 144, 4pm-6pm
Is gentrification a natural and inevitable part of the world? Are sexuality and gender? This talk will present a case study of gentrification and policing in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California to examine how two processes of naturalization are brought together within racialised conceptions of crime, violence, and safety that undergird logics of urban “renewal.” The first, a capitalist narrative of inevitability, naturalizes gentrification as an unavoidable outcome of economic growth and ever-expanding consumption. The second, a medico-biological narrative of sex and gender, posits forms of male sociality as naturally at odds with the ways gentrification reorders space. The talk will argue that, as Echo Park undergoes a dramatic rise in property values and rents and concomitant displacement of long-term low-income communities of colour, how to denaturalize ahistorical narratives of change becomes a necessary and urgent question.
Craig Willse is an assistant professor of cultural studies at George Mason University, where he is also faculty adviser for Students Against Israeli Apartheid. He is the co-editor (with Patricia Clough) of Beyond Biopolitics: Essays on the Governance of Life and Death (Duke University Press, 2011). His study of housing insecurity, The Value of Homelessness: Managing Surplus Life in the United States, is forthcoming from University of Minnesota Press in 2015.
- Queer Necropolitics: Everyday Death Worlds and Shifting Domains of Struggle
Dr. Silvia Posocco (Birkbeck, University of London)
Tue 24 Feb, Fulton 107, 4pm-6pm
In the Prologue to the collection of essays Queer Necropolitics, Sunera Thobani argues that ‘The Empire of Terror offers a stark choice to its objects of power: incorporation or extermination. Its forms of sovereignty intend the taking of no survivors: loyalty or death’ (2014: xv). From a range of geopolitical locations, the analytics of ‘queer necropolitics’ foreground the importance of interrogating claims to queerness in the context of ongoing processes of colonization, occupation, dispossession and genocide. They bring into focus regimes of attribution of liveliness and deadliness of subjects, bodies, communities and populations and their instantiation through performatives of gender, sexuality and kinship, as well as through processes of confinement, removal and exhaustion. They connect the queerness of everyday death worlds to shifting domains of struggle. In this talk, I explore these arguments and include a discussion of the queer necropolitical dimensions of my ethnographic research on transnational adoption circuits in Guatemala.
Silvia Posocco is based in social anthropology and gender studies. Her work focuses on a profoundly theoretically inflected ethnographic approach to the study of relations and relational categories - notably 'gender', 'sexuality' and 'secrecy' - through research on socially, culturally and historically situated practices. She is also concerned with the intersections between anthropology and queer studies. Her first research monograph on histories of violence and socialities of secrecy in Petén, northern Guatemala, was published in January 2014 by Alabama University Press. Secrecy and Insurgency: Socialities and Knowledge Practices in Guatemala deals with the experiences of guerrilla combatants of the Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes (Rebel Armed Forces) in the aftermath of the 1996 Peace Accords. The book focuses on 'secrecy' as both sociality and knowledge practice, and demonstrates the relevance of thinking 'gender' in the coalescence of novel objects of analysis in a broad field of contemporary theory. Silvia is also involved in the Decolonising Sexualities Research Network.
- The Political Aesthetics of Drag
Prof. Shaka McGlotten (Purchase College-SUNY)
Wednesday 19 November
Arts A5, 5pm-7pm
Co-sponsored with the Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies
Drag can be a means of touching queer and other publics, of mediating one’s economic precarity. It can function as art by other means, or by any means necessary. And like politics, drag can be a duty, a contentious pleasure, or something to dread. Prof. McGlotten presents drag aesthetics as an ethics, focusing specifically on the ways artists and activists use drag to respond to, or reframe, some of the pressing political crises of our times, including racism, austerity, and police and military violence. For some drag provides a stage on which to articulate radical politics, while for others it is a sensual refuge. This talk will form a series of interlocking ethnographic portraits of contemporary drag across three sites: New York City, Berlin, and Israel/Palestine.
Shaka McGlotten, currently living and working in Berlin as a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, is Associate Professor of Media, Society, and the Arts at Purchase College-SUNY, where he teaches courses on ethnography, digital culture, and queer studies. He is the co-editor of Black Genders and Sexualities (Palgrave, 2012) and Zombie Sexuality: Essays on Sex and the Living Dead (McFarland, 2014). He has written and spoken widely about public sex, virtual worlds, gaming, and hook up apps, preoccupations that appear in his monograph, Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (SUNY Press, 2013).
- What Does Sex Diss Mean? A Roundtable Discussion
Wednesday 24 September
Jubilee 144, 4pm-6pm
Participants: Dr. Paul Boyce (Department of Anthropology), Dr. Sharif Mowlabocus (School of Media, Film & Music), Dr. Kate O’Riordan (School of Media, Film & Music), Dr. Francesco Ventrella (Department of Art History)
Chair: Dr. Samuel Solomon (School of English).
This introduction to the Centre’s activities and programming will feature faculty affiliated with the Centre in an open discussion about research and teaching on sexuality. Our panelists will discuss the meaning for them of the study of sexual dissidence and associated problems: does sexuality name a distinct object of study? Does sexual dissidence name a more mobile methodology that informs our work in various fields? We hope to engage in a lively conversation with our audience about these questions and to share and develop our ideas as a research community.
- From Christian Postmodernism to Digital Video Activism: Cui Zi’en’s Queer Films and Queer Politics
Dr. Hongwei Bao (University of Nottingham)
Wed 5 February, Jubilee 115, 5pm-6.30pm
Introduced by Dr. Sharif Mowlabocus (School of Media, Film and Music)
As the first ‘out’ gay celebrity in Chinese media and as a leading figure in China’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Activism, Cui Zi’en as a queer filmmaker has so far received little scholarly attention. Often referred to as ‘China’s Anydy Warhol’, Cui is noted for his anti-commercial, anti-academic, anti-norm and anti-establishment style of filmmaking. His films explore issues such as gender, sexuality, identity, sociality and relationality. Through his postmodern, Christian, queer and Chinese lens, he unfolds a queer world of the sacred and the profane, of innocence and sophistication, and of fantasy and reality. His filmmaking practice, ‘digital video activism’ in his own words, opposes the government censorship of homosexuality and the state ban on independent film production in China by drawing on Marxist, Maoist and postmodern cultural politics. More importantly, his films and filmmaking practices raise question on queer theory in its cultural translation and indigenous modes of queer theorisation in a non-Western context.
In this talk, I shall first situate Cui’s work in a genealogy of queer films and queer politics in contemporary China. Through the study of Cui’s life trajectory, I will then trace the development of his queer thinking and queer politics by locating it in a transnational and postsocialist context. Textual analysis of a couple of his films will then demonstrate their relevance to contemporary queer theory.
Dr Hongwei Bao is lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Nottingham. His research focuses on queer films and queer filmmaking in transnational China, and postcolonial and postsocialist cultural politics.
- Disgusted Apperceptions: Ron Athey’s “4 Scenes in a Harsh Life” in Minneapolis and London, 1994
Dr. Dominic Johnson (Senior Lecturer in Drama, Queen Mary, University of London)
Wed 12 March,The Creativity Zone, Pevensey III, 3C7, 4pm-6pm
Introduced by Dr. Sara Jane Bailes (School of English)
In the United States Congress in July 1994, Jesse Helms, the late Republican Senator for North Carolina, introduced a series of pronouncements and actions against the performance artist Ron Athey, on account of Athey's performance of 4 Scenes in a Harsh Life (1994) in Minneapolis earlier in the year. In the final years of the ‘culture wars’, Helms would use Athey as a scapegoat to police the threat posed by what the religious Right deemed to be antagonistic, offensive, or indecent art. In the same month, when Athey and his company travelled to London to perform Four Scenes at the ICA, new problems ensured, in relation to a recent legal ruling concerning consensual bodily harm. By studying the reception of Ron Athey’s seminal performance 4 Scenes in a Harsh Life (1994), in Minneapolis and London, I show that disgusted apperceptions of a single work depend on contingencies at the local level. These contexts are seemingly beyond the aesthetic domain, yet condition the way a work of art makes meaning.
Dominic Johnson is the author of Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture (2012); and Theatre & the Visual (2012). He is the editor of four books, most recently Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey (2013); and Critical Live Art: Contemporary Histories of Performance (2013). He is Associate Editor of the journal Contemporary Theatre Review, and guest-edited a special issue on ‘Live Art in the UK’ in 2012. He is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English and Drama, at Queen Mary, University of London.
- By No Means Effeminate: Modernist Sexology, Feminism and the Trans Feminine Remainder
Prof. Emma Heaney (Assistant Professor, Draper Program, New York University)
Wed 19 March, Jubilee 115, 5pm-6.30pm
Introduced by Dr Samuel Solomon (School of English)
The Intermediate Sex, Edward Carpenter’s foundational text of feminist and gay rights, forwards the “extreme effeminate” as a rare sport in the vast class of normal, masculine gay men. This disavowal of femininity is an early example of trans misogyny which this lecture reads back through the sexological tradition and forward into works of literary Modernism.
- Queer South Asian Muslims: the Ethnic Closet and its Secular Limits
Monday 8 April 4pm-6pm, University of Sussex, Jubilee 117
This paper explores contemporary UK and US queer South Asian Muslim discourses and texts. It considers the ways in which the apparent incompatability of same-sex desire with Islam functions to secure secular values, by suggesting specific, Muslim, limits to narratives of progress. Through the exclusion of the 'Muslim other' from secular discourse on the grounds of homophobia as well as gender inequity, Muslims in particular are produced as failing to uphold human rights. I will discuss some of the discourses of opposition and think through both Muslim and LGBT histories of identity construction, to show some of the ways in which current dominant discourses work. The context precedes a discussion of fictional texts by diasporic queer South Asian Muslims. These cannot be read simply as authentic anthropological documents, but can be seen as working within these dominant discourses as well as constructing their own. The paper will explore a film, Touch of Pink (2004) directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid, and the novels Straightening All (2007) by Amjeed Kabil, and The Two Krishnas (2011) by Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla. The paper is envisaged as part of a larger project considering the temporalities of 'home' and diaspora in queer postcolonial discourses and texts.
Dr Shamira Meghani is a Lecturer at the University of Leeds and her research involves exploring literary constructions of subjectivity and identity, and intersections of sexuality, gender and ethnicity/race in relation to narratives of imperialism, nationalism and liberal-humanist ideologies. Her focus is on the theory and construction of the body and dissident gender, desire and sexuality in South Asian texts. She works on literary texts in English from the late nineteenth century to the present, and film from 'Bollywood', the South Asian diaspora, and Indian art cinema.
- Hot, hot, hot! Language, Same-Sex (Normative) Desire and Gay Pornography
Wednesday 27 March 4pm-5.30pm, University of Sussex, Jubilee 144
Language and sexuality studies have changed greatly since the 1990s when discussions highlighted linguistic practices as markers of sexual identity and difference. Today’s interests in language and desire bring together interests in language and affect and language and political economy through carefully focused studies of ideology and stance-taking.
To develop this point, I turn to a current research project exploring audience reactions to the content and imagery displayed in commercially prepared gay pornography. In this presentation, I consider gay porn viewers’ use of the term “hot” in on-line postings to porn-related websites, chat rooms, and news blogs. “Hot” indexes valued masculine properties that viewers associate with certain gay porn performers and their on-screen performances—but not with all of them. “Twinks” (young, ephebic-like characters) are consistently found to be appealing and attractive, but they are “hot” only under very specific circumstances. Similarly, “hot” collocates irregularly with explicit references to race or ethnicity in these postings.
So I am interested in who is included – and excluded – under the stance-marker “hot”, and how depictions of performers (and the characters they play) are altered when viewers include (or exclude) “hot” in their commentary. I am also interested in who is speaking in these instances, and in recovering evidence from on-line sources that allows me to construct a profile of the social voice. But most importantly, I interested in clarifying the regulatory assumptions that define and shape inclusion and exclusion in these moments of linguistic usage. Through its evaluatory work, the viewers are producing cartography of experience whose details allow certain forms of marginality and deviance to become sites of value and praise, and comparable forms of marginality and deviance are pushed even deeper in the margins. Far from being an innocent erotic reference, “hot” is deeply embedded in homonormative practice, and the same is true for the audience reception/discussion of gay pornography that “hot” enables.
Professor Leap is also the Senior Editor of Journal of Language and Sexuality
- Film Screening: United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, followed by a Q&A with producer Sarah Schulman
Monday 18 February 6pm, Duke of York's @ Komedia, Gardner Street, North Laine, Brighton BN1 1UN
The 'Eyes Wide Open' film programme and the University of Sussex's Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence present a screening of one of the most important contemporary documentaries about ACT UP (the AIDS coalition to Unleash Power). The screening will be followed by a discussion with Dr. John David Rhodes (University of Sussex, School of English) and the film's producer, Sarah Schulman.
Sarah Schulman gave a Q&A chaired by faculty member JD Rhodes, speaking about her experiences and role in producing the film United In Anger: A History Of Act Up (2012). She talks about the Act-Up movement, the logistics of the filming and her personal experiences of the AIDS epidemic, Act-Up and current gay rights issues. To listen to the podcast of the Q&A session please click below:Sarah Schulman Podcast 18/2/13
Sarah Schulman in Conversation
Monday 18 February 11am-1pm, University of Sussex, Fulton 207
Writer, activist and filmmaker Sarah Schulman will hold a conversation with University of Sussex faculty and students based around the introduction to her recent book "Israel/Palestine and the Queer International" (Duke University Press 2012). Copies of the introduction will be circulated to those who sign up to attend the event.
Sarah Schulman has seventeen published works (of both fiction and non-fiction), and is the recipient of the American Library Association Stonewall Book Award, as well as being a nominee for the Lambda Literary Award. Her theatre work includes collaborations with Robin Epstein and Dorothy Cantwell of More Fire! Productions, Jennifer Monson, Zeena Parkins, Scott Heron, Jennifer Miller, John Bernd, Susan Seizer, Mark Owen, Maggie Moore, Holiday Reinhorn, Melinda Wade, Bina Sharif, and Mark Ameen. She has been an early advocate for direct action, being involved with ACT UP, CARASA and Lesbian Avengers. In 1987, Schulman and filmmaker Jim Hubbard founded the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival, now called MIX and in its twenty-fourth year. Since 2001 they have been creating the ACT UP Oral History Project and have released the feature documentary "United in Anger: The History of ACT UP", which premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on February 19, 2012. Sarah Schulman was made a Revson Fellow for the Future of New York City at Columbia University and received a Stonewall Award for Contributions Improving the Lives of Lesbians and Gays in the United States. In 2009 she was awarded the Kessler Prize for sustained contribution to LGBT Studies, given by The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University Graduate Center. In 2009 she was also appointed to the Advisory Council of the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights and Social Movements, and in 2011 was named to the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace. She is coordinator of the "Homonationalism and Pinkwashing" Conference to be held at the City University Graduate Center on April 10th and 11th, 2013 with keynotes by Haneen Maikay, Rabih Alemeddine, Judith Butler and Jasbir Puar. She is currently working on two new plays: "Choice", about the plaintiff and the attorney in the Roe v. Wade case, and "The Lady Hamlet" - a 1920s backstage comedy about two great female stage divas competing to play the role of Hamlet on Broadway, and a novel, "The Cosmopolitans".