D.C. Queer Studies Archive
Explore the archive of symposia and lectures hosted by the department.
During spring semester of 2021, the LGBTQ Studies Program of the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is sponsoring a series of events dedicated to the queer politics of health and care. From its earliest days, queer theory has been invested in the politics of health, its emergence coinciding with the urgent demands of responding to the AIDS crisis. Academic queer studies was powerfully influenced by social movements’ acts of radical protest and collective care in the face of the stigmatization and abandonment of people with HIV/AIDS. And throughout the field’s many turns, a concern with the politics of the body has remained central, especially as queer scholarship intersects and overlaps with disability studies, critical race theory, and trans studies. Now, the impact of COVID19 is once again revealing the ways in which certain populations bear the brunt of unequal access to healthcare and essential social services, and non-state-based formations of care and support are once again emerging as a matter of urgent necessity. This series brings together scholars in queer and trans studies and related fields to think through the politics of the body and health at this moment.
Note: The 2020 symposium was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions
Queer Beyond the State(s)
Thirteenth Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium
The status of the state – and the United States in particular – has been a central subject of debate in queer studies. Since the earliest years of the field, scholars have tended to assert the heteronormative and homophobic logics of the state form; with time, this was joined by challenges to the whiteness and U.S. centricity of the field and its central terms, including “queer” itself. Yet the term persists. Whether it becomes translated or reimagined (i.e. as “queer of color,” “cuir,” “quare,” “kweer”) or relocated outside of the U.S. academy, a central desire for the possibilities that queer studies might yet offer to critiques of the state(s) remains. What is the relationship between the activist and scholarly histories of queer and the state (and the United States) today? How is queer deployed or dispensed within projects that seek to of dislodge the abuses of state power and the logics of anti-Blackness, settler colonialism, endless war, anti- immigration, and other forms of subjection? How do queer studies scholars today analyze the entanglements of sexuality and state power in its specific and general forms?
DCQS Reflections On Disidentifications At 20
Twelfth Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium 2019
In 1999, the queer theorist and performance studies scholar José Esteban Muñoz published the book Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. It remains one of the most influential works in queer theory and queer of color critique over the last two decades. The book brought together fields of study too rarely put into conversation – women of color feminisms, literary-critical theory, and histories of theater and performance – and developed a new framework for the concept of “disidentification” to address the dynamics of social exclusion and cultural production among queer people of color engaged in both experimental and popular culture. The 12th Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium will bring together scholars and artists for a one day event dedicated to the legacy of this field-defining book.
The 11th Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium 2018
How does queer studies transform when we place transness at its center? In a daylong series of conversations about the history, present, and future of the overlapping, intersecting, but also often conflicting fields, we bring together scholars and artists to chart new directions for queer and trans studies. What forms of knowledge production might dictate or influence future political, academic, or artistic configurations – whether mergers, transformations, or the death of queer and transgender studies for something more radical?
PLENARY #1 – TRANS-AESTHETICS
—micha cárdenas, Trans of Color Poetics and Algorithmic Analysis
—Jeanne Vaccaro, Out of Distracted Vision: Workaday Diagnosis, Psychedelic Sexology, and the Handmade Aesthetics of Transgender
PLENARY #2 – TRANS-GENEALOGIES
—Aren Aizura, Unrecognisable, Unknowable: On the Refusal of Trans Knowledge Production
—Matt Richardson, Expanding the History of Black Feminism
“Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens,” Twenty Years Later: A Celebration of the Scholarship of Cathy Cohen
The Tenth Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium 2017
At the close of the 20th century, Cathy Cohen insisted that “…a truly radical or transformative politics has not resulted from queer activism.” She instead offered ideas about coalitions organized in the name of the “nonnormative” and “marginal” and based in an intersectional analysis of power that demanded a move beyond an assimilative LGBT agenda. Twenty years after the publication of Cohen’s “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” the relevance of these words echo loudly in our current political era. Cohen’s call became the basis for important research and political work in regards to race, sexuality, and class. In celebration of that landmark essay, and her overall breadth of scholarship and activism, this symposium invites Cohen and a wide range of other scholars and activists to revisit the influence of her vision and to explore the question: What does transformative political activism look like in the 21st century?
“Queer beyond repair” evokes a double meaning. On one hand, it suggests that queerness itself is, has become, or can be a state of irreparability: that it must bear the burden of histories and structures of violence from which there is no final redress. In such a reading, repair appears, necessarily, as an impossible project. It asks us to account for queer practices—of sex, politics, reading, world-making—as modes of reprieve and endurance that must contend with the unshakeable legacies and foundational logics that undergird already consolidated fantasies of humanness, from imperial rule and anti-blackness, to the psychic and material structures of liberal politics itself. Such an account would require a reinscription of the satisfaction, if not pleasure, we receive from the survival of queer forms of life within a nexus of lives marked by past, ongoing, and potential experiences of irretrievable loss, dread, and death.
The 2015 lecture series turned its attention to how the time and space of gender, sexuality, race, and empire are shaped by acts of speculation: both financial sepculation on “futures” markets and the speculative imaginaries that invent, theorize, imagine, and enact different kinds of worlds. This lecutre series acknowledged that queer theory, politics, and life have always engaged in speculative practice, demanding we attend to forms of kinship, politics, gender, sex, and sociality that exceed the logics of assimilation. In recent years, attention has turned both to the ways in which some queer formations can reinforce the logics of speculative capital, and to the work of speculative cultural production in imagining different, deviant worlds. This year’s lecture series invited attendees to join discussions about the speculation about queer bodies, objects, feelings, pasts, futures, utopias, dystopias, and transformations as our invited speakers tackled such questions as: What is speculative about queerness? How does queerness interrupt, reframe, reinterpret different forms of speculation?
Same-sex lovers touch. Or build a network of ties and commitments based on something other than biological kinship. These are queer intimacies. Trans people navigate a labyrinth of state regulations and religio-cultural codes concerning proper gender conduct in order to craft livable lives. Young LGBT African-American activists take to the streets, the pews, and their kitchen tables to organize support in the black community for a referendum affirming the right to same-sex marriage. These close encounters of bodies, church, community, and state are also queer intimacies.This lecture series focused on what happens to queer intimacy as the legal and social status of LGBT people and same-sex relationships undergoes change, in the US and throughout the world.
Queer theory in the twenty-first century has focused on a wide range of bodies and minds in a variety of states: failing, wounded, scarred, damaged, infected or infectious, diseased, mad, depressed, or traumatized. Only recently, however, has this focus engaged thickly with disability theory, making a crip turn to what Jasbir Puar describes as “questions of bodily capacity, debility, disability, precarity, and populations.” Debilitating Queerness aimed to both highlight and extend this turn. Some of the central questions throughout the 2013 lecture series were: If debility signifies infirmity, feebleness, or frailty, what happens to queerness when it is openly theorized through debility and disability? What might it mean to debilitate queerness? How might such a debilitation be opposed to the compulsory able-bodiedness of mainstream LGBT politics? What other critical projects might it be linked to?
Contact. Of bodies, worlds, orders, organisms. Of people, modes of being, ways of seeing. “Life is at its most rewarding, productive, and pleasant when large numbers of people understand, appreciate, and seek out interclass contact and communication conducted in a mode of good will,” declares Samuel R. Delany in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. Contact is a theme that resonates throughout queer studies of intimacy, alterity, temporality, and globalization. In 2012 we celebrated ten years of LGBT Studies at the University of Maryland through a provacative series of interdisciplinary conversations.
The 2011 lecture series highlighted that the archives of queer intimacies and subjectivities are everywhere and nowhere – in audio recordings, the chronicles of colonialism, the records of psychiatric hospitals and prisons, the ephemera collected by LGBT community history organizations. For the scholar of sex and gender variation, the encounter with the archive is often a matter of attending to patterns of silence and submersion, of reading evidence that is always under erasure. To queer the archive is to tease out those buried truths, but it is also to recognize the vexed nature of “truth” and to acknowledge that one’s own desires and fantasies shape and misshape what one sees in any collection of artifacts or records. In this fascinating series of lectures and conversations, scholars and producers of queer archives reflected on what they do, why they do it, and what is at stake in efforts to document queer identities, practices, and performances. Speakers led us in an expedition of the depths of a history that is no longer hidden but not yet fully in view.
Not content with troubling the norms of both hetero- and homo- sex and gender systems, the speakers in the 2010 series pushed beyond the limits of visibility and worked toward new imaginings of narrative and embodiment. Refusing to be bound by the established discourses of queerness or of queer of color critique, this audacious group of emerging scholars asked, What psychosocial possibilities come into view when queers trouble traditional forms of ethnic narratives? How does queer of color critique work when confronted with trans-embodiments? Can queer manipulations of place alter pre-fabricated imaginaries? Intervening in ongoing conversations about the interconnectedness of race and sexuality, this series aimed to show that “Bent Voices” come from many directions and compel us to new modes of listening.
The 2009 lecture series, “69/09: The Queer Afterlives of Stonewall,” commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, a moment of activism often described as the catalyst for the modern movement for LGBT visibility and civil rights. At the same time, the series aimed to unsettle a conventional framing of LGBT history that fetishizes one time and place as foundational while marginalizing other moments and sites of activism. We honored the legacies and continued to examine the still unfinished work of Stonewall.
The taking of tea, the making (or not making or re-making) of vows, the telling of stories – Queer and LGBT lives are shaped and punctuated by moments of performance, ritual, and ceremony. Such moments help to form identities, build communities, and fuel social and political activism, but queer practices of intimacy and sociality vary widely from place to place and signify differently in different contexts. They also suggest divergent models of relationship between sexual minorities and the heterosexual, heteronormative majority. In the 2008 lecture series, four leaders in the field of LGBT/queer studies examined “queer living” through the lenses of legal and social history, ethnographic performance, and sociology.
In 2007 we celebrated the 5th annual lecture series, Now Queer This! Sexual Dissidence in Popular Culture.” This series turned a scholarly eye on the queerness that so often puts the “pop” in popular culture. From the homoeroticism of sport to the gender-bending of fashion and musical performance, from cross-dressing on the Renaissance stage to same-sex kisses on TV shows, from the pop art of the 1950s to the queer comics and anime of the 2000s–Sexual dissidence and gender variation have been staples of mass culture and entertainment. But how does queerness signify in these cultural spaces and forms? Is it subversive of a dominant, heteronormative order, or are queer energies inevitably captured or contained by that order? Why is Broadway so welcoming to queer people and style, while the sports world is still so anxious about sexual minorities in the locker room? The focus was to shed critical light on images and activities that surround us every day, whether we are aware of them or not.
The 4th annual lecture series, “Queering the Spirit: Religion, Race, and Sexualities,” was spurred by several questions. What happens when religion, race, and sexuality-particularly non-normative sexualities-meet up in the public sphere? Or within the often conflicted heart or soul of an individual? In what ways and in what kinds of faith tradition are practices is it fair to say that the spirit has been queered or made open to sex and gender variation? How have racism and colonialism shaped attitudes toward homo-sexualities among, for example, religious African Americans, Hindus, Muslims, or the Afro-Cuban practitioners of Santeria? What roles has religion played in 20th-century movements for civil rights for racial and sexual minorities?? This series attempted to tackle these and other challenging questions.
The 3rd annual lecture series, “Here is a Queer Planet: LGBT Studies in Global Contexts,” built upon Michael Warner’s 1993 edited collection, Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory which heralded the arrival of a new way of doing cultural and political work on sex and sexuality. Audacious, antiassimilationism, and attentive to both the global underpinnings and the local specificities of sexuality and gender, queer studies aimed to travel widely and across a wide range of disciplinary and geopolitical boundaries. This year’s lecture series created opportunities to continue that journey. Through speakers, film and discussions, the series presented multiple perspectives on global queerness and considered the face and the shape of LGBT Studies and queer activism beyond U.S. borders and within diverse communities.
Spring 2004 brought the 2nd annual lecture series, “Queer(ing) Citizenship: Before and After Lawrence”. In June, 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that laws criminalizing consensual, private sexual contact between same-sex partners violated the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision, which has been compared to Brown v. Board of Education in terms of its civil rights implications, set off major public debates about marriage and transformed the meanings of citizenship for America’s sexual minorities. This lecture series aimed to offer the campus community an opportunity to reflect upon the transformations and the history that preceded them.
In Spring 2003, in conjunction with its inaugural seminar, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Program sponsored its first annual spring lecture series. The series and the seminar were entitled, “A Queer Decade: Taking Stock of Studies in Sex, Culture, and Society.”
Marking its official coming-out through this lecture series, the program’s goal was to offer students, faculty, and the campus community an opportunity to reflect upon the then current state of studies of sexuality in a range of disciplines and sub-disciplines.