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Queer Histories and Presents, for LGBT History Month

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Queer Space Research Forum: Gay Liberation Movements; Lesbian Motherhood; and LGBT+ People in the Indian Workplace

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The Queer Space Research Forum was established in 2012 to provide space for discussion around LGBT and queer themes, focused on texts and informal presentations of work-in-progress. To celebrate LGBT History Month, this seminar showcases current historically focused doctoral projects by three students engaged in queer studies in different cultural contexts: Samuel Vermote from UCL; Lars Aaberg from SOAS; and Alex Stoffel from Queen Mary.

The (in)visible father: lesbian motherhood and artificial insemination in Britain from the seventies to late eighties

Samuel Vermote – University College London

My doctoral research project seeks to interrogate the attitudes, practicalities, and paradoxes concerning lesbian artificial insemination in Britain throughout the 1970s and 1980s.To enrich the field of lesbian history, I bring it into dialogue with masculinity studies, concentrating specifically on the exchanges between lesbian women and sperm donors. In these exchanges, lesbian women were confronted with the materiality and cultural meanings of sperm, which forced them to manage the literal and figurative distance between themselves and the man – friend, faceless stranger or other – who produced it. Combining archival research with oral history methods, I seek to investigate the reciprocal influence sperm donors and lesbian women had on each other, exposing, simultaneously, their relation to contemporary notions of masculinity, sexuality and parenthood.

LGBTQ workplace diversity and inclusion in India: an anthropological study of queer advocacy in an offshore economy

Lars Aaberg – SOAS

There is increasing interest in the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the Indian workplace. In a country without legal protections for LGBTQ workers, employers are not mandated to provide LGBTQ-specific benefits nor are they required to extend anti-discrimination protections to them. A growing number of activists are engaged in efforts to advocate for equitable employee benefits and protections under the banner of ‘LGBTQ diversity and inclusion’, a majority of whom work in the formal private sector. I take LGBTQ workplace advocacy in Bengaluru’s information technologies (IT) industry as a case study to map the history of this advocacy and its current objectives. Based on extensive ethnographic data in the form of in-depth interviews and participant observation in advocacy efforts, this study analyzes the experiences of LGBTQ-identified workers in Bengaluru’s IT industry, in general, and those of LGBTQ workplace advocates, in particular. By providing an account of the emergence of LGBTQ workplace advocacy, this presentation will analyze how, when and for whom sexuality and gender identity become meaningful categories by which to articulate experiences of workplace discrimination and inequality.

Politicizing sexuality, rewriting the international: The anti-imperialism of the gay liberation movement

Alex Stoffel – Queen Mary University London

Numerous queer scholars have raised concerns about contemporary transnational LGBT movements. They have provided a compelling critique of both a) the imperialism of contemporary sexual rights movements, as they impose a Western sexual epistemology on non-Western subjects, and b) the nationalism of post-colonial regimes, who legitimize queerphobic state repression by framing homosexuality as a corruptive Western import. However, these critiques have their limits. Analytically, they run the risk of assuming a radical discontinuity among global sexual discourses, which inadvertently reinscribes homosexuality as inherently Western and which conceals the complex struggles over these discourses within the West itself. Politically, it is marked by a sense of political paralysis and paranoia, as it is unable to envision a transnational political struggle around sexuality that does not collude either with the imperialism of global sexual rights movements or with the nationalism of post-colonial elites. This analytical and political deadlock follows from this scholarship’s exclusive concern with the sexual rights movements of large non-governmental organizations, international institutions, and mainstream advocacy networks. Alternative histories of radical sexual politics have largely been ignored. This paper turns to the internationalism of the gay liberation movement, uncovering a history of transnational queer politics that undermines the foundational presuppositions of transnational sexuality studies.

All are welcome. The event will run on Zoom. The link and passcode will be provided on your confirmation email when you register.

This event is organised by qUCL, which is part of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

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