A guest post by Justin Bengry (Birkbeck/McGill)
While numerous seminars at the Institute for Historical Research have long welcomed papers from historians of sex and sexuality, no single seminar provided for a broader dialogue on the subject across region, period and theme. Spearheaded by team members at the Raphael Samuel History Centre, the new IHR History of Sexuality Seminar grew out of a need to remedy this. It is our desire to foster a network both of scholars and also non-academics interested in the history of the many and diverse expressions of sexuality and meanings of sexual behaviours, as well as the social, economic, cultural, political and economic interest in sex and sexuality over time. The seminar reflects a critical interest in the history of sex and sexuality domestically and globally, and we welcome local speakers and guests from abroad.
Our first seminar session on 7 January 2014, which asked “What is the History of Sexuality?”, was an outstanding success. Attendance over 80 far surpassed our expectations and the physical ability of the Court Room, Senate House to contain this level
of interest. At the seminar, speakers included scholars of Russia, Europe, China and Sinophone cultures, and ranged across the modern and early modern periods. They spoke to the continuing need for historians of sex and sexuality to engage with one another across disciplinary boundaries, to recognize the continuing political importance of our research, and to be mindful of the language we use to describe ourselves, our discipline and our historical subjects. The enthusiasm with which attendees and speakers helped us launch the seminar confirmed that the history of sex and sexuality is both a vital and vibrant field of historical research.
A new blog on the history of sexuality also went live to accompany the launch of the seminar. Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality is edited by Justin Bengry (Birkbeck/McGill), Julia Laite (Birkbeck) and Amy Tooth Murphy (University of East London), and like the seminar seeks to speak to the broadest interest in the history of sexuality. The blog brings together established scholars, postgraduate students, activists, and interested community members in a forum where all aspects of the history of sexuality can be discussed. Already we have had exciting posts on what it means to be a historian of sexuality, medieval imagery, personal reflections on activism and identity, reactions to the hijras of India, and race and sexuality in Britain. We have further blog posts lined up in anticipation of LGBT History Month in February.
With the launch of the IHR History of Sexuality Seminar and the Notches blog, we hope to encourage dialogue among scholars of different fields whose interests bring them together under the study of histories of sex and sexuality. But we also hope to make this work exciting, interesting, and accessible to a wider audience of scholars and non-academics alike for whom the issues we research remain critically important and relevant.
The IHR History of Sexuality Seminar will next meet for a session on queer desire to launch the Raphael Samuel History Centre’s celebration of LGBT History Month 2014. The seminar is FREE and open to all.
DATE: 28 January 2014 at 6.00pm
VENUE: Bedford Room (G37), Senate House
Dr Helen Smith (University of Sheffield),‘“An Awful Lot of Casual Sex Going On:” Working-Class Men and the Landscape of Same-Sex Desire in the North of England, 1945-1960’
Dr Emma Vickers (Liverpool John Moores University), ‘“Get Some In!” Managing Queer Desire and National Service in Britain, 1945-1963.’
The podcast from the first session is now available on the SAS website: What
is the History of Sexuality podcast.
Regular updates on the IHR History of Sexuality Seminar are available by ‘liking’ us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IHRSeminar or following us on Twitter, where we tweet from @IHR_Sexuality.
Image: ‘The Meeting Place’ By Paul Day