MultiSession Sexing Up the "Long" 1950s, Part 2: Urban and Transnational Narratives in the Americas and Europe

AHA Session 256
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 12
Conference on Latin American History 72
Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Addison Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Anne Hardgrove, University of Texas at San Antonio
Tamara Chaplin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Session Abstract

This second half of the linked panel “Sexing Up the ‘Long’ 1950s” offers a broader investigation of emerging and changing sexual cultures in Latin America, Europe, and transnational contexts. We offer four presenters: Ryan M. Jones (University of Illinois) on the emergence of local and transnational homophile/homosexual and bisexual cultures in Mexico City; Nathan Andrew Wilson (York University, Toronto) on gay rights, Cold War politics, memories of Nazism, and intercontinental ties between West Germany and the United States; Dáša Frančíková (University of Michigan) on the emergence of transnational lesbian and homophile movements in the US and Europe; and Pablo Ben (University of Northern Iowa), who links the emerging homosexual identities in Argentina to migration and the job market patterns throughout Latin America. Tamara Chaplin (University of Illinois), will comment from her perspective as a specialist in French sexuality studies.

These four papers offer insights into the 1950s from new vantage points that are not limited to the local and national contexts in which sexualities have previously been considered. We advance the necessity of researching both the local and transnational contexts of emerging sexual cultures, the importance of complicating narratives focused on the US or Europe individually through cross-boarder comparisons, and the utility of police case files, organizational records, poetry, music, underground publications, and periodical literature in fostering ideas of a larger homophile/homosexual world prior to the emergence of LGBTQ rights movements after Stonewall and during the 1970s.

In this way, we escape previous studies focused on decontextualized metropoles and  studies that identify major cities (like New York or London) as the sole sites of important homosexual identity formations. Instead, we argue in favor of the importance of illuminating international similarities, differences, and relationships existing between gay and lesbian communities across the Atlantic. For example, Ryan M. Jones demonstrates the conduits through which “the foreign”—embodied in immigrants and tourists—provided both access to transnational homophile and homosexual communities in Latin America, Europe, and the United States, as well as an opportunity for governmental crackdowns against sexual difference. Nathan Andrew Wilson extends a similar inquiry into the very similar ways West German and American groups used memories of the Holocaust and racism to resist oppression (as is seen in their publications), while Dáša Frančíková demonstrates the eagerness that lesbians demonstrated in forging personal relationships in a global context as part of their organizational strategies and affective desires. Finally, Pablo Ben demonstrates the importance of contextualizing Argentine urban lower class family and neighborhood structures to studies of homoesxuality, migration, and jobs in Latin America and beyond.

Throughout each of these examples, communication—at times direct, at times indirect—existed between cities, regions, nations and across borders and played a critical role in identities created, analogies used, relationships forged, and communities fostered that were at once very local, while also being significantly transnational. This panel demonstrates the ways that communities in diverse locations organized networks—of interaction, feeling, memory, and solidarity—to brave the challenges posed by the “Long” 1950s.

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