Promiscuous Interdisciplinarity, Part 5: Criminalization and Queer History
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 6
This panel is intended to be considered as part of the Committee on LGBT History’s “Promiscuous Interdisciplinarity” series.
Since the earliest days of lesbian/gay and queer historiography, a central concern has been the criminalization and decriminalization of same-sex sexuality, gender transgression, and homosexual status and publicity. In the past few years, however, historical scholarship informed by critical and radical legal studies, intersectionality, transnationalism, transgender studies, and new approaches to the carceral state have created an exciting new space for deeper and more sophisticated interrogation of the relationship between processes of criminalization and queer history. This international panel brings into conversation some of this new work from three different continents and across three different eras. Each makes a particular argument for interdisciplinarity as a necessary component of their research and process. British historian Charles Upchurch presents key arguments and findings from his upcoming book exploring the 1820s British movement to repeal sodomy laws. He asserts that this scholarship could not have occurred without fusing techniques from political history and literary criticism as well as multiple kinds of archives. American Studies graduate student Elias Vituli fuses history, critical prison studies, queer studies and transgender studies to uncover what early and mid-twentieth-century “discoveries,” classification, and management of cross-gender-identified prisoners tell us about the American prison system both as a site of control and a locus of meaning-making power. Modern Chinese historian Howard Chiang combines postcolonial theory, queer and transgender studies, media studies, and histories of gender, sexuality, and nationalism to argue that one mid-twentieth-century Taiwanese criminalized yet exceptional renyao—a transgender figure of performance and spectacle—should be understood within an archival and historical context through which another figure of contested legality—the nation of Taiwan—emerged.