Hearing History: Libraries, Listening, and the Performance of Queer Kinship

Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:30 PM
Governor's Square 14 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Jennifer Evans, Carleton University
This paper centers on the personal libraries of criminologist Rüdiger Lautmann and Dutch sociologist Gert Hekma, two of the first social scientists to publish on gay and lesbian themes in the 1970s. Libraries from scholars like these, the first of a generation to make gay and lesbian history fixtures of university curricula, were more than just a collection of books. They were repositories of information in an age when queer-themed collections were not considered suitable for institutional libraries. They were meeting spaces for queer-identified students and scholars and frequently, and they frequently served as community archives, places of refuge, conversation, and of course, desire, in a still hostile age. These libraries are portraits not only of scholarly work, but also of the individuals who created and occupied them. They served as alternative kinship networks in the era before civil union. 

This paper analyzes queer kinship through a series of audioguides to the collections I am making together with a Berlin-based Canadian sound and visual artist. It asks how artistic re-rendering might create new opportunities for an affective and bodily engagement with the receding past. In this sense, the audio-guides serve as both a representation and re-enactment of the libraries on the level of sentiment. The question to be analyzed, then, is how might aesthetic experiences based around sound and listening transmit portions of the past into the present, creating new opportunities to access and understand the relevance of these libraries to the emergence of gay, lesbian, and queer personal and professional life. By combining elements of social and cultural history with guiding theories in performance studies and public history, the paper – and the larger research project it is a part of – aims to create new ways of conceptualizing how aesthetic re-rendering through sound functions as historical production.

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