Reproducing Archive: Building an Oral History Archive of DIY Lesbian and Trans Pregnancy

Friday, January 4, 2019: 1:30 PM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton)
Rachel Gelfand, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In this paper, I reflect on the relationship between oral history and archives in the production and sedimentation of queer history. In 2017, I interviewed fifteen lesbian and trans individuals who had children in the early 1980s (and late 1970s) in the Boston area. As a queer historian and the child of lesbian mothers, I have been particularly interested in chronicling the DIY processes of (queer) reproduction of which I am a product. The oral history project chronicles debate and dialogues within lesbian mothers discussion groups of Cambridge and Somerville. It delves into the role of the AIDS epidemic in this era of the “lesbian baby boom” and critically examines rhetorical strategies of “choice.” My analysis considers the dynamics of race, gender identity, and class in queer history of reproduction by drawing on works by Miranda Joseph, Ann Cvetkovich, and Daniel Rivers. In addition to oral history interviews, I study archived notes and edits of Audre Lorde’s “Into The Fray: Lesbian Parenting” (1986) essay and the thin folder marked “Lesbian Mothers Group” at Northeastern University. In this paper, I convey the work of this oral history project and simultaneously delve into the dilemmas of archiving oral history collections in academic institutions. Emergent works in queer oral history think through ethical questions of sharing authority, loyalty, and friendship. By utilizing a queer intergenerational framework, this project navigates personal dimensions of oral history research and the dis/loyalties therein.
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