Lavender Scares: Reflections on US and Global Narratives of the State's Queer Exclusion

AHA Session 53
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 3
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations 1
Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Boulevard C (Hilton Chicago, Second Floor)
Julio Capó Jr., University of Massachusetts Amherst
Laura A. Belmonte, Oklahoma State University
Benjamin A. Cowan, University of California, San Diego
Lauren Gutterman, University of Texas at Austin
David K. Johnson, University of South Florida

Session Abstract

In direct conversation with the conference’s theme, “Loyalties,” this roundtable reflects on the highly influential narrative of the Cold War’s “lavender scare” in shaping domestic policy in the United States alongside foreign relations and politics throughout parts of the world. The state’s commitment to ferreting out “homosexuals” in the post-World War II era coincided and gave new meaning to the United States’s Cold War imperative of exposing and weeding out people and institutions believed to be susceptible to communist influence and infiltration. In viewing those “soft” on communism as lacking the morals and virile masculinity necessary to defeat the Soviets and their proxies, the state often blurred the shades of red and lavender it believed tainted its own social and political tapestry. Reflecting on the fifteen years of “lavender scare” narratives, largely following the 2004 publication of David K. Johnson’s eponymous monograph, this panel will discuss some of the creative ways historians have utilized this broader argument to frame new understandings of Cold War sexual and gender expressions, social movements, foreign policy, and distinct manifestations of state repression across the globe. In addition to reflections from Johnson, participants will discuss the lavender scare’s broader implications for U.S. domestic affairs, Latin American dictatorships’ distinct articulation of such policy, and its role in shaping foreign policy more generally. The panel will also gesture to the works-in-progress that similarly build on this framework.
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