Homophile Aesthetics and the Queer Politics of Visual Culture

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 4:30 PM
Regent Room (New York Hilton)
David S. Churchill, University of Manitoba
As homophile political culture strove to articulate rights claims, to both advocate and regulate notions of respectable citizenship, to embrace modernity, and ultimately adhere to the contours of Cold War liberal internationalism, the visual language of identity, exotics, and cultural significance posed its own sets of ideological and aesthetic challenges. For homophiles interested in resting homosexuality from its associations with pathology, criminality, and prevision, the arts – particularly fine art and literature – were a critical site to demonstrate that homosexuals were people of high purpose and civilizational achievement just and thus deserving of tolerance and dignity. As such homophiles in North America and Europe often produced a language and narrative that adhered to the politics of Western Democracies, the Cold War, and to emergent notions of respectable liberal citizenship. This talk will explore how these political and ideological narratives intersected with the visual culture of homophiles, the representational images, photography, and illustration published in the pages of homophile magazines in North America and Europe, as well works of art celebrated by homophile authors and activists. How did such aesthetic choices produce idealised forms of embodiment in terms of class, race, generation, and gender norms? How should we understand the adherence to figurative art in the midst of the political culture of high modernism, abstract expressionism, and pop art?
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