Where Did Gender and Sexuality Go? Conversations on Latin American History

AHA Session 259
Monday, January 6, 2020: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
Elizabeth Q. Hutchison, University of New Mexico
Benjamin A. Cowan, University of California, San Diego
Eileen J. Findlay, American University
Abel Ricardo López, Western Washington University
Michelle McKinley, University of Oregon
Jocelyn Olcott, Duke University
Rebekah E. Pite, Lafayette College

Session Abstract

Studying gender and sexuality in Latin American history was all the rage in the 1990s and early 2000s but seems to be less important (or not important at all) in much of the exciting new work of recent years, from transnational histories of migration and racial formation to environmental history, animal history, urban cultural studies, and histories of science and technology. Gender and sexuality remain vital modes of inquiry in many subfields within Latin American history such as histories of slavery, labor, and social movements: path-breaking books continue to be published and feminist and queer studies by historians based in Latin America are growing. But the heady optimism of the beginning of the 21st Century -- that gender and sexuality would become indispensable analytical categories for social and cultural histories of all kinds (given that all societies organize power through gender and sexuality) -- has waned in the face of the continued production of justifiably celebrated works that go on without gender analysis. Why, in 2020, at time when social movements for gender equality and sexuality rights are being reinvigorated, do many historians of Latin America continue to treat gender and sexuality as “optional” – or even passé—analytical categories for their own work?

This experimental session convenes seven US-based Latin Americanists who have remained engaged in Latin American gender/sexuality history, inviting them to dialog with each other and the CLAH/AHA audience about the continued relevance and strengths of gender and sexuality studies within Latin American history. The session balances focus and flexibility towards the subject and maximizes dialogue and participation; our moderator has successfully organized similar sessions elsewhere. Participants have helped to craft a set of questions, for which they will prepare short responses (as distinct from the short presentations common to round-tables) and circulate these responses among themselves before the conference. Panelists will briefly share their comments during the session at the prompting of the moderator. The comments allow panelists to introduce the nature of their engagement with the questions and then elicit further discussion among panelists and with the audience. This format enhances panelists’ collective preparation, offers the audience a dynamic exchange of views, and provides an accessible venue for audience participation. The number of panelists is justified by the format’s emphasis on conversation directed by an experienced moderator.

The questions include:

  1. Where is the most exciting gender/sexuality scholarship happening now?
  2. How does gender/sexuality analysis move North and South, shaping research and publication in Latin America and the North Atlantic?
  1. Why do so many path-breaking works/sub-fields of Latin American history leave gender/sexuality out?
    1. Why isn’t the feminist invitation to analyze “masculinity” taken up by more folks whose studies overwhelming look at men?
    2. Why is gender/sexuality often colleagues’ teaching but not their new scholarship?
    3. Where do graduate students have challenges using gender/sexuality analysis?
  2. Where has sexuality contributed to gender history? Does it necessarily?
  3. What programmatic support (or lack of) exists for gender/sexuality history in journals, presses, university programs?
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