Expanding Horizons

Happy New Year! Welcome to the new semester! Welcome to CLAGS’s
second decade! Such greetings would be heartfelt under any circumstances,
but the artifices of the calendar seem especially useful now as we
seek new beginnings after the trauma of the Fall.
To be sure, amid our own grief and anxieties and our students’ distress, last
semester was the most difficult we’d ever encountered. As a matter of principle,
we remained determined to teach and attend to our students with full hearts, to
pursue our research with dedication, to participate in our communities with vigor.
It wasn’t always easy. Still, all of us at CLAGS agreed that the best way we
academic and community scholars can answer fundamentalism and violence and
the drowning of dissent is to keep fostering open inquiry and debate and
widening access to knowledge and knowledge-building. So we continued our
work with more ardor than ever.
Our special fall edition of CLAGSnews addressed ways LGTBQ studies and
queer theory might provide tools for analyzing the terrible events of September
11 and their aftermath. Meanwhile, we forged ahead with our planned
programming, drawing large audiences eager for the inquiry we so cherish — and,
no doubt, for community. At our September 21 panel marking 100 years since the
publication of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and slightly in advance of the
centennial of his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, clinical psychologists and
researchers who use psychoanalytic theory in their work considered Freud’s legacy
for LGTBQ people and scholarship. Our October panel, “Labor, Class and Queer,”
brought together organizers, artists, and scholars for a lively exchange on workplace
and economic conditions for LGTBQ folks — and on strategies for understanding and
improving them. In November, in conjunction with an extensive exhibit on Oscar
Wilde at the Morgan Library, we teamed up with CUNY’s Center for the Humanities
to present a spirited discussion featuring CUNY’s own Wayne Koestenbaum, Robert
Reid-Pharr, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; they considered Wilde’s role nowadays when,
as Reid-Pharr quipped, “the love that dare not speak its name has become the love
that will not shut up.”
Our ongoing programming — Seminars in the City, Pedagogy Workshop,
Colloquium Series — continued with enthusiastic and properly disputatious participants.
(In this newsletter, we feature reports on recent Seminars in the City,
beginning on p. 15.) And we gear up for new rounds of all three programs for the
Spring semester, as detailed in the calendar, p. 8. We’re especially excited about a
new phase of the Pedagogy Workshop: this term we’ll begin a series of master classes
on teaching LGTBQ material to undergraduates, beginning with a forum on teaching
Foucault, facilitated by NYU’s Rabab Abdulhadi and Baruch College’s Don Mengay on
March 18, and continuing with a session on teaching Audre Lorde on April 18.
Also in April we are pleased to co-sponsor the Center for the Study of Women
and Society’s two-day conference, “With/Out Walls: Incarceration/Education/Control,”
which will feature, among other events, a panel on issues of sexuality for incarcerated
women, and a presentation by Cheryl Dunye of her recent film, “Stranger Inside.”
Throughout the Spring, we will also be developing our database of international
LGTBQ scholarship. (See the report on the ILGA conference on p. 11.) While the
project builds on CLAGS’s expansion into international LGTBQ work in recent years,
now the need for international communication, exchange, and cross-fertilization of
scholarship feels more urgent than ever.
The importance of such connection was brought home to us by Judith Butler’s
stirring, standing-room-only Kessler Lecture, “Violence, Mourning, Politics,” in
December, in which she encouraged us to connect LGTBQ rejections of a “normative
notion of what the body of the human must be” to wider recognition of who counts
as human. (See an excerpt from this talk on p. 3.) Grief itself, she suggested, can be
a resource for politics if we can “extrapolate from this experience of vulnerability to
those of others, others whom we may well be able to protect from violence itself.” It’s
a challenge CLAGS embraces as we look toward our expanding horizons.