Researchers from 35 Countries Plan International Network

Brainstorming sessions are
the basic building-block of
the two-day meeting. In one,
participants talk about some
of the different ways queer
theory and common northern
refrains are usefully invoked —
or not — in their countries. “It
makes no sense to talk about
the heteronormative nuclear
family in cultures where the
nuclear family is not the
norm,” comments South African independent scholar and activist Bernadette Muthien. Adds Thomas
Glave, a founding member of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays and an assistant
professor of English at SUNY-Binghamton, “It’s no good to say that people can do what they want in
the privacy of their own homes when most people have neither their own homes nor any privacy.”
Colleagues from
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia,
the Dominican Republic,
Mexico — along with
compañeros/as living in the
US who are originally from
Chile, Cuba and Puerto Rico
— discuss the state of LGTBQ
Studies in Latin America at a
lunch roundtable. “It’s
amazing how fast cultural
and political life are
changing in my country,”
notes Colombian anthropologist Fernando Serrano. “Violence becomes a means of regulation. What is
the social responsibility in such a situation? What role do academics and intellectuals have?”
In a plenary panel, representatives from each
of the brainstorming groups report on the key
issues raised in their afternoon session. Two
recount that some members of their group
lamented the divide between academics and
activists, but Argentine scholar Juan Vaggione
suggests that “the academic-activist divide is
very specific to the US. It is not significant in Latin America.” Adds the University of Surrey
psychologist Peter Hegarty, “What Americans call ‘activism’ might elsewhere be called ‘citizenship’.”
Nomenclature is a big issue thrashed out in
brainstorming sessions. One Kenyan
participant relates a story of a woman doing
Internet research on lesbians in Africa, with
‘lesbians’ and ‘Africa’ as her search terms:
“She kept coming up with the same woman.
She was the only item that came up. It’s a
problem to do research with these categories
because many Africans, for practical reasons,
don’t identify with these terms.” In the
Philippines, according to anthropologist
Eufracio Abaya, “The concept of gay or
lesbian identity is seen as very North
American.”
“Academic research should be
accessible to queer media and
queer activists,” Ana Simo, an
editor at thegully.com, a New Yorkbased
web news magazine, tells
colleagues in a brainstorming
session. “So much information now
comes through email, the Internet,
chatrooms. The problem is that it
takes so much effort to accumulate
this information. It would be so
exciting to circulate academic
research.” Tomasz Kitlinski, a queer
theorist from Poland, as well as Valentina Kotogonova, of the Petersburg Center for Gender Issues in
Russia, report that lack of access to LGTBQ books is a major problem in their countries.
The second day closes with a town-hall meeting in which participants discuss next steps.
Participants consider some guiding principles for the project as it moves forward, agreeing that the
IRN will provide a searchable
database of researchers and data, but
that a website will not be an end in
itself, rather a means to further
collaborations, meetings, and
exchanges. They agree, too, that it
will be decentralized and support the
production of knowledge in local
communities. Engaged in the
conversation are: Blanche Wiesen
Cook, Mark Blasius, Theo Sandfort,
Jennifer Brier, Louie Crew, Framji
Minwalla, and John D’Emilio.

On November 15
and 16, CLAGS
hosted a working meeting
with some 100
researchers from 35
countries to discuss plans
for an International
Resource Network that
would link up people doing
research (both from
academic and community
bases) in areas related to
genders and sexualities
and that would foster
comparative and collaborative
projects among
them.
In small brainstorming
sessions as well as
plenary discussions,
participants described the
work taking place in their
home regions, shared their
wildest dreams of what an
international resource
network might contain,
considered the obstacles
to such a project and how
to overcome them, and
came up with some
concrete next steps to
bring such an ambitious
project into being.
The packed two days of
serious work did not
exclude ample opportunity
just to have fun and
mingle in a celebratory
reception at New York’s
LGBT Community Center
and in a spirited closing
banquet.
Here are some scenes —
and thoughts — from the
proceedings.