Using Web Resources in the LGBTQ Classroom

Iam currently teaching a class on “Gender, Sexuality and
Subcultures,” which focuses on the recent emergence of a wide
array of queer subcultures. Since there is not a huge amount of
work published on queer subcultures, I had to look to zines and
other ephemeral sources for the course materials. I also wanted to
give the class access to musical sources for riot grrl bands and
introduce them to the music of the new punk dyke bands
themselves. From a logistical point of view this class threatened to be
a nightmare.
A colleague suggested to me that my class could become
much more streamlined and manageable if I put my materials on line
and created a discussion list and web site for the class. In so doing I
also found out that I could put my punk collection of hard-to-find 7-inch records in “DARP” or the
Digital Audio Reserves Project and the students could then listen to this music on their own time
while doing the readings. The class web site gave students access to web sites where they could
find out about independent record labels, zine collections, local queer events and guerilla art.
My experience with web resources has led me to believe that LGTBQ studies can really benefit
from the possibilities opened up by these new technologies. The benefits can be thought about in
a few different ways: First, the new web resources make possible the construction and
maintenance of alternative archives. If we have alternative archives, moreover, we will presumably
learn different things about different groups and we can break our dependence upon the rather
narrow canon of LGTBQ materials that has sprung up alongside LGTBQ curricula. Second, the
“smart classroom” allows us to teach differently. While some teachers are going to be profoundly
suspicious (and with good reason) of the new technologically advanced classrooms, I suggest that
we do not necessarily have the luxury for suspicion. These classrooms will probably be
commonplace all too quickly and so we need to learn to use the new technologies to our
advantage rather than indulging in Luddite outrage. How can we use the prosthetic devices like
Power Point to bring students closer to texts, to defamiliarize the digital cultures they inhabit and
to queer the curriculum?
Finally, I think we need to explore the possibilities of the digital classroom because our
students already reside in digital universes; we need to be familiar with their idioms in order to
persuasively argue that they might develop an interest in cultures, languages and histories far
removed from their own.

Judith Halberstam is Associate Professor of Literature at UC San Diego.