Clarke, Smith Awarded Residency Fellowships

Eric Clarke and Barbara Smith have been named Rockefeller Residency Fellows in the Humanities for the 1998-99 academic year. Their appointments are part of the second cycle in a three-year program, Citizenship and Sexualities: Transcultural Constructions, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The upcoming year will focus on transcultural constructions of citizenship within families and communities. Citizenship is usually thought of as a matter of legal record, not as a fluctuating and indeterminate state. Yet the facts of legal citizenship do not necessarily correspond to the different narratives of cultural and political citizenship that many “citizens” of the United States have learned. The experiences of lesbians and gay men, for example, are inflected in radically different ways by such factors as race, class, ethnicity, gender, nationality as well as by regional, political, occupational, and other affiliations. Clarke, an assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, will be working during his residency on a project entitled “The Invention of ‘ Lifestyle’: Sexuality, Modernity, Citizenship.” Looking at the emergence of the term “lifestyle” during the nineteenth century, his study examines the ways in which “lifestyle” came to embody the notion of an erotic autonomy central to Western modernity. Clarke maintains that erotic autonomy was an ambivalent promise of modernity and its ideals of citizenship; it was both promised and punished in ideally democratic conceptions of civi I society and the more private, intimate sphere. In examining social theories of modernity, lifestyles, and eroticism (primarily the works of Georg Simmel and Max Weber), as well the ambivalence of erotic autonomy in English Victorian novels, Clarke considers how such historical investigations can inform current political debates within lesbian and gay communities over sexual ethics, community norms, and the realization of full, equitable citizenship. Independent scholar Barbara Smith’s “Family Ties: Exploring the Histories of African American Lesbians and Gay Men Within Black Communities” draws on primary historical research to explore how sexual difference is negotiated within African American communities. Smith pays particular attention to the ways in which membership in the black community often is regarded as more significant to the development of a black lesbian and gay historiography than the concept of “citizenship” in the state or white society. Her project draws on research conducted in different regions of the country to arrive at a more accurate perspective on the lives of African American lesbians and gay men. CLAGS’s Rockefeller Residency Fellowships in the Humanities are among the largest research grants awarded in the United States to scholars and activists working explicitly in the field of lesbian and gay studies. Fellows receive $30,000 plus relocation expenses for their year-long residency. The cycle for 1999- 2000 focuses on transcultural constructions within national contexts.