Crossing Identifications

CLAGS’s fall symposium this year took place at the Graduate Center on Friday, September 25. Entitled “Crossing Identifications,” the program brought into a single arena discussions of identity currently circulating in lesbian and gay, feminist, and cultural studies. The day might be seen, in part, as a call for the remapping and retheorizing of identity politics for many presentations suggested that race, class, gender, and sexuality are neither given nor comprehensive identity categories.

Perhaps the most important function of the program was to suggest that these categories need to be thought about in terms of each other, used as “vehicles” – as one speaker said — for theorizing each other.

The program brought together ten participants from varied disciplines: law, English, history, film studies, and philosophy. In the first plenary session, Jewelle Gomez, the activist, poet, and novelist, used both autobiography and theory, setting what was to become a trend in the program. She laid out what is at stake in maintaining an identity, suggesting that we understand how labels are both limiting and necessary. During the panel session which followed, W ahneena Lubiano gave a reading of the film, “Deep Cover,” critiquing its heterosexism. Biddy Martin discussed the relation of the terms gender and sexuality. Michael Moon examined notions of community and identity and inverted stereotypes of Oklahoma.

In the second plenary, Nancy K. Miller produced a reading of Art Spieglman’s Maus as a matricidal text. During the afternoon panel, Yukiko Hanawa situated the discourse of sexuality in a Japanese context; Judith Roof discussed identification and disidentification; Kendall Thomas returned to the Hardwick case and critiqued privacy doctrines; and in her paper, Patricia Williams addressed the rhetoric of “family values” at the Republican Convention.

The program ended with Judith Butler acting as respondent. The program was underwritten by the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund and was organized by Don Mengay and Amanda Prosser.