Kessler Conversations 2012

The Kessler Conversations celebrated
20 years of the Kessler Lectureship and
were spread across the 2011/12 academic
year. The award was initiated in 1991 by
Dr. Martin Duberman, CLAGS’s Founding
Director (who will be receiving the award
this fall) and with the financial support
of David Kessler. In place of an award,
CLAGS thought it would be valuable to
have multiple past Kessler Award winners
speak on emergent LGBTQ issues and the
history of queer studies in their individual
fields. This series also brought in emerging
researchers and practitioners to help
evaluate where we have been and where
we are going in the field of LGBTQ studies.
In Fall 2011, Kessler speakers included:
Edmund White in conversation with fiction
writer Rakesh Satyal on the changing
face of queer fiction; American cultural
anthropologists Esther Newton, Gayle Rubin,
and Carole Vance discussed the value
of ethnographic methodologies within the
study of sexual subcultures in the U.S.;
and lastly, in memory of late Kessler
award winner Monique Wittig, New York
artists Chitra Ganesh, Simone Leigh and
curator Dean Daderko discussed making
work in today’s art world that embodies
the uncompromising spirit of pioneers like
Wittig. For more information on speakers
and lecture topics, please see CLAGS’s
Spring 2012 Newsletter.
Out of the Ivory Closet: Scholars and Activists
on the Frontlines
The celebration of CLAGS twentieth anniversary
continued with the Kessler Conversation between
Susan Stryker, Kessler Lecturer in 2008,
and Urvashi Vaid, Kessler Lecturer in 2010. This
conversation opened up a dialogue on the important
link between scholarship and activism with
two activists/scholars who have been on the
frontline of LGBT politics for more than twenty
Urvashi Vaid is the Director of the Engaging
Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and
Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. She was
the Executive Director of the National Gay and
Lesbian Taskforce from 1989-1992 and again
from 1997-2000, and built it to become the nation’s
pre-eminent lgbt rights organization. She
has worked at the Ford Foundation and served as
Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation from
2005 to 2010. She is the author of Virtual Equality:
The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation.
Later this year, Magnus Books will publish
her new book, Irresistible Revolution: Race,
Class and the LGBT Imagination. Vaid was a
Visiting Senior Fellow with the City University of
New York (CUNY) Graduate Center’s Department
of Sociology during the 2010-2011 academic
year. In April 2009 Out magazine named her one
of the 50 most influential people in the United
Susan Stryker is an Associate Professor of Gender
and Women’s Studies and the Director of
the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University
of Arizona. She was the Executive Director of
the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.
Stryker’s most recent book is Transgender History
(Seal Press 2008). She is also the co-editor
of The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge
2006), which has won a Lambda Book Award.
She won an Emmy Award for the documentary
film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s
Cafeteria (Frameline/ITVS 2005).

Aids/Activism/Art: Looking Backward/
Looking Forward
The final installment of CLAGS Kessler Conversations
series was able to bring together
past Kessler Lecturers Douglas Crimp (2007)
and Sarah Schulman (2009) along with critic
and curator Nathan Lee. Moderated by CLAGS
Board Director Daniel Hurewitz, the panelists
discussed the AIDS crisis, AIDS activism, and
the political role of art in organizing the LGBT
community and creating awareness of the epidemic’s
impact and promoting the LGBT community’s
response to historical trauma of AIDS.
Both Crimp and Schulman were active in ACT UP
and contributed their skills as writers, critics,
journalists and artists to the AIDS movement.
Douglas Crimp is a critic and queer theorist who
served as the editor of October, a leading journal
of cultural and art criticism from 1977 to
1990. As an editor of October, Crimp published
a special entitled “AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural
Activism,” which helped to articulate the
political and cultural challenge of the AIDS crisis.
In 1990, he published (with Adam Rolston)
AIDS Demo Graphics, which illustrated the role
artists had in creating an increased public
awareness of the stigma and social inequities
that AIDS created. In 2002 Crimp published
Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS
and Queer Politics exploring, among other topics,
the link between artistic representations
of mourning and militant activism. Since 1991,
Crimp has taught in the visual and cultural
studies program at the University of Rochester
where he is now the Fanny Knapp Allen Professor
of Art History.
Sarah Schulman is a novelist, essayist, playwright
and filmmaker. She has written on AIDS
since the beginning of the epidemic. The author
of popular and well-received novels such as After
Delores, People Trouble, and Rat Bohemia, in
1995 she published My American History: Lesbian
and Gay Life during the Reagan/Bush Years, a
collection of her journalism that chronicles the
years of conservative disregard for LGBT issues
and includes coverage of the evolution of the
AIDS crisis. Since 2001, Schulman has worked
with Jim Hubbard, with whom she founded the
New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film
Festival (now called MIX) to establish the ACT
UP Oral History Project and has produced (with
Hubbard) a feature-length documentary entitled
United in Anger: The History of ACT UP
based on oral history archives. Schulman is a
Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at
the College of Staten Island, CUNY.
Nathan Lee is a critic and a curator of the moving
image. A former critic of the New York Times,
the Village Voice and NPR, he is a contributing
editor of Film Comment. Among his curatorial
projects have been Buddy List, at Space 414,
Brooklyn; Picturing the Shoah at the YIVO Center
for Jewish Research in New York; and A/B
Machines: A Cautionary Tale at the Black Door
in Istanbul. He is also a program associate at
Platform Garanti in Istanbul.