Queer Studies Goes Digital

Google books, journals available only online, Wikipedia. With so much knowledge going digital, is print culture on its way out? While print probably won’t disappear as a scholarly medium in the foreseeable future, it is important that CLAGS remain at the cutting edge not just in terms of the kinds of research we support, but in terms of how we disseminate that research. We are currently involved in several long-term projects to share digital resources with our membership and the community at large, expanding on our longstanding commitment to making print and analog materials available that are often not accessible anywhere else.

I am delighted to announce that CLAGS has received a grant from the Arcus Foundation to develop a freely accessible educational web site on lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and queer (LGTBQ) history. The proposed website, ambitious in scope, has the potential to reach a much larger and more diverse audience than traditional print media on the subject.

Under the leadership of Jonathan Ned Katz, the new LGBTQ History Website will ultimately include comprehensive information about history of LGBTQ communities, concepts, and events. Data-including scanned historical documents, audio segments of oral histories, photographs, video clips, original texts, and, among other things, teaching modules-will be easily accessible to LGTBQ people, the general public, and scholars.

This online history site will help to expunge the long record of historical neglect, and help to deepen LGTBQ peoples’ sense of their own possibilities. The site’s history of current struggles-for marriage, domestic partner rights, law reform, for example-will deepen understanding of these hot topics. The project will be guided by a distinguished advisory board.

The LGBTQ History website joins another of CLAGS’s digital projects, the International Resource Network (www.irnweb.org). The guiding principle of this website is to make both the production and the circulation of knowledge as participatory as possible. It’s multilingual: the website is being created in four base languages, Chinese, English, French, and Spanish, and there are no barriers to participating.And anyone who registers on the site can add resources in any language to its digital library-syllabi, articles, announcements, information about their own institutions, pictures, speeches, reports, ephemera. Users will also have their own home pages on the site, where they can link to information on the site that they find useful-articles they like, groups they are a part of, e-journals they edit. They can also create a public page for others to see what their interests are.

IRN members can also lead or participate in collaborative groups, forums, or e-journals. They can create an on-line course team taught by seminar leaders in different continents, edit an on-line journal, start a research or teaching group around a certain issue, a research group. The Latin American / Caribbean Editorial Board has started a peer reviewed working paper series, Sexualidades. The first paper is already in production.

In other news, CLAGS has been selected to host an international conference on GLBT archives, libraries, museums, and special collections (ALMS) in May 2008. This is the second “ALMS” conference-the first was held in spring 2006 in Minneapolis. CLAGS Board Member Polly Thistlethwaite, Associate Professor and Associate Librarian for Public Services, Graduate Center, CUNY, an archivist and recent awardee of grant funds to study LGTBQ archives in Berlin, is heading up the organizational efforts for what promises to be an exciting event.

But, along with advances in digital technology come greater abilities to track, store, and analyze information. While clearly this increased capacity for handling information is a boon in many ways, it can also serve to place individuals at the mercy of the state. Eric Keenaghan will lead a CLAGS Seminar in the City on “Queer Nationalism and the Homeland Security State” this spring, addressing questions such as, just how much has our activism and theory become reproductive of conservative nation-state ideologies, then? Can we take a different approach to security so as to disentangle it from a dangerous nationalism?† Can we find value in its opposite, the citizen’s vulnerability?

If you live in the New York area, I hope to see you at one of CLAGS’s many exciting events this spring. If not, I hope to see you in cyberspace.

Paisley Currah