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Rachel Corbman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative of the University of Toronto, will share research from her current book project, “Conferencing on the Edge: A Queer History of Feminist Field Formation, 1969–1989.”
This talk searches for traces of a conflict over lesbian representation at the 1978 Berkshire Conference on Women‘s History in contemporary queer studies. A women‘s history conference might seem like an improbable critical ancestor for queer studies, a field more closely associated with theory than empirically grounded historical research and that is often imagined to have an especially fraught relationship to feminist history and culture. However, even as the Berkshire conference seems out of place in critical genealogies of queer studies, black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde’s conference paper “The Uses of the Erotic” routinely circulates in contemporary queer studies as a proto-queer text. In following Lorde’s paper from its original context at the 1978 Berkshire conference to its afterlife in contemporary queer studies, this talk tracks the history that needs to be shed for Lorde to travel as theory.