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Queer History Reading Group

Spring Sessions 2018-2019

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This talk draws on my own experiences of LGBT and feminist activism in India. I will descriptively map out and then analyse the two and half decade long career of activism that took place under the collective banner of LBT (Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender). From a period beginning roughly in the 1990s, 'LBT' activists and groups often met as a separate stream. Yet, this history is not particularly well-documented or well-known partly because LBT activists maintained a distance from the international NGO-backed, gay-male led campaign to repeal the sodomy law, Section 377, in India. 

In these spaces, we tried to sharpen our understandings of compulsory heterosexuality, forced marriage within religious community and caste, activist over-dependence on the law and the global AIDS-funding paradigm. We also addressed immediate questions like economic livelihoods, crisis intervention, suicide-prevention and the possibility of an autonomous trans activism. Since we had no obvious history to draw upon, much of our labour was focussed on creating a new vocabulary to describe and understand our situation. We had to borrow and transform available activist vocabularies from the human rights world, lesbian subcultures in the west, global marxism, queer theorising from academia and the Indian women’s movement. At a moment when all of us are witnessing the dismantling of the historical experiment that was 'LBT' activism, instead of being content with simple memorialisation or a narrative of loss, I want to reflect on how this history can be creatively mobilised to grapple with political futures. 

Poorva Rajaram is a writer and a co-organiser of the Bangalore Queer Film Festival. She is also a PhD research scholar at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She used to work as a journalist and co-founded The Ladies Finger, an online women's zine.

  • 5 March 2019: W.H. Auden, Poetry and History: In conversation with Prof. Carolyn Steedman
    4.30-6pm, Venue, R 2.41, Ramphal Building.
    Suggested Readings:
    1. Carolyn Steedman, 'W.H. Auden and Me',Poetry for Historians (Manchester: 2018)
    2. Rainer Emig, 'Transgressive Travels: Homosexuality, Class, Politics and the Lure of Germany in 1930s'
    Critical Survey, Vol. 10, No. 3, Literature of the 1930s (1998), pp. 48-55

  • 20 February 2019, Venue: 4 -6pm, R1.03 (Ramphal Building), Queer Selfhoods: Sodomy Trials and Gay Subculture in the Long 18th century England

    Readings: Letter of Aphra Behn, Case Trials of Princess Seraphina, Mother Clap, William Brown and James Dalton.
    We will be discussing four brief case trial reports from the Old Bailey proceedings to see how 18th century queer selves were represented and negotiated in court rooms, molly houses and personal letters.
    (This event is co-organised with the SU for the LGBTQ History month.
    Fb event page: )
  • 4 December 2018, Venue: H0.60, Humanities Building, 1-2pm
    Queerness and Class: Readings from Britain and France


Matt Holbrouk, Ch. 7, "London's bad boys": homosex, manliness, and money in working-class culture', Queer London: Perils and Pleasures of the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 (Chicago, 2005) 

Ch. 1 from Didier Eribon, (a very readable autobiography!) As well as short extracts from Edouard Louis, The End of Eddy (also a highly readable autobiography!). These have been divided into rough sections that we have called Family, Relationships and Flight. Attendees are invited to read some or all of these depending on interest.


Since the moment of the cultural turn, historians have become interested in sexuality as a subject and an object of analysis. On an intellectual level, this has occurred alongside the development of a burgeoning literature on queer theory in philosophy, critical theory and sociology. It has also occurred contiguously to a repositioning of LGBT+ identifying people in broader society; marked by a greater visibility of, and increasing diminution of legal discrimination against, those in non-heterosexually-exclusive relationships. Universities have not been insulated from these social changes and, at least within the western orb, there are a greater number of LGBT scholars, sometimes working explicitly on questions of sexuality and gender, sometimes on completely divergent themes. This acceptance has mainstreamed LGBT discourse and ideas but has brought with it unintended consequences. How can the radical heritage of earlier ‘gay rights’ movements be retained in an era of tacit acceptance in a neoliberal framework? In what ways should researchers, and historians in particular, interpret and interpolate their own and others’ identities within their work? More significantly, does the apparent self-congratulatory openness towards (and acceptance of) LGBT+ identifying individuals within the (western) Academy erase on-going struggles for equality in other parts of the globe; and what should the response of historians be to these developments elsewhere? Even as we are attentive to our academic location, we engage with critical non-western interventions on queer studies that has a significant bearing on all historians. The purpose of this reading group is to provide a forum for scholars – at all stages of their careers and representing a variety of self-defined identities – to discuss these issues in an intellectually rigorous but supportive context. It will do this through a series of grouped and thematic readings, often suggested by members, or in collaboration with prominent groups such as Feminist History and the Global History and Culture Centre, dealing with LGBT+ history, theory as well as approaches and pitfalls to its writing. Sessions are organised on a twice-termly basis, along with joint seminars. We hope this group to be able to contribute fruitfully on ways to queer the archive and other spaces inhabited by historians.

Past Events:

1. 'Queering the Archive, Archiving the Queer', 6 June, 2018, Joint Reading session with the Feminist History Group, 1-2 pm, Venue: H0.58. Tea and refreshments will be provided.

We will be discussing two articles (and an intro) from a special issue of the Radical History Review on 'Queering Archives', Issue 120 (Fall 2014).

Intro: Queering Archives: Historical Unravelings

Martin F. Manalansan IV, The “Stuff” of Archives: Mess, Migration, and Queer Lives

Howard Chiang, Archiving Peripheral Taiwan: The Prodigy of the Human and Historical Narration

2. Film Screening: Ka Bodyscapes, in collaboration with Queer Asia, followed by Q n A.

To register:

25 June 2018, Venue: Oculus Building, OC0.02, 5-7 pm

3. 23 October 2018, Venue: H1.48, Humanities Building, 1-2 pm

(Homo)Sexuality and the Colonial Archive
Readings/s: Anjali Arondekar, For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Intro and Ch. 2)


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Supported by:

Department of History, Warwick

Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, Warwick

Another India, Warwick

This group is a joint effort of PGR & PGT History students and supported by members of staff in the History Department and other Centres.

Past Events