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Queer thought and activism may be defined by their vigilance to the varieties of violence with which norms coercively constitute gendered sexual subjects. At a moment when, in numerous national contexts, the work of sexual and gender policing is increasingly abetted by manifestations of organized state violence against dissidents – so extreme in some cases, as in Uganda, as to evoke the idea of genocide – this afternoon seminar will explore the topic of coercion in a global perspective and across the related fields of queer, feminist, and masculinity studies. Concretely, the event will focus on legal responses to the phenomenon of ‘revenge pornography’, on the representation in pop music videos of violence against men and on the scope and value of the concept of genocide for global queer politics resisting coercion in the particular context of Uganda.

Questions to be explored include the following:

  • How does contemporary queer thought envisage and resist coercion?
  • How can we conceptualise feminist responses to ‘revenge pornography’?
  • How to account for the remobilisation of recognisably queer representational codes and strategies (e.g. camp) in mainstream music videos depicting violence against men?
  • To what extent is genocide a useful concept for global queer politics today?
  • How and why do queer, feminist, and masculinity studies differ in their apprehension of the coercive force of the law?

Speaker biographies

Alex Dymock joins Royal Holloway University of London as a Lecturer in Criminology and Law in January 2015. She recently submitted her PhD thesis to the School of Law at University of Reading, which examines the relationship between sexual perversion and criminal law in England & Wales, and has published refereed articles in journals such as Sexualities and Psychology and Sexuality. Broadly, her research is concerned with criminal law, structural and institutionalised violence, histories of crime and sexuality, and sexual ethics and politics.

Marc Lafrance is Associate Professor of Sociology at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. Informed by an intersectional approach, his research on popular media culture explores issues of self, body and society and how they are bound up with the cultural politics of gender and sexuality. Lafrance’s work has been published in a variety of refereed journals such as Popular Music and Society and Twentieth-Century Music as well as in edited collections such as The Music and Culture Reader and Lady Gaga and Popular Music.

Matthew Waites is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow. He is author of The Age of Consent: Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and co-editor with Corinne Lennox of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change (School of Advanced Study, 2013 – free online: He is also co-editor, with Patricia Hynes, Michele Lamb and Damien Short, of three special issues: Sociology and Human Rights: New Engagements (International Journal of Human Rights, Vol.14, no.6, 2010); The Sociology of Human Rights (Sociology, Vol.46, no.5, 2012); and New Directions in the Sociology of Human Rights (International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 16, no.8, 2012).

Oliver Davis is Reader in French Studies at Warwick University and co-investigator (with Hector Kollias) on the AHRC-funded research project, ‘Queer Theory in France’. He is co-editor, with Hector Kollias, of the special issue Queer Theory’s Return to France (Paragraph vol.35, no.2, 2012) and editor of the special issue Bareback Sex and Queer Theory Across Three National Contexts: France, UK, US (Sexualities, forthcoming March 2015). He is also the author of Jacques Rancière (Polity, 2010) and the editor of Rancière Now (Polity, 2013).

Kayte Stokoe is a PhD candidate in French Studies at the University of Warwick. Her thesis, which aims to re-evaluate the trends arising in theoretical interpretations of drag performance in more than two-decades of queer, and feminist, French and Anglo-American scholarship, is supervised by Dr Oliver Davis. Kayte’s PhD is attached to the AHRC-funded project ‘Queer Theory in France’. Kayte’s research interests include gender identity, expression, and embodiment, the intersection between queerness and disability, drag performance, and contemporary French and Anglophone literature and theory. Kayte’s chapter ‘Are Drag Kings Still Too Queer for London: From the 19th Century Male Impersonator to the Drag King of Today’ will appear in a collected volume, edited by Simon Avery and Katherine Graham, tentatively entitled Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London, c. 1850 to the Present (Bloomsbury History Group, forthcoming 2015).

Paper abstracts

Alex Dymock, ‘Eroticising retribution? : criminalising “revenge pornography”’ The phenomenon of so-called ‘revenge porn’ – the publication or sharing of explicit sexual images online without the consent of the subject depicted – has become a locus of debate within feminist activisms and legal scholarship. Such debate has led, in the United States, and more recently the UK, to the question of whether, and by what means, such images should be criminalised. This paper considers the co-option of the term ‘revenge porn’, and the campaign by feminist organisations in support of criminalisation, as an example of a turn to retributive justice within feminist activisms concerning pornography. It will argue that the impetus to criminalise mirrors the coercive and violent properties of pornography itself.

Marc Lafrance, ‘The Dark Side of Camp: Violence Against Men in Popular Music Videos Made by Women’ A number of recent music videos by chart-topping female artists represent women committing acts of violence against men. For instance, P!nk’s video “Please Don’t Leave Me” (2009) portrays a female protagonist visiting repeated acts of physical cruelty on a defenceless male love interest; Christina Aguilera’s video “Your Body” (2012) sees the artist as a femme fatale who murders her male lovers in cold blood; Beyoncé’s “Video Phone” (2009), which features Lady Gaga, represents men as the victims of forced confinement and torture; and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” (2010), which features Beyoncé, sees the two artists working together to murder a former boyfriend. In this paper, we consider how videos such as these make use of camp performance strategies in order to turn acts of violence into what appear to be more palatable and playful representations. Through our analysis of text, image and sound, we consider the cultural politics of women’s violence against men in the present-day pop music video while thinking critically about the implications of making this kind of violence look like fun.

Matthew Waites, ‘Queering Genocide’ Is claiming and queering the concept ‘genocide’ a useful strategy for global queer politics? The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide uses a definition referring only to being part of a ‘national, ethnical, racial or religious group’, without mention of gender or sexuality. However, Nazi persecution of homosexuals labelled with the pink triangle during the Holocaust illustrates the relevance of genocide for LGBTI politics and queer politics. Developments in recent years such as proposals for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda – initially known as the Kill the Gays bill when proposing execution, later redrafted to advocate life imprisonment for homosexuals – suggest that the aim to destroy homosexuals as a social group has been pursued in that state. Challenging the UN’s Genocide Convention to include sexual orientation and gender identity, or sexuality and gender more widely, could enable new kinds of challenge to the bill in Uganda, and perhaps in other present or future contexts. The paper will discuss the scope and meaning of genocide with reference to Uganda, and the concept’s value for global queer politics challenging coercion.