Working at the intersection of queer studies and public history, Claiming History, Claiming Rights: Queer Discourses of History and Politics focuses on queer archives in the United States from 1970 to the present. The project contends that through the process of claiming and narrating a history, LGBTQ groups constitute and redefine the communities they historicize. At stake in this dissertation is a critical understanding of how public history and political activism are mutually reinforcing projects. This project contends that queer archives engage in the study of what might be termed "politically dangerous" sexual practices. Through their historical interventions, these archives challenge prevailing notions of sexuality and identity, and serve as sites of legitimacy for marginalized members of the gay and lesbian communities. Queer archives also engage in a "politics of the body," and become sites not just of historic preservation, but of political activism around sexual rights as well. The first chapter, "Dangerous Pleasures and Radical Redefinitions: The Lesbian Herstory Archive and the Debates Over Lesbian Identity," examines New York's Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA), founded in 1973, and focuses on the ways in which the Archives worked not just to collect and preserve lesbian history, but also to renegotiate the very definition of lesbianism itself. The second chapter, "Remembering for Our Lives: The Impact of the AIDS Crisis on Queer Public History," focuses on San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society to examine how AIDS affected what was collected, what was saved, and how stories were told. The third chapter, "'Do Not Feel Shame for How I Live': Archiving Queer Black Life," focuses on the more recently founded Black Gay and Lesbian Archives, and examines the archive as a response and reaction to the widespread invisibility of black queer life. The final chapter, "Queer Discourses in the Political Sphere," analyzes how organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign make political claims using specific notions of queer history and identity. This project contends that the rhetoric surrounding issues like gay marriage privileges a particular conception of the queer subject, and renders invisible those who do not conform to this identity.
"Claiming History, Claiming Rights: Queer Discourses of History and Politics"
American Studies Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.