The Center for the Study of Sexual Culture was founded in 2001 to support research and critical conversations concerning sexuality, sexual culture, and their mutually determining relationship to institutions, social practices and norms, and modes of representation. We understand sexuality to essentially inform diverse fields of social life, such as the state, the economy, civil society, family forms, social identity, and the cultural modes of representation. We draw from a broad field of scholarship in which sexuality is found to participate in discussions as far-reaching as: reproductive control and rights, heredity, marriage, nationalism, welfare systems, property, adoption, animal ethnographies, colonial imaginaries and administrations, performance, language norms, gendered ways and styles, disability politics and culture, visual cultures, materialities, and more.

Feminist Translations/Queer Mobilities: A Symposium

Keynote Speakers: Gaye Chan, Professor of Art & Art History; Nandita Sharma, Associate Professor, Sociology; University of Hawaii at Mānoa

The daylong symposium Feminist Translations/Queer Mobilities critically examines genealogy, temporality, acts of translation, and metaphors of mobility in feminist and queer theories of art and politics. It will attempt to give equal attention to artists and art objects as to theories, practices and methods, while presuming that the two domains are of course deeply intertwined.

Bringing together Professor Mel Chen’s seminar “Queer Translations” (Gender and Women’s Studies) and Professor Julia Bryan-Wilson’s seminar “Feminist and Queer Theories” (Art/History of Art) to foster trans-disciplinary conversation and debate, this event will feature graduate students presenting their final projects as well as keynote speakers Gaye Chan, Professor of Art & Art History, and Nandita Sharma, Associate Professor of Sociology, both at University of Hawaii at Mānoa.

Detailed schedule coming soon. Co-organized by the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Sexual Culture and the History of Art Department. This event is free and open to the public.

Keynote lectures:

“Oh Say Can You See: Photography, the Gatekeeper of Memory,” Gaye Chan, Professor of Art & Art History, University of Hawaii at Mānoa

“Queering Stasis: The ‘No Border’ Movement’s Challenge to the Nationalization of States, Societies and Subjectivities,” Nandita Sharma, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Hawaii at Mānoa

About the keynote lectures and speakers:

gaye_chan “Oh Say Can You See: Photography, the Gatekeeper of Memory”: Hawai’i-based artist Gaye Chan has created work across a spectrum of mediums and venues. In this presentation Chan will focus on her photo-based practice that examines how cartography and photography simultaneously offer and occlude information.

Gaye Chan is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Hawai’i. She is a visual and media artist recognized equally for her individual and collaborative work. The latter includes being cofounder of Eating in Public at nomoola.com and DownWind Productions at downwindproductions.com. She was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States in 1969. She received her MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. Her website is here.


nandita-sharma“Queering Stasis: The ‘No Border’ Movement’s Challenge to the Nationalization of States, Societies and Subjectivities”: The last thirty-odd years, precisely when scholarship on migration has flourished, is also the time in which a regime of global apartheid has been intensified. This apartheid is organized through a neo-liberal reorganization of state (im)migration policies whose aim is to increase the number of migrants but limit their mobility, rights and entitlements to the resources of societies that have been nationalized. Yet, despite dramatic increases in precarious forms of migration and the equally precarious situation of many migrants trying to sell their labor, significant political movements initiated by migrants — often those with the most precarious of statuses — have arisen. These, however, are not often discussed as part of the broader social movements (e.g. labour, feminist, anti-racist, etc.) of which, arguably, they are an important, even crucial, part. In my paper, I focus on the emergence of No Borders movements and discuss how they challenge both the material as well as affective organization of our relationships with one another both within and across nationalized spaces. I examine the historical context for the emergence of No Border politics, the relationship of No Borders movements to other ideas and movements and; how arguments for No Borders take up issues of labour organizing and processes of capitalist globalization. I conclude with a discussion of how the emergence of a politics of “No Borders” is an example of new theoretical and practical proposals for emancipatory thought and action that expand our imagination of the
political and of the human.

Nandita Sharma is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai’i. Dr. Sharma is an activist scholar whose research is shaped by the social movements she is active in, including No Borders movements and those struggling for the commons. She is the author of Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2006). She is also the co-editor (with Bridget Anderson and Cynthia Wright) of a Special Issue of the journal Refuge on “No Borders As a Practical Political Project” (26:2, released Fall 2011/dated Fall 2009). Her website is here.

Impressions “Deep and Lasting”: Race, Sexuality and Affective Heredity Before the Gene

Kyla Schuller, Assistant Professor, Women’s & Gender Studies, Rutgers University

schullerkylaThis talk proposes that the notion of the human nervous system as an impressible, malleable entity continuously remade by contact with its environment lies at the heart of nineteenth-century U.S. cultural politics. Theorizing “impressibility” as a nineteenth-century keyword linking race and sexuality, the talk explores how scientists, reformers, and writers alike saw themselves as working in concert with a neurobiological substrate that they conceived of as, in its ideal form, fluid, malleable, and forever in dynamic exchange with surrounding bodies, objects, and forces. I show how the modern formations of race and sexual difference consolidated in part as a discourse of the variegated capacity of neurological responsiveness. Before genetics, sensory contact between bodies and the differentially affective qualities of the human nervous system was understood to shape hereditary legacies. The talk’s investigation of the pre-determinist materiality of the body provides an important perspective on the biopolitics of affect and the stakes of feminist materialisms.

Kyla Schuller is Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where she teaches and researches the intersections between race, gender, sexuality, and the sciences. Her areas of focus include histories of eugenics and reproduction, nineteenth-century American Studies, popular culture, and critical race and queer theory. She is currently at work on her first book project, The Sentimental Politics of Life: Race, Sexuality and Biopower in the Nineteenth-Century United States. This manuscript explores the meaning and materiality of race, sexuality, and heredity in the decades prior to the debut of the “gene.” Examining such topics as the racial politics of the first generation of female physicians, the role of birth control in black uplift struggles, and non-Darwinian evolutionary theories, the book argues that nineteenth-century middle-class culture developed a deep investment in improving the biological stock of the national population. She has held a prestigious ACLS New Faculty Fellowship and positions at UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, the UC Humanities Research Institute, and Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Her peer-reviewed articles explore the cultural history of cosmetic surgery in the Americas, the role of sentimentalism in the paleontological sciences, the politics of the blockbuster film Avatar, and other subjects in feminist science studies.

Part of the CSSC 2014-15 Speaker Series. This event is free and open to the public.