Queering the Nation: Queer Identities in Early America--For OIEAHC-SEA Conference, Chicago June 2015

full name / name of organization: 
Marcia D. Nichols (University of Minnesota Rochester) / Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture--Society for Early Americanists
contact email: 

Although Foucault declared that sexuality as an identity is a modern phenomenon dating from the medicalization of sexual impulses in the Victorian era, some recent scholarship has argued that queer sexualities per se existed, at least in proto- or nascent forms. For example, in Sex and the Eighteenth Century Man, Thomas Foster convincingly demonstrates that one colonial Massachusetts man whose sexual preference for other men was seemingly recognized as a sort of sexual identity by himself and his community. Moreover, in London, tales of female husbands continued to titillate and the existence of molly houses, with their elaborate rituals and lingo anatomized in canting dictionaries and criminal narratives.
Can the secret lives of queer individuals can be pieced together from evidence in salacious texts, trial records, letters and diaries, to suggest that for them, at least, same sex activity was more than a fleeting act, but a way of life? How well or widely known were queer texts from London known? What should we make of the passionate same-sex friendships that existed in early America and did those friendships influence the founding of the nation? Since same-sex intercourse was often attributed to various European ethnicities (typically Italians or French), how did these associations compete with the early nation's growing identity as a nation of immigrants? This panel welcomes papers that explore the possibilities of queer identities in early America.

Please send a 300 word abstract and a 1-page CV to Marcia Nichols (mdnichol@r.umn.edu) by September 1, 2014

Deadline: September 1, 2014
Panel for OIEAHC-SEA Conference
Chicago, June 18-21, 2015