Faculty Research: Dr. Lauren Gutterman writes on Christmas and queerness

With Christmas a mere 11 days away, we’re very pleased to bring you such a timely piece from Dr. Lauren Gutterman. Dr. Gutterman has penned a thoughtful, fascinating discussion for Notches about how historic periodicals conveyed how “Christmas felt different for queers,” drawing upon publications like ONEThe Mattachine Review, and The Ladder.

The whole piece can be found here; we’ve printed an excerpt below:

As many scholars have pointed out, with the emergence of gay liberation such expressions of sadness and loss faded from view, replaced, at least publicly, with more politically “useful” feelings of righteous anger and pride. But the queer holiday blues have persisted, and they have even been a source of theorizing about sexuality. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick wrote in Tendencies, “The depressing thing about the Christmas season—isn’t it?—is that it’s the time when all the institutions are speaking with one voice…They all—religion, state, capital, ideology, domesticity, the discourses of power and legitimacy—line up with each other so neatly once a year.”  During the holidays “Christmas” and “the family” become one and the same; they are constituted in and through each other. Writing from the margins as queer identified and as Jewish, Sedgwick held that the fascinating—and exciting—thing about sexuality is the extent to which individuals’ bodies, appearances, identities, experiences, and fantasies fail to align so easily. It is precisely this messiness, this inconsistency, Sedgwick argues, that the concept “queer” aims to bring into focus. In other words, Christmas is queerness’s opposite.

Announcement: “Como La Danceflor,” Artist Talk/Music Set/Interview with AB Soto


We’re excited to share with you the first of a few events within a series called “MIGHTY REAL The Politics of Queer Nightlife.” AB Soto, a visual/performance artist and musician, will be sharing and discussing his work on Thursday, September 17 in the Ransom Center’s Prothro Theater, from 1:30pm – 3:15pm.

A brief word about Soto:

Born in East Los Angeles AB’s work as a visual / performance artist and musician is an amalgamation of his Latin roots and early influences; street and pop culture. This combined with a rebellious streak that challenges and questions mainstream gay culture and norms is what defines AB as a recording artist. AB’s early background as a professional dancer and fashion designer informs his work as the artist he is today – all of AB’s work is original and self produced; choreography, lyric, styling and design. AB’s art is a stylized commentary on homophobic attitudes present in the dominate culture. His aim is to show the diversity of the more marginalized members of the gay community and bring them to a wider audience.

And a brief word about the MIGHTY REAL  series:

This artist/speaker series, open to the university and Austin communities, will invite musicians, entertainers, DJ, and organizers working in queer nightlife spaces to offer their perspectives on politics, performance, and labor. Prior to the infamous Stonewall Riots of 1969, bars, house parties, and nightclubs have been essential sites of community making and political action for gender and sexual dissidents. While these spaces are imagined as utopians and escapist, nightlife has long been the target of state surveillance and moral legislation. Additionally, recent scholarships have demonstrated how people of color, working class people, and gender non-conforming people are kept at the margins of entertainment cultures. It is imperative, in a climate of state-sanctioned racial surveillance, border patrols, and trans phobic attacks, to more critically politicize queer nightlife, an industry that is assumed to offer refuge from the psychic and physical violence of heteronormativity and racism. This series will offer perspectives from those working on the ground, and will provide a nuanced understanding of nightlife as a space of political action.

Alumni Voices: Phil Tiemeyer, Assistant Professor, Philadelphia University

In 2013, Phil Tiemeyer, UT AMS alum and current Assistant Professor of History at Philadelphia University, released Plane Queer, a history of men working as flight attendants. We recently caught up with Tiemeyer to talk to him about his book, his teaching, and his time at UT. 


Can you tell us a little bit about your book, Plane Queer, and how you came to the project?

My favorite coursework at UT was strewn over various departments: from Janet Davis’ course on social movements, to Ann Cvetkovich’s (English Dept) seminar on queer studies, to Mark Lawrence’s (History Dept) teaching on US Diplomatic History. So, naturally, I wanted to combine all these topics–especially gender, sexuality, and globalization–into one dissertation topic. This led me to think about viable topics that involved LGBTQ roles in the global economy. Between my own childhood passion for flying and Janet Davis’ love for her prior work as a flight attendant, I ultimately ended up focusing on airplanes—the mode of transport that most quickly binds the globe’s disparate nodes of economic activity. And it wasn’t long before I was reading about and conducting interviews with gay men who served as flight attendants, literally working in the aisles and galleys of these planes that are linking the world together. It seemed to me that these men could serve as an important lens for examining the ways that gender and sexuality are intertwined with work in today’s global economy.

Plane Queer ended up being a well-received addition to LGBTQ history, as it is the first book-length chronicle of a gay-oriented career. Work so often gets overlooked as a locus of queer life, in favor of better-documented realms like LGBTQ activism or queer urban nightlife. Plane Queer didn’t end up being as global in focus as I originally envisioned–it focuses only on US-based flight attendants–but I was happy that it was able to chronicle queerness in this workplace all the way back to the 1930s, and all the way forward to the 2000s.

How is the work that you’re doing right now, as a scholar or a teacher or both, informed by the work that you did as a student in American Studies at UT?

Almost every thing I do nowadays is a continuation of my time in American Studies at UT. I got hired in my current job because of my writing in LGBTQ history, and that’s the field I’ve been writing in since my early seminar papers at UT. I also teach a survey class now, so I’m really grateful that I read those hundreds of books for orals and sat in on Janet Davis’ and Shirley Thompson’s surveys and later TA’ed for Bob Abzug’s survey. The more I work on my next book project, which is more focused on globalization and less focused on LGBTQ issues, I find myself grateful for the other work I did with Mark Lawrence and Richard Pells in the History Department–and equally grateful that our grueling preparation for orals forced me to master more than just one field. The only thing American Studies didn’t prepare me for were the other tasks that eat up so much of my time as a professor: committee meetings, advising, and other administrative tasks. Shielding us from these things, though, was surely a merciful act!

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for students in our department about how to get the most out of their time here?

There are so many components to landing a good teaching job that aren’t simply tied to writing good seminar papers and getting As in courses. All of these things matter just as much, if not more, even though they don’t appear on our transcripts: presenting at conferences, getting a couple of articles out while in grad school, and networking with scholars outside of UT who are doing similar work. It is also extremely advantageous to have introduced yourself and your book topic to acquisitions editors at university presses before graduating, since you’ll likely need to have your manuscript finished and under contract within 4-5 years after finishing at UT…and everything about the publication process moves really slowly. I know I could have done a better job with these tasks, and each would have helped raise my prospects on the job market and made my progression towards tenure much less hectic. But it was easier at times to stay complacent in the undergraduate student mindset: as long as I’m writing good papers and getting good grades, I’m fine.

Announcement: Stephen Vider gives talk on “queering domesticity” this Monday

Our series of talks continue in the Department of American Studies here at UT with a talk by Stephen Vider titled, “Interior Relations: Queering Domesticity and Belonging After World War II.” Vider is the Cassius Marcellus Clay Fellow in the History of Sexuality at Yale University, and he recently won the Crompton-Noll Award from the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association for best essay in lesbian, gay, and queer studies for his article, “‘Oh Hell, May, Why Don’t You People Have a Cookbook?’: Camp Humor and Gay Domesticity,” which appeared in the December 2013 issue of American Quarterly. Vider’s talk will take place on Monday, February 9 at 4:30pm in Burdine 436A.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 1.37.30 PM

Vider had the following to saw about his upcoming talk:

In the decades after World War II, gay men were typically represented as quintessential outsiders to the American home – a view reinforced by historians both of the home and family, and of LGBT culture. This talk examines the various ways gay men challenged and adapted conventional domestic practices to reshape norms of intimate, communal, and national belonging, from 1945 to the present. From “homosexual marriages” in the 1950s, to gay communes in the 1970s, gay domesticity emerged as a central site of a broader tension between cultural integration and resistance, revealing the normative constraints and creative possibilities of home-making and affiliation.

Announcement: Screening Blackness series continues next week


One of our favorite things to do here at AMS :: ATX is to draw your attention to some of the great events happening around UT. This week was the first installment of the Screening Blackness series called “The Black Leading Lady: Olivia Pope and ABC’s Scandal.” Nicole Martin, PhD candidate in the Department of Theater and Dance, will be screening episodes of the hit ABC series Scandal and leading a discussion about key topics from each episode, including race, gender, and sexuality. Nicole sent along the following description of the event, which continues next Monday, October 20 at 12:00pm in the ISESE Gallery at the Warfield Center:

When Scandal premiered in April 2012, ABC became the first major network to feature a Black woman protagonist in a primetime drama in nearly forty years. The show follows Olivia Pope who, with her team of associates, manages the public relations crises of Washington D.C.’s elite while hiding her own illicit interracial affair with the President of the United States. Created by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice), Scandal is one of the highest rated dramas currently on television making Olivia Pope, arguably, one of the most influential figures for contemporary Black female representation.

Week one of the series, “Desirability and Sexuality: Scripting the Black Leading Lady” focused on the construction of Olivia Pope as a black woman protagonist through the lens of sexuality. Discussion centered on the visual and embodied markers of Olivia Pope’s subject position vis-à-vis elements of costuming, character interaction and narrative structure. Attending to the scriptive moments of the show revealed the series’ strategic navigation of race, gender, and sexuality. In particular, audiences addressed the “double-reading” that occurs when observing Olivia Pope’s relationship with the President. This “doubleness” simultaneously activates a long history of sexual violence against black women’s bodies while also challenging the tropes of black womanhood that continue to dominate mainstream television.

Week 2, October 20, 2014

“Navigating Patriarchy: Black Masculinity, White Masculinity and Black Womanhood.” Watch: “A Door Marked Exit” (Season 3, Episode 10). This week will interrogate the assertion of power through character navigation of patriarchy.

Week 3, October 27, 2014

“Toward Freedom: Black Feminisms and Black Female Representation.” Watch: “The Price of a Free and Fair Election” (Season 3, Episode 18). This week will consider how to write and read for resistance in representations of black female subjectivity.

The event is sponsored by the John L. Warfield Center For African and African American Studies. Hope to see you there!

Faculty Research: Dr. Randy Lewis to Deliver Talk on Surveillance, 3/18

Although spring break is still upon us, we hope that you’ll take note of a talk that one of our faculty members, Dr. Randy Lewis, will be delivering on perverse surveillance and the sexualized sovereign.

Come by the anthropology department (SAC 5.118) at 12pm on Monday, March 18 to hear about his work as well as that of affiliate faculty member Dr. Craig Campbell.  Hope to see you there!


Lists: 2013 SXSW Film Picks

Film Screening

Every March, Austin plays host to South by Southwest, a gargantuan festival of new media, film, music, comedy, and everything in between. Although much of the week is closed to the chosen few badge holders, non-badged visitors can purchase single-admission tickets to film screenings, space permitting. With that in mind, we’ve curated a quick list of films that may be of particular interest to those attendees who study or are generally fans of American Studies.

Click each title for screening times and locations.

Our Nixon

Recently discovered Super 8 home movies filmed by three of Richard Nixon’s closest aides – and fellow Watergate conspirators – offer an intimate and complex new glimpse into his presidency in this all-archival documentary.

Continue reading