Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies
School of Sociology and Social Policy
Social Sciences Building
Leeds, LS2 9JT

Tel: +44 (0) 113 343 3770
Fax: +44 (0) 113 343 4415


Prof. Jasbir Puar – CIGS Annual Lecture. Affective Politics: States of Debility and Capacity

Date: 14 May 2014, 5.30pm
Location: The Great Woodhouse room, University House

Derived from her new forthcoming monograph, Affective Politics: States of Debility and Capacity, which takes up questions of disability in the context of theories of bodily assemblages and affectivity that trouble intersectional identity frames, this talk elaborates an ethos of conviviality.

Conviviality is an anti-reproductive challenge to biopolitics that seeks to dissassemble the relations between capacitated and debilitated bodies, arguing for more porous corporeal and political engagements within and across geopolitical spaces wrought through notions of the impersonal and futurity.

This entry was posted in CIGS Annual Lecture, Events.

Professor Catherine Roach – Happily Ever After: Gender and Romance Narratives in Popular Culture

Date: 26 February 2014, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

In this interactive talk, Professor Catherine Roach presents a chapter from her forthcoming book Happily Ever After: The Romance Narrative in Popular Culture.  This romance narrative is perhaps the most powerful and omnipresent narrative in modern Western culture and functions, indeed, as an imperative for how to live the good life: Find your one true love and live happily ever after.  She introduces the parameters of her project as a performative ethnography in which she writes, as an academic, about how this romance narrative functions while she also writes, as a delighted newbie novelist, works of mainstream romantic fiction.

For this seminar, she tries to unravel the “conundrum of erotic love” in terms of notions of freedom and bondage, examining this conundrum in high art literature but focusing particularly on the top-publishing genre of popular romantic fiction.  The African-American romance novel Indigo provides a framework for this discussion: Can you become a slave for love?  What makes romance empowering, feminist, and freeing?  What does it mean for a man to be “pussy-whipped” by love?  How do today’s romantic novels constitute a massive cultural fantasy space—largely gendered—for the exploration of these questions?

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2013-14, Events.

Dr Romana Byrne – Aesthetic Sexuality

Date: 18 February 2014, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

Upon its translation in 1978, the first volume of Foucault’s The History of Sexuality established the terms and trajectory of sexuality studies in the Anglophone West, with its key contention that sexuality is a culturally-specific production of the nineteenth century’s scientia sexualis. But what of the ars erotica, which Foucault initially stated is absent from modern Western culture?

If a history of the ars erotica can indeed be traced in the modern West, and traced in Foucauldian fashion, “from the viewpoint of a history of discourses,” what exactly are we looking for, and where might we look for it? In developing key ideas from my book Aesthetic Sexuality: A Literary History of Sadomasochism (Bloomsbury, January 2014), I approach these questions by arguing that a form of ars erotica is evinced in what I call ‘aesthetic sexuality.’

In this lecture, I will introduce the concept of aesthetic sexuality, consider how this sexual category can be studied as a cultural production, and discuss the methodological implications this concept raises for sexuality studies.

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2013-14, Events.

Professor Angelia Wilson – Why Europe is Lesbian and Gay Friendly (and why America never will be)

Date: 12 November 2014, 5.00pm
Location: Room 11.21 and 11.25 Social Sciences Building

Why Europe Is Lesbian and Gay Friendly (and Why America Never Will Be) examines the differences in politics, policy, and culture in leading Western democracies and offers an explanation as to why lesbian and gay citizens in Europe reap more benefits of equality. This analysis of the political economy of care calls attention to the ways in which care is negotiated by various investors (the state, families, individuals, and the faith-based voluntary sector) and the power dynamics of this negotiation.

Historically, Christian churches have been leading primary investors in care, providing a direct safety net for children and the elderly. Despite European secularization, the involvement of the Christian church elites in both the provision of service and the setting of the values frame for welfare cannot be underestimated. The historical involvement of Christian churches is unique in each country, but one common factor is the normative interpretation of “the family.” The role of Christian values—from left-leaning social justice, Reformed Protestant individualism, or social conservatism—in relation to the political economy of care gives a distinctive flavor to questions about under what circumstances policymakers are compelled, or not, to expand policies to include lesbian and gay citizens.

“Why is Europe lesbian and gay friendly—and why will the US never be? Angelia R. Wilson, in this admirable book, finds answers to this question in unexpected places: the heritage of state-church relations, Europe’s single market policies, the crisis of care. By casting her intellectual net that wide, she offers much more than an answer to her book title’s question, and the reader gains nothing less than a much better understanding of the political and moral complexity of social citizenship in Europe and America.” — Philip Manow, University of Heidelberg, coeditor of Religion, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States

“The good news: Wilson’s innovative argument is persuasive—‘gay and lesbian friendly’ policies have to be understood in the context of the political economy of care.  In this way, she creatively adds to such usual suspects, as religiosity, in comparing state policies about sexual inclusion. The bad news: for all the news about gay marriage, the USA still does not come out well.” — Joan C. Tronto, University of Minnesota, coeditor of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2014-15, Events.

Dr Clare Hemmings: Considering Emma Goldman: Sexual Politics, Fantasy and Feminist Theory

Date: 19 March 2014, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

This paper considers the importance of the anarchist thinker and activist Emma Goldman (1869-1940) for contemporary feminist theory and politics. Initially concerned with how Goldman’s views on power and change help us reconsider our own history and present, I have become more concerned with how to negotiate aspects of her thought that are less easily reclaimed.

Exploring her own and others’ desire for Goldman to resolve current difficulties within and beyond feminism and sexual politics, I highlight the problems this desire presents for both our understanding of the past, and our ability adequately to engage the present. Focusing instead on the importance of fantasy in our accounting for the relationship between past and present, I explore our desires to consign judgement and (sexual) essence to another era.

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2013-14, Events.

Chris Dietz: School of Law: Protecting vulnerable families: legal enclosures and (hetero)normativity

Date: 27 November 2013, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

Critical accounts of law often characterise courts as spaces of institutionalised privilege which reproduce heteronormativity by denying queer and/or feminist subjectivities. A longstanding dialogue has turned on the question of how this can be challenged strategically.

Drawing on research conducted with Dr Julie Wallbank into judicial interpretations of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, this paper enters this debate at a point when reform has been enacted by law; where the ‘vulnerable’ lesbian co-parent has become a legal subject. Maintaining a systemic perspective – to avoid judging individual identities and behaviours according to an unproductive assimilation/transgression binary – it will propose that there is value in considering spatial abstractions, such as that of the legal enclosure, so as to conceptualise the implications of this imposition of vulnerability. It will ask how the protection of this identity affects the political motivation at the foundation of some family projects; for example where a lesbian couple uses a known donor whom it is intended will have a role in parenting post-birth. It will reflect on issues of gender, sexuality and power, and specifically how these have been approached by the family court when exercising the child welfare test.


This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2013-14, Events.

Dr David Alderson: Acting Straight: Reality TV, Gender Self-Consciousness and Forms of Capital

Date: 20 November 2013, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

“Straight” acting is a recent coinage to describe men who have sex with other men, but are not considered effeminate. It may even suggest a form of disidentification with the category “gay”. This paper looks at the significance of this term in relation to the increased social self-consciousness of gender, especially in relation to sexuality, by focusing on the reality TV series, Playing It Straight. While straight acting is mostly regarded as socially conservative in its appeal to various kinds of norm, it may in some respects also be considered critical of the kinds of “postmodern” gender consciousness promoted under neoliberal conditions.

The paper concludes by discussing the cultural political dynamics of masculinity and effeminacy in relation to regimes of austerity.

This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2013-14, Events.

Dr Meg Barker: Consent is a grey area? A comparison of understandings of consent in 50 Shades of Grey and on the BDSM blogosphere

Date: 30 October 2013, 5.00pm
Location: Beech Grove House Seminar Room

Since the foundation of any form of organised BDSM communities, consent has occupied a place of central importance. This is reflected in the popular mantra that BDSM play should be ‘safe, sane and consensual’, and the more recent revised phrase ‘risk aware consensual kink’, which critically interrogates the possibility of both entirely safe behaviours and completely sane subjectivities, but retains the notion that consent can be clearly and simply negotiated when it comes to BDSM play. This paper compares understandings and discussions of consent within the vastly popular 50 Shades erotic novels to the current wave of writings on the topic in the BDSM blogosphere.

The 50 Shades series has arguably brought BDSM to a far larger audience, and to far greater popular attention, than any previous media product. The books include references to BDSM contracts, safe-words, and checklists of activities, for example, and several conversations between the lead characters centre around sexual consent. However, communication about what Ana (the heroine of the novels) desires sexually is poor, and Christian Grey (the hero) frequently violates their arrangements in the relationship more broadly, for example by controlling Ana’s working life, eating habits, finances, and social time when she has explicitly asked him not to do so. The issue of consent is a tension between the main characters throughout the series.

At the same time as 50 Shades has increased popular interest in BDSM, BDSM communities themselves have undergone an interrogation of the previously accepted idea that consent can be relatively simply negotiated. A number of prominent BDSM bloggers (such as Carol Queen and Kitty Stryker) have written openly about problematic power dynamics in BDSM scenes, and have drawn attention to the fact that coercion remains possible in situations when consent may have appeared to have been negotiated, for example due to agreement on safe-words.

The paper concludes with a consideration of what might be learnt from ongoing consent conversations within BDSM communities which might be valuable for both those who are beginning to explore ‘kinky-fuckery’ following the 50 Shades series, and for our understandings and communication about sex more generally.


Meg Barker is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a practising sex and relationship therapist. With Darren Langdridge, Meg published one of the main academic collections on BDSM, Safe, Sane and Consensual (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). They also co-edit the journal, Psychology and Sexuality with Taylor and Francis, and contributed material on BDSM to the British Psychological Society guidelines on working with sexual and gender minorities. Meg  co-organises the Critical Sexology seminar series and has published on representations of BDSM (with Alex Iantaffi and Camel Gupta) and constructions of dominant women (with Ros Gill), and is part of a current project exploring the lived experience of submissive men (with Trevor Butt, Antony Whitehead, Emma Turley, and Vanessa Hinchcliffe). Meg’s previous research on sexualities and relationships has been published in several journals and books and has culminated recently in a general audience book Rewriting the Rules (Routledge, 2012). Email: meg.barker@open.ac.uk


This entry was posted in CIGS Seminar Series 2013-14, Events.

ESRC Seminar Series: Critical Diversities @ the Intersection: Policies,

Date: 25 October 2013,
Location: Semnar Room, Beech Grove House

Seminar 3: Diverse Policies: Colliding Concerns

Seminar 3 will address the complexities in attempts to legislate for diversity and explore the tensions that arise when divergent social groups are included within a diversity umbrella within law and policy.

Speakers: Dr Kath Browne (University of Brighton) and Leela Baski (Brighton); Dr Gavin Brown (University of Leicester); Dr Paul Wakeling (University of York).

Postgraduate/ECR Panel: Helen Williams (Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Leeds); Sumi Hollingworth (Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University); Dr Elizabeth Mathews (Tallaght); Jill Wilkens (Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University).

Book Launch: Sanger, T. and Taylor, Y. (ed) (2013) Mapping Intimacies: Relations, Exchanges, Affects, Palgrave Macmillan. Dr Sally Hines will present a review of the book.

This entry was posted in ESRC Seminar Series: Critical Diversities @ the Intersection, Events.

Teaching Salon “Using Archives to Teach Gender”

gender-archivesDate: 19 June 2013, 4.00pm
Location: Seminar room, Marks & Spencer Company Archive

Archives and libraries offer extremely rich resources with which to teach gender, powerfully bringing to life ideas, theories and experiences. Contrary to popular associations, archives and libraries are ‘lively, fast changing and thoroughly political space(s) with which students can engage both critically and creatively’, as Sara de Jong and Sanne Koevoets persuasively demonstrate in a forthcoming book. And yet, they are often under-utilised and unexplored within the undergraduate and postgraduate classroom.

This event seeks to create an interdisciplinary space for discussion of the extraordinary potential of archives as a pedagogical tool. It will bring together scholars from across a range of disciplines to share ideas on how to use archives in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching on gender, sexuality, feminism and related topics. It will also be an opportunity to showcase the collections and work of two outstanding archives based at the University of Leeds: the Feminist Archive North (http://www.feministarchivenorth.org.uk/north.htm) and the Marks & Spencer Company Archive (http://marksintime.marksandspencer.com/the-collection/).

The event will include the following presentations:

Sara de Jong (University of Vienna) and Sanne Koevoets (University of Utrecht): Teaching Gender with Libraries and Archives: Production, Regimes and Techniques of Power in Information, Knowledge and Archivization

Sarah Tester (Senior Archivist, Marks & Spencer Company Archive) will present the Marks & Spencer Company Archive

Jalna Hanmer will present the Feminist Archive North

You will also have the opportunity to visit the Marks & Spencer Company Archive’s current exhibition Marks in Time.

This teaching salon is open to all and refreshments will be provided. Attendance is free but we ask that you register in advance by clicking here: http://tinyurl.com/mjjp3mz

If you have any questions, please contact Maria do Mar Pereira on m.d.m.pereira@leeds.ac.uk

This event is being organised as part of the University of Leeds Student Education Fellowship-funded project “Using Archives to Teach Gender”, coordinated by Maria do Mar Pereira (Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Leeds). To find out more about the project, click here: http://www.sddu.leeds.ac.uk/sddu-usef-maria-do-mar-pereira.html

This entry was posted in Events, Research Salons.

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