Degree Year

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

Advisor(s)

Greggor Mattson

Committee Member(s)

Patrick O'Connor
Bogdan G. Popa

Keywords

Queer, Campus, Queer space, Safe space, Queer students, Oberlin

Abstract

Using data from 27 interviews conducted in Fall 2016, I will show how students at Oberlin College construct queer-only spaces as sites for the formation of their queer identities. This is done through three discourses: the rhetoric of safe spaces, the ambiguity of queer as an identity label, and the positioning of a space as open or closed based on self-identification. Thus, in entering a space in which participation is contingent upon self-identification with the category “queer” (as it pertains to non-heterosexual and/or non-cis identity), students at Oberlin College are co-producing their queer identities while simultaneously forming “queer spaces.” This paper looks at 1) the ways in which Oberlin students identify as and define queer, 2) the rhetoric of queer spaces and how they are defined, talked about, advocated for, and advertised, 3) problems Oberlin students encounter with creating and participating in these queer spaces, including those specifically experienced by students of color and gay men, 4) the ways students understand and navigate through the concept of and rhetoric around “safe spaces,” 4a) how all of these factors are dealt with through a contradicting and yet reconcilable engagement with identity politics and queer theory, and 4b) how Oberlin Students are unique queer figures within a Foucauldian genealogy of queerness as always in relation to a norm.

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