Event Title

At the Edges of Queer: Navigating Ambiguity, Community, and Erasure

Presenter Information

Maddie Batzli, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 341

Start Date

4-28-2017 4:30 PM

End Date

4-28-2017 5:50 PM

Abtract

When the word “queer” took the world of AIDS activism and the academy by storm in the late twentieth century, activists and academics leapt to understand and define this reclaimed word and predict its trajectory. Some academics claimed that queer would avoid obsolescence, remaining an anti-assimilationist beacon for activists, while others worried that lumping anyone with non-normative sexualities or lifestyle practices under the same umbrella would inaccurately homogenize disparate groups and detract from specific causes. This study aims to understand the meanings of the word queer among students at Oberlin College today, over a quarter century after the beginning of the word’s reclamation. Through semi-structured in-depth interviews, I asked 17 non-heterosexual or non-cisgender students to describe their relationships with and perceptions of the word queer at their college and in other places they’ve lived. I interviewed several Case Western Reserve University students to better understand how current uses of queer in Oberlin are particular to this time and place. Through this study, participants revealed that multiple and ambiguous uses of queer facilitate more inclusive and nuanced understandings of gender and sexuality, particularly making room for non-binary gender identity and sexual fluidity, while simultaneously producing implicit boundaries that reinforce dynamics of privilege and marginalization present within mainstream U.S. society.

Keywords:

identity, language, gender and sexual minorities

Notes

Session III, Panel 16 - Marginalized | Communities
Moderator: Greggor Mattson, Director of Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology

Link to full text thesis at OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) Center: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=oberlin1497523102084515

Major

Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies; Sociology

Award

Leah Freed Memorial Prize

Advisor(s)

Greggor Mattson, Sociology
Christie Parris, Sociology

Project Mentor(s)

Greggor Mattson, Sociology
Patrick O'Connor, Hispanic Studies; Comparative Literature
Margaret Kamitsuka, Religion
Vange Heiliger, Comparative American Studies

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Apr 28th, 4:30 PM Apr 28th, 5:50 PM

At the Edges of Queer: Navigating Ambiguity, Community, and Erasure

King Building 341

When the word “queer” took the world of AIDS activism and the academy by storm in the late twentieth century, activists and academics leapt to understand and define this reclaimed word and predict its trajectory. Some academics claimed that queer would avoid obsolescence, remaining an anti-assimilationist beacon for activists, while others worried that lumping anyone with non-normative sexualities or lifestyle practices under the same umbrella would inaccurately homogenize disparate groups and detract from specific causes. This study aims to understand the meanings of the word queer among students at Oberlin College today, over a quarter century after the beginning of the word’s reclamation. Through semi-structured in-depth interviews, I asked 17 non-heterosexual or non-cisgender students to describe their relationships with and perceptions of the word queer at their college and in other places they’ve lived. I interviewed several Case Western Reserve University students to better understand how current uses of queer in Oberlin are particular to this time and place. Through this study, participants revealed that multiple and ambiguous uses of queer facilitate more inclusive and nuanced understandings of gender and sexuality, particularly making room for non-binary gender identity and sexual fluidity, while simultaneously producing implicit boundaries that reinforce dynamics of privilege and marginalization present within mainstream U.S. society.