Queering the Academy: Four Signs Queer Studies is Still Fighting for a Place in Academia

Judith Butler saying "Gender Yer Doing It"

When do you know your academic field of study gains mainstream support? One sign: When you do not need to have a hunger strike in order to keep the field of study at your university.

Queer Studies, specifically, is clearly still fighting for a solid place in academia. Here are four of the signs. 

1. There are only four collges with Queer Studies majors. According to College Equality, there are only four colleges with LGBT Majors and nearly thirty with Minors. According to a new Gallup survey, the country’s highest concentration of people who identify LGBT live in Washington DC—none of the colleges in the DC area have Queer Studies majors, minors, or concentrations. 

2. There are Queer Studies conferences. Though there do not seem to be many, they do exist. The UNC Asheville Queer Studies Conference would indicate that Queer studies is a thriving discipline. That conference has run biennially for the past fifteen years and hosts workshops, papers, and panels by about 50 faculty and students. The website says that it attracts an “international audience of activists, academics, and artists who showcase a range of creative and scholarly pursuits related to the investigation of genders and sexualities,” with participants from Tokyo, Canada, the Philippines, Israel, Australia, England, Europe and across the US. A discipline has to start somewhere.

3. Some professors are still punished for being pro-gay. What about being able to be proud of who you are as an academic and as a person who identifies as LGBTQ? In some cases, we see that free speech is only allowed for some. Last year at Gallaudet University, an administrator was placed on leave for signing a petition to put Maryland’s gay-marriage law on the ballot.

4. Textbooks aimed at Queer Studies do exist. Though, there is still the question of quality and quantity, the fact that textbooks are being written is surely a good sign, though there still seems to be a long way to go in terms of a consistant flow of new books and articles in the field.

In 2010, Gawker published the “Top 10 Colleges for Gay Students,” but what about the top colleges to be a queer professor? Where does this list begin? The next post in this series will look at some indicators  for this list. 


Judith Butler meme via Corvid College.

Lakshmi Sarah
by Lakshmi Sarah
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Born and raised in California, Lakshmi Sarah is an educator and journalist with a focus on South Asia, gender, race and the arts. Over the past few years, she has worked with newspapers, radio and magazines from Gaborone, Botswana to Los Angeles. She has written and produced for various audiences, including PolicyMic, Global Voices, Al Jazeera Online, AJ+ and KQED Arts. She is currently a graduate student at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism focusing on multimedia.

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

Transphobia: You're Doing It

Judith Butler is a transphobe whose "theories" are insulting, go against science research and have no factual basis in the real world.

Her version of queer theory has no place in academia or any other part of civilized society.

whoa--as a queer and

whoa--as a queer and transgender person and huge fan of Judith Butler's work, I'd have to disagree.

I don't want to get into a flame war about one of my favorite thinkers, but I would like to gently submit that many trans people, including myself and my trans friends, find Butler's work hugely helpful in thinking about our lives, gender norms, and society.

you can disagree with Butler's perspective on many things or find that her work doesn't speak to you, but it breaks my heart to see Butler called transphobic.

Faculty are absolutely still

Faculty are absolutely still punished for being gay and pro-gay. This happens through a complex system of microagression and institutionalized heterosexism. The Galludet case you cite though was a censure for a faculty person being homophobic not pro-gay. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/angela-mccaskill-reinstated-gal...

There are lots of other examples to cite though. Just wanted to help with the fact checking so that your very savvy post isn't dismissed out of hand.

Keep up the good work!!! <3

Queering the Academy

While I don't necessarily disagree that queer studies is not as well established as many might suppose, I have to point out a number of factual errors in this post. As director of the University of Maryland's 11-year-old program in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies, I am well positioned to correct the claim that there are no universities in the Washington, DC area that offer academic concentrations in queer or LGBT Studies. We offer both a 21-credit certificate and a 15-credit minor. Other schools in the area offer courses and concentrations within other programs. The George Washington University just launched a first-in-the-nation graduate certificate in LGBT health to train current and future healthcare leaders and policy advocates on issues relating to the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Far from being a queer studies wasteland, the Washington metropolitan area is a leader in the field, with scholars doing cutting-edge work at schools throughout the area. Many of those scholars are members of DC Queer Studies, a group established in 2006 to exchange, support, and cultivate new ways of engaging with LGBT/Queer/Sexuality Studies across the disciplines and across institutions. Since 2008, that group has sponsored an annual conference, held in April at the University of Maryland. This year's conference will examine the vital intersection between queer studies and disability studies. It will be held on April 5 and is free and open to the public. Join us and you'll see just how lively queer studies is in the DC area! Details here: http://lgbts.umd.edu/dcqueerstudies-symposium/index.html.

Also, as a previous commenter pointed out, the Gallaudet administrator was put on leave last year not for being pro-gay but for seeming to be anti-gay in signing a petition aimed at overturning a law to extend the right of marriage to same-sex couples. I'm sure there are examples of academics being punished for being pro-gay, but this isn't one of them.

Finally, I'd nominate my own institution as one in which it is pretty cool to be a queer professor. I'd be happy to talk to you about that as you work on the next post.

queer v. women

I wonder what happened to Women's Studies as an academic discipline. It seems to me that the word Queer, as in Queer Studies, and Gender as in Gender Studies, make women invisible, and I fear that the curriculum does too. Women had a very brief, but very shining moment in academia in the 1970's and '80's and then, poof! women were erased. I'm so sad that women have been disappeared as a class, replaced by Queer and Gender. I'm not surprised at the new orthodoxy...but sad and angry.

most schools with these

most schools with these programs call them something like "women's and gender studies" or "women, sexuality, and gender studies." women haven't been forgotten.

I don't presume you're very familiar with the curriculum at these institutions you bemoan, because I minored in gender studies at one school, and a program called "women's and gender studies" at another, and I can tell you that the vast majority of the students, and authors, and professors, of those courses are women. but the name "gender studies" or "women's and gender studies" IS more inclusive, as well as acknowledging that all gendered beings have a stake in what is taught in women's studies, or gender studies, classrooms!

so.... I take your "surprise at the new orthodoxy" and give you my "disappointment that you speak to what you do not know."

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