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Is There a Transnational Queer Studies?

December 12th, 2012

Since its birth in the early 1990s, queer theory and queer studies have circulated globally, by way of conferences, internationally influential essays and books, and other flows of scholarly information. However, in 2012 it is still worthwhile asking, “is there today a truly transnational queer studies?” This lecture will examine two ways of answering that question: one is practical and skeptical; the other is theoretical and optimistic. In the first half of this talk, I will discuss the sometimes frustrating, if always exciting and rewarding work of co-editing a massive new anthology that attempts to capture “queer studies” in its current complexity and global circulation. The process of constructing The Routledge Queer Studies Reader (co-editors Hall and Jagose, published this year) revealed many of the impediments to realizing a transnational queer studies. The field remains constricted by linguistic, geographical, and base theoretical “norms,” even though, as a political and intellectual project, it claims to devote itself to challenging normative concepts and processes. On the other hand, there is cause for optimism. A highly dynamic “queer conversation” is flourishing globally that reveals the continuing, open-ended potentials of the field. In referencing Gadamerian concepts of dialogic challenge and epistemological change, I will conclude my talk with a set of reflections and queries that should lead to a productive conversation among audience members on the inherent limitations and still-to-be-realized potentials of queer studies in a transnational context.

Donald E. Hall has published widely in the fields of British studies, queer theory, cultural studies, and professional studies. Prior to arriving at Lehigh in 2011, he served as Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English at West Virginia University (WVU). Before his tenure at WVU, he was Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English at California State University, Northridge, where he taught for thirteen years. He is a recipient of the University Distinguished Teaching Award at CSUN, was a visiting professor at the National University of Rwanda, was 2001 Lansdowne Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Victoria (Canada), was Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Cultural Studies at Karl Franzens University in Graz, Austria, for 2004-05, and was Fulbright Senior Specialist at the University of Helsinki for 2006. He has served on numerous panels and committees for the Modern Language Association, including the Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion and the Convention Program Committee. From 2006-2007, he served as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages at WVU. In 2007, he became chair of the Department of English. In 2012, he was elected National President of the Association of Departments of English.

His current and forthcoming work examines issues such as professional responsibility and academic community-building, ethics and agency in sexuality studies, and the Victorian (and our continuing) interest in the deployment of instrumental agency over our social, vocational, and sexual selves. His book, The Academic Community: A Manual For Change, was published by Ohio State University Press in the fall of 2007. His tenth book, Reading Sexualities: Hermeneutic Theory and the Future of Sexuality Studies, was published in the spring of 2009. In 2012, he and Annamarie Jagose, of the University of Auckland, collaborated on a volume titled The Routledge Queer Studies Reader, which was published in July of that year.