Molly McGarry – Abstract

Molly McGarry

“Voices from the Void: Spectral Sexualities in a Secular Age” – Abstract
This talk explores queer subject formation in some varieties of nineteenth-century
religious experience, tracing a transatlantic genealogy of alternative theology and occult
spirituality. From the liminal moment of the turn of the last century, I excavate these
speculative, spectral sexualities, asking how one might locate alternative futures for
sexuality before the clinic, beyond the confessional, and outside of juridical systems. This
lecture examines how the non-secular sexualities associated with Spiritualism and
Theosophy were formulated as a becoming informed by the transitive qualities attending
contact with the afterlife, the literal transnational movement of the practices, the voices
they conjured, and the extraordinary corporeal performances they made possible.
I frame this history within larger theoretical concerns attending the recent “post-secular
turn” in queer scholarship and activism. Here I ask: How have gender and sexuality
become central to current neoliberal negotiations at the religious/secular divide? If the
queer subject has been positioned as the very index of secular modernity, how might
attending to non-secular queer pasts (and presents) allow a rethinking of how deeply
secular premises have woven themselves into the critical paradigms foundational to queer
studies and critique itself?


Molly McGarry will elaborate on this topic in her Keynote Presentation
“Voices from the Void: Spectral Sexualities in a Secular Age“ September 15, 2016 from 11:00-13:00.


Tomasz Basiuk – Abstract

Tomasz Basiuk

„Bob Mellors, Charlotte Bach, and Queer Politics in the West and in Central
and Eastern Europe at the Cusp of the Cold War“ – Abstract

In 1970, the British gay activist Bob Mellors, aged twenty, travelled to
the US in the wake of the Stonewall Inn riots to encounter the newly
radicalized American lesbian and gay movement and to meet a range of
activists, including the Black Panthers. Upon his return, he helped set up
the London GLF and then other organizations. In the mid-1990s, Mellors
moved to Poland, which he had visited previously to attend an Esperanto
congress, because he felt drawn to its gay male scene. He died in Warsaw in
1996, victim of a violent crime

My talk seeks to position Mellors as an internationalist drawing on a
range of inspirations; in addition to his time in the US, which provided
the first impulse for his activism, I emphasize his somewhat unlikely ties
to Central and Eastern Europe. Crucial in this respect was Mellors’
friendship with Charlotte Bach, who became an intellectual mentor. Bach was
a Hungarian emigrant and a self-proclaimed evolutionary scientist whose
Lamarckian ‘human ethology’ posited that ‘sexual perversion’, homosexuality
included, was the mainspring of evolution. This claim was enthusiastically
embraced by the budding UK gay movement. Bach’s views were further
disseminated by polemical interest from established scientists and by the
novelist and philosopher Colin Wilson (of the “Angry Young Men”). With her
death in 1981, Mellors discovered that Bach was a trans woman. His/her
given name was Karoly Hajdu and s/he had also gone by Michael Karoly.
Bach’s transition seems to have been linked to his/her past as an impostor
for financial and career-related reasons, the tragic loss of his/her
immediate family, and his/her work as a dominatrix, which purportedly
occasioned field research on human sexuality. Mellor inherited Bach’s
library and helped publish a selection of her work. He also wrote her
biography, which remains unpublished.

Mellors’ life of activism suggests a narrative composed of multiple
strands, intertwining public discourses of grave intellectual and political
import with deeply personal and affective motivations. His queer story
inevitably encompasses others, especially that of Bach, whose legacy
Mellors strove to preserve. Mellors’ trajectory, which propelled him from
the UK to the US and to Poland, suggests his interest in the discordant
queer chronologies unfolding in these locations, as does also his
unfaltering fascination with Bach, whom Mellors knew to be Hungarian.
Mellors’ apparent appreciation of a dynamic of seductiveness and even
trickery drawing him to Bach and eventually to Poland reenacts but also
modifies the predictable categorization of queer geographic and
intellectual spaces into centers and peripheries. Shy of proposing that
Mellors embody a certain type of relation between queerness in the West and
queerness in Central and Eastern Europe, my account will attempt to unravel
some complications posed by these spatialities and by the larger historical
narrative of the Cold War coming to an end. It will also position Mellors’
and Bach’s stories in the context of some discourses about queer
historiography and its lessons, including those about utopian prospects
which our intellectual and affective investment in the past sometimes
leads us to expect.


Tomasz Basiuk will elaborate on this topic in his Keynote Presentation
“Bob Mellors, Charlotte Bach, and Queer Politics in the West and in Central
and Eastern Europe at the Cusp of the Cold War““ September 13, 2016 from 11:00-13:00.

Colin Johnson – Abstract

Colin Johnson
“The Lesser Intimacies” – Abstract

If scholarship dealing with US LGBT history demonstrates anything, it demonstrates that social movements dedicated to the project of gender and sexual emancipation often depend for their energy and ideological coherence upon conceptions of embodied and erotic freedom that are both uncompromising and uncompromised. At the same time, existing literature also reveals that many of the most obnoxious constraints on queer people and queer life have taken the form of de jure or de facto prohibitions against comparatively minor forms of personal or erotic expressiveness. For example, throughout much of the twentieth century, furtively engaging in public sex was arguably less risky for many men in the United States than holding hands with one another on a city street. Similarly, being caught dancing with someone of the same sex, or wearing a single article of clothing associated with the opposite sex, was often more than enough to land a person in jail. While most of these phenomena can be explained in terms of the history anti-queer policing, they do suggest the importance of thinking about scale in any discussion about the pursuit of gender and sexual liberation—whether in the past, the present, or the future. With this consideration in mind, this talk explores the significance of what might be referred to as lesser intimacies where the history of queer world making is concerned.


Colin Johnson will elaborate on this topic in his Keynote Presentation „The Lesser Intimacies“ September 16 2016 from 11:00-13:00.