History seminars at the IHR

History of Sexuality Seminar

Convenors: Anna Schaffner (University of Kent), Chiara Beccalossi (Oxford Brookes), Alison Oram (Leeds Metropolitan University), Craig Griffiths (Queen Mary), Christopher M. Waters (Williams University), Heike Bauer (Birkbeck), Jana Funke (University of Exeter), Julia Laite (Birkbeck), Jane Mackelworth (Queen Mary), Justin Bengry (Birkbeck/McGill), Claire Hayward (Kingston University), Matt Cook (Birkbeck), Sean Brady (Birkbeck), Sarah Toulalan (University of Exeter)

Venue: From Autumn 2014, Holden Room, 103, first floor of Senate House.  From 5 May, Room 304 in the IHR, third floor.

Time: Tuesdays 18:00.  Please note, 17:30 on 10 March and 17:15 for all later dates.

The seminar series is convened by the Raphael Samuel History Centre. All seminars are open to all and there is no need to register in advance. If you have any questions about the seminar please contact Craig Griffiths at: c.griffiths@qmul.ac.uk

Some podcasts from this seminar are available online

Spring Term 2015
DateSeminar details
6 January 'The Continuous Thread of Revelation': Chrononormativity and the Challenge of Queer Oral History

Dr Amy Tooth Murphy (University of Roehampton)

Is oral history inherently queer? Oral history has long been held as a route to foregrounding silenced and marginalised voices. Feminist oral history in particular has maintained a commitment to hearing voices that challenge hegemonic and androcentric histories. Similarly, historians of sexuality have been keen to use oral history for the exploration of LGBT and queer histories. Such research has proposed that oral history’s unique methodological and theoretical underpinnings are ideally placed for this type of recovery history. However, this paper will argue that developments in the field of queer theory may help to shine a light on, and problematise, such assumptions. Using Elizabeth Freeman’s concept of chrononormativity, I will suggest that some established methodologies of oral history interviewing might, in fact, have the potential to inhibit, rather than facilitate, the telling of queer narratives. In particular, I will argue that the implicit use of normative narrative frameworks to structure storytelling and interview encounters can lead to the inevitable ‘failure’ of queer narrators to achieve narrative composure.

Joint seminar with the Oral History seminar


27 January Pimps, Traffickers, Maques and Ponces: Interrogating third parties in the early twentieth century sex industry

Dr Julia Laite (Birkbeck)

[Due to illness, Peter Hegarty has had to cancel his seminar paper, but we are pleased to confirm that Julia Laite will instead give a paper at the history of sexuality seminar.]

The exploits and exploitations of pimps and traffickers were the subject of an entire sub-genre of sensationalist literature, theatre and film, and journalism in the early twentieth century West. Yet in almost all histories of prostitution, third parties in the sex industry receive only a cursory glance. Pimps and traffickers have been vilified, racialized, and psychologized, but surprisingly little research has been done. Neither historians nor social scientists know very much about the men who worked or work as third parties in the sex industry. This paper will attempt to trace the cultural and social history of the pimp and trafficker in the early twentieth century west, using archival case files, fictional representations, and contemporary social investigations. It will explore the curious continuities in the way that pimps and traffickers have been represented in different times and places, and also examine the way that the practice of pimping has potentially changed over time.

Julia Laite is a historian of women, gender, sexuality, crime, migration, and prostitution. Her first book, Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885-1960 was published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2011 and she has just embarked on a new research project that looks at sex trafficking and women’s labour migration in modern history. She is a lecturer in modern British history and gender history at Birkbeck, University of London.


17 February Sex backwards. Sexology speaks about desire in communist Czechoslovakia

Kateřina Lišková (Masaryk University)

Sexuality devolved rather than evolved in Czechoslovakia. Contrary to the commonly accepted narratives of sexual liberation proliferated in the West, the case of Czechoslovakia shows histories of sexuality as more complex and diverse. In the early years of communism building in the 1950s, sex was discussed in terms of love within an egalitarian marriage. Women were equal to men not only at work and in front of the law but also in expert discussions of sexuality and marriage. In the late stages of socialism, from the 1970s onwards, marriage got divorced from the public realm of work and was reformulated as based in hierarchical gender differences. Sex started to be suspect of deviance (in men) or prone to failure (in couples). Therapeutic approaches became the order of the day as sexually dysfunctional couples became treated in new marriage counseling centers or in-patient facilities. Therapy became widely used for the newly emerging segment of the population, sexually deviant men. Those men who could not or did not live up to the family norm and engaged in aberrant practices were often placed in sexological wards of psychiatric hospitals that commenced in the 1970s.

The history of sexuality in Czechoslovakia in the second half of the 20th century was to a large extent created by a group of doctors centered at the Sexological Institute in Prague. The Institute was founded as the first university-based center of its kind in the world in 1921, only two years after the private Hirschfeld´s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin. The Prague Institute resumed operations after the war and grouped a tightly knit circle of doctors who called themselves sexologists and who worked together for decades. Coming from various medical backgrounds, these doctors engaged in research and clinical practice, authored marriage manuals and devised sex treatments, in connection with other medical experts, forensic scientists and governmental policy makers. The discipline of sexology got institutionalized over time and branched mostly towards psychiatry. Czechoslovak sexology and its ideas of sex, gender and family retreated from utopian and egalitarian beginnings towards pragmatic and hierarchical later stages of real-socialism.

Based on the original research of archival sources, such as articles in medical press, conference proceedings, marriage manuals, radio shows and TV programs created by sexologists, my project charts an untraveled territory of histories of sexuality and gender in the Eastern bloc. It also speaks to the histories of psy-ences, the sciences of the mind that have shaped who we understand ourselves to be as people and how our selves are navigated  in modern societies.

Kateřina Lišková, PhD is Assistant Professor in gender and sociology at Masaryk University. Last academic year, she was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University where she conducted her research on sexology and sexuality in communist Czechoslovakia, supported by the Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship - European Commission Seventh Framework Programme. Her research is focused on gender, sexuality, and the social organization of intimacy, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. In the past, she was affiliated with the New School for Social Research as a Fulbright Scholar and as a Visiting Scholar with New York University. She has lectured at various U.S. universities and her papers have appeared in several monographs published by Routledge, SAGE, Blackwell and Palgrave. In the Czech Republic, her book Good Girls Look the Other Way, Feminism and Pornography was published by Sociological Publishing House (2009).


10 March Portugal on the periphery? Scenarios from the History of Sexuality, 1900-1960

Richard Cleminson (Leeds)

Please note:  this session begins at the earlier time of 17:30


Summer Term 2015
DateSeminar details
5 May 'Gourmet guides to love making': Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex and the sex manual in 1970s Britain

Ben Mechen (UCL)

Reproduction, eugenics, and the fight for free love at the fin de siècle
Sarah Jones (Exeter)

Please note:  this session takes place in Room 304 in the IHR and begins at 17:15


26 May TBC

Please note:  this session takes place in Room 304 in the IHR and begins at 17:15


16 June Stopes v. Ellis: A Critically Queer Take on Normal Sex

Laura Doan (Manchester)

Please note:  this session takes place in Room 304 in the IHR and begins at 17:15