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Queerama – Docfest 2017

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Thoughts on Queerama as Queer History.

The history of queer representation in film is sometimes the history of not being easily seen. It can be the history of having to work really hard to find yourself represented. It can be the history of having to work really hard with what you are given, when you are represented as the freak, the pervert, the duplicitous spy, the blackmailer.

Queerama for me, was the story of how people have negotiated the identities that have been imposed on them.  As a history Queerama shows us a series of outside definitions of queer identities that have had to be negotiated;  homosexuality, for example, has been seen as a sin,  an illness, to an act of dissidence.  Sexualities and their identities have been legislated and defined from above, diagnosed by sexologists,  feared for contagion, dissected like a guinea pig,  but they have also been squeezed through the cracks.

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Do I know anyone who has worked on Jersey in the 80s?….. well funnily enough…

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(Thanks to Claire Langhamer who excelled herself as travel companion/carer)

I’ve just got back from the launch of Jersey Heritage’s new exhibition ‘Bergerac’s Island: Jersey in the 1980s’.  I’ve been working with the team throughout the project’s development and can honestly say the whole experience has been brilliant. This exhibition is clever stuff. It speaks across generation, to the local and the global. But it is also touching, funny and engaging – that’s pretty much what I want history to be.

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A week ago we stood together: is it fixed yet?

 

I’ve been out of the country for a week at a great workshop in Berlin “How to Write and Conceptualize the History of Youth Cultures” organised by Felix Fuhg, Doctoral Student, with the Centre for Metropolitan studies.  I was travelling with the histrrry girls and The Subcultures Network, so there were Harringtons. There are always Harringtons.  We spent one day working and talking in the Archiv der Jugendkulturen.   Its an incredible community archive and library that has brought together all the different traces of resistance in youth culture and subcultures.  From magazines made by school pupils to the Love Parades’ backdrops and giant cut outs of Nena – the transational and hyper local are boxed up together and are being carefully catalogued by local participant experts in each scene.

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Europe not Europe

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I remember being canvased for the 1989 European election.  I was a nineteen year old mother of a two year old, living in a shared house. It was the first election I’d been old enough to vote.  It was also the first time I’d seen the Green Party as an electoral force. Something interesting was going on.  I can’t say that Europe itself really mattered to me very much, but it opened up ways to think things through, that we couldn’t really find space for elsewhere.

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DIY Digital: First Steps to Selling Out

DIY Digital: Doing Punk Online grew out of the third year Special Subject History course ‘Post-Punk Britain’.

The course is in its second year and from the start, my co-tutor Chris Warne and myself, imagined it as an experiment in democratic teaching and learning.  We use the growth of academic work around subcultures and youth culture since 1976 to explore bigger questions around what it means to be a contemporary historian today.  This means that we look at local histories, archival practices, life history like memoirs, sound, image and moving images, and oral history alongside popular culture.  Although there has been a determined growth in academic work on subcultures in history, sociology, criminology, English studies and beyond, PPB puts these alongside other forms of history work outside of the formal universities.  We take the memories that people inherit, share and turn into stories as seriously as the academic theories around the politics of popular culture.

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How many historians does it take to start a cover band?

When we began the Brighton hub of Wellcome’s sexology and Song-writing project we imagined that the young women involved would undertake some sort of original research and then write songs about it. It quickly became clear that the young women participants and the youth work and music practitioners had some different priorities.  The practitioners wanted to concentrate on building a secure and supportive environment in which to build a collective group identity, and the young women wanted to sing songs that they already knew and liked.  The young sexology song-writers didn’t want to write songs.  They wanted to cover and recover them.  Once we recognised that the priorities of the practitioners and of the young women needed to be our priorities too, we moved towards their goals.  We weren’t training them to be researchers.  They were training us in their modes of re-enactment: an active and creative intervention in a cultural circuit that brought together the legitimacy of publicly celebrated singer-songwriters, with their own experiences and voices.

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Archive Grrrls: Scoping the Fales Library, NY

Doctoral researcher Laura Cofield and I have just returned from a research trip to New York in order to scope the Riot Grrrl Archive in the Fales Library.  There are hundreds of different zines in the archive across 18 individual collections that cover the years 1974-2003.  The trip was funded by the Santander Mobility Fund and set up by Simone Robinson, Tracey Wallace and Paul Roberts from the Doctoral School at Sussex.

Laura’s in the first year of her doctoral research looking at the c20th and c21st history of pubic hair removal as a way into women’s experience of their bodies and the relationship between pornography and feminism. Laura and I were totally inspired by our visit. Everyone was incredibly helpful, going out of their way to help us, from Anthony on the desk at Gem hotel Soho who filled us in on a quick history of the queer politics of Wonder Woman, to Campbell the security guard at Fales who not only recommended where we should get lunch, he rang ahead and made sure we would get in, to Marvin Taylor the Fales Archivist who shared his prize acquisition of a set of homoerotic photographs from 1905 with us.  But to top it all off Steve Haugh was our Angel of New York and toured us round Manhattan in his beautiful Jag.

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