Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Queer Anthropology
Primary Theme: Resilience
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
A rich though sometimes overlooked strain in psychological anthropology has long examined sexual subjectivity and the embodied experience and performance of gender and desire. These include classic texts in both psychological anthropology and anthropology of sexuality such as Levy’s (1973) person-centered ethnographies of gender and sexuality in Tahiti and Herdt’s (1999) studies of ritualized homosexuality in highland New Guinea. More recent contributions include explicitly phenomenological approaches to understanding the experience of BDSM practitioners as they resist their misrepresentation in mainstream cultural narratives such as "Fifty Shades of Grey" (Martin, 2018); or considerations of adaptation over the life course as individuals refashion their self-narratives to accommodate changing circumstances and experiences (Hammack & Cohler, 2009).
This panel brings this strain of psychological anthropology into conversation with recent advances in queer anthropology, including Boellstorff’s studies (2005, 2008) of dubbed and virtual subjectivities, Gray’s (2009) meditations on mediation, visibility and the metronormativity of queer studies, Valentine’s (2007) excavations of connections between language and subjectivity through the ethnography of categories, and Weiss’s (2011) study of the “circuits” of sexuality.
The ethnographers here come together from several traditions in psychological and queer anthropology to explore the processes of learning, embodying, narrating, and performing sexual subjectivities, particularly as these change over time and in relation to emerging technologies of the self and of the social. Papers include accounts of men marrying mermaid spirits in Madagascar; coming out among Queer Muslims in Cape Town; Mexican mothers divining the future orientations of their infant sons through their affective analysis of their male members; a phenomenological exploration of selfhood mediated through adaptation and renegotiation of psychoanalytic categories among BDSM practitioners in Berlin; the diversity of paths to non-gay identities among some American men who have sex with men (MSM); and the impact of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV on self-understandings and stigma among MSM in four regions of the United States.
Boellstorff, T. (2005). The Gay Archipelago: sexuality and nation in Indonesia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Boellstorff, T. (2008). Coming of Age in Second Life: an anthropologist explores the virtually human. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gray, M. (2009). Out in the Country: youth, media, and queer visibility in rural America. New York: New York University Press.
Hammack, P. L., & Cohler, B. J. (Eds.). (2009). The Story of Sexual Identity: narrative perspectives on the gay and lesbian life course. New York: Oxford University Press.
Herdt, G. (1999). Sambia Sexual Culture: essays from the field. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Levy, R. I. (1973). Tahitians: mind and experience in the Society Islands. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Martin, R. J., Jr. (2018). Toward an affective phenomenology of discourse: BDSM and the Fifty Shades phenomenon Journal of Language and Sexuality, 7(1), 30 –54. doi:10.1075/jls.17008.mar
Valentine, D. (2007). Imagining Transgender: an ethnography of a category. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Weiss, M. (2011). Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the circuits of sexuality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.