QUEER NARRATIVES IN EUROPEAN CULTURES:
SUBJECTIVITY, MEMORY, NATION
2nd international conference, Riga, June 7–8, 2018
Jaanus Samma NSFW. A Chairman’s Tale. Props. 2015. Photo by Reimo Võsa-Tangsoo
The second edition of the international conference "Queer Narratives in European Cultures" gathers scholars from various fields of humanities who deal with LGBTI history and queer theory. The conference will be focused on the region of the Baltic States and their neighboring countries – the region of East and Central Europe where LGBTI and queer studies are still an emerging discipline. Due to the historical conditions and the post-socialist legacy, LGBTI activism and scholarship of gay and lesbian history of the region has developed almost simultaneously with queer theory and its politics of difference and anti-representation. The conference will focus on both of these divisions, serving as a meeting point for scholars of different backgrounds and disciplines.
INSTITUTE OF LITERATURE, FOLKLORE AND ART, UNIVERSITY OF LATVIA
ASSOCIATION OF LGBT AND THEIR FRIENDS "MOZAĪKA"
FORUM FOR LATVIA'S FUTURE
STATE CULTURE CAPITAL FOUNDATION
ROSA LUXEMBURG FOUNDATION
LATVIAN CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF LATVIA
The National Library of Latvia, Mūkusalas iela 3, Conference Centre
10:00 – 11:50 Keynotes: LGBT in (Post)Socialist Europe
10:00 – 10:10 Opening remarks. DACE BULA, Head of the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia
10:10 DAN HEALEY (University of Oxford). Do LGBT Movements in Eurasia and Eastern Europe Need History? (Vai LGBT kustībai Eirāzijā un Austrumeiropā vajadzīga vēsture?)
11:00 LUKASZ SZULC (London School of Economics and Political Science). Networked Sexual Globalization: Cross-Border Flows in Polish Gay and Lesbian Magazines under Communism (Seksuālās globalizācijas tīklojums: pārrobežu plūsma komunistu laika poļu geju un lesbiešu žurnālos)
11:50 – 12:10 Coffee break
12:10 Queer Archives I
12:10 – 12: 30 FERUZA ARIPOVA (Northeastern University/Harvard University). Same-Sex Defiance of Criminalization and Pathologicalization: Tracing the Untold Stories Through Archives (Homoseksuāļu nepakļaušanās kriminalizēšanas un patoloģizēšanas priekšā: izsekojot neizstāstītos stāstus arhīvos)
12: 30 – 12:50 AGNIESZKA LADDACH (Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń). The Role of an Accusation of Homosexuality in the Surveillance of the Clergy of the Roman-Catholic Church in Poland (Apsūdzību homoseksualitātē loma garīdzniecības izsekošanā Polijas Romas katoļu baznīcā)
12:50 – 13:10 INETA LIPŠA (University of Latvia, Institute of Latvian History). Queer Subjectivity and Nation: "Wrong" Individual Memories as a Challenge to Latvian Collective Memory (Kvīru subjektivitāte un nācija: "nepareizās" personiskās atmiņas kā izaicinājums latviešu kolektīvajai atmiņai)
13:10 – 13:30 Discussion
13:30 – 14: 30 Lunch break
14:30 – 15:50 Queer Archives II
14:30 – 14:50 CLINTON GLENN (McGill University). "Zu Asche, Zu Staub (To Ashes, To Dust)": Mapping Queer Desire in/for Weimar-era Berlin (Kartējot kvīru iekāri Veimāras ēras Berlīnē)
14:50 – 15:10 MATHIAS FOIT (University of Wrocław). "Queer Breslau: A Problematic Case" (Kvīru Breslava: problemātisks gadījums)
15:10 – 15:30 GALINA ZELENINA (Russian State University for Humanities/Universität Bremen). "Do You Like the West? It’s Pederasty!" Homosexuality and the Construction of Otherness in Soviet Authoritative Discourse (Vai tev patīk rietumi? Tā ir pederastija! Homoseksualitāte un citādības konstruēšana padomju autoritatīvajā diskursā)
15:30 – 15:50 Discussion
15:50 – 16:10 Coffee break
16:10 – 17:30 Queering the Academia and National Culture
16:10 – 16:30 SHABAN DARAKCHI (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences). Development of LGBTQ Studies in Bulgaria: Narratives and Researcher's Experiences (LGBTQ studiju attīstība Bulgārijā: stāstījumi un pētnieka pieredze)
16:30 – 16:50 KATRĪNA RUDZĪTE (independent writer, Latvia). "Intimate Relationships" Among Gays and Lesbians in Contemporary Latvia: Strategies to Redefine Kinship and Intimacy ("Intīmas attiecības" geju un lesbiešu starpā mūsdienu Latvijā: stratēģijas radniecības un intimitātes pārdefinēšanai)
16:50 – 17:10 NIKOLAI GORBACHOV (European Humanities University, Centre for Gender Studies/Lund University). The Concept of "Queer" in Contemporary Belarus (Jēdziens "kvīrs" mūsdienu Baltkrievijā)
17:10 – 17:30 Discussion
Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Alberta iela 13, 7th floor
10:00 Queer Literature
10:00 – 10:30 IEVA MELGALVE (University of Latvia). Homosexual Identity, Power and Innocence in Rihards Bargais’ Book "Naked Piggies" (Homoseksuālā identitāte, vara un nevainība Riharda Bargā grāmatā "Plikie rukši")
10:30 – 10:50 KĀRLIS VĒRDIŅŠ (Washington University in St. Louis, USA/Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia). The Whipping Boy of Western Modernism: Jean Genet and the Cold War (Rietumu modernisma peramais zēns: Žans Ženē un Aukstais karš)
10:50 – 11:10 ROLF FULLMANN (University of Köln). Queering Weimar: 'Männerbund' in Schiller's "The Friendship" and Thomas Mann's "On the German Republic" (Kvīrojot Veimāru: saiknes starp vīriešiem Šillera "Draudzībā" un Tomasa Manna "Par vācu republiku")
11:10 – 11:30 Discussion
11:30 – 11:50 Coffee break
11:50 Queer Families and Artistic Universes
11:50 – 12:10 JANA KUKAINE (independend art critic and curator, Latvia) Post-Gender Families: New Perspectives on Parenthood (Pēc-dzimtes ģimenes: jauns skatījums uz vecākiem)
12:10 – 12:30 IGOR GUBENKO (University of Latvia). Mimicking the Missing Original: Some Remarks on Queer Identification (Atdarinot neesošo oriģinālu: dažas piezīmes par kvīru identifikāciju)
12:30 – 12:50 IEVA VIESE-VIGULA (Latvian Animation Association). Overturning Subtext in Postsocialist Animation: the Queer Universe of Manivald (Apvēršot zemtekstu postsociālistiskajā animācijā: Manivalda kvīrais kosmoss)
12:50 – 13:10 Discussion
13:10 – 14:00 Artist talk
JAANUS SAMMA (artist, Estonia). Outhouse by the Church (Mazmājiņa pie baznīcas)
Dan Healey is Professor of Modern Russian History at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); translated as: Гомосексуальное влечение в революционной России: Регулирование сексуально-гендерного диссидентства (М. Ладомир, 2008); and is co-editor of volumes on Russian masculinities and on Soviet medicine. His latest publication is Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).
Lukasz Szulc is a Marie Curie Individual Fellow in the Media and Communications Department of the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. He is co-editor of the book LGBTQs, Media and Culture in Europe (2017) and author of the monograph Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland (2017).
Jaanus Samma is a visual artist based in Tallinn, Estonia. Samma studied printmaking at the Fine Art Department of the Estonian Academy of the Arts, acquiring a BA in 2005 and an MA in Fine Arts in 2009. Samma is currently participating in the Estonian Academy of Arts’ doctoral program for fine arts. His topic for artistic research is mapping gay narratives in Soviet Estonia. His PhD combines interviews and archive research, but also more subjective and artistic output based on the findings. Samma represented Estonia in 2015 at the 56th Venice Biennale with his project NSFW: A Chairman’s Tale.
Agnieszka Laddach is a PhD candidate affiliated to Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland), Faculty of History. She is interested in modern history, history of culture, and theology of culture. She has done research on the theology of body, queer theology and the relationship between the Roman-Catholic Church and LGBTIQ persons.
Clinton Glenn is a Ph.D. student in Communication Studies at McGill University. His dissertation research examines the intersection of national identity, public protest, and LGBT politics through two contemporary case studies: Baltic Pride in the Baltic States, and KyivPride in Ukraine.
Feruza Aripova is a PhD Candidate in World History at Northeastern University and a Center Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. Currently, Feruza is a fellow writer-in-residence at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia at NYU. Her research primarily focuses on gender and sexual politics in late Soviet and post-Soviet eras.
Galina Zelenina is an Associate Professor at the Russian State University for Humanities, Moscow, and a guest researcher at Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, Universität Bremen, Germany.
Ieva Melgalve is a student of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Latvia. She combines her background as a literary critic with her knowledge of anthropology to bring a new perspective to fictional narrative. She has written several works of fiction for both adults and children.
Ieva Viese-Vigula has been conducting research on animated films since 2008. Her publications include articles about Latvian animation for Animation: A World History edited by Giannalberto Bendazzi as well as articles and reviews in Latvian cultural portals Kinoraksti and Satori. Ieva is an active member of the Latvian Animation Association.
Igors Gubenko teaches and researches philosophy at the University of Latvia. His approach to queer studies is informed by deconstruction and psychoanalysis.
Ineta Lipša is a senior researcher at the University of Latvia, Institute of Latvian History. Her research is based in gender and sexuality studies. She has published a monograph on the history of sexuality and social control (1914-1939) in Latvia (2014). She has written about stigmatized cohabitation in the Latvian region in the 19th-20th centuries. She has engaged in public history activities by writing a popular history book The History of LGBTI in Latvia. The Last Hundred Years (2018, in Latvian, forthcoming in English, German, Russian).
Jana Kukaine is an independent art critic, curator, and freelance researcher. She is the author of the book Lovely Mothers: Women, Body, Subjectivity (Riga, Neputns, 2016).
Katrīna Rudzīte is a Latvian poet with a bachelor's degree in anthropology. She publishes essays about literature and social and cultural processes. She is interested in issues related to gender, sexuality and kinship. Her debut collection of poetry was published in 2014.
Kārlis Vērdiņš is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, USA, and a researcher at the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia. He is the co-author of the collective monograph Fin de siècle Literary Culture in Latvia (2017) and the co-editor of the book Queer Stories of Europe (2016). He has published articles on Latvian queer literature and culture as well as poetry and translations.
Mathias Foit is an M.A. graduate of the University of Wrocław, and prospective doctoral candidate at the Free University of Berlin. His doctoral project will discuss female agency and the representation of women in popular, mainstream Hollywood films in the Trump, post-Weinstein era.
Nikolai Gorbachov is a research affiliate at the European Humanities University, Centre for Gender Studies, and a graduate student at Lund University, Sweden. His previous research was dedicated to studying the normativity production by Russian laws on the prohibition of "propaganda of homosexualism" and the LGBT+ youth identity construction in Russia.
Shaban Darakchi holds a PhD degree in Sociology since 2014. Dr. Darakchi is a junior researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. His main professional interests are gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion in Eastern Europe and Bulgaria. His doctoral thesis explores the changing gender roles and notions of sexuality among the Bulgarian Muslims.
Do LGBT Movements in Eurasia and Eastern Europe Need History?
LGBT movements in the countries of the former Soviet Union confront sharp challenges and frightening prospects. ‘Official’ homophobia has become embedded in the politics of populist ruling parties. Russia’s 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law set the tone for the region, with pro-Russian political forces making copy-cat proposals to legislatures in Ukraine and elsewhere. The Kremlin is leading a cultural war on queer knowledge that is unlike anything ever before seen in Eurasia’s history. At the same time, this cultural war in old media and online stimulates actual violence against LGBT people, whether in the form of ‘Occupy Pedophilia’ kidnap-and-humiliate stings, ‘everyday’ hate crimes, or the round-up of gay men in Chechnya with their illegal confinement, torture, and murder. In such circumstances, do LGBT movements in Eastern Europe and Eurasia ‘need’ History? Should LGBT groups bother trying to excavate the queer past of their national homelands? Or are there more pressing priorities for political action? In this talk I will ask what knowledge of the queer past can contribute to the fight against homophobia in the post-socialist worlds of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.
Networked Sexual Globalization: Cross-Border Flows in Polish Gay and Lesbian Magazines under Communism
The globalization of LGBT identities and politics has recently become one of the key themes in social and cultural studies of sexuality. Scholars point to the emergence of the ‘global gay’ or the ‘cosmopolitan queer’, discussing at the same time Western hegemony as well as non-Western agency in the processes of sexual globalization. The discussions, however, tend to focus on the relationship between the ‘First World’ and the ‘Third World’, where the latter most often stands for ‘developing’ or ‘postcolonial’ countries. The ‘Second World’ – Central and Eastern Europe under communism – enters the discussions virtually only after it ceases to exist, that is, after the fall of communism in Europe in 1989. The year marks the end of what is often considered as the near total isolation of the Eastern Bloc and the beginning of the process of the region’s Westernization, including the adoption of LGBT rights and the development of LGBT activism. In this talk, I will draw on the findings presented in my recent book, Transnational Homosexuals in Communist Poland: Cross-Border Flows in Gay and Lesbian Magazines (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), to challenge such framings of the region. First, I will analyse the Eastern Europe Information Pool reports (1982-1989), commissioned by the International Gay Association (IGA, today ILGA), to discuss the transnational scope of LGBT activist initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s. Second, I will examine Polish gay and lesbian magazines published before 1989, Biuletyn/Etap (1983–1987) and Filo (1986-1990), to trace transnational flows of cultural products, identity paradigms and activism models. Finally, I will offer theoretical reflections on the results of my empirical analyses, emphasizing that homosexual activists in the Eastern Bloc were active participants in the globalization of sexuality already before 1989. I will also propose a model of networked sexual globalization, pointing out that such a model needs to combine both spatial and temporal aspects of globalization as well as to recognize that geopolitical structures and local agencies intertwine in specific cultural and historical contexts in a myriad of ways.
Outhouse by the Church
My interest in toilets started a few years back when I researched the history of Estonian gay life during the Soviet period and understood the importance of public toilets as a meeting place for gay men. I heard intriguing, funny and sad stories about toilets: some found love, some were caught by the police, but mostly it was just a place to get temporary satisfaction. What I found fascinating was that all this action took place in the city centres under everyone’s noses. As if the public toilets were a place with no rules, a non-place where anything is allowed.
My next encounter with the topic of public toilets was last year, when I heard about an old wooden outhouse located next to St Michael’s Church in the village of Kodavere in eastern Estonia. This gave rise to my newest project, Outhouse by the Church, in the framework of which I removed the outhouse from its original location and turned it into an installation. The outhouse, built in 1916 for church-goers, had been out of use for decades. The remarkable feature of the outhouse is the abundant and well-preserved historical graffiti dated from as early as its time of construction. Over the years, people have been adding their scribbles from simple name tags and visit dates to village slander and even bawdy poems.
In additon to graffiti, the Kodavere outhouse shares one more trait that is very common to public toilets – its relative invisibility. Kodavere Church is under heritage protection and its architecture and immediate surroundings are extensively documented, but the outhouse is never mentioned. The attitude of turning a blind eye is very symptomatic and even symbolic: to have this mundane facility stand next to a church, an institution of elevated moral authority, which chooses to leave it unsupervised.
In my presentation, I will talk about public toilets as a social phenomenon and how the tendency to discretely disregard these spaces has created opportunities for various kinds of social interaction – both homosexual and what could be considered heteronormative.
Same-Sex Defiance of Criminalization and Pathologicalization: Tracing the Untold Stories Through Archives
How do we recover and recreate LGBTQ local histories in post-Soviet and post-socialist contexts? How to document the history of homosexuality of invisible people whose stories are hidden and untold? Can queer victims become q-eroes, a term that encompasses non-heterosexual sexualities that were criminalized and pathologized by the regime? Archival evidence and oral histories, including court cases, forensic and medical records, memoirs obtained from the state and private archives allow us to trace how Soviet society was organized around sexual differences and develop a more comprehensive view of same-sex phenomena while exposing the existing ideological and legal hierarchies in power relations.
The following paper is based on the findings from the Latvian State Archive related to Article 124 of the Penal Code of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic (from the late 1960s through the 1980s).By focusing on a few criminal cases of those individuals who were caught and arrested under Article 124, p.1., of the Penal Code of the Latvian SSR, it seeks to assemble the fragmented elements of a collective memory by deconstructing and telling the personal stories of "criminal and deviant" individuals subjected to the legal and medical gaze. I employ the Butlerian concept of power enactment to further argue that many, especially men, subverted those discourses of “the criminal and the pathological” by constituting the alternative spaces of pursuit of same-sex desire on par with adopting different strategies of public and private visibility (e.g. the case of Markevičius, Mednis and Petrov utilizing the square near the Latvian National Opera and Ballet in Riga). Since the Soviet legislative process of regulating sexualities is fraught with the acts of same-sex defiance, my paper seeks to explore and highlight those marginal voices.
Development of LGBTQ Studies in Bulgaria: Narratives and Researcher's Experiences
After 1989 the issue of homosexuality entered the public discourse in Bulgaria but support for homosexuality encountered strong resistance from the mainstream media. This resistance was driven by the homophobic attitudes of political and religious elites, which resulted in high levels of discrimination and abuse against sexual minorities and a lack of political will and measures to address them. Ironically, the expansion of the EU in 2007 shifted the perspective on homosexuality, confronting the Bulgarian government with numerous issues in the process of transposing the EU directives regarding the rights of LGBTQ people. Taking into account the geographical and the political position of Bulgaria being between the influence of the continuous Russian anti-homosexual propaganda and the influence of the EU human rights directives, in this essay I will elaborate on the emergence and the development of LGBTQ studies in Bulgaria.
Based on my personal experience as one of the first scholars in LGBTQ studies in Bulgaria, this essay discusses three main issues: (1) analysis of the emergence and the development of LGBTQ curricula in Bulgaria; (2) summary of the main institutional obstacles and the “symbolic violence” within the academia against scholars dealing with LGBTQ subjects, including issues of funding, evaluation and discrimination on an institutional and personal level; (3) summary of future development of the subject in Bulgaria, with particular attention to the need for "LGBTQ studies’ solidarity" to overcome the disadvantaged position of LGBTQ scholars in post-Soviet countries.
"Queer Breslau: A Problematic Case"
In modern-day Poland, academic research on the homophile movements of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, both in Poland and Europe at large, is disappointingly scarce. The paper I am willing to present is part of a greater project I am involved in, which revolves around the queer history of the interbellum Wrocław, or, as it was called at the time, Breslau. The only person known to me who has researched this subject is Raimund Wolfert, who published the results of his investigation in the German queer history academic journal Invertito. In his article, he presents an outline of Breslau’s queer associations and social life as well as the local reality of queer and specifically gay people, threatened by the notorious Paragraph 175, which penalised male homosexual intercourse, and threats of aggression, violence and blackmail. Apart from presenting Wolfert’s account, I would like to report my own findings and possible directions for further research.
What makes the case of Breslau problematic is the fact that very little material from the era is available, because many archives were burnt down by the Nazis by the end of the Second World War and some part of whatever was left of the sources was destroyed in the 1997 Central European flood. Moreover, although studying the queer history of any city is a value in itself, sadly no conclusions can be made about the Polish queer history of the first half of the twentieth century in reference to Breslau, since it belonged to Germany at the time. Consequently, a question arises about the significance of the historical study of its non-heteronormative individuals for modern-day Wrocław. What do we make of this knowledge, if we do succeed in broadening it? Can it lead to concrete, potentially political, action?
"Zu Asche, Zu Staub (To Ashes, To Dust)": Mapping Queer Desire in/for Weimar-era Berlin
This project represents the starting point of a much larger project where I engage with ideas of longing, temporality, and desire for a queer past that no longer exists in the present. Here I am inspired by José Esteban Muñoz’ conception of queerness as ephemeral, existing in "innuendo, gossip, fleeting moments, and performances that are meant to be interacted with by those within its epistemological sphere." In particular, this project investigates how the ephemeral nature of queer desire and existences is imprinted on the urban environment, from house-markers to bar names and memorial plaques on apartment buildings. The ephemeral, the existences and acts that make up queer desire become legible to the subject who knows what to look for, the signifiers of the past in coded language and visual form. This I connect to Heather Love’s concept of “backward feeling,” which she relates to how shame, loss, and trauma of the past have been related to a form of historical forgetting, abandoning of queer predecessors for a normalised queer present/future. However, in my project I view such a backward temporal move through the lens of desire and longing, one based on an affective and phenomenological attachment of the researcher to the physical space of the city. Central to this project is Christopher Isherwood’s “Christopher and His Kind”. Here I engage with his book as both researcher and queer body in space through a spatial mapping project, following in the footsteps of his characters eight decades after the fact. This involves photographic documentation of the contemporary urban fabric of Berlin alongside archival photos of the places present in his novel. This, I term, is a form of "temporal-following" or an engagement with both the affective nature of my own close reading of his text and in the experience of contemporary Berlin on my own sense of desire to follow in his wake and to see if any “traces, glimmers, residues, and specks of things” remain.
The Concept of "Queer" in Contemporary Belarus
The popularity of the term "queer" has grown significantly in recent years in Belarus. Nowadays a number of public initiatives present themselves as "queer", including the festival of queer culture "DOTYK", a queer film festival "-meta" and others. The proposed paper is based on the research conducted in 2016-2017 that has studied the conceptualizations of "queer" in Belarus. The analysis suggests that despite the linguistic import, the discourses about queer in Belarus do not adopt the critical post-modernist ideas and approaches linked to the concept. In most of the cases “queer” is used in Belarus as an umbrella term related to LGBT+. It does not imply an identity-critical approach and remains exceptionally essentialist. In some cases "queer" functions as an identity itself: it is not opposed to LGBT+, but rather appears as a cultural phenomenon within the LGBT+ community. The adoption and development of the "queer" concept signifies the generational shift in the Belarusian LGBT+ community. The discourses about “queer” in Belarus often reproduce the idea of the repressed desire/identity and the liberationist claims of LGBT+ rights. Simultaneously, queer signifies a shift toward an even more moderate approach of political struggle with an emphasis on community building. Most of the "queer" initiatives in Belarus concentrate on the creation of safe spaces. The popularity of the term "queer" may be partially explained by its ability to discretely refer to LGBT+: as the term is not widely known, it reaches the key audience and avoids the undesirable attention of the government and homophobes. Education and collaboration with various anti-discriminatory movements are in the focus of the political struggle of the modern LGBT+ and/or queer movement in Belarus. The collaboration of local feminist and LGBT+ movements is one of the key features of "queer" in Belarus.
Mimicking the Missing Original: Some Remarks on Queer Identification
Situating myself in the field of post-structuralist theory, I return to the consecrated conceptual opposition of the original and the copy, as well as to its deconstruction that historically took critical reflection beyond the binary, fostering the emergence of queer theory. Taking the Platonic notion of mimēsis as my guiding thread, I draw on Jacques Derrida’s reading of Stéphane Mallarmé’s prose poem Mimique and Judith Butler’s concept of subversive identification to meditate on the poetic performances of queer subjectivity in the work of contemporary Latvian authors.
Post-Gender Families: New Perspectives on Parenthood
A considerable number of studies seem to prove that children who grow up without a father are highly likely to develop social and behavioral problems. This conclusion might seem rather surprising, because most of the childcare in traditional married heterosexual families has invariably been performed by women. So why is the presence of the father so crucial? Recent critical research into such studies highlights a categorical mistake in their premises, according to which the number of parents, their relationship status, sexuality and economic and social conditions have been repeatedly conflated with their gender. The same “evidence” has often been used to argue that same-sex couples are unsuitable for child rearing. Examining the real impact of gender in parenthood helps dismiss social biases and offers new perspectives on post-gender family arrangements.
The Role of an Accusation of Homosexuality in the Surveillance of the Clergy of the Roman-Catholic Church in Poland
The aim of my paper is to present several archive sources about how the Communist government in Poland used information about homosexuals to surveil them and force them to cooperate as secret collaborators. My temporal framework is the sixties and the seventies of the 20th century. I will show unsuccessful attempts of recruiting Rev. Prof. Janusz Stanisław Pasierb (1929–1993). He is the main person of my PhD dissertation entitled 'Janusz Stanisław Pasierb – a theologian, an art historian, and a culture theoretician'. Based on documents created by the Communist Security Service, I will present that some priests were suspected of homosexuality, blackmailed and mentally harassed. I will also describe how the Communist security agents interpreted and used the accusations of Pope Paul VI of homosexuality in Italian newspapers. Next, based on my historical research I will discuss the politics of difference and anti-representation of the Communist government in Poland. I will show the relationships between some LGBTIQ members, the state and the Roman-Catholic Church. I will also characterize the problem of historical sources about Rev. Prof. Janusz Pasierb versus his social image in the current situation. He has been remembered as a great poet, a good preacher, a priest, an art historian, and a culture theoretician. I will show that people in Poland remember him, but they do not know about his supposed homosexual orientation. As a result, I will speak about one part of the history of the region and the current situation.
Queer Subjectivity and Nation: "Wrong" Individual Memories as a Challenge to Latvian Collective Memory
The recognition of the occupation of Latvia and the Stalinist terror to a great extent serves as a test of belonging for the collective memory of the Latvian community. It explains the popularity of the totalitarian interpretation of the past in Latvian society. Such an interpretation rejects the revisionist theses claiming that no political regime can totally control society. In historical studies Latvian society is mostly presented as a sufferer, the victim of repressions, or as an active opponent of the Soviet regime. It has been concluded that the members of society are rarely presented as social agents having their own interests and desires in other contexts.
Male homosexuality in Soviet Latvia was criminalized throughout the entire Soviet period (the 1940s–1980s). Therefore, the emerging studies of the Soviet past of male homosexuality mainly have been based on the research of documents produced by state authorities in the process of social control of homosexuals. Ego-documents written by homosexuals have become available to scholars only recently.
The paper will be based on a diary that was written and regularly updated by its author in the last days of the authoritarian period of independent pre-war Latvia, followed by the Soviet and Nazi occupations during the Second World War and during the entire era of Soviet occupation starting from the period of Stalinism and ending with Gorbachev’s perestroika. The body of notes of Kaspars Aleksandrs Irbe (1906–1996) promotes a construction of alternative knowledge allowing the counter-memory of a queer subjectivity to speak and challeng the existent narrow memory of victims/heroes/perpetrators, thus pluralising historical perspectives of the Soviet past.
Homosexual Identity, Power and Innocence in Rihards Bargais’ Book "Naked Piggies"
Rihards Bargais’ book "Naked Piggies" ("Plikie rukši") was published in 2017 and was well-received by critics and readers alike. This is an attempt to place this book – analysed here as a fictional narrative – in the context of queer theories. A modified version of content analysis focused on the representation of sexuality allows me to discover its linkage to identity, power and innocence. I then analyse these three aspects as they appear throughout the book. Gay identity, seen through the lens of queer theory, is revealed as both essential and socially constructed, with both seemingly opposite approaches seamlessly blending together. While homosexual identity is presented as essential, it is further solidified by the description of heterosexual practices which are constructed in a way that maintains the homosexual identity. The ambiguous position of gay men in society allows for dual expression of power. On the surface, gay identity is linked with shame and fear of physical violence. However, sexual desire – or lack thereof – becomes a part of gendered power play via dismissal of the female body and objectifying of the male body, as has been theorized by Sheila Jeffreys. Contrary to Jeffrey’s position, I argue that this homosexual dominance does not strengthen hegemonic masculinity – instead, following Butler, I see it as a parodic performance that destabilizes the heteronormative discourse. The link between sexuality and innocence may seem the most surprising at the first glance, but it is markedly one-way: innocence is not sexualized, but sexuality is, at least partly, purified. I will recall Foucault’s idea of ascribing morality to sexuality via confession and link it to the two-sided nature of confession: not only does it construe sexuality, especially male homosexuality, as a sin, it is also the mechanism by which one can gain absolution from one’s sins and restore purity and innocence.
"Intimate Relationships" Among Gays and Lesbians in Contemporary Latvia: Strategies to Redefine Kinship and Intimacy
In my paper I will examine defining and creating practices for kinship or relationships similar to kinship among homosexual people in contemporary Latvian society, emphasizing the meanings assigned to intimacy and intimate relationships. Intimacy and intimate relationships are often seen as categories taken for granted in everyday life, belonging to one’s private space and not requiring wider reflection in cultural and social context. I would like to explore them as complex phenomena, which cannot be defined only within either private or public spaces, and to show that intimacy is defined by profoundly subjective and emotional as well as cultural, social and political categories. When comparing and contrasting views on intimate relationships held by an individual and a society, it is possible to identify striking discrepancies. The contemporary sociopolitical situation in Latvia shows a discrepancy, if actual everyday practices are compared with the view on relationships protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia (Latvijas Republikas Satversme).
The redaction in 2005 of Article 110 says: "The State shall protect and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child." The emphasis has been put on marriage, which is defined as a union between a man and a woman; subsequently the family is mentioned without any clarification of what it should mean. While in daily practices family could mean the union between a man and a woman, it could also mean a single parent and their child, a gay couple or even close relationships among friends which, from their own point of view, are defined as similar to kinship.
The Whipping Boy of Western Modernism: Jean Genet and the Cold War
In the second half of 1947, just after the Second World War ended and control over the artistic production in the USSR had increased, Latvian periodicals introduced a new name from world literature: French writer Jean Genet who had just begun his writer’s career in France. In a short time span, several articles and a chapter of a book were published, providing readers with some biographic information as well as some statements about Genet’s works. However, this kind of introduction was not to really welcome Genet as a desired newcomer to the contemporary literature scene. Eight publications (1947–1951) repeated the same few facts and quotes that spoke of Genet as the ultimate writer of the western bourgeois culture whose personality and creative output was determined by his experience of being a thief, his homosexuality and imprisonment. Articles of different genres (a review of a new theatre production; an article about contemporary Soviet literature; a theoretical book chapter on socialist realism; and even an obituary for a famous actor) used Genet’s example (frequently together with other "bad guys" like Gide, Sartre, etc.) as a counterbalance to the healthy and ideologically correct literature of the Soviet socialist realism. This case study should be studied together with the recent efforts to put socialist realism in the map of 20th century modernism as well as the place which modernism, criminals, and male homosexuality occupied in the public discourse of the Stalinist USSR.
Overturning Subtext in Postsocialist Animation: the Queer Universe of Manivald
During the Soviet dictatiorship in the Baltics and in the socialist regime in Yugoslavia short animated film was the most figurative cinematic language for narrating one’s experience. Directors used the subtexts of animated language to express criticism and hint at cultures that were otherwise absent from public discourse, for example, queer relationships.
Nowadays representation of the queer in animated film is not directly opposed by the censorship bureau, however, many animated films are obscure in their representation of queerness. This is partly influenced by the enormous popularity of post-Hays code American animation, mainly Disney, where queerness has been generally attributed to evil characters. For this reason, Disney’s animated film "Frozen" appeals to LGBT+ communities all over the world not just as a possible metaphor for female homosexuality but for bringing a queer romance plot-line to the foreground.
Meanwhile, Estonian director Chintis Lundgre and Croatian screenwriter Draško Ivezič are working in the genre of independent short comedy. The Universe–at this point best represented in the award winning short film Manivald–contains characters that are gay, bisexual, trans, elderly, confused or trapped in sex work. Until now the artists have been struggling to get their work approved for a TV series.
"Do You Like the West? It’s Pederasty!": Homosexuality and the Construction of Otherness in Soviet Authoritative Discourse
In May 1934, two leading Soviet newspapers published an article by Maxim Gorky titled "Proletarian Humanism"; in this piece, the most influential Soviet author of the time had introduced what would much later be defined as the intersectional approach. He accused Nazi German bourgeoisie of antisemitism and sexual perversions, including homosexuality, and at the same time asserted that the Soviet proletariat was sexually healthy and philosemitic, thus recognizing association between ethnicity, class, and sexuality. Gorky was not the first to express this sexualized view of Nazi Germany (and, broadly speaking, of the imperial West), nor was he the last. The confluence of homophobia and Westernophobia as well as dialectics of homophobia and philosemitism in the current Russian conservative rhetoric are only too well known. The proposed paper deals with an episode from the Thaw period, when Nikita Khruschev visited an exhibition of avant-garde artists, and the key obscene Russian word for homosexuals (pidarasy) experienced its major high-level coming-out. Building on George Mosse’s ideas about construction of ethnic and sexual Others by nation-building political forces and following Dan Healey’s observation about the Soviet and post-Soviet neotraditionalist assumption of fundamental Russian “purity” that may only be contaminated by foreign agents, the paper examines Khruschev’s rhetoric in a wider context, discovering the intersectionality of ethnicity, sexuality, and creativity, and appearance in the rhetorical construction of dangerous internal enemies, or just unrespectable, spiritually alien Others.
Queer after Commies: Attitudes to homosexuals in post-communist societies.
June 7th, 19.30, Place: KKC Blue Room (Skolas Street 15)
In has been thirty years since the revolutions swept Europe – the Singing one in Latvia, the Velvet in Czechoslovakia and others. We have learned, to a varying degree, to embrace freedom and pluralism, and have almost entirely forgotten the days of restricted movement and limited access to western cultural references. However, it seems that in one respect the Soviet mindset still lingers – we have trouble with otherness. And otherness in terms sexuality in particular. Nobody suggests putting homosexuals behind bars or treating them with antipshychotics anymore, but LGBTI community is still seen as a small group of peculiar people and their otherness still disqualifies them from several aspects of citizenry. On the eve of the Baltic Pride, four stellar queer theory scholars will gather for a discussion on attitudes to LGBT in the ‘red’ and ‘post-red’ societies.
Participants: Dan Healey (University of Oxford), Lukasz Szulc (London School of Economics), Feruza Aripova (Northeastern University/Harvard University), Kārlis Vērdiņš ((Washington University in St. Louis, USA, a researcher at the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia).
Moderator: Rita Ruduša, journalist, author of "Forced Underground"
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Last time modified: 30.05.2018 15:25:12