February 9-13, 2004: Visiting Scholar Judith Halberstam
Public Lecture: "Ceremonies of Our Present: Photography and Subcultural Lives"
Abstract: “Photographs furnish evidence,” writes Susan Sontag in On Photography. She continues: “Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it” (5). The photograph promises proof, visual evidence, veracity. It captures what seems real even as the scene that it records fades from view; it offers, says Sontag, “a neat slice of time” (117). The photographs and other images that I want to look at today furnish evidence of lost subcultures even as they verify that the queer subculture, and the eccentric bodies that composed it, did exist and exist again now in new and different forms. Some of the artists I consider here contemplate the transgender body as otherness itself, as representative of a shadow world subtending and propping up the so-called real world; others lavish regard upon what Del LaGrace Volcano calls the “sublime mutations” of queerness and the twists and turns of the journey of queerness into and out of visibility. Other artists create a visual language of ambiguity, instability, inauthenticity and mutability in order to describe and invent postmodern forms of subjectivity.
Judith Halberstam is a full professor in the Department of Literature at the University of California, San Diego. She teaches courses in photography, cultural studies, gender studies, film theory and queer studies and will be moving to USC in Fall 2004. Halberstam is the author of Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995) and Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998); she co-edited Posthuman Bodies (Indiana UP, 1995) with Ira Livingston and she co-authored The Drag King Book (serpent's Tail, 1999) with Del LaGrace Volcano. Halberstam just finished a book called In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, to be published by NYU press in 2004 and she is working on a new project on queer photography. Further information can be found on her website: www.jhalberstam.com.
Funding for Dr. Halberstam's visit is provided by the Anonymous Fund. Co-Sponsors include Art History, Curriculum & Instruction, Dance, French & Italian, History, Spanish & Portuguese, Border & Transcultural Studies, Latin American, Carribean and Iberian Studies, LGBT Studies, and Women's Studies.