Thematizing Gender and Sexuality: Video Footage and Summary of the Discussion

On Saturday, December 5th, from 12:30-1:30, Cultural Anthropology convened a special session "Thematizing Gender & Sexuality." The session explored the work of a New York based performance group that opened a discussion between legal scholars, artists,  anthropologists, and the former and current editors of the journal concerned with the future of anthropological inquiry into Gender & Sexuality broadly understood. Invited panelists included Anne Allison, Pardis Mahdavi, Jeff A. Redding, and DisGraceLanD FamilY. The session was introduced and moderated by Rodney Collins. Below, we have provided video recordings of the interventions provided by each of the invited panelists.

Rodney Collins is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor and the 2009-10 Qatar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. His work analyzes the complex circuitry of market-state-society in North Africa, especially as it irradiates the formation of contemporary male subjectivities in urban Tunisia. In his introductory comments, Collins draws attention to several key questions for the invited audience and panelists: "How might anthropologists expand the domain of inquiry to study ever emergent forms of sociality? In what ways might the journal of Cultural Anthropology lead the conversation concerning kinships, intimacies, gender, and sexuality? With what communities of practice might anthropologists engage to enhance the theoretical, empirical, and methodological scope of anthropological inquiry? How might the journal provide a platform for engagement with relevant and emergent questions?"

Anne Allison is Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. She researches the ways in which desire seeps into, reconfirms, or reimagines socio-economic relations in various contexts in postwar Japan. Dr. Allison, in collaboration with Charlie Piot, is the current co-editor of Cultural Anthropology. Allison discusses her pedagogical objectives when engaging "sexuality as currency" especially in the context of 'hook-up culture' at Duke University and beyond, consequently proposing an emergent domain for anthropological analyses.

Jeff A. Redding is Assistant Professor of Law at Saint Louis University School of Law.  His research interests are in the areas of comparative law and religion, comparative secularism, legal pluralism, and family law, and he is a participant in the transnational “JUST - India” research consortium concerning justice and governance in India and South Asia. Redding outlines his work as a legal scholar on questions of dignity and family law pluralism from a transnational perspective in the context of debates around same-sex marriage. He proposes the following questions: "1) What connections and disconnects exist between communities organized around sexuality and those organized around faith. Why has law historically had a more friendly relation with religious communities but has found sexual communities harder to recognize and bureaucratize? 2) How do “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions” disrupt and/or cement queer identities? Can these forms of relationship recognition create new affects, or at least affects which are different than marital affect? 3) How has gay and lesbian politics converged with the politics of dignity in the 21st century? What in the recent genealogies of these politics has allowed for this surprising convergence?" His extended argument is available here.

Pardis Mahdavi was recently a Research Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an ACLS Fellow on leave from her position as Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Gender and Women's studies at Pomona College in Los Angeles, CA. Her research focuses on the intersection of sexuality, gender, health, and human rights in the Middle East. She asks: "How do we manage and understand social transformations? What are we looking at in terms of a transformation of intimacy? What are the different economies of transactions/pleasure and how are these constructed? More importantly, now that we have separated sexuality out from race, class and ethnicity, how do we put them back together? And, should we gender the sexual?" Mahdavi suggests how anthropological analyses might serve in better engaging with policy makers and how the journal "may want to think about a series of thematic issues that would bring people whose writing focuses on different contours of a debate together to begin to hash out the important issues and address the difficult questions that need to be asked; questions that will take us further in our conversations about sexuality."

Spliff is one of the founding members and the Executive Producer of DisGraceLanD FamilY. He has performed with Circus Contraption, Coney Island Sideshows by the Seashore, the Squidling Bros Circus Sideshow, CoRE, Skin Mechanics Suspension, Hooked, Nu-Ethix, and many others. Spliff articulates how a community of body-suspension artists interprets and negotiates terms of trust, intimacy, and family. He challenges the panelists to engage with notions of kinship in terms of his community of artists and invites the opportunity for future collaboration.