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Queer studies

Queer studies is the study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. In some universities, the field is called sexual diversity studies.

At Smith, the college catalog states:

Queer Studies is an emerging interdisciplinary field whose goal is to analyse anti-normative sexual identities, performances, discourses and representations in order ultimately to destabilise the notion of normative sexuality and gender.

There are a growing number of college courses in this area, and at least six institutions in the United States offer an undergraduate major (this includes Brown University, Berkeley, UCLA, Amherst College, Sarah Lawrence College, and San Francisco State University); a growing number of similar courses are offered in countries other than the USA. The first Department of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Studies was created at City College of San Francisco.

One of the main points of this field is to set LGBT (as well as, according to some, other practicers of so-called non-normative sexual acts) as a focus for study and potentially, empowerment, as it tends to take these individuals’ probable repression as an important issue. The field embraces the academic study of issues raised in literary theory, political science, history, sociology, philosophy, psychology, ethics, and other fields by an examination of the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer people.

Some of the primary scholars in Queer studies include Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Audre Lorde, John Boswell, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Halberstam. Precisely because of some of its major strands of analysis and work on public perception, a great emphasis is placed on the integration of theory and practice, with many programs encouraging community service work, community involvement, and activist work in addition to academic reading and research.

Techniques in Queer studies include the search for Queer influences and themes in works of literature; the analysis of political currents linking the oppression of women, racialized groups, and disadvantaged classes with that of queer people; and the search for Queer figures and trends in history that queer studies scholars view as having been ignored and excluded from the canon.

Queer studies is not to be confused with Queer theory, an analytical viewpoint within Queer studies that is concentrated within the humanities—particularly the fields of literary studies and philosophy.


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