How might historical queer and trans activist tactics and visions of the future be used to invigorate contemporary LGBTQ+ politics and thought? This article provides an introduction to the ‘Imagining Queer Europe Then and Now’ special issue of Third Text, an issue which emerges from the final conference of the pan-European queer history project ‘Cruising the Seventies’. We identify the uneven and complex ways in which LGBTQ+ activism, networks, erotic connections and forms of cultural expression manifested across Europe in the 1970s, and the ways in which these intersected with anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-fascist and feminist struggles in the same era. We argue for the excavation of the unrealised possibilities of queer pasts and futures, proposing that forms of social and erotic interaction, and aesthetic and cultural intervention, can provide fresh perspectives on the queer past and the politics of its recovery.
The subject of this conversation is the ‘queer seventies’ as told through a heterogeneous scene of independent journalism and the burgeoning field of screen theory in Britain. Mandy Merck, who was there, and Laura Guy, who was not, explore the cultural practices coming out of the Women’s and Gay Liberation Movements against a backdrop of political reform – including the Sexual Offences Act 1967, the Abortion Act of the same year, and the Equal Pay Act 1970. Turning to Merck’s work as an editor and cultural critic at Time Out, the discussion foregrounds independent print and contemporary cinema as intersecting contexts through which the theoretical insights associated with screen theory emerged. Also considered is whether the British roots of queer theory can be located in this period, or, indeed, if the various deviations and conversions discussed might offer directions toward a different horizon of thought and politics.
Inspired by Samuel R Delany’s notion that cruising is a ‘positive unconscious of knowledge’, this article explores my relationship to cruising over the last twenty years in my work as both a creative and emotional methodology. Cruising has been integral in my own realisation and continued growth into a non-binary subjecthood as a body who has struggled with questions of passing both in queer, homosexual, and neutral spaces. I focus on non-binary subjectivity as an experience connected to the materiality of the body, hypocritical desire, the politics of taking up space, and the longing for un-gendering. This essay culminates in a recollection of a performance I presented at the 2019 Bergen Biennial in Norway, where I investigated the potential of hypocritical desire through dance and text, culminating in an erotic cruising scene between myself and The Shimmer, an invisible gas that destroys everything it comes in contact with.
While much has been made of connections between homosexuality and working-class politics in the work of French communist intellectual Daniel Guérin, his trajectory as a queer revolutionary anti-colonialist has been under-theorised. How do questions of race and questions of homosexuality interact in Guérin’s political imaginary? In order to draw out the relation between queerness and anti-colonialism, this article examines the particularly complex example of the Cuban Revolution by analysing his self-published May 1968 brochure, ‘Cuba-Paris’. Putting this brochure and his Cuban archive in dialogue with his remarks on sexuality and revolution, the article considers Guérin’s late concept of ‘anti-homosexual racism’, and suggests that Cuba reveals a limit-case in the conjugation of Guérin’s anti-colonial and queer-revolutionary commitments. The article asks how Guérin understood the coexistence of social-revolutionary and homophobic-puritanical elements within movements of national self-determination, and ruminates on what these problems mean for anti-racist queer projects in the present century.
Throughout 2017, cultural institutions across England and Wales marked the fiftieth anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of sex between men. In this article I explore two projects about public sex and queer space developed in London that year by two contemporary queer artists: Liz Rosenfeld and Prem Sahib. Both employ queer approaches to preservation and archival labour in the face of imminent material erasure, particularly the loss of dedicated queer cultural spaces as a consequence of gentrification, and exhibit a queer disengagement with the public forms of commemoration enacted that year. I consider how Rosenfeld and Sahib’s work from 2017, which casts endemic gendered and racialising practices of exclusion and denial in sharp relief, imbues the practices of preservation and archiving with an erotic complexity and an embodied and radical urgency that underscores the precarity of queer spaces and queer archives in contemporary Britain.
Sunil Gupta’s practice as a photographer has spanned generations, continents and cities. Throughout, he has grappled with the question ‘what does it mean to be an Indian queer man?’ Gupta’s approach to photography reveals a perspective embedded in the postcolonial sites of Montreal and Delhi, and shaped by his artistic education in London. The use of staged documentary – which belies Gupta’s role as a key player in British photo theory – has worked to bring feeling and experience into representation, creating a photographic basis for identification as gay and/or queer Indian. Based on a conversation at the 2019 conference ‘Cruising the Seventies: Imagining Queer Europe then and now’, this article draws from Gupta’s testimony to map the ways in which his photographs answer to his question. It proposes that Gupta’s work challenges a Eurocentric visual vocabulary, and can offer tools for imagining how ‘queer Europe’ might be displaced and refigured.
This text is based on extracts of the research that I originally presented at the ‘Cruising the Seventies' conference ‘Imagining Queer Europe Then and Now' in Edinburgh, March 2019; it is in dialogue with a text that I authored for The Funambulist's ‘Futurisms' issue (no 24, July/August 2019) called ‘On Fantasy, Placelessness and Queer Futurity'. It includes two new poetic extracts. This short text delivers an intimate articulation of José Esteban Muñoz's work in relation to Audre Lorde’s poetry as a possible way to think about queer of colour survival in the future.
This article provides a contextual introduction to the performative lectures that I delivered at the ‘Cruising the Seventies' (CRUSEV) conferences in Valencia in April 2018 and Edinburgh in March 2019. These contributions revisited the work of radical drag performers from the United Kingdom and Spain, such as Rampova, Ocaña and Bloolips, alongside that of popular cultural icons of the time. The lectures took the form of ‘antitainment', mixing elements of light entertainment, such as music and video, with socio-political commentary. The aim of the contributions was to compare and contrast the freedoms being explored in the 1970s in the United Kingdom, where the gay liberation movement was in full swing, with the complex reality of Spain, which was emerging from four decades of dictatorship under Franco. The article also situates these lectures in relation to other examples from my wider practice.
This article explores the work of theorist, activist and performer Mario Mieli through the lens of fashion, unearthing the central function that radical dress occupies in his gay communist project. I focus in particular on how, within Mieli's queer utopianism, radical transvestism operates as an ethico-political praxis with the purpose of challenging capitalism and liberating Eros. On the one hand, fashion is condemned by Mieli with arguments attuned to those used by the Frankfurt School against the culture industry. On the other, dress – intended as a signifier of politicised self-fashioning – emerges as a force incorporated by the crossdresser to establish modes of intersubjectivity rooted in polymorphous desire as well as collective forms of resistance against the Norm. For Mieli, critique is corporeally embodied. On this ground, dress permits the material articulation of embodied critical instances of queer insurrection. I conclude by explaining why, within Mieli's transsexual utopia, crossdressing should be read in alignment with non-normative sexual practices such as coprophagy.
This article details the genesis, making, release and reaction to ‘Homosexuality: A Fact of Life’, an educational tape-slide kit produced by the Tyneside branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in the late 1970s. The kit is situated in relation to the history of sex education in Britain and beyond, and compared to other subsequent examples of educational materials that have caused a furore: the book ‘Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin’ and its connection to Section 28, and the No Outsiders programme that generated protests in 2019. It is argued that the tactics adopted by the makers of ‘Homosexuality: A Fact of Life’ could serve as a valuable toolbox for future activists.
Focusing on Krzysztof Jung’s explicitly homoerotic 1970s drawings and placing them in the wider context of the artist’s practice, this article investigates the possibilities of re-inscribing narratives of desire into the grim landscape of queer histories in socialist Poland, still palpable today. It argues that as stories of queer desire are almost exclusively linked with shame, trauma and suffering, they contribute to victimisation of queer people in Poland and only grant them visibility within the sphere of abjection. Jung’s works are rare examples of ephemeral yet liberating expressions of queerness defying the oppressive atmosphere of the socialist regime, as well as identity politics. Developing a conceptualisation of desiring touch as research method, this article considers how we may write about sex, love and queer desire viscerally rather than in abstract, sublimated forms – and how such an exercise can be a strategy of reclaiming the sphere of abjection with joys of fucking.
Developed from their public dialogue at the Edinburgh conference ‘Cruising the Seventies: Imagining Queer Europe Then and Now’ (March 2019), this article discusses the afterlives of the 1970s, and another seventies (the 1870s), within the political imaginaries of contemporary struggles in the UK and France. Building on our own engagement and observations as community activists, we discuss the influence of 1970s collectives and communes in present day queer organising; the animation of a trans antifascist poetics, such as the work of Laurel Uziell, in street protests; and the role of queer readings of Paris Communard Louise Michel in the imaginary of members of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests). We argue that a praxis of ‘queer hirstorical materialism’ that mobilises the queerness and genderqueerness of historical resistance is active in contemporary queer and trans struggles against neoliberal and right-wing governments and neofascists, and more broadly, for revolution.
THIRD TEXT is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group