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Graduate students to share work at LGBT conference

By Joanne Hou

Oct. 17, 2007 10:25 pm

Scholars from all over the country are set to convene at UCLA this weekend to discuss and present works about queer life, literature, film, politics and more.

The ninth annual Los Angeles Queer Studies Conference, occurring on Oct. 19 and 20, is hosted by the UCLA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies department, and brings graduate students and university academics together to share their work in that area.

“(The conference) provides a forum for people to present their works so graduate students and scholars can meet each other and participate in discussion,” said James A. Schultz, director of LGBT studies at UCLA.

Schultz added that this conference, which originally started in 1999 and involves graduate students, is the only annual academic conference in the country in this field.

The conference will include keynote speaker sessions and a number of discussion and plenary panels, each focused on a specific part of queer studies. These topics include sexual orientation law and public policy, queer culture, political theory, cinema, and citizenship, among many others.

The conference will conclude with a play by the theater group Slippage titled “Queer Theory! An Academic Travesty.”

While UCLA faculty members are mostly involved in moderating discussions, some UCLA graduate students are presenting their research work at the conference.

The moderators and presenters come from many different academic backgrounds including English, film, musicology, religion, philosophy and chemistry.

David Gorshein, a doctoral student in theater, is on a panel called Performance Politics to discuss his paper about queer utopia. Gorshein’s research is based on a movie called “The Bubble,” about the love between an Israeli man and a Palestinian man living in Tel Aviv.

Gorshein’s paper imagines a queer utopia isolated from the current political climate so that such a relationship between men from opposite sides of a political conflict can still exist.

He argues in his paper that the film presents a “secular, politically progressive state,” Gorshein said.

Another working paper to be presented is “Diagnosing Melanctha’s Blues,” which is part of the dissertation of Sam See, a doctoral candidate in English.

See’s work looks at the scientific knowledge of the early 20th century, which linked feelings with physical characteristics, such as race or sexuality.

In Gertrude Stein’s work “Three Lives,” Melanctha is a queer woman and a mulatta, a woman of black and white racial mixture, who is emotionally melancholy.

According to See’s research, early 20th century science would link her psychological blueness to her mixed racial and sexual identities.

This explanation would be contradictory to today’s idea of queerness as not a physical condition but a more fluid constructed state, See said.

While scholars like See and Gorshein are there to present their works, they are also engaging in mutual conversation with other members of the panel and getting feedback.

“(You, the scholar) can get a register of how responsive people are to your work,” See said.

Gorshein said he hopes an altered version of the paper could eventually become a part of his dissertation.

“My work in theater arts aligns itself well with the work at the conference,” Gorshein said.

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Joanne Hou
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