Sexuality Summer School (SSS) 2020: Queering the Archive

by | Apr 29, 2020 | Engagement and outreach, Equality and Diversity, Media and Cultural Studies | 0 comments

The following activity is a work-in-progress and currently on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The description below reflects the aims of the project and its proposed framework. 

The Sexuality Summer School (SSS) is organised within the framework of the Greater Manchester LGBT Arts and Culture Network of which it is one of fifty partners. An annual five-day, city-wide event, the SSS combines daytime seminars for postgraduates from the UK and beyond with evening and lunchtime events open to the public. One of its key aims is to challenge homophobia and transphobia by promoting LGBT and feminist artistic and cultural practices, making them available to audiences in Manchester. This commitment to facilitate queer arts as a kind of activism is shared with many partners within the GM LGBT Arts and Culture Network.

The theme of ‘Queering the Archive’ this year will question whose work is included in the archive (examining the archive’s tendencies towards privileging whiteness), as well as interrogate what constitutes an archive (exploring innovative archival projects). To this end,  one day of the SSS will be spent with Islington Mill, using queer theory to rethink traditional notions of archival practices.

The SSS seeks to engage communities at the intersection of race and sexuality via a partnership with Rainbow Noir in Manchester and by inviting speakers who deal with these issues in their work. Confirmed speakers include Julietta Singh (Richmond, author of No Archive will Restore You [2018]), Jordy Rosenberg (Massachusetts, author of Confessions of the Fox [2018]), Del La Grace Volcano (artist, performer, activist), and Mojisola Adebayo (Queen Mary, theatre performer, playwright). Other invited participants include Ajamu (artist, curator, activist) and Topher Campbell (director, writer, actor).

The SSS events will engage the local LGBT communities in ongoing debates in the field of sexuality studies and will publicise these events through social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, blog), which have hundreds of followers. To raise the SSS profile further and reach a wider audience, Oscar Lister (Manchester International Festival) was hired to keep these platforms regularly updated with events and activities relevant to Manchester’s LGBT communities. Besides social media, Oscar also publicises SSS’ public events programme through sites such as VisitManchester and Creative Tourist and through designing a poster to be displayed across key cultural sites in the city. The SSS’ well-attended public events help to build an audience base for other LGBT arts and culture events across Manchester.

Over the last ten years, the SSS has built strong ties with key cultural organisations in the city such as HOME, the Anthony Burgess Centre, the People’s History Museum, and Contact, while developing relationships with emerging arts venues such as 53Two and the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art. Publicity for SSS events is shared by local LGBT charities such as the Proud Trust and the LGBT Foundation. For 2020, SSS will be developing new partnerships with Islington Mill and Rainbow Noir, while also strengthening existing connections with arts and culture venues across the city.

The SSS enacts the University of Manchester’s commitment to tackling sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. Its diverse programming brings together artists, activists, and academics from a range of backgrounds. The debates that take place as part of the SSS interrogate ideas around gender, sexuality, race, and identity, encouraging a thoughtful approach to social justice issues.

The SSS is organised by the Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Culture, whose members attend many of our seminars and public events, sometimes chairing roundtables and Q&A sessions. Around half of the delegates at the SSS are University of Manchester postgraduate (MA and PhD) students. The SSS embraces an interactive model of pedagogy: the daytime workshops, small-group feedback sessions, and student-led seminars offer delegates a dedicated space in which to explore their research ideas in a welcoming and supportive learning environment. The interdisciplinary nature of the SSS means delegates can compare methodologies and theoretical approaches with others. 

Internal Partner(s): The Centre for New Writing (SALC), The Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Culture (SALC), SALC Graduate School.

External Partner(s): Greater Manchester LGBT Arts and Culture Network (Barry Priest); Superbia/Manchester Pride (Greg Thorpe); Islington Mill (Maurice Carlin), Rainbow Noir (new partner), HOME (Rachel Hayward), Screen (film studies journal).

Funding source(s): SALC Social Responsibility Fund. Other potential funding sources: Arts Methods, the NWCDTP, Screen, Arts Council England, and Superbia (Manchester Pride).

Project duration: 2019-ongoing

Project lead(s): Professor Jackie Stacey assisted by Sabine Sharp (EAC PhD Candidate) and Janelle Hixon (AHVS PhD Candidate).