Tag Archives: Utopia

The Fool Speaks the Truth

From September 27-30 2012, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Harry Hay Centennial Committee sponsored “Radically Gay: The Life & Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay,” a conference to commemorate the 100th birthday of Harry Hay. I responded to the call for papers with a proposal to discuss how current Radical Faeries use or think of the queer past and archetypes. I wanted to put this in conversation with Harry Hay’s research motivations and his general interest in past queer figures. Through participant observation at 2011 Wolf Creek Samhain and an interview with Portland Radical Faerie and clown Michael Zero, I contest some queer theorists vision of queer space as “fragile” and “ephemeral” and instead begin to build a theory of sustained queer space and community.

This presentation is the second one I have produced out of this set of research. The first is here. The page limit was 10. I had to cut out some important discussions of clowning that I hope to put into the larger project, which is a dissertation tentatively titled “Sustaining Gay Liberation: The Practice of Radical Faerie Culture.”

Below is the abstract. Click The Fool Speaks the Truth for the paper. Thoughts, comments, and critiques are welcome. Please send feedback to mlecker at gmu dot edu.

The Fool Speaks the Truth: The Creation of Queer Archetypes in the Radical Faerie Community

Harry Hay asked of gay men, “Who are we? Where did we come from? What are we for?” and looked to other cultures (including Medieval Europe, Iron Age British Isles, goddess worshiping cultures, and Pueblo cultures) to validate sexually and gendered others as having a legitimate and important role within society–a role destroyed within contemporary patriarchal and capitalistic Western Culture. Hay theorized that men who loved men constituted a third gender, a minority within humanity that has its own language, culture, and skills. In 1979, Hay’s research turned to praxis through the manifestation of the Radical Faeries, a loose network of people who explore queer spirituality, community, and identity through gathering and consciousness raising. Using research collected via participant observation at various gatherings and through interviewing Radical Faeries, this paper documents how three decades after its inception, Radical Faeries use, but also distance themselves from, Hay’s initial teachings and approach, while creating new roles such as the “Stag King.” These roles legitimatize the Radical Faerie’s existence outside of mainstream gay and lesbian culture, while also creating multiple positions of power to contest and critique the Radical Faerie community and the broader culture at large. From these events and interviews what becomes clear is an expressed desire and need amongst participants to build, and plug into a queer genealogy or mythos, which ultimately sustains this queer institution and contributes to its longevity. The ethics of using figures from other time periods or cultures to ground Western same-sex or queer sexual identity has been debated with LGBTQ studies for nearly four decades. In this paper, I reject the good/bad judgment imposed by some scholars and instead conjure what David Halperin calls  “a sensitivity to difference [that] need not rule out identification… or form of queer multiplicity and solidarity.”

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Faerie Futurity

This is the first presentation of my research on the Radical Faeries. This writing is based on my last four months of fieldwork. The sites I have visited so far are Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Sanctuaries in Minnesota and Oregon. I have had an amazing journey so far. I get to spend time practicing yoga, cooking, talking, and camping with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I am indebted to the Faeries who have welcomed me into their fabulous lives and let me interview them. I sadly have not had time to review all of my material. I got back from Portland two days ago and this paper is due tomorrow morning— so it’s not my best piece of writing or a comprehensive sampling of sites. However, I have begun engaging with one idea that I think will become central to my project— queer genealogy is what I am currently calling it. I invite Radical Faeries to comment and critique this concept and the paper, either on this website or through sending me an email (mlecker at gmu dot edu). Take care, sistabrothers.

Love, Husk (formerly known as Quill).

This paper entitled Faerie Futurity will be presented at the Annual American Anthropological Association Meeting in Montreal at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2011.

Here is the paper.

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Grant Application

I have been searching for grants to fund my dissertation for a few weeks. It has been a frustrating experience. Surprise, surprise, not a whole lot of institutions want to fund the humanities. I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center’s Blanton Owen Fund Award. I have never applied for a grant and since I discovered the opportunity two days before it was due, I did not have a lot of time to revise. Please feel free to provide feedback on the proposal; this is part of my dissertation proposal and also any recommendations on how to write a grant proposal, if I erred, are welcome.

The proposal is to fund a trip to IDA, a Radical Faerie commune in central Tennessee.

Oral History and Communal Living at IDA Proposal

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CFP— k(NO)w tomorrow: Contradictions of Imagining the Future

Each year George Mason University’s Culture Studies Student Organizing Committee puts together a graduate student conference. I am excited about this conference’s theme, Utopias. The work of academia is to critique the social conditions in play, but also move beyond that to imagine a way out or a more just system. This later half has been mostly abandoned (two recent exceptions— Spaces of Hope by David Harvey and Cyber-Marx (Free online) by Nick Dyer-Witheford) and for obvious reasons. By creating an alternative to this world you imagine what has been deemed unimaginable, a way out. Utopias draw criticism because they are not always grounded in the “real” or what we imagine as real. This makes them easy targets and creates a target on their work. The understated pass by without comment, while those who imagine are lambasted for attempting to hope. I do not mean to sound overtly sentimental, I just strongly believe that academic work is not complete without imagining the possibilities. If there are no possibilities and we are all doomed, then why are we writing all of these books?

With that being said, Utopian visions can be violent acts. They have been used to justify genocide and erase the potential they hope to achieve. They can limit possibilities through blind-faith. The work of examining Utopian Visions and their failures is important.

Here is the CFP for next year’s conference:

k(NO)w tomorrow: Contradictions of Imagining the Future

“Utopia,” according to Frederic Jameson, “has always been a political issue, an unusual destiny for a literary form.” Human history has had no shortage of fantasies of perfect worlds, or of dystopian visions that form their obverse. Even today, when the notion of “progress” is subject to fraught debate, utopian hopes and dystopian warnings can be found in discourses ranging from advertising to religion, film to cable news.

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to explore the idea of utopia, as well as dystopia—the aesthetic, ethical, and political implications of these concepts. It will consider historical and contemporary utopian communities, as well as representations of utopia and dystopia in film, literature, television, and music. Papers should consider the relevance and efficacy of thinking utopias and dystopias within the context of academic research.

Possible topics include looking at utopias and dystopias in the following contexts:

• Historical Practices
• Technology
• Non-Western/Subcultural/Marginal/Minority Groups
• Progress
• Political & Media Rhetoric
• Sexuality
• Limitations
• Environment and Ecology
• Cultural Representations (Film, Art, Television, Music, etc.)
• The Role of in Academic Work

Abstracts of 300 words and a current CV should be sent to Ariella Horwitz (ahorwitz AT gmu DOT edu) by 15 May 2010. Please include the title, presenter’s name, institutional affiliation, contact information, A/V requests, and any special needs required. Abstracts should be sent as .doc or .rtf file attachments.
Previous Conferences:

2009 – Manufacturing Happiness

2008- Histories of Violence

2007- The Politics of Cultural Programming



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