Welcome to Queer Pasts!
Queer Pasts is a new digital queer history project consisting of primary source document collections and curatorial essays. The digital exhibits on this platform are designed for students, teachers, and scholars of queer history.
Each document exhibit includes 20-40 primary source documents; whenever possible, they are available in both transcribed (searchable) and original form. Every exhibit also includes a critical introductory essay that helps explain the significance of the primary sources in historical terms and in relationship to previous scholarship.
Queer Pasts seeks to broaden the field of queer history by prioritizing projects that focus on the experiences and perspectives of under-represented historical groups, including people of color, trans people, and people with disabilities. We also hope to develop work that focuses on less-studied topics such as sexual governance, state violence, and carceral politics. We use the word “queer” in its broadest and most inclusive sense. We intend for the website to embrace topics that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender and to include work on sexual and gender formations that are queer but not necessarily LGBT.
We are also especially interested in archives themselves and the ways in which they are constructed, constrained, and contested. In naming the project, we intend to invoke the idea that the past itself is queer—simultaneously comprehensible and inscrutable.
To begin building Queer Pasts, we identified a set of scholars across a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields doing exciting and new work in queer history. Our forthcoming guest editors include scholars from African American Studies, American Studies, Asian American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Mexican American and Latinx Studies, English, History, Sociology, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
In the future, we plan to issue an open call for submissions.
Queer Pasts is inspired by ProQuest’s Women and Social Movements (WASM). We are grateful to the project’s original editors, Tom Dublin and Kitty Sklar, as well as its current ones—Rebecca Jo Plant and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu—for their assistance in building this project. We hope to continue collaborating with WASM in the future.
We have a number of exciting projects in development, including work about Queer Asian American visibility in Chicago; HIV bans on immigration in the early 1990s; non-normative genders in rural communities in the late 1800s; mid-19th century black “drag” in Washington DC and Baltimore; LGBT student activism in Michigan from 1960 to 1979; and the enforcement of sexual and gender norms in the Mexican diaspora in the United States.
In addition to the projects already in development, we are in conversation with authors working on important topics such as carceral queer subjectivities, lesbian and transgender border wars (and alliances), Queer Asian Pacific Islander activism, and black lesbian social and political life in mid-twentieth century Philadelphia and New York. As we build future exhibits, we are being careful to attend to regional differences and temporal breadth, and to remain welcoming to inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to studying the past.
We are launching now with our first three exhibits and will continue with six exhibits annually. In the coming years, we look forward to expanding our document exhibits and building the website to include additional resources for scholars, teachers, and students.
Please be in touch—we would love to hear your ideas and feedback.
Lisa Arellano and Marc Stein
Marc Stein is the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Professor of History at San Francisco State University. He is a historian of U.S. law, politics, and society, with research and teaching interests in constitutional law, social movements, gender, race, and sexuality.
Lisa Arellano is a visiting professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Mills College. Her research and teaching focus on comparative social movements, critical historiography, and violence studies.