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BOOKS Emily Hobson talks 'Gay and Lesbian Left' at Newberry
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-05-03

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Author Emily Hobson joined the University of Illinois at Chicago's ( UIC's ) Gender and Women's Studies Director Jennie Brier in conversation at the Newberry Library April 28.

Hobson is the author of Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left, and is an assistant professor of history and gender, race and identity at the University of Nevada-Reno.

In addition to Brier's role as director, she is also an associate professor of history and gender and women's studies at UIC.

"My book tracks the history of the gay and lesbian left in the San Francisco Bay Area from the height of the late 1960s to the early 1990s, when the AIDS epidemic hit crisis stage," said Hobson.

Ahead of the conversation, Kathleen Belew ( assistant professor in the department of history at the University of Chicago ) introduced Hobson and Brier.

In Hobson's opening remarks, she spoke about the three facets that gave the gay and lesbian left their power.

"They crossed supposedly fixed lines of sexuality, race and nation, starting with the cross-pollination between Black power, the anti-war movement, feminism and gay liberation in the late 1960s," she said. "Secondly, geography, including border-crossing and internationalism, fueled links between sexual liberation and radical solidarity. … Thirdly, they built power by keeping radical histories alive but lost momentum when their sense of political genealogies faded."

When asked what brought her to this specific topic for her book, Hobson said it started during her first year of graduate school, when she was reading a lot of primary source materials and looking at images from the early days of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. She found that there were more exchanges across gender lines and with other left-leaning movements than standard histories of the 1960s had described. Hobson explained that she also found strong connections between the Central American solidarity movements and the gay and lesbian movement in the 1980s.

Brier inquired where Hobson found her materials for the book and Hobson remarked that in addition to oral histories she relied on the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at USC, and personal collections more so than traditional research entities.

For example, Hobson said she was surprised by the lack of gay and lesbian materials at Stanford's Hoover Institute, since conservative and state surveillance also affected gay liberation and lesbian feminism. Hobson noted how glad she was that very few people refused her requests for oral interviews.

They also discussed whether California is a representation of the world and/or the United States, with Hobson stating that California is unique—but that every place has its own internationalist connections. She also noted that it is important to think beyond the nation-state when it comes to social movements.

A Q&A session with the attendees followed the discussion.


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