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Week 10: Queering America

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    Kelly M Britt

    Compare and contrast the articles for this weeks readings.


    Blessing Tate

    The authors contrast in the perspectives they take to analyze the sexuality of the past using archaeology. Rubin (2000), uses various archaeological data such as site definition, settlement patterns, catchment areas, and population estimates to understand urban gay men. Rubin conducted his research solely in San Francisco and discussed topics related to the gay culture of the past, such as gay leathermen. According to Rubin, the institutional structure, symbolisms, and desires of gay leathermen provide an effective means of establishing sexual identities and communities for the gay people. The author illustrates two essential lessons he learned from his research, first, social science methodologies, ordinary tools, and theories could be utilized in studying the sexuality of the past and the present. Second, new problems can be constructed or approached by the colligation of distinct fields or concepts.
    Geller (2009), applies the queer theory as an archaeological methodology to assess body differences. The queer theory offers a methodological connection between the archaeological study of other social identities and sexuality. Geller (2009), introduces the concept of bodyscape—defining the micro-landscape of bodily differences through various multiple scales. She asserts that understanding body differences through dominant bodyscape based on contemporary techniques—biomedicine—is not without problems. For instance, the notion that the essential biological indicators of social differences are provided by sexual dimorphism or the idea that socioeconomic organization is characterized by heterosexuality, monogamy, patriarchal nuclear families, and division of labor is misplaced. In other words, biomedicine seems to agree with the heteronormative ideas about gender and sexuality. The author, therefore, reinforces queer theory to analyze socioeconomic relations in connection to human nature. This method would be useful in providing alternative body differences that represent the diversity of the people of the past based on their sexual and social lives.
    Voss (2011), analyzes human sexuality as an essential element in the interpretation of the intricate colonial societies. He bases his archaeological study of sexuality and colonization on personal, familial, institutional, economic, religious, and governmental aspects, rather than the micro-scale social aspects (household deposits and personal identities). He uses two case studies: Spanish-colonial military settlement in San Francisco in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and immigration of Chinese to the same region in the mid-to-late 19th century after the annexation of California by the U.S to discover multiple scales of intimacy and sexual politics. The material remains in the Spanish colonial settlements, has been understood as yields of figurative marriage between two cultures. Voss establishes that public sexual politics were essential to the imperial project. In other words, the effects of imperial institutions (sexual regulation, racialization, and labor regimes) affected the effective relationships of the colonial subjects and promoted imperial success.


    nolcie pierre

    In “Bodyscapes, Biology, and Heteronormativity”  by Pamela L. Geller, she argues that “ through the use of a biomedical bodyscape, many investigators of ancient bodies unwittingly naturalize cultural values that are in fact modern constructs”. Bodyscape is a term she uses to describe different bodies as they move through space to the micro landscape of individual bodily differences. It is a tool used to “identify hegemonic representations of bodies that idealize and essentialize differences, especially with regard to sex, gender, and sexuality” and also, “allows us to examine the production of subversive or alternative representations that resist, interrogate, and queer hegemonic beliefs” (page 504). In this article, she challenges the longstanding dichotomous notions of sex and bioarchaeology.


    In contrast, “Sites, settlements, and urban sex: archaeology and the study of gay leathermen in San Francisco, 1955–1995” by Gayle Rubin challenges the way homosexual culture has been analyzed and offers more insight into this anthropologically underrepresented group of people. First, Rubin notes how she was “interested in figuring out some way to study homosexuality, and was especially curious about how homosexuals became concentrated in particular locations, such as Greenwich Village, Provincetown, or Fire Island” and how difficult that was due to major gaps in the organization of ethnographic interest in homosexual populations. It was through her journey into archeology that sparked her research on homosexuality in Urban settings stating, “So it was from the archaeologists that I first encountered urban geography, central place theory, settlement patterns, catchment areas, population estimates, migrations and transfers of population, craft wards and occupational or residential specialization. I could not help but think about how these pertained to issues of urbanism and minority sexualities”. With that, she goes on to explain to the history of the Leather community in San Francisco.


    Together these two texts encourage more research on gender, sexuality, and the LGBTQ+ community with more concentration in anthropological and archeological discourses.


    Matthew Wojcik

    These articles talk about how history is often influenced by perspective. One group may view one thing differently than another group. Changes in society over time also create differences in perspective. However, even when idea’s change, humanity’s way of thinking remains the same.

    Geller talks about how the human body is viewed by society. What is considered attractive changes over the years. This can be seen in fashion, and how it is in a constant state of change. Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most prominent figures of the Renaissance, showed how humanism influenced the art of the time. Even going back to the Greeks, people had views on how the perfect body looked. Society’s view on the perfect body is best exemplified on how the human body is portrayed in the arts. Whether it be painting or movie, art reflects society.

    Rubin’s article talks about how views on masculinity differ among people. This ties in neatly to the previous week’s article on Chinese masculinity. The reading mentioned gay leathermen, and their connection to biking culture. The common media portrayal of biking culture usually shines a spotlight on the Hell’s Angels, and all of their illicit activities. But biking culture is more than that. For examples, the festival at Sturgis attracts people of all walks of life. So biking culture isn’t relegated to one group people.

    Voss’ article describes sexuality in colonised areas. America has a long history of being colonized and colonizing. From the 13 colonies to the events of the Spanish American war, colonization played a huge role in our history. One can even argue that we are continuously colonizing other nations via global trade and western influences.


    Kelly M Britt

    Nice work Nolcie-but don’t forget the Voss article as well.


    Jaeden Granger

    Pamela L. Geller’s Bodyscapes, Biology, and Heteronormativity discusses how society views the attraction of the human body. Gayle Rubin’s Sites, Settlements, and Urban Sex: Archaeology and the Study of Gay Leathermen in San Francisco,1955–1995 discusses the different views of masculinity due to homosexual culture. Barbara L. Voss’s The Scale of the Intimate Imperial Policies and Sexual Practices in San Francisco discusses the views of sexuality during Colonial America.

    Geller’s article discusses how physical attractiveness has been viewed differently over the course of history. She uses the term bodyscape to describe the micro-landscape of bodily differences through different variables. This relates to queer theory by analyzing how the perception of bodily difference can change in terms of sexual preferences. Rubin’s document however focuses on how masculinity is viewed by different people, especially when it comes to homosexuality. The article goes into detail about biking culture, leather communities and how gay people demonstrates their sexual identity. Voss’s document discusses how sexuality was different during Colonial America like familial, governmental, economic and other different variables. These variables had major effects on sexual relationships since homosexuality was more or less illegal due to serious regulations by the government and the church.


    Denille Samuel

    In Geller’s piece hegemonic bodyscapes which has its’ root in biomedicine creates what is thought to be heteronormative ideas about the roles of men and women. It is lent to boxing in different analyses of men and women into the contemporary dominant thought of what and how men and women do and should act in society, even applying these modern concepts (however wrong they maybe) to ancient societies as well.

    In the piece by Voss, men, in various oppressive ways were forced to build friendship, business relationships, and associations with each other, molding to certain types of masculine roles or a hegemonic concept of a masculine role through colonial rule and living in the case of the Native Californians and immigrant constraints (neo-colonial) in the case of the Chinese both taking place in the San Francisco Bay area but decades apart. I understand homosociality to be the interactions between men (which doesn’t necessarily include homosexuality but can) that can shape and mold a society.

    In Rubin’s piece he starts out speaking of the lack of research done on urban gay communities in the US. Homosexuality was not a topic broadly researched or spoken of amongst ethnographers although they may have had accounts within their field notes. When it was researched it involved ethnic communities or foreign migrants. I get the impression that ethnographers were reluctant to shine a light on the activities of gay white men due to the dominant narrative of white males being heterosexual. Rubin used the tools that would normally be used to do any archeological research to open up knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community in San Francisco.


    Reflection #10:

    Compare and contrast the articles for this week’s readings.

    The first article, by Gayle Rubin, is “Sites, Settlements and Urban Sex: Archaeology and the Study of Gay Leathermen in San Francisco, 1955-1995.” It is an ethnographic of study a subculture of gay men known as leathermen because of the group’s penchant for wearing leather clothing, particularly “black leather motorcycle gear (Rubin 5).” The author uses urban renewal records, records of bar locations, gay guides, and contemporary newspapers to study how the Leatherman subculture changed over time. One area of San Francisco that she focuses on is the South Market area around Folsom street. She concludes that basically you can use archaeological methods, like graphing, to assist in ethnographic surveys. She sees that the subculture grew slowly, peaking in size in 1984 around the time of the AIDS was becoming a pandemic. The subculture then shrank to about half its 1984 size and then stabilized until 1995. One thing I think she wanted to prove is that you can use ordinary tools and methods from different fields to study controversial subjects.

    The second article, by Pamela Geller, is “Bodyscapes, Biology, and Heteronormativity.” It is about bodyscapes and the fact that how we are raised affects how we view them. An example is our culture. Western culture she says is biomedically oriented and we primarily view gender based on biology. This means that we analyze other cultures from that bias. When we analyze other cultures from such a hegemonic viewpoint quite a lot of information can be lost, like the meaning of masculinity or aspects of masculinity which are different from ours. She bases her article on other anthropological and archaeological studies.

    The third article and final article, by Barbara Voss, is “The Scale of the Intimate: Imperial Policies and Sexual Practices in San Francisco.” It is about sexual practices in San Francisco when it was still a colony of Spain and how the policies initiated then have affected it during statehood. She appears to be looking at heterosexual practices of marriage regulation and genderized roles.  There was apparently strict control of marriage in the colony. Marriage could only be approved by the political leaders in order to prevent interracial marriages. Religious leaders were expected to discourage interracial marriages. The author’s information comes from secondary sources, that is, papers of her peers, building on what others have done. She also uses an archaeological survey of San Jose’s Chinatown to look at the poor living conditions. There were also genderized roles, such as only men were allowed to serve in the military. The Mexican military actions segregated Native American Californians into forced labor situations, sometimes for years, and the laws prevent them from marrying white or Hispanic settlers.

    The first article is much more easily understood than the second, comparatively. It uses primary sources from which to draw conclusions while the other two articles use mostly secondary sources. The first and third articles, while both centered on San Francisco, are analyzing different groups and time periods. The second article is the hardest to understand. The second article, rather than focusing on a particular period or group, gives cautionary advice against looking and interpreting things from a biomedical bias.



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    Jared West

    This weeks readings were a bit difficult for me to follow as I feel it was written for scholars and not the everyday public.

    The first reading that I did was Barbara L Voss’ The Scale of the Intimate which was about the multiples scales of intimacy and sexual politics by discussing the Spanish “discovery” and later the settlement of Chinese immigrants. As I mentioned above 2/3 of the articles were a bit difficult for me to understand so I am going to take my best attempt to talk about this reading. This article briefly talks about the Spanish settlement rather, it focuses on the homosociality of Chinese immigrants. Homosociality is defined as “relating to social interaction between members of the same sex, typically men.” In regards to the topic the author explains the relationship of Chinese men living together on Market street Chinatown. These men would eat together, (though had separate bowls often with their families names inscribed on their bamboo bowls), smoke opium together, and I believe the author says that it shouldn’t be dismissed if these men engaged in same sex.  Personally I didn’t really like this article as I found myself having to go back and re-read often as the writing was unclear.

    The second reading “Bodyscapes, biology, and heternormativity” by Pamela L. Geller. This article was also a bit hard to understand for me as I feel Geller didn’t do a great job explaining her ideas rather chose to use specific language, which alienated me from the reading as I had a hard time following. My best guess at what her thesis is about is the idea of differentiating the genders and sexes of bones should go beyond the scope of looking at breasts and pelvises, rather instead try looking at the ulna(?) her next point is that the difference between the sexes is the idea that man are producers, and women are reproducers a strictly cultural idea and we as a society need to look more close and remove this “idea”, something that completely agree with. She then discusses the idea of using queer as a verb, not as a adjective or noun, which quite honestly I’m not sure what that means.

    The last reading assigned “Sites Settlements and Urban Sex” written by Gayle Rubin. This article I really enjoyed as I thought it was not only written very well but was also an interesting subject. The main focus of this paper was to due research on the gay community more namely the “Leathermen” in San Fransisco. She talks about how the leather was representative of “black motorcycle gangs” which allowed for this community to claim the motorcycle as a symbol of homosexual masculinity. However despite this community having access to things such as gay bars in an area that seemed accepting, they were ultimately forced out due to rent hikes. Rubin also talks about how she had trouble determining what considered someone to be gay as there are many factors when it comes to how someone defines their own sexuality.


    Obviously all the articles this week had something to do with sexuality. Each article talked about a different aspect of sexuality however the two articles that were linked most closely were the Voss and Rubin articles.

    Voss’ article was about comparing colonial San Francisco, when the Spanish arrived, and the culturally colonial market street Chinatown. Voss focused on how sexuality was controlled within these societies and how a line can be drawn connecting the ways in which it was controlled in each. Boss argues that each inhabitant of these colonial communities tried desperately to create and maintain relationships even though there were a lot of factors pushing against them.

    Comparing this to Rubin’s article we can see that there is a great importance to the feeling of community. In the Spanish community we can see that many of the men refused to marry indigenous women for fear that they were losing their Spanish Heritage by having a half indigenous american half Spanish child. In the Chinese community we see a large portfolio of men with very long distance relationships in order to preserve their feeling of their home community. In the Reunion article we can see gay men flocking to San Francisco to where the Leather Bars are in order to have a sense of community.

    The Geller article however has less to do with community but more to do with the body and how its viewed in anthropology. Geller argues that the hegemonic body is being used to study ancient bodies. He finds this problematic because he thinks ancient bodies should be studied based on how their culture treated bodies. This can be linked to the other two articles only to say that the other studies seemingly successfully treated their subjects bodies and studied them based on their culture and their environment and not based on our current hegemonic ideas about bodies.



    Kellen Gold

    This week’s readings were concerned with the fields of archaeology and bio-archaeology and how their methods can be used in new and novel ways to reflect critical understandings of the past. In Rubin’s chapter, the archaeological theory of “sites” is used to map out places and spaces that gay leathermen frequented in the South of Market Street district in San Francisco. Though she does not analyze any excavated artifacts from the sites, she uses the map of sites, as well as historical research and personal correspondence, to reach conclusions about why gay leathermen flocked to the area. Voss, unlike Rubin, does examine archaeological collections. The collections Voss looks at are from San Francisco, during the Spanish colonial period, and the Market Street Chinatown in San Jose – a nineteenth century site. It appears that she did not participate in the excavations, and instead studied scholarship on the collections. She employs various anthropological theories, such as kinship and homosociality, to the studies to show how sexual and social divisions appear in the archaeological record. Geller’s article presents a radical new way of approaching bio-archaeology and sexual dimorphism. She puts forth a model that acknowledges the continuum of bodily variation, in order to create a wider understanding of the diversity of the human body. She also criticizes academics and scholars that place modern concepts and expectations (heteronormativity, the nuclear family) on to ancient bodies. Though she does not discuss a body that she has excavated, she mentions several cases of mass media proliferating cisheteronormative ideas of the past through stories about coupled and grouped skeletons.


    Kelly M Britt

    Nice reflections!

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