How to do the History of sex – keynote speakers

May 25, 2017

Below are short abstracts and biographies for the two keynote speakers for How to do the History of Sex, 26 May 2017 at the Edinburgh College of Art


Histories of Sex in Urban Ireland: Dublin’s Hirschfeld Centre
Professor Maria Pramaggiore (Maynooth University, Ireland)

Using as a case study the Hirschfeld Centre (1979-1988), one of the first openly queer spaces in Dublin and a site of LGBTQ+ activism arounds the AIDS epidemic, Maria’s paper will examine the political economy of urban spaces and the non-linear temporalities that inform queer community histories.

Professor Maria Pramaggiore is Professor and Head of Media Studies at Maynooth University. She has published widely on gender and sexuality in cinema and media. She is the author of three monographs, a co-authored film studies textbook, and a co-edited collection on bisexual culture.


What You See is What You Get: Visuality and Trans Performance
Lazlo Pearlman (University of Northumbria)

Since the late 1970s, autobiographical performance has been an important form in which LGBTQ and other ‘Othered’ identities can become ‘visible’, share our stories and bring awareness to issues affecting our lives. These performances have also always run the risk of essentializing identities and entrenching narratives – thereby losing potency – particularly in our 21st century neoliberal identity culture. My research asks “what can the Trans bodily identity do onstage when it does not talk about the Trans condition” and I take my jumping off point from Sandy Stone in ‘The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto’ (1991) when she suggests constituting Trans “[…] as a genre—a set of embodied texts whose potential for productive disruption of structured sexualities and spectra of desire has yet to be explored.” To this end I posit and explore the differences between ‘visible’ identity-based performances and what I establish as my own ‘visual’ (naked) Trans identity-based performance.

I explore here the idea that narrative ‘visibility’ in performance places the emphasis on the optical and the ‘viewed’ (the subject), and examine the foreclosure of possibility that I contend this can create. I will contrast this with the way performance that works with an idea of identity ‘visuality’ could redirect the emphasis onto the viewer and the haptic, and, in refusing to allow narrative to entrench, may incite Stone’s ‘productive disruption’. I will contextualize these ideas and findings via sections of my current Practice Research performance ‘Trans-O-Graphia/Dance Me to the End of Love’.

Lazlo Pearlman is a performance maker and theorist whose areas of interest and expertise are gender, performance and cultural-studies, queer theory, transgender studies, intersectional feminism and critical race theory. He is a Lecturer at the University of Northumbria and has published and presented his work widely.

Image: Lazlo Pearlman by Jeri Poll, from