How to do the History of sex – keynote speakers

Here are short abstracts for the two keynotes at our workshop, by Maria Pramaggiore and Lazlo Pearlman.

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


How to do the History of Sex

Friday 26 May 2017, Edinburgh College of Art

A one-day interdisciplinary workshop on methodological approaches to the study of sex, between scholars from disciplines including sexology, medicine, law, cultural history, art and design.

One day workshop
Friday 26 May 2017
10:00 – 17:30hrs

Taking place at:
Hunter Lecture Theatre
Edinburgh College of Art
74 Lauriston Place

‘How to do the History of Sex’ is a free one-day interdisciplinary workshop open to all. The event’s main objective is to share methodological approaches to the study of sex between scholars working in varied disciplines, including sexology, medicine, law, cultural history, performance studies, art and design. This will be done through keynote presentations, short talks, and hands-on break-out sessions involving exploring archival materials. The aim of the workshop is for all participants to gain a wider understanding of the complexities of exploring the history of sexual behaviours and practices, and an enhanced interdisciplinary knowledge of ways to approach the subject area.

Whilst sexual behaviours and practices have served as a topic of academic study for a considerable amount of time, recent years have seen the publication of a number of high-profile theoretical texts on the topic. These include ‘Sex, or the Unbearable’ (Berlant and Edelman, 2013), ‘After Sex’ (edited by Halley and Parker, 2011) ‘Unlimited Intimacy’ (Dean, 2009) and ‘Celibacies’ (Kahan, 2013). While all outstanding contributions to the study of sexuality and sexual practices, these books rarely investigate historical materials in depth. The question that this workshop asks is: how is it possible to recover and theoretically scrutinise something as ephemeral as past instances of sexual behaviour?

Keynote speakers for the event are Lazlo Pearlman (University of Northumbria) and Professor Maria Pramaggiore (Maynooth University, Ireland).

Speakers for the event will include: Professor Sharon Cowan (Law, University of Edinburgh); Dr Laura Guy (School of Design, ECA, University of Edinburgh); Dr Agnieszka Koscianska (University of Warsaw); Neslihan Tepehan (PhD student, School of Design, ECA, University of Edinburgh); and Dr Ingrid Young (Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh).

To book a ticket, please click here.

Places on the workshop will be strictly limited to 50. Participants will need to attend the whole day, in order to contribute fully to the event. Tickets are available now!

Access: The Hunter Lecture Theatre is wheelchair accessible, and has level access from College Court Yard. Please click here for detailed information regarding wheelchair access and a map to the venue. If you have any additional access requirements, or would like to contact us regarding the event, please email

Image: from À Fleurer, by Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay.