Why the Political Homophobia of the 1950s?

  • 2/5/2013 | 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
  • Location: Visual Arts Center, Kresge Auditorium
  • Event Type: Lecture

Why the anti-gay repression of the 1950s? One leading answer points to the social impact of the Second World War and post-war demobilization. Far-reaching shifts in gender roles created opportunities for political elites to promote gender conformity. But if society was already deeply homophobic, why were there no gay rights groups before the repression of the 1950s? No such groups emerged in fact until the federal government promoted anti-gay stigma. This talk will describe how and why anti-gay repression broke out within the federal government, creating an era of "straight government" that has taken until the Obama presidency to completely dismantle.

The principal speaker will be Rick Valelly, Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, where he has taught since 1993. Professor Valelly is the author of American Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2013), The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement (University of Chicago Press, 2004), and Radicalism in the States: The American Political Economy and the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party (University of Chicago Press, 1989). In 2009 he published Princeton Readings in American Politics. Professor Valelly is currently researching the political development of LGBT rights in the U.S. with a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.

Commenting upon Professor Valelly's talk will be Steve Engel, an Assistant Professor of Politics at Bates College. He is the author of two books, The Unfinished Revolution: Social Movement Theory and the Gay and Lesbian Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and American Politicians Confront the Court: Opposition Politics and Changing Responses to Judicial Power (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Professor Engel is currently working on a new book which examines sexuality from a developmental perspective and which aims to shed light on how US governing institutions define the parameters of sexual citizenship and how that process reflexively affects the development of the state.

Sponsored by the Department of Government & Legal Studies with support from the John C. Donovan Lecture Fund. Co-sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Studies Program, and The Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

Free and open to the public.