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Gender and Sexualities Research Group Meeting - Prof Jeffrey Weeks (London South Bank University) 'Making History Personal'

Starts: 12 February 2009

Gender and Sexualities Research Group Meetings, 2008-2009

12th February, Committee Rooms 1-2, Glamorgan Building

12pm-2pm (You are welcome to bring your lunch)

Prof Jeffrey Weeks - London South Bank University

'Making History Personal'
We live history, and are in the midst of a living history, which we are helping to make. And yet it is easy to forget how far we have come, how contingent the changes are, how contested the results have been - and precisely how historical our lives are. Nowhere is this more true than in relationship to sexual and intimate life, which have been subject probably to more dramatic changes than almost any other aspect of our social lives, while people popularly persist in seeing then as somehow fixed and eternal, even as cultural change sweeps them along. This paper begins with an overview of the traps and pitfalls that bedevil research into sexuality – the perils of determinism, the longing for a golden age, the temptation of pessimism. Set against this are an attempt to understand both the structural determinants of the ‘great transition’ since the 1950s, and the narrative disruptions which have shaped the specific configurations of contemporary sexual and intimate life. To do this, the paper makes use of an adaptation of Gidden’s notion of ‘fateful moments’, applied to collective rather than individual experiences, phases in which things are wrenched out of joint, where a situation is suddenly altered by key events. In this context, the significance of agency is emphasised. We do indeed make our own history, even if in circumstances not of our own choosing. The paper will conclude with some reflections on the past, present and future of sexuality – and the importance of being historical.

Jeffrey Weeks is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at London South Bank University. He has published over twenty books, and many articles, on the history and social organisation of sexuality and intimate life. Recent publications include Making Sexual History (2000), Same Sex Intimacies: Families of Choice and other Life Experiments (with Brian Heaphy and Catherine Donovan, 2001), Sexualities and Society: A Reader (with Janet Holland and Matthew Waites, 2003), and a 3rd edition of Sexuality (forthcoming 2009). His latest book, The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life, was published by Routledge in June 2007.

Followed by a session for postgraduate students


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Open To: Staff and Students