AHA2020 Call for Panellists – CFP ‘Sexpertise: Sex, Knowledge, Science and Medicine in Australia and New Zealand’

Panel at Australian Historical Association Conference, Deakin University Waterfront Campus, 29 June – 3 July, 2020

Convenor/initiator: Kate Davison, University of Melbourne

Historical research on Australasian sexology, sexual science, queer and gender diverse experiences of psychological and general medicine, and the production of expert knowledges around sexuality remains disjointed. Important early contributions have been made by Sue Wills, Rebecca Jennings, Graham Willett, Joy Damousi, Robert Reynolds, Lucy Chesser, Garry Wotherspoon and others. More recently, new work on ‘expert’ sex/gender knowledges has appeared, including emerging historical scholarship on trans lives, the role of religion in constructing sexual knowledge, psychiatric and other ‘therapeutic’ approaches to sexual behaviour, and expert and popular discourse around child sexuality (cf. published work by Lisa Featherstone, Andy Kaladelfos, Steven Angelides, Chris Brickell, James Bennett, Timothy Jones, Kate Davison, and others). Yet the scholarship remains too patchy to earn the label of ‘field’. The undoubtedly rich links with feminist histories of women’s sexual health, gynaecology and reproductive science are largely missing. And there is still much room for linking queer histories of sexology with scholarship on the history of colonial, racial and eugenic ‘science’. There is great potential for these fields and the emerging new work to advance and reshape historical perspectives on sexual science in theoretically sophisticated ways. There is an urgent need, to situate this history within a regional, international and transnational context beyond the anglosphere, as the recently published volume Global Histories of Sexual Science and the ‘Rethinking Sexology’ project in the UK (Exeter University/Wellcome Trust) illustrate. Inspired by these and other examples, this panel seeks to offer a first step towards cohering a field of scholarship on the history of sexology in Australia, New Zealand and their regional neighbours in Oceania and to foster better links with the work of Australasian scholars working on other national, geographical and linguistic contexts.

Papers may address histories of sex, gender, hormone and reproductive research, as well as medical and/or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment and therapy of various aspects of sexual and gender health – both physical and mental. Further topics may include the production of ‘expert’ sexual knowledge, including manuals, textbooks and handbooks on sexuality, adolescence, marriage and adjacent fields such as child-rearing, reproductive health, birth control, and other associated themes. Comparative and transnational perspectives are especially welcome.

If you would like to participate in this panel, please send an abstract in line with the normal AHA submission guidelines to kate.m.davison@gmail.com by Wednesday 4 March*. Depending on the response, there may be scope to put together a series of two linked panels.

*An earlier version of this panel-CFP stated 27 February; it has been extended in light of the AHA-CFP deadline extension.