Sexuality, Modernity and Social Theory Whitney Humanities Center Conference, March 31-April 1

The Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, with support from the Yale Law School and department of English, will host an interdisciplinary conference titled “Sexuality, Modernity and Social Theory” on March 31 and April 1.

The conference will focus on the ways in which sexuality has emerged into public view in the modern period. Speakers from the humanities and social sciences will consider the ways in which sexuality has become an object of study in the modern world, and the ways in which the emergence of sexuality is historically related to the conditions of modernity. Individual papers will address, for instance, legal understandings of sexual identity; the creation of queer identities and communities in literature, art history and ethnography; sexuality and psychoanalysis; and sexuality, violence and mass media.

“The conference is designed to broach a space for understanding ways in which sex is constitutively related to the social world and the conditions of modernity and mass culture,” said Elizabeth Dillon, assistant director of the Humanities Center and assistant professor of English and American Studies. “It is designed, in part, as a bid to move beyond Michel Foucault’s influential paradigm in the discussion of sex. Foucault’s story of sexuality stops at the end of the nineteenth century, with the advent of what he calls ‘sexuality.’ He leaves aside the problems that most puzzled modern thinkers in the century to follow: the rise of mass culture, the splintering of knowledge into disparate areas of expertise and the globalization of the division of labor.”

Speakers will include cultural critics, social scientists, philosophers, legal experts, art historians, ethnographers, religious studies scholars and historians. The conference will be divided into four panels: “Histories of Sexuality,” “Sexuality and Law,” “Sex and Social Theory” and “Sex and Public Culture.” All panels will be open for audience discussion following the papers. The conference will be held in the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. It is free and the public is welcome. For a complete program of the conference, see the Whitney Humanities Center website:

Sexuality, Modernity and Social Theory: March 31-April 1 Yale University, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street

Friday, March 31
Session 1, 4-6 p.m.
Sexuality and Law:
Frances Ferguson, Johns Hopkins University
Janet Halley, Stanford University
Kendall Thomas, Columbia University
Kenji Yoshino, Yale University

Reception, 6-7 p.m.
Room 108, Whitney Humanities Center

Saturday, April 1
Session 2, 9:45 a.m.-noon
Histories of Sexuality:
Henry Abelove, Wesleyan University
Laura Doan, SUNY Geneseo
Jonathan Weinberg, Yale University
Jacqui Alexander, Connecticut College

Session 3, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Sex and Social Theory:
Michael Warner, Rutgers University
Kath Weston, Brandeis University
Janet Jakobsen, Barnard College
Marianne LaFrance, Yale University

Session 4, 4-6 p.m.
Sex and Public Culture:
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University
Mark Seltzer, Cornell University
Esther Newton, SUNY Purchase
Mandy Merck, Royal Holloway University of London

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