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Emerson Embraces Queer Studies

The Common Agenda Attends "Queering The Academy" Lecture

Five panelists discuss Queer Theory and developing more courses surrounding this field.

Tim Pratt '11
November 01, 2010

Five Emerson faculty members conducted a panel discussion on “Queering the Academy: Diversity of Perspectives on Queer Studies at Emerson” on October 27. The panel aimed to share their experiences teaching Queer Studies at Emerson as well as their research surrounding this new and emerging field of study.

The five panelists included Communication Studies Lecturer Cara Buckley, Performing Arts faculty member Sunil Swaroop, Institute For Liberal Arts faculty member Claudia Castaneda, Visual And Media Arts Scholar-in-Residence Ken Feil, and Institute For Liberal Arts faculty member Jason Roush. All five have taught courses or units at Emerson surrounding Queer Theory and GLBTQ studies in their fields, ranging from Writing, Literature and Publishing to film.

“The liberal arts department strives to put a priority on diversity here at Emerson, and one of the most diverse components of this school is its acceptance for different sexual identities. Queer Theory is a growing area of study, and we really want to develop more courses surrounding this field in order to showcase the diversity that does exist at Emerson.”

The panel opened with Dean of Liberal Arts Amy Ansell addressing the audience and explaining the importance of queer studies at Emerson.

“The liberal arts department strives to put a priority on diversity here at Emerson, and one of the most diverse components of this school is its acceptance for different sexual identities,” Ansell explained. “Queer Theory is a growing area of study, and we really want to develop more courses surrounding this field in order to showcase the diversity that does exist at Emerson.”

Each faculty member proceeded to speak on his or her perspectives and research on queer theory, including gay representation in media, the deconstruction and impact of ‘gay’ as a label, tolerance and acceptance, the desire for difference, and transgender phobia. Another topic of discussion included the level of acceptance on Emerson’s campus.

Queer Theory has been offered at Emerson since 2001. Roush, who offered the first course focusing on GLBTQ issues, said the class has grown in popularity over the last ten years, now totaling about 250 enrolled students per year. Queer Theory attracts a wide variety of majors from film and WLP to theater and marketing, and includes an equal number of students who identify as gay or straight.

“Emerson has really been a progressive school by offering courses that focus on this unfamiliar territory,” Roush said. “Even in the last few years, I’ve noticed that the students here, who are mostly open-minded and accepting, have started to embrace and desire queer studies as a normal subject of study on campus.”

In continuing to showcase Emerson’s diversity on campus, courses focusing on queer studies include Queer Theory, taught by Castaneda, and Queer Film and Video, taught by Feil.