The theme for the 2019 Lesbian Lives Conference is The Politics of (In) Visibility. The 24th edition of this conference is hosted by the University of Brighton Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender and the School of Media in conjunction with feminist scholars from University College Dublin and Maynooth University. The organisers of this two-day international and interdisciplinary conference are looking forward to welcoming all conference goers to an amazing mix of presentations, workshops, film screenings, performances and discussion.
The Lesbian Lives Conference is not just the world’s most longstanding academic conference in Lesbian Studies, it is a large international event that draws speakers and participants from all continents and hosts the best-known as well as emerging scholars in the field. In the past we have hosted Emma Donoghue, Jackie Kay, Joan Nestle, Sarah Schulman, Cherry Smyth, Del La Grace Volcano, Sarah Waters, Campbell X and academics such as Sara Ahmed, Terry Castle, Laura Doan, Lisa Downing, Lillian Faderman, Sarah Franklin, Claire Hemmings, Alison Hennegan, Sally R. Munt, Helena Whitbread, Bonnie Zimmerman among many others.
This year’s keynote speakers include Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Executive Director and Co-Founder of UK Black Pride; Dr Katherine O’Donnell, UCD; and Dr Julia Downes, The Open University.
Moving beyond the notion of the politics of visibility as meaning only the politics of being ‘out’ or being about erasure from cultural representation, the conference seeks to further probe what the politics of (in)visibility means to the LGBTQ community and individuals today. With celebrity culture and new media is visibility still a burning issue? Although visibility has increased, there are still media representations drawing predominantly on limiting stereotypes; lesbians, bisexual women and trans folks continue to be marginalised; yet visual activism and expression; from painting, photography, and documentary making to romcoms, comics, YouTube serials, and slasher fiction are at the heart of LBTQ culture.
The conference also invites delegates to think about the politics of (In) visibility beyond visual culture and media representations, to include broader notions of public life and spaces. Gay culture may be increasingly visible in some metropolitan areas but lesbian spaces and places continue to be invisible. Similarly, Pride may be considered a moment of public visibility for the whole of the LGBTQ spectrum, but also in this case visibility is shaped by commercial interests and this again marginalises LBT and other non normative perspectives and experiences. Beyond these particular examples it is also important to consider intersectionality in relation to societal aspects of power that potentially render identities either or both in- and hyper visible.