Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Nobody's Baby: Queer Intergenerational Thinking Across Oral History, Archives, and Visual Culture

This study examines forms of queer relation and formats for accessing the past. Structured through personal experience, it puts pressure on the concept of “generation” in memory studies, trauma studies, and Holocaust studies. Simultaneously it addresses assumptions of non-biological attachment in queer historiography. I focus on three forms of “queer intergenerational relation.” I argue oral history, archives, and visual culture construct distinct spaces of memory transmission, and constructions of “queer family” complicate how such spaces enact memory work. These arguments are grounded in my position as a queer historian and child of lesbian mothers. Part I studies visual art and memory transmission in the context of my relationship with the parents of my known sperm donor. I analyze a collection of art made in the Nazi ghetto of Terezín that hung in my paternal grandparents’ home. The works included portraits, landscapes, and scenes of Terezín, where my Czech Jewish grandparents were imprisoned. I study the art and spatial practice of their home exhibit. I then examine Palestinian art of the 1950s-1960s and my grandmother’s 1950s photo album from their decade in Haifa, Israel. Part II analyzes oral histories with lesbians and trans parents who had children in the early 1980s in Boston. This original research chronicles debates around co-parenting, AIDS, donors, “chosen family,” and custody. It marks a transition in queer historiography and its relationship to biological belonging. “Queer family” emerges as a mix of creative processes working simultaneously toward and away from normative structures of family making. Part III explores collaborative research with Vicki Gabriner, a friend of my mothers, ex- Weatherperson, and co-founder of the Atlanta Lesbian/Feminist Alliance (ALFA) in the early 1970s. This third node enacts non-biological ties of “queer family.” Gabriner and I studied in ALFA’s archives together. Our queer method utilizes archives as a space of intergenerational exchange. Part III connects lesbian feminism, antiwar organizing, and FBI’s COINTELPRO programs. It opens up questions about wiretapping, state surveillance, and its reverberations in archives and recording technologies. Part III looks at the tugging affects of being taped, participatory research, and understudied activist roots of Atlanta’s feminist history.