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Name: Martha Robinson Rhodes

PhD: History

 

Thesis Title: 

A Queer Oral History of Multiple-Gender-Attraction and Bisexuality in 1970s and 1980s Britain

Thesis Description:

My research will be the first systematic exploration of attraction to multiple genders and ‘bisexuality’ as an identity category in 1970s Britain. I will use interviews and archival research to explore the ‘problem’ that bisexuality presented to groups in the gay liberation movement, and how this changed. I will also explore how individuals made sense of their own desires and navigated circulating discourses of ‘bisexuality’. By addressing these linked areas I aim to show how political debates were inextricable from questions of subjectivity and selfhood.

The context of my research is the erasure of bisexuality in the 1970s and subsequent scholarship (e.g. Butler, Foucault, Sedgwick). Multiple-gender-attraction disturbs a ‘gay/straight’ binary in its capacity to engage in apparently ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual’ relationships, and by occupying an unclear position in a hierarchy of oppressed and oppressor. However, ‘bisexuality’ is still under- represented in queer theory (Callis, 2009; Hemmings, 2002). It is simplistic to attribute this solely to ‘biphobia’; ‘bisexual’ is still a named identity category, and avoided for that reason. For example, much of the behaviour explored by Matt Houlbrook, my supervisor, in ‘Queer London’ (2005) could be considered ‘bisexual’, but was analysed in terms of queerness and masculinity. I will engage with ‘critical queer history’ (Doan, 2013) and problematise the category of ‘bisexual’, without rejecting it entirely; it was used by some in the 1970s, but in ways that were mediated by class, age, gender, location and race. I therefore address those who were attracted to multiple genders (but did not identify as ‘bisexual’), and those who called themselves ‘bisexual’.

This project builds upon my MRes research, an intersectional analysis of multiple-gender-attraction and its construction in the Gay Liberation movement, and my earlier work on bisexuality in the gay press. For my PhD, I will use oral history to understand how individuals negotiated ideas of ‘bisexuality’, and add to the growing corpus of work on subjectivity in queer history.

Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Professor Matt Houlbrook, University of Birmingham

Dr Chris Moores, University of Birmingham

Dr Mo Moulton, University of Birmingham

 

Conference Papers:

2019:

  • 'Conducting a queer oral history of bisexuality and multiple-gender-attraction' - Paper presented at the Oral History Society LGBTQ Special Interest Group Skills-Sharing Day, February 2019
  • 'Conducting a queer oral history of bisexuality and multiple-gender-attraction' - Paper presented at CamQueerHistory, University of Cambridge, February 2019
  • 'Coming Out, Bisexuality and Ambivalence in Queer Oral Histories' - Paper presented at the Modern and Contemporary Forum, University of Birmingham, February 2019

2018:

  • 'Conducting a queer oral history of bisexuality and multiple-gender-attraction' - Paper presented at the Critically Queer conference, University of Bristol, September 2018
  • 'Sexual Violence, Politics and Lesbianism' - Paper presented at the Modern and Contemporary Forum, University of Birmingham, July 2018
  • 'Multiple-gender-attraction and the Hall-Carpenter Archives Oral History Project' - Paper presented at the Modern British Studies PGR Conference, University of Birmingham, July 2018

2017:

  •  '"Not Totally Gay, I Suppose”: A Queer Critical History of Multiple-Gender-Attraction in the British Gay Liberation Movement’ - Paper presented at the ROLES Sexuality and Gender Conference, University of Birmingham, May 2017

2016:

  • ‘Bisexuality in Gay News, the Gay Liberation Front and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’ - Paper presented at a network meeting of ROLES Sexuality and Gender Network, University of Birmingham, November 2016 

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

Current:

  • Co-organiser of the Centre for Modern British Studies PGR network, University of Birmingham
  • Membership Secretary for the Oral History Society LGBTQ Special Interest Group
  • Publicity Secretary for the Modern and Contemporary Forum, University of Birmingham

2018:

  • Co-organised the Modern British Studies PGR Conference - 'Ways of Knowing in (and about) Modern Britain' - July 2018, University of Birmingham

2017:

  • Co-organised the ROLES Sexuality and Gender Conference, May 2017, University of Birmingham

    • I co-organised the 5 panels at the conference
    • I also secured funding for the conference

2016 - 2017:

  • Co-organised network events for PGRs throughout the academic year, as part of the ROLES Sexuality and Gender Network at the University of Birmingham

  • ‘Out in Oxford’ LGBTQ+ Museums Trail, August 2016 – February 2017

    • Helped design the trail across collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Ashmolean, the Museum of the History of Science, the Bate Collection and the Bodleian Libraries
    • Also wrote interpretations for two objects in the trail.

Other Research Interests:

  • Contemporary British History

  • Oral History

  • Queer History

  • Gender History

  • Cultural History

  • Social History

  • Radicalism in the 1970s

  • History of Marriage

  • History of Selfhood and Subjectivity

  • History of Sex and Sexuality

Qualifications

2017:

  • MRes Sexuality and Gender Studies, University of Birmingham

2016:

  • BA History, University of Oxford, First Class Honours

Awards 

2014-2015:

  • Mansfield College Scholarship for “First Class in college examinations”, University of Oxford

2014:

  • University Scholarship for “Distinction in Preliminary Exams”, University of Oxford

 

 

 

University email address: MXR701@bham.ac.uk

Twitter:@MRobinsonRhodes

 

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