A conversation between Greta LaFleur & Zeb Tortorici, moderated by Justin Abraham Linds.
Greta LaFleur, American Studies, Yale University
Justin Abraham Linds, Doctoral Candidate, American Studies, New York University
Zeb Tortorici, Spanish & Portuguese Languages & Literatures, New York University
Colonial taxonomies of sexual behavior emerged in the early-modern Americas through the category of nature; however, even as these taxonomies sorted sex acts with racializing logics, they imploded disciplinary categories with their (mis)inscribing of bodies. In celebration of their new books, Sins Against Nature and The Natural History of Sexuality in Early America, Tortorici and LaFleur present their analyses of the settler colonial imbrication of sex and the (un)natural, which fiction writers, archivists, and judicial figures from distinct European empires employed — and continue to employ — as they represented and archived aberrant bodily acts such as sodomy, bestiality, masturbation, captivity and more. By queering the archives of New Spain and locating sexuality in the Early American environment rather than in discrete bodies, both authors offer new insights and methods for analyzing the histories of sexuality.
The book presentations will be followed by a conversation moderated by Justin Abraham Linds, a PhD student at NYU.
Co-sponsored by the NYU Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality; Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies
Greta LaFleur is Associate Professor of American Studies. Her research and teaching focuses on early North American literary and cultural studies, the history of science, the history of race, the history and historiography of sexuality, and queer studies. Her first book, The Natural History of Sexuality in Early America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018), brings together the history of sexuality and early environmental studies to explore how sexual behaviors were understood in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. She is currently at work on a new book project on the relationship of cultural and legal responses to sexual violence to the history of sexuality. She is also the editor (with Kyla Schuller) of a special issue of American Quarterly, organized around the theme of “Origins of Biopolitics in the Americas” (forthcoming Sept. 2019).
Justin Abraham Linds is a third-year PhD student in the department of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU. He researches Early American empire, focusing on the American tropics, and works at the intersection of science, queer, postcolonial, and environmental studies.
Zeb Tortorici is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at New York University. He is the author of Sins against Nature: Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain (Duke University Press, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 John Boswell Prize on LGBTQ history, and he is the editor of Sexuality and the Unnatural in Colonial Latin America (University of California Press, 2016). He recently co-edited Centering Animals in Latin American History (Duke University Press, 2013), two special issues of Radical History Review on the topic of "Queering Archives" (2014/15) and an issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly on the topic of "Trans*historicities" (2018). His current research project is on "archiving the obscene" in Latin America, from the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth, for which he is receiving formal methodological training in the fields of Information Studies and Archival Science with the support of a Mellon New Directions Fellowship.