New Sexualities Research Focus Group

Instituted in 2007 with seed monies from SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences Melvin Oliver, the New Sexualities Research Focus Group (RFG) aims to create a network of critical sexualities studies scholars at UCSB, provide opportunities for scholars at UCSB to network and collaborate with internationally renowned sexuality studies scholars, and highlight on a national scale the plethora of cutting-edge sexuality studies work happening at UCSB—aiming throughout to redefine the field of “sexuality studies” and produce new discourses, epistemologies and methodologies. The New Sexualities RFG brings together scholars who are analyzing the ways in which sexuality is understood and constructed discursively, geographically and culturally through neoliberalism, globalization, economics and labor, migration, artistic cultural production, and militarization. Through these analyses, we push the boundaries of the current field of “critical sexuality studies.”

Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to join!

Group Convenors

Paul Amar, Law and Society
(NS Principal Investigator)
Email: amar AT

Mireille Miller-Young, Feminist Studies
(NS Principal Investigator)
Email: mmilleryoung AT

Jennifer Tyburczy, Feminist Studies

2011-2012 Theme

Throughout the 2011-2012 academic year, New Sexualities will use the theme of “Disruptions: Theorizing New Sexualities in a Time of Revolution” to focus on theorizing the ways in which issues of gender and sexuality are central to state and corporate institutions of power and the various critical interruptions that have worked to subvert or overthrow those very institutions of power. In light of the continuing U.S. and global financial crises, social upheaval, and conservative backlash in relation to reproductive rights, immigration policy, gay marriage rights and sexuality in popular culture, and the transformative political and social revolutions emerging from “Arab Spring” in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, New Sexualities proposes to interrogate how these tensions offer compelling sites to explore sexual politics in new ways. Thinking about the disruptions—or the ways in which established meanings are thrown into disarray, turmoil and confusion—through sexual politics, we hope to expose and grapple with the local and global transformations that are taking place, which are redefining gender, class, nation, race, culture, and other kinds of belonging, affiliation, and established networks of mobilization.

Through a series of colloquia, graduate student writing retreats, faculty workshops, and guest speaker events during the 2011-2012 academic year, New Sexualities will take on the question of: What does it mean to think about sexuality as a force of political or social disruption?

Upcoming Events Winter Quarter 2012

Critical Sexualities Graduate Student Symposia

Organized by the New Sexualities Research Focus Group, these symposia highlight the work of graduate students in Dr. Mireille Miller-Young’s Global Sex Work and Economies of Desire seminar. Drawing from critical sexualities studies frameworks, UCSB graduate students will present their work on issues as diverse as sex work, sexual technologies, sex panics, and sexual performance. Collectively, these papers examine the most cutting contemporary issues around gender and sexuality and, by offering new theoretical frameworks, serve as critical disruptions to established ways of knowing.  The goal of this symposium is to create a wider venue for discussion about sexuality research. Following each meeting of this two part symposia we will feature the work a keynote speaker whose work demonstrates exciting new approaches in the field of Critical Sexualities.

Wednesday, March 7
McCune Conference Room

4-5:15pm         Panel 1
5:30-6:45pm    Panel 2
7-8pm             Keynote

Keynote: “Flying Under the Radar: Transgender Politics and Surveillance at the Airport”
Toby Beauchamp, UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Communication, UC San Diego

This talk looks closely at the images and rhetoric circulating about the installation of new X ray scanners in U.S. airports, which enable security personnel to see beneath travelers’ clothing. Transgender advocacy organizations have argued that scans of transgender bodies may be read as threateningly ambiguous, and may incorrectly target them as terrorist suspects. Positioning questions of surveillance as central to transgender politics, this talk contends that attention to gender-nonconformity offers a productive reading of the airport scene that turns scrutiny away from individually troubling bodies and onto the fractured practices and assumptions of the state itself.

Wednesday, March 14
McCune Conference Room

4-5:15pm         Panel 1
5:30-6:45pm    Panel 2
7-8pm             Keynote

Keynote: “Latchkey Aesthetics and New Sound Karaoke”
Karen Tongson, Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California, and the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press, 2011). Tongson is also the series editor for Postmillennial Pop (NYU Press), and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Popular Music Studies.

Unsupervised, left alone and either fearful or bored, America’s suburban spawn have been called latchkey kids since at least World War II (when the label was purportedly invented to describe kids transiently orphaned by work as well as war). In this talk, Tongson will elaborate upon how “latchkey aesthetics” repurposes found pop cultural materials (often from the 1970s-1990s). In performance pieces that feature the latchkey look, popular materials become easily accessible and “re-heatable” through postmillennial digital technologies—a practice that befits individual performers and small collaborations operating on shoestring budgets, and limited schedules for making art (not unlike the absent parents who helped cultivate the aesthetic to begin with).

Symposia co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and the Departments of Feminist Studies, Asian American Studies, Film and Media Studies, and English.

Fall Quarter 2011

“Masculinity in the Middle East: Discourses of  ‘Men in Crisis’ in a Time of Revolution”

Workshop with Paul Amar, Associate Professor of Global Studies, UCSB

Monday, Oct 17, noon,  IHC Research Seminar Room (6056 HSSB)

Kick starting the 2011-12 year with the theme “Disruptions”, New  Sexualities presents a workshop on masculinity studies in the Middle  East. How do everyday theories of masculinity and discourses of “men  in crisis” play a role in mis-recognizing and de-politicizing emergent  social forces in the Middle East? How can a new lens for critical  research offer a view into the “disruptions” occurring in the politics  of gender in a time of revolution? During this generative Brown Bag  Lunch Workshop we will read a pre-circulated paper by Professor Paul  Amar (Global Studies).  You may download a copy of the paper here: Middle East Masculinity Studies, by Paul Amar

For more information and a printable flyer please visit:


“Transgender Childhood and the Uses of Gender Fluidity”

Talk by Karl Bryant, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz and a visiting researcher in the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB.

Monday, Oct 24, noon, Feminist Studies conference room

This talk tracks the effects of discourses of gender fluidity as they are deployed by advocates to legitimate the identities and behaviors of gender nonconforming children.
Co-sponsored by the Center for Research on Women and Social Justice and the New Sexualities Research Focus Group


“New Sexualities: From Pornetration to Illicit Erotics”

Workshop with Mireille Miller-Young, Assistant Professor of Feminist Studies, UCSB

Monday, Nov 21, noon, Crowell Reading Room (6028 HSSB)

This talk explores how discourses of sexualization–and particularly pornification or pornetration–obscure critical differences in the ways that “women’s” sexuality emerges in modern popular cultures and social relations. Women of color are uniquely situated in transforming economies of desire, identity, sociality, and labor within globalizing, neoliberal sexual culture. As historical signifiers of sexual degeneration and excess, women of color have long symbolized the costs of hypersexuality and the limits of feminist theorizing about gendered exploitation in media. Yet, these women are also actors in changing sexual regimes who mobilize illicit eroticism for their own needs and desires. Looking specifically at African American pornography performers, this talk provokes important questions about the capacity of current feminist frameworks to account for the work of racialized sexuality. Vulnerable to a range of constraints, stigmas, and abuses, African American women in pornography labor on the front lines of sexual commerce. At the same time, however, they activate important critiques of racial sexualization and assert novel mechanisms for revaluing their work, images and lives. This productive tension between exploitation and agency embedded in today’s new sexualities offers feminist critics and activists a tremendous opportunity to move beyond lasting divides.

Stay tuned for a more detailed listing of 2011-2012 events!



2010-2011 Events

New Sexualities had a productive year filled with writing retreats, workshops, academic talks and brainstorming sessions. Read below for more detailed information regarding each of our events.

Graduate Student Writing Retreats

Several graduate students participated in two different intensive writing retreats, one in November 2010 and another in January 2011. Both events were held at the Graduate Student Association lounge. Through these full-day biannual retreats, we support and challenge one another to produce better work. We circulate our writing in advance, provide extensive comments on one another’s papers, and finally meet to discuss our ideas, writing and progress.

“Positioning Critical Research”: A Roundtable Discussion

On February 17, New Sexualities graduate students gathered at the Multi-Cultural Center to participate in a roundtable discussion titled “Positioning Critical Research: Funding and Publishing Sexuality Studies Work in Neoliberal Times.” The discussion was led by Dr. Melissa White, who recently received her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from York University and was awarded a prestigious two year  research-only fellowship through the Canadian government. She is a currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Lunch was generously provided by the Department of Feminist Studies.

Queer Perspectives on Marriage Panel Presentation

The New Sexualities RFG partnered with the Department of Feminist Studies to host a Queer Perspectives on Marriage panel as part of the Critical Issues in America series. The event took place on March 7, 2011 at the Multi-Cultural Center. Queer theorists Lisa Duggan, Macarena Gomez-Barris, J. Jack Halberstam, and Dean Spade presented queer critiques of same-sex marriage and the fight for “marriage equality.” Instead of attempting to merely transform existing, oppressive institutions, panelists insisted on the necessity of moving away from a “politics of respectability” and toward broader queer social and economic justice movements. They considered queer public art in Mexico and Argentina, grassroots queer organizations, queer of color activists, and sexually dissenting populations alongside militarization, mainstream lesbian and gay movements and the marketplace, presenting a queer and trans abolitionist perspective on marriage.

In addition to co-sponsoring the Queer Perspectives on Marriage panel, the New Sexualities RFG organized an event through which several graduate students who have been active with New Sexualities had the opportunity to engage with Duggan, Gomez-Barris, Halberstam and Spade in a more intimate manner. Graduate students presented and received feedback on our projects.

Brainstorming Retreat: Toward a New Trajectory

On March 8, 2011 the New Sexualities RFG hosted a Sexuality Studies Brainstorming Session titled, “Rethinking the Funding and Form of Sexuality Studies.” This full-day event was held at the Mosher Alumni House. Paul Amar, Lisa Duggan, Macarena Gomez-Barris, J. Jack Halberstam, Mireille Miller-Young, Dean Spade and Carly Thomsen considered various issues relating to 21st-century sexuality studies research, including lobbying funding agencies and foundations to re-fund, re-think and re-invest in critical sexuality studies, transcending (but of course not ignoring) the military-access/heath-pathology/marriage-equality frameworks. Through this brainstorming session, we began to build a strategic battle plan for creating new buzzwords and agenda items for foundations, funders, international agencies, and research institutes, mapping productive and provocative nodes for collaboration.

2009-2010 Events

The 2009-2010 academic year was equally productive. We organized two panel presentations, a graduate student writing workshop and two graduate student conferences. Read below for more detailed information regarding each of our events.

Black Actors in Adult Film

On May 25, 2010, New Sexualities and Conversations for Change paired up to present “Race and Desire: Black Actors in Adult Film” at the Mosher Alumni House. Panelists Vanessa Blue, Sinnamon Love, and Tyler Knight discussed the politics of race, gender, and sexuality in the pornography industry. Featuring three top Black actors, this panel explored questions of representation, identity, desire, work, and power. Does race construct the market for and production of Black Porn? What are the experiences of Black sex workers and how are their desires represented? How are Black people vital participants in the multi-billion dollar adult entertainment industry?

Theorizing Economies of Desire: A Graduate Student Symposium on Sex Work

New Sexualities sponsored its first Graduate Student Symposium focused specifically on sex work, which took place in the McCune Conference Room on May 24, 2010. Organized and moderated by Mireille Miller-Young, the conference featured two panels and the work of seven graduate students.  Andrew Seeber, Claudia Yaghoobi Massihi, Elizabeth Rahilly, and Rolando Longoria II presented on a panel titled “Theorizing the Production and Repression of Sexual Labors, Markets, and Communities” and Carly Thomsen, Laurica Brown, and Amanda Phillips presented on a panel titled “Theorizing Space and Desire in Sex Work.”

Innovation, Adaptation, & Manipulation of Sexualities: A Graduate Student Colloquium
Graduate students who participated in the New Sexualities writing retreat were invited to present their work at a follow-up Colloquium. The event took place on April 12, 2010 in the McCune Conference Room. Sandibel Borges, Shae Miller, and Carly Thomsen comprised the panel entitled “Sexuality and the State: Politics of Abortion Discourses, Sex Work, and Queer Spaces” and Katje Linke, Kristy Slominski, and Anna Sorensen presented on the panel “Creating Cultures of Sexuality: Queerness, Purity, and Hotheads.”

Sexuality and Islam: A Panel and Workshop
On November 8, 2009, New Sexualities hosted a transdisciplinary, international workshop and panel on Sexuality and Islam in Europe and the Middle East. Panelists  Paul Amar (Global Studies, UCSB) Janet Afary (Religious Studies, UCSB), and Fatima El-Tayeb (African American Literature and Culture, UCSD)  presented information related to Islam and sexuality from various historical periods and theoretical perspectives.


• See events sponsored by the IHC's