Abstract

Abstract:

This essay investigates transnational sexual mobilities in museums that display same-sex materials: how these materials, the ideas about sex they convey, and tourists, collectors, and curators generate cultural and economic value as each of these moves among institutions and across regions. Based on visits to twenty-two sites, I consider how sex museums and other institutions that display explicitly erotic materials frame same-sex media and objects within Kantian cosmopolitan values of sexual universalism, individualism, and equality (Kant 1957, 2010). Rather than take at face value the claims to social justice that this framing suggests, I critique cosmopolitan norms of sexual universalism and the Anglo/ European perspectives on which they rest. These museums undercut cosmopolitan gestures toward social justice for LGBTQ subjects by reproducing white, masculine, and heterosexual norms in signage, spatial layout, labeling, and the juxtaposition of materials. Cosmopolitanism requires amnesia about Europe's colonial past and promotes a contemporary neoliberal form of commodified cosmopolitanism, where global flows of ideas, materials, and people generate cultural and economic capital. I conclude by considering how these sexual mobilities may also produce queer contact zones, where the inadvertent juxtapositions of objects and people create possibilities for experiences outside the museums' discursive and commodified containment of same-sex materials.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9375
Print ISSN
1064-2684
Pages
pp. 35-61
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-12
Open Access
No
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