This presentation will explore the concept of mobility through contemporary transnational circuits of commodified sexualities. How do sexual materials, ideas about sex, and tourists, collectors, and curators generate value as they move among institutions and across regions? I consider how sex museums and sites that display explicitly erotic materials frame media and materials that depict same-sex activities within Kantian cosmopolitan values of universalism, individualism, and equality. Rather than taking at face value the claims to social justice that this framing suggests, I look at three museums (in Korea, the US, and the UK) to critique cosmopolitan assumptions about universal subjecthood that are based on western-centric ideas of the world. These museums undercut cosmopolitan gestures towards social justice for GLBTQ subjects by reproducing Western, 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 contemporary neoliberal forms 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 experience outside the museums’ discursive and commodified containment of same sex materials.
Katherine Sender is a professor in Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Business not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market (2004) and The Makeover: Reality Television and Reflexive Audiences (2012). She has also produced a number of documentaries about media representation, including Off the Straight and Narrow: Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender People on Television (1998, 2006) and Brand New You: Makeover Television and the American Dream (2012).
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