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How to Do the History of Homosexuality

by David M. Halperin University of Chicago Press
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Hbk 216 pages
AU$102.00 NZ$104.35
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In this long-awaited book, David M. Halperin revisits and refines the argument he put forward in his classic One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: that hetero- and homosexuality are not biologically constituted but are, instead, historically and culturally produced. How to Do the History of Homosexuality expands on this view, updates it, answers its critics, and makes greater allowance for continuities in the history of sexuality. Above all, Halperin offers a vigorous defense of the historicist approach to the construction of sexuality, an approach that sets a premium on the description of other societies in all their irreducible specificity and does not force them to fit our own conceptions of what sexuality is or ought to be.Dealing both with male homosexuality and with lesbianism, this study imparts to the history of sexuality a renewed sense of adventure and daring. It recovers the radical design of Michel Foucault's epochal work, salvaging Foucault's insights from common misapprehensions and making them newly available to historians, so that they can once again provide a powerful impetus for innovation in the field. Far from having exhausted Foucault's revolutionary ideas, Halperin maintains that we have yet to come to terms with their startling implications. Exploring the broader significance of historicizing desire, Halperin questions the tendency among scholars to reduce the history of sexuality to a mere history of sexual classifications instead of a history of human subjectivity itself. Finally, in a theoretical tour de force, Halperin offers an altogether new strategy for approaching the history of homosexuality--one that can accommodate both ruptures and continuities, both identity and difference in sexual experiences across time and space.Impassioned but judicious, controversial but deeply informed, How to Do the History of Homosexuality is a book rich in suggestive propositions as well as eye-opening details. It will prove to be essential reading for anyone interested in the history of sexuality.

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: In Defense of Historicism1. Forgetting Foucault2. The First Homosexuality?3. Historicizing the Subject of Desire4. How to Do the History of Male HomosexualityAppendix: Questions of EvidenceNotesIndex

''In this subtle and provocative work, David M. Halperin carries his justly renowned scholarship about sexuality several steps further, articulating a view that balances a just appreciation of discontinuities with the recognition of connections across time and place. Refusing reductive characterizations, the sophisticated arguments in How to Do the History of Homosexuality emphasize heterogeneity and tension in the ancient world and our own, and the possibility of creative identification with the past.'' - Martha Nussbaum
David M. Halperin is the W. H. Auden Collegiate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan and Honorary Professor in the School of Sociology at The University of New South Wales. He is the author of a number of books, including One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love and Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography. He is also the cofounder and coeditor of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.