This interdisciplinary symposium will bring together work on the history of childhood, medicine, gender, emotion, sex, and sexuality to question what it is that has given some sex disruptive or normative power from the 19th to the 21st century. The aim of the conference will be to question the assumptions we have about what disruptive and non-disruptive sex is, what contexts move sex from one category to another, and how these categories have changed over time and place.

You can download our full programme here.

Our keynote speaker is Dr Kate Lister.

Dr Kate Lister is a lecturer in the School of Arts and Communication at Leeds Trinity University. Kate primarily researches the literary history of sex work and curates the online research project, Whores of Yore, an interdisciplinary digital archive for the study of historical sexuality. Kate has also published in the medical humanities, material culture, Victorian studies and Neo-Medievalism. She regularly writes about the history of sexuality for inews, Vice, and the Wellcome Trust. Kate won the Sexual Freedom Publicist of the Year Award in 2017.

Title: Sex History, Ethics, and Activism

Time and Location: 15 April 2019, 6-7pm. John Snow Lecture Theatre, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

This event is free to attend and open to the public. Registration is required, and you can find details here. 

Abstract: It is over ten years since British researcher and disability activist Mike Oliver coined the term ’emancipatory disability research’ to refer to a radical new approach to researching disability (Oliver, 1992). Can we apply the same considerations to academics who write about sex work; specifically, researchers in historical studies? What does ethical sex work history research look like? Is traditional historical research in danger of mirroring and perpetuating the power relationships experienced by oppressed people in their day-to-day lives? This paper asks if researchers in the history of sex lag behind researchers in the social sciences when it comes to understanding how work serves to perpetuate stigma and damaging narratives.

Much historical research around sex work continues to locate the ‘problem’ within the impaired individual. Sex workers often report that research is an alienating experience for them – it is something that is done to them over which they have little or no control. How can historians construct an emancipatory sex work research model that does justice to their subject while supporting marginalised communities today? In short, how can those researching the past support those in the present?


Monday 15th April 2019

09:00-17:30, Registration and Panels 1-4

18:00-19:00, Keynote lecture

Tuesday 16th April 2019

09:00-16:00 Registration and Panels 5-7


This event is kindly sponsored by the Royal Historical Society royal-historical-logo

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