For decades, the history of sexuality has been a multidisciplinary project serving competing agendas. Lesbian, gay, and queer scholars have produced powerful narratives by tracing the homosexual or queer subject as continuous or discontinuous. Yet organizing historical work around categories of identity as normal or abnormal often obscures how sexual matters were known or talked about in the past. Set against the backdrop of women’s work experiences, friendships, and communities during World War I, Disturbing Practices draws on a substantial body of new archival material to expose the roadblocks still present in current practices and imagine new alternatives.
In this landmark book, Laura Doan clarifies the ethical value and political purpose of identity history—and indeed its very capacity to give rise to innovative practices borne of sustained exchange between queer studies and critical history. Disturbing Practices insists on taking seriously the imperative to step outside the logic of identity to address questions as yet unasked about the modern sexual past.