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Gay Studies

Premodern Traditions Of Same-sex Love In The West, Non-western Traditions, The Medicalized, Industrialized Nation-state

Gay studies in the early twenty-first century is a lively interdisciplinary field encompassing studies of literature, anthropology, sociology, psychology, the visual arts, indeed all fields in which nonheteronormative sexuality—and its institutionalized suppression—has become a point of politico-philosophical argument. It has two origins: a more recent starting point in twentieth-century liberal Western discourse, prompted by gay liberation and political and social movements on the one hand, and intellectual trends in literary theory and philosophy on the other, and the much older fact of same-sex love, a facet of human history that permeates and predates recorded civilization. Gay studies is today closely linked to notions of the democratic struggle for civil equality, because the sexual practices that are its focus have been the target of authoritarian forces as diverse as Judeo-Christianity, Puritanism, Neo-Confucianism, psychiatry, Nazism, Maoism, and McCarthyism, all of which have variously punished non-normative sexual practices to promote conformist, repressive political structures. In other times and places, however, while sexuality was always subject to societal pressures to conform, patterns of repression and acceptance varied considerably.

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