Goldsmiths is set to launch a groundbreaking MA in Queer History this autumn, what the history department believes to be the first of its kind in the world.
Dr Justin Bengry, the course convenor, told Eastlondonlines: “It has been a strategy of the History Department to think about underrepresented histories and those that might need attention.
“I think the History Department really recognised there was a gap. Having a named MA with designated personnel l and a focused purpose means that you have that specificity and that support that you might not get at other places.”
Bengry said of his own research: “I did my PHD on the history of the pink pound. I looked at the relationship between homosexuality and capitalism.”
While Bengry is a historian himself, he said that it is not required of students to have academic experience in history, and in fact, he hopes that the seminar based module will be enhanced by the different multi-disciplinary and advocacy work that many of the candidates will bring forth.
Queer history is widely misunderstood for being a history that is very recent according to Bengry. A lot of students, he said, may think that this history starts in the 1970s or 1980s, but they do not know we have medieval and ancient queer history. This history has proven to be especially important as society sees a necessary transition in the way that we approach queer studies and understanding.
Bengry said: “I think we are really in a point of transition. As a historian, I can say there are all kinds of antecedents to this, but as an individual living in the now, over the last few years, there have been, for example, conversations about things such as gender neutral bathrooms. In terms of a popular awareness, labels and gender categories are being challenged. It is something people notice, there is change in society.”
Aside from influencing the MA course, Bengry will be teaching an undergraduate module in homosexuality and capitalism and he hopes to bring renowned speakers to the wider Goldsmiths and East London community.
Bengry, along with the rest of the Department of History, hopes that this will lead to a larger movement at Goldsmiths, which they hope will one day house archives of queer history, becoming a centre for studies of its kind.
Dr Vivienne Richmond, head of the history department at Goldsmiths, said: “The Department of History at Goldsmiths has long pioneered the study and understanding of past societies through their belief systems and their attitudes to subjects such as love and the body. We teach issues, themes and controversies so that students can study not only the linear aspects of traditional history, but also concepts. Queer History is a natural extension of our work.”