The Thinking Through Time ‘First Fridays’ Deakin GSS HDR Masterclass was held on 1 June 2018.

A masterclass by Maree Pardy

In 1984 gender and sexuality scholar, activist and anthropologist Gayle Rubin wrote a now classic essay entitled “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” in which she claimed that “the time has come to think about sex.” Importantly she also noted that thinking and speaking about sex was likely to be heightened in times of political turmoil and therefore important to think and speak about.

“To some, sexuality may seem to be an unimportant topic, a frivolous diversion from the more critical problems of poverty, war, disease, racism, famine or nuclear annihilation. But it is precisely at times such as these, when we live with the possibility of unthinkable destruction, that people are likely to become dangerously crazy about sexuality.” 

In 2008 feminist theorist and philosopher Judith Butler also raised the problem of time and sexual politics. In her article “Sexual Politics, Torture and Secular Time” she claims that:

“the way in which debates within sexual politics are framed are already imbued with the problem of time, of progress in particular, and in certain notions of what it means to unfold a future of freedom in time.”

Rubin’s ‘time’ was a confluence of a conservative government, the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis and the feminist ‘sex wars’. Butler’s context is post S-II in which ‘clash of civilizations’ discourses take sexual freedom and gender equality as measures of a nation’s progress and situate some polities and cultures as backward, coercive and in need of intervention. 

In this masterclass we will take time to think critically about time and our research. Reflecting on the readings here, we will consider how our own projects are imbued with the problem of time. Does time produce certain ways of speaking and thinking about sex, gender and sexuality? What is sayable and unsayable? How is the knowledge that we engage with today “of its time” and how does this “knowledge” come to govern gender and sexuality in particular ways? Perhaps more crucially how are our projects of the time – ‘the time of now’ – and in what ways might they challenge, accede to, or reproduce time?


Suggested Readings

Rubin, Gayle (2010) Blood Under the Bridge: Reflections on “Thinking Sex”, GLQ, 17:1 PP 15-48

Butler, Judith (2008) Sexual Politics, Torture and Secular Time, The British Journal of Sociology, Vol 59, Issue 1 pp 1-23


About the Speaker

Maree Pardy is Lecturer in International and Community Development at Deakin University. She is an anthropologist by training whose research deals with intersections of gender and cultural difference. She has published on clashes between rights, culture and the law; and gender, difference and urban space. She is currently writing on representations of Muslim women within and through what she is calling the time of “secular humanitarianism”.