Prof. Robert Aldrich Lecture: The Same-Sex Couple and the State

Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities is hosting this public lecture by  Professor Robert Aldrich (University of Sydney), Wednesday 23 September 2015, 6 – 8.30pm.

The same-sex couple – whether composing a casual union or a lasting
 partnership – has always formed an awkward ménage à trois with the state. Often under the influence of religious precepts, the state has usually seen 
as one of its duties the regulation of sexual behaviour and conjugal 
arrangements, whether heterosexual or homosexual.  In the case of same-sex
encounters, this has meant not only the criminalisation of homosexual acts
(especially for men) but also the withholding of legal approbation, and the
 entitlements that follow, for continuing relationships.


a transnational and historical perspective, however, the situation appears very 
complex.  Varying norms apply in different societies concerning sexuality,
marriage and other sorts of unions.  Colonialism imposed Western notions (and laws) over many non-Western countries, and newer Western views of sex,
 love and marriage now exercise great influence globally.  Sanctions against
homosexuals have not curbed the development of gay and lesbian cultures, or 
the establishment of long-lived partnerships.  Despite the legitimate 
campaign for human rights for homosexuals around the globe, the notion of
’same-sex marriage’ does not fit easily into the social frameworks of many societies.  The notion of such marriages, however justified, is itself a
 construct of a particular time and particular places in the long sweep of world history.  To what extent is it possible to develop a typology of the
 different and changing relationships between the state and the gay couple,
and what insight would it give into the history of sexuality, gender and
 romantic emotions?

Entry is free but booking is required.

Register and book your place here


BIH is hosting two further events this term:

  • “Beyond ‘gays in the church’: new approaches to the histories of  Christianity and same-sex desire”: a 2 day conference, Friday 25 – Saturday 26 September, £10 for Birkbeck students


  • “Victorian sexualities: a panel discussion of histories and methods, Thursday 5 November, 6 – 8.30pm, free


For more information about all these events and to book places, visit the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities website:

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