by Amin Ghaziani
Polity Books. 220 pages, $22.95
ONE OF THE DEBATES in gay and lesbian studies in the late 1980s was whether the field should stay independent or be integrated into traditional academic departments. Lesbian and gay (soon to be LGBT) scholarship was already springing up in English and French departments, but could it make inroads in history, other social sciences, and even the basic sciences? Should scholars fight for autonomous departments like Women’s Studies or Africana Studies? What might be lost in merging with mainstream academia, versus what might be gained by coaxing every discipline to take a queer perspective?
Amin Ghaziani’s Sex Cultures demonstrates how to bring LGBT Studies to a broad undergraduate audience. It’s something of a Trojan horse, however. If it were adopted as a classroom text, unsuspecting freshmen signing up for an Introduction to Sociology class might think they had accidentally walked into an LGBT Studies class. Let’s hope they stay for a wide-ranging examination of cultural sociology from a gay angle, where even “heterosexuality” is looked at with a queer eye. His central thesis is that sex and sexuality are not biologically determined, but only make sense through the lens of culture. Or, as Ghaziani schematizes it: “Sex + Culture = Sexuality.”