Strange Matter: Lesbian Death in Feminist and Queer Politics Open Access

Sullivan, Mairead (2016)

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This dissertation project, Strange Matter: Lesbian Death in Feminist and Queer Politics, presents an archival analysis of major health and social movements that have informed both feminist and queer thinking. This project reexamines the archives of three specific moments in the histories of feminist and queer politics: the rise of a lesbian breast cancer activism in conjunction with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s; the specter of radical feminism as a separatist movement in the 1970s; and the social and sexological interest in lesbian bed death in the wake of the feminist sex wars of the early 1980s. In doing so, I examine how the figure of the lesbian puts pressure on the imagined dissonances between the political commitments of feminist and queer theory. By challenging the conventional border between feminist and queer theory, this project offers three innovations for feminist and queer studies. First, this project reintroduces the figure lesbian as an important tool for both feminist and queer thought as well as a contested border figure therein. Second, by examining the historical framing of lesbian figures--through lesbian breast cancer activism, radical feminism, and lesbian bed death--this project articulates the historical relationships between feminist and queer activism in new ways. Finally, this project provides an intervention into queer theory's anti-social thesis by mobilizing Melanie Klein's articulation of the death drive.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Chapter 1. 22

A Crisis Emerges: Lesbian Breast Cancer in The Wake of HIV/AIDS

Chapter 2. 55

Kill Daddy: Reproduction, Futurity, and the Violence of the Lesbian Feminist

Chapter 3. 89

Around 1987: Sex, Politics, and Lesbian Bed Death

Chapter 4. 122

Tough Titty: On Kleinian Negativity

Coda: Are we post lesbian?. 145

Works Cited. 151

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