Cruising the 1970s: Unearthing Pre-HIV/AIDS Queer Sexual Cultures

Project Participants

  • Project Leader
    University of Edinburgh
    United Kingdom
    University of Murcia
    Newcastle University
    United Kingdom
    University of Warsaw
    Humboldt-University Berlin

The research question at the heart of Cruising the 1970s (CRUSEV) is: how might we best reconstruct and understand LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) social and sexual cultures from the decade between the advent of an international gay rights movement and the first reported cases of HIV/AIDS, and what can this knowledge contribute to understandings of queer politics and identity in Europe’s present and future?

While public attitudes towards queer sexualities and the legislative treatment of LGBTQ people differs greatly across Europe, we ask what might be gained collectively, now and in the future, from examining the shared and dissonant European experiences of persecution, discrimination, collaborative action, and protest in the 1970s. As HIV infection rates rise in Eastern Europe, Spain, France, and metropolitan Britain, this project returns to places, histories, and visions of the future from the pre-HIV/AIDS era that have been lost or forgotten, which were fleeting or ephemeral, censored or destroyed. With one in four LGBTQ people in Europe reporting experiences of homophobic violence or verbal abuse in the past five years, we explore how rethinking queer history can offer innovative means of tackling homophobia in the present. CRUSEV interrogates the queer terrain of the 1970s across four European countries (Germany, Poland, Spain, and the UK) as a means of reframing, and ultimately transforming, both contemporary cultural, social and political knowledge about queer history and queer life in Europe in the present.

CRUSEV investigates the transformative impact of queer world making in the 1970s on contemporary LGBTQ life in Europe and on the study of LGBTQ history in the present. In examining these cultural shifts and historical effects, CRUSEV asks a variety of questions of crucial significance to the HERA ‘Uses of the Past’ theme, including:

  • What are the challenges of historicising the recent past, in countries across Europe? In what ways were the ‘queer 1970s’ experienced and historicised differently in culturally and politically distinct European countries?
  • What is the significance of these national differences and similarities for the advancement of legislative rights of LGBTQ people in the European Union in the present?
  • What are the blindspots in official histories of this decade? In arriving at our current cultural attitudes and political policies towards LGBTQ people, what ‘alternative histories’ have been sidelined or obscured?
  • What challenges are posed by engaging with hidden or fleeting elements of subcultural history?
  • In what ways did hegemonic public discourses (legal, religious, medical) around sexuality and gender identity shape subcultural expressions of LGBTQ identity and queer experience in Europe in the 1970s?
  • How do these subcultural expressions of the 1970s shape the experiences of LGBTQ people in the present?
  • How was queer cultural creativity in the 1970s related to the social and political legitimacy being won in many, but not all, European countries at the time?
Associated Partners: 

AP 1: Dr. Francis McKee, Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), United Kingdom

AP 2: Ken Hay, Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), United Kingdom

AP 3: Isla Leaver-Yap, Lux Scotland, United Kingdom

AP 4: Alex Hetherington, Modern Edinburgh Film School, United Kingdom

AP 6: Dr. Patricia Allerston, National Galleries of Scotland, United Kingdom

AP 7: Peter Stuhlmüller, Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, Germany

AP 8: Jörg Litwinschuh, Magnus Hirschfeld Federal Foundation, Germany

AP 9: Dr. Jens Dobler, Schwules Museum, Germany

AP 10: Sabine Balke, Spinnboden Lesbenarchiv und Bibliothek, Germany

AP 11: Tomasz Plata, BWA Gallery, Poland

AP 12: Gawel Kownacki, Foundation Artists Innovation Theory (F.A.I.T.) Gallery, Poland

AP 13: Dominika Ferens, Interalia: A Journal of Queer Studies, Poland

AP 14: Agata Chaber, KPH (Kampania Przeciw Homofobii/Campaign Against Homophobia), Poland

AP 15: Agnieszka Wiciak, Lambda, Poland

AP 16: Lukasz Ronduda, Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej (Museum of Modern Art), Poland

AP 17: Marcin Kunc, Replika magazine, Poland

AP 18: Wiktor Dynarski, Trans-Fuzja, Poland

AP 19: Ángel Cruz Sanchez, Filmoteca Francisco Rabal-Región de Murcia, Spain