This semester, HWS welcomed Visiting Assistant Professor of LGBT Studies Cael Keegan as HWS’ first full-time faculty member in LGBT studies. Keegan traditionally teaches interdisciplinary courses centering on the relationship between queer, transgender, anti-racist, and feminist modes of consciousness and political critique. With his arrival, the Colleges were able to offer the first transgender studies class, “Transgender Identities and Politics.”
He currently is teaching “Introduction to LGBT Studies” and is working with the LGBT program steering committee to develop new, cross-listed courses designed to be of interest to most students on campus. They are looking at the three other institutions in the country with LGBT majors or minors to see what differentiates HWS, as well as to learn from what others are doing.
“Hobart and William Smith are definitely leaders in transgender studies with the new courses we have developed for this academic year. We want to remain distinct and keep our cutting edge leadership status while developing a diverse program that offers a lot to a variety of students,” says Keegan.
He asserts there is a need for the courses. “Most students will go on to work with some portion of the LGBT population, whether they are in sales, business, social work, nonprofits, therapists or work with foreign cultures. Having literacy around the issues LGBT people struggle with in our society is a key to success.”
Keegan hopes that by helping students become more informed about the problems faced by LGBT populations, he will inspire them to become politicized about gender as a source of bias in society.
“Sexual/gender minority is an emerging and ongoing civil rights issue. Inequality for transgender minorities will be the big new problem society will have to face,” he says.
In addition to the courses he is teaching this fall, the department has developed three cross-listed courses that will be offered in the spring (those in LGBT will be taught by Keegan): LGBT 204 “Bodies of Difference” will use first-person accounts to look at how disease and disability are interpreted by queer population; WMST 218 “Queer Representation in Theater and Film” will be taught by Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Michelle Martin-Baron; and LGBT 301 “Queer Geographies and Migrations” will trace how modern queer subjectivity has formed and how it has been communicated and inherited by generations of queer individuals.
“Growing up as a scholar over the past 15 years, I did not have access to the courses I am now teaching,” says Keegan. “There is a whole generation of scholars who had to invent a course of study to address all the academic issues related to LGBT. I became a professor because I wanted to provide students with the experiences I didn’t have. If my courses in some way improve the lives of students – LGBT or not – that’s what I want.”
Keegan earned his B.A. in English from St. Bonaventure University, with a minor in women’s studies. He earned an M.A. in American studies with a designated emphasis on global gender studies as well as his Ph.D. in American studies, from the University at Buffalo. He then moved to California and taught at San Francisco State, Sonoma State and Evergreen College before learning of the opportunity to join the faculty at HWS.
“It was encouraging that the Colleges were looking for someone to grow transgender studies in the department,” he says.
Keegan is a specialist in the theory and history of sexuality and gender, with a focus on interdisciplinary queer and transgender studies as well as queer cultural politics, literature, media, aesthetics, performance, community formations, and social movements. His current research examines 20th century queer melodramatic representation and its political function in the postwar expansion of American democratic ideology. Keegan also has expertise in cultural studies and the politics of popular culture, affect theory, film and television studies, and the history of the moving image. He is a member of the National Women’s Studies Association and the Transgender Caucus.
He is the author of a number of articles, the most recent of which are “Queer Sensations: Postwar Melodrama and the Crisis of Queer Juvenility,” published in Thymos: The Journal of Boyhood Studies (Fall 2013), and “Moving Bodies: Sympathetic Migrations in Transgender Narrativity” published in Genders. Vol. 55. (Spring 2013). Forthcoming is an article, “California and the Queer Utopian Imagination,” which will be published next year in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of California (Cambridge UP).
In considering his goals for his first year at HWS, Keegan says, “I want students to come out of class feeling they can change the world and the world has a place for them in it.”