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The History of Sexuality in Canada

Image of a Canadian WWI poster promoting the purchase of victory bonds

Tinder and Grindr. #MeToo and #TimesUp. Netflix and chill. We live in a society saturated by sex. This course aims to deploy the power of the past to help us make sense of our often confusing and conflicted sexual present. From Indigenous traditions of Two-Spirit people to the struggle over washrooms, pronouns, and transgender rights, the course offers an introduction to the diverse histories of sexualities in this place we now call Canada. 

We begin with several classes on how to think about sexuality as historical – as the basis for identities and communities, as a form of regulation, and as a hotly contested terrain of politics. Subsequent lectures approach sexuality as a prism through which to view the operations of power in the past, both in its pleasurable and dangerous manifestations. Drawing on Foucauldian, feminist, post-colonial, and queer theory, we will investigate sexuality’s historical intersections with gender, race, age, class, colonialism and nation in Canadian history. 

In terms of format, this is a lecture course. Lectures will provide broad overviews and interpretations of Canada’s sexual past. Lectures will be supplemented by readings and film and video. Written work will focus on critiquing both recent academic scholarship on and popular/public presentations of the sexual past in Canada.

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.