This essay examines ways in which historians might learn from queer approaches to the past. Drawing inspiration from queer theory and ideas long circulating in cultural, literary and medieval studies, it argues that there is much to be gained when we adopt a more self-reflexive, genealogical, context-specific analysis of lives lived. A queered history interrogates whether our guiding questions and assumptions might actually foreclose possible lines of analysis, especially around matters of identity. Emphasizing overlap, contingency, ambiguity and complexity, it asks us to linger over our own assumptions—individual as well as societal—to interrogate the role they play in the past we seek out, discover and recreate in our writing. Not just the preserve of scholars of LGBT history, it questions universal experience, suggests new historical pivots and periodizations, while pointing out the unconscious ways in which progressive narrative arcs often seep into our analyses.
By Jennifer Evans, 2016