Hi all! My name is Charlie Taylor, I’m a rising sophomore majoring in Art History and Anthropology and minoring in Classics and French. Fun fact: I am mildly allergic to peaches, but didn’t find out until I was 16! Turns out it isn’t normal to for your mouth to feel itchy when you eat something.
I’m from Harrisburg, PA and my research is based on a part of Central Pennsylvania history that I discovered while in high school. I was involved in my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and during a GSA conference I got a chance to explore the LGBT history archives at Dickinson College in Carlisle. I had never been aware that Central PA, which can feel pretty isolated from major centers of queer life like New York or San Francisco, had such a rich LGBT history.
I am working with Professor Ellenbogen in the art history department, making use of the LGBT history archive, as well as major scholarship in gender studies, to investigate the role of art and visuality in challenging heteronormative gender construction. How did queer people in Central PA represent themselves, and what role does this self-representation have in deconstructing the dominant models of masculinity and femininity?
I see this project as addressing two important questions: that of the impact of art on the “real world” and that of the agency of queer people outside urban centers. Judith Butler has argued (in “Performative Acts and Gender Construction”) that theatre cannot pose a challenge to gender roles because everything that occurs in a theatrical performance can be dismissed as “just a play.” Similarly, Esther Newton (in Mother Camp, one of the first ethnographies of drag and queer culture) claims that drag and even queer communities in general exist almost exclusively in large cities. I hope that my work will demonstrate the impact of art (whether in the theatre space or in a magazine) on social structures, as well as the possibility for a rich queer culture outside urban centers.
My primary academic interest is in archaeology and ancient history, but in studying the past I also want to consider the political implications of the way in which we interpret history. As much as archaeology as a discipline says about past cultures, it can also hold a mirror up to our own culture. There have been recent movements in archaeology questioning the assumption that binary genders and male hegemony are universal across all cultures, which has major implications for how we interpret the past.
I hope that the Brackenridge will give me the experience I need to pursue future research into gender construction in ancient cultures and the consequences of that construction throughout history. I want to pursue a BPhil thesis connecting the ancient world to more recent power systems, and to attend graduate school after Pitt, so the resources provided by the Brackenridge on research funding, publication and applying to grad school will hopefully set me in the right direction to achieve those professional goals.