Paper $37.50 ISBN: 9780226315249 Published January 2016
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226315102 Published January 2016
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Sex Museums

The Politics and Performance of Display

Jennifer Tyburczy

Sex Museums

Jennifer Tyburczy

296 pages | 27 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Paper $37.50 ISBN: 9780226315249 Published January 2016
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226315102 Published January 2016
E-book $10.00 to $37.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226315386 Published January 2016
All museums are sex museums. In Sex Museums, Jennifer Tyburczy takes a hard look at the formation of Western sexuality—particularly how categories of sexual normalcy and perversity are formed—and asks what role museums have played in using display as a technique for disciplining sexuality. Most museum exhibits, she argues, assume that white, patriarchal heterosexuality and traditional structures of intimacy, gender, and race represent national sexual culture for their visitors. Sex Museums illuminates the history of such heteronormativity at most museums and proposes alternative approaches for the future of public display projects, while also offering the reader curatorial tactics—what she calls queer curatorship—for exhibiting diverse sexualities in the twenty-first century.

Tyburczy shows museums to be sites of culture-war theatrics, where dramatic civic struggles over how sex relates to public space, genealogies of taste and beauty, and performances of sexual identity are staged. Delving into the history of erotic artifacts, she analyzes how museums have historically approached the collection and display of the material culture of sex, which poses complex moral, political, and logistical dilemmas for the Western museum. Sex Museums unpacks the history of the museum and its intersections with the history of sexuality to argue that the Western museum context—from its inception to the present—marks a pivotal site in the construction of modern sexual subjectivity.    
Contents

Illustrations
Preface: “A Fire in My Belly”
Acknowledgments


Introduction: All Museums Are Sex Museums

1 Hard-Core Collecting and Erotic Exhibitionism
2 Nudes and Nazis; or, Surveying Sex through Violence in Museums
3 WARNING: Dissident Sex in Museums
4 Touring the Sex Museum
5 Exhibiting the Sexual Modern
6 Queer Curatorship

Coda: When Sex Museums Fail

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Review Quotes
Times Higher Education
“The power of money has been wielded against disturbing depictions, whether through protests against tax-funded obscenity or fears of board members and donors about institutional reputation. Tyburczy presents evidence that the audience(s) for museums may be more open to sexual displays than gatekeepers suppose, but user feedback suggests unanswered questions about what the public expects from a sex museum.”
H-Net Reviews
“The performative nature of Tyburczy’s writing ensures that Sex Museums does not remain a static museum studies text, and instead urges museums and indeed spectators to think more carefully, creatively, and queerly about how diverse sex and sexualities are displayed and navigated in the museum.”
Jonathan D. Katz, author of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
“This is a unique and valuable book. Tyburczy’s grand theme is sexuality on display and the individual case histories presented are very compelling and studded with wholly new interpretations. Tyburczy has selected a notably diverse array of incidents that beautifully index period ideas about sex and its structures of visibility and invisibility. Ultimately, in weighing these discreet histories within a new category of displaying sex, Sex Museums manages to make them speak to one another.”
Heather Love, author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History
“Grounded in extensive multi-site research, Sex Museums is a far-reaching, original, and timely account of the rhetoric and material practices of the display of erotic materials. Tyburczy draws on her experience as a curator as well as interviews, observation, and archival research to present rich portraits of these often precarious institutions. Deeply engaged with museum studies and queer studies, as well as with work on affect, performance, and empire, Sex Museums grapples intelligently with the paradoxes of exhibiting and archiving sex.”
Susan Stryker, director, Institute for LGBT Studies, University of Arizona
 “Tyburczy’s Sex Museums hits the sweet hot spot between sexuality studies and museum studies to offer a smart analysis of the politics of the erotic in the public sphere. Read it and teach it if you love art, appreciate the power of representation to change our understandings of the world, and care about the place of sexual and gender minorities in civic space.”
Molly McGarry, author of Ghosts of Futures Past
Sex Museums is a queer manifesto for museum studies. Curating a grand tour of the museum as the West’s privileged space of display, Tyburczy excavates a genealogy of the recent culture wars while also attending to transnational circuits of capital, sex, and tourism. Offering the intriguing possibility that ‘any museum can be a sex museum,’ this work reorients the history of exhibition in compelling new ways.”
Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr., author of Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing
Sex Museums is a must-read for anyone who loves sex and/or museums. It is an eloquent reminder of how integral performative display of images and objects are to the world outside the museum walls. Tyburczy embarks upon an important exploration of museums as sites of norm-making and offers a valuable critique of ‘choreographies of museumgoing’ which explicitly or implicitly police/censor sex, or the sexually taboo. In Sex Museums, an impressive range of material is covered—from such an American classic work of dissidence like David Wojnarowicz’s  A Fire in My Belly  to the creative, yet controversial work of Mexican artists like Rolando De La Rosa’s La Virgen de Guadalupe con la cara de Marilyn Monroe. Through these, we are able to witness Tyburczy’s consistent attention to the complex interplay between race, sex,  gender, and the politics of display. Sex Museums is a model of how history meets theory, how museums studies can meet sexuality studies, and how performance can meet the archive—producing a rich terrain of truly original thought and methodological innovation. With Tyburczy’s eye and careful theorization, she creates her own museum with careful curatorial notes; a rich transnational-transdisciplinary space we are all lucky to explore.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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