Center for the Study of Sexual Culture

The Center for the Study of Sexual Culture was founded in 2001 to foster a cross-disciplinary approach to the study of the institutions, practices, norms, and modes of representation that orchestrate and establish meanings for sexuality. The recognition of the variably constructed nature of sexuality in different locations and at different historical moments is one of the key ideas of modern times. The Center for the Study of Sexual Culture brings together UC Berkeley faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates who wish to pursue critical projects that deal with the cultural construction of sexuality and that strive for a nuanced understanding of the historical and cultural variability of sexual meanings. The critical projects pursued at the Center consider sexuality as a phenomenon that essentially informs diverse fields of social life, such as the state, the economy, civil society, family forms, and cultural modes of representation.

The Center encourages research with two interlocking perspectives. The first perspective is one which examines the implication of sexuality in cultural formations of various kinds. These cultural formations might include, for example: legal and legislative practices; the production and consumption of literary genres; popular culture; visual culture; the history of the body; and psychological and sociological theory. The second research perspective examines the workings of specific sexual cultures, the precise ways in which sexuality is organized discursively and institutionally at given places and given times.


The Center sponsors lectures and conferences by faculty and graduate students both from Berkeley and from other institutions. It collaborates with other organizations around the Bay Area to present public events on various sexual cultures. On campus, it also organizes reading groups for more informal intellectual interchanges. It cooperates with other Berkeley units to bring creative artists and writers to campus. It offers fellowships to Berkeley graduate students who are writing dissertations, and organizes workshops for graduate students who are engaged in research into sexual culture. Its inaugural conference, Studying Sexual Culture, which took place March 7-9, 2002, brought together scholars from a variety of American universities and research centers to engage in a dialogue about extant paradigms within the field of sexuality studies and the way they are shifting.