Pornography and Transnational Sexual Subculture in Britain, 1900-1939
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 1-Jan-2035
AbstractThis dissertation interrogates the place of pornography within British culture between 1900 and 1939. While numerous scholars have studied British pornography using literary analysis and various cultural history approaches, this has not been accompanied by significant attention to the social dynamics of those involved in producing, consuming, and regulating pornographic materials. By dedicating equal attention to the products and operations of the pornography trade itself and to the surrounding hegemonic forces of state, press, and civil society, this research challenges widespread assumptions regarding the relationship between pornography and mainstream sexual culture. Specifically, this project argues that the pre-1939 pornography trade can best be understood as a queer sexual subculture. Moreover, this subculture operated as a node within a far larger and more complex transnational network rather than as an isolated national or local entity. Pornographic content reflected these conditions of production and consumption, offering subversive alternatives to heteronormative hegemonic practices such as mandatory heterosexuality, monogamy, and binary gender roles. Numerous social trends and competing discourses worked to create cultural spaces in which the subculture operated. The British state, civil anti-vice organizations, and the press all formally opposed the pornography trade yet limited their efforts against it due to competing priorities such as opposition to censorship and the desire to frame pornography as a strictly foreign social issue. This carefully historicized case study of a specific culture of pornography offers a counterpoint to contemporary treatments of pornography as an ahistorical and monolithic cultural production. By placing the pre-1939 British pornography trade in its specific imperial and transnational context, this dissertation shows that pornography can only be studied through close attention to its conditions of production, consumption, and regulation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College