The EAAS LGBTQ+ Studies Network is proud to announce the return of the LGBTQ+ Studies webinar on October 15, 2021.
“Vice Patrol: Policing Gay Life Before Stonewall”
Dr. Anna Lvovsky, University of Harvard
Friday, October 15, 2021 @6 pm (France)
In the mid-twentieth century, gay life flourished in American cities even as the state repression of queer communities reached its peak. Liquor investigators infiltrated and shut down gay-friendly bars. Plainclothes decoys enticed men in parks and clubs. Vice officers surveilled public bathrooms through peepholes and two-way mirrors.
Drawing on research from the book Vice Patrol: Cops, Courts, and the Struggle over Urban Gay Life, this lecture examines the tactics used to criminalize, profile, and suppress gay life from the 1930s through the 1960s, and the often-surprising controversies those campaigns inspired in court. More than simply disputes about the law’s proper treatment of queer people, the policing of gay life stood at the center of live debates about the limits of ethical law enforcement, the authority of experts, and the nature of sexual difference itself—debates that had often unexpected effects on the gay community’s rights and freedoms. Tracing those institutional and epistemic battles, this talk offers a new look at the possibilities of resistance in the justice system, the role of the police in shaping public understandings of queerness, and the rich, unpredictable intersections between state repression and public knowledge about marginalized social groups.
Anna Lvovsky is an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where her scholarship focuses on the legal and cultural dimensions of policing, judicial uses of professional knowledge, and the regulation of gender and sexuality. Her first book, Vice Patrol: Cops, Courts, and the Struggle over Urban Gay Life before Stonewall, examines the daily realities and legal contests surrounding the policing of gay communities in the mid-twentieth century. At HLS, she teaches courses on evidence, criminal law, American legal history, and the history of policing. She received her B.A. from Yale University, her J.D. from Harvard Law School, and her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University.