Queer federal prisoners are a population often inaccessible to queer memory due to the strong institutional barriers that separate these individuals from life outside of prison walls. This paper asks: how can we employ feminist methodologies in the recovery of queer voices from federal prison archives? By documenting perceived deviance and perversions, carceral institutions in the 1930s-1950s built a case to justify their use of discursive and physical violence against queer bodies. This paper argues that carceral archives serve as norming mechanisms, creating barriers between normal and abnormal, heterosexual and homosexual. To counter this norming, Ann Laura Stoler (2002) provides the framework for moving from “archive-as-source to archive-as-subject” which I build upon to consider “archive-as-kin,” a larger, genealogical project of locating queer ancestry through institutional archives. Drawing from queer oral history methods, this paper offers strategies for and adapting these methods into archival interviews; treating queer voices in the archive as recoverable and resisting the urge to consider them lost. Just as these institutional barriers were built by many hands, many hands—through interdisciplinary methodologies—are required to dismantle them. While federal prison archives are not explicitly queer, this paper argues that queer lives within them can be recovered in order to challenge the monolithic narrative of these archives, disrupting their heteronorming function.
Overdorf, Vic. 2021. "Archives of “Sexual Deviance”: Recovering the Queer Prisoner." Journal of Feminist Scholarship 19 (Fall): 7-23. 10.23860/jfs.2021.19.02.
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