Capó and Sueyshi discuss intersectionality in year’s first history speaker series

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Audrey Moussazadeh, Staff Writer

Historians Dr. Julio Capó Jr. and Dr. Amy Sueyoshi discussed the role of intersectionality in relation to queer history in the first installment of this year’s Upper Division (UD) speaker series, Intersectionality: Exploring Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality, on Wednesday night. Mia Calzolaio (12), Avani Khorana (11), and history teachers Dr. Alicia DeMaio and Dr. Daniel Link moderated the event.

Capó is a transnational historian whose research focuses on the intersection of immigration, race, gender, and sexual orientation in the United States. Capó has published several books covering the histories of LGBTQ+ communities, specifically how transnationalism affects queer history. Capó won the Charles S. Sydnor Award from the Southern Historical Association for the best book written on Southern history, according to the UD History speaker series website. He currently works as an associate professor in the Department of History at the Florida International University.

Sueyoshi is the Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. Their research centers around the intersection of Asian-American and queer identities. Sueyoshi writes about the relationship between sexuality and socio-cultural norms. In addition to publishing in several academic journals, Sueyoshi is involved in grassroots activism and museum work, according to the speaker series website.

Link was most struck by the groundbreaking nature of the speakers’ research, he said. “So little work has been done up until recently about LGBTQ+ people of color, but they brought to light a lot of pieces of history that are important but had been hidden from the general public,” he said.

The speakers discussed the importance of using investigative historical methods, specifically cultural and literary sources, DeMaio said. “Queer history is often seen as ‘erased’ or ‘invisible’ in historical reference,” she said. This is partially because queer people may chose to hide their identities from the public eye, she said. 

Capó and Sueyoshi also spoke about the difficult process of finding queer sources and archives “lost” throughout history. Loren Pretsfelder (11) was particularly shocked to hear about the difficulties of finding these pieces and archives, she said. “I had never really considered how hard it could be to find resources on queer people throughout history,” she said. “I hadn’t even considered the role of criminalization archives, or thought about how big of a role they play.”

History teacher Dr. Emily Straus appreciated Capó and Sueyoshi’s discussion on how historians conduct their research, she said. “[It] highlighted the complex process of finding the voices of people whose voices have been marginalized,” she said. 

Capó and Sueyoshi also discussed the use of the word “queer” as an expansive term. “The term ‘queer’ helps question the norms and it is important that we looked at that and learned from their discussion,” DeMaio said.

Khorona enjoyed moderating the speaker series installment because it was a good way to practice public speaking in an engaging environment while making connections with prestigious people, she said. This month’s topic was of particular interest to Khorona because queer history is not covered much in her classes, she said. 

The installment resulted from a collective department effort, Straus said. “While I am the point person, it’s really a collaborative piece by the history department,” she said. 

Straus, Link, and DeMaio all felt it was important to reinstate the speaker series for another year after all the positive feedback it received from students and the administration last year, Link said. 

“We, the history department, felt it would be important to continue to foster lots of thoughtful and meaningful conversations in class this year the way it previously has,” Straus said. “It is important for the community to continue these discussions, and it is an important part of what we as historians can offer to the school.”

Though this year’s overarching theme is still race and ethnicity, the history department realized that the best way to approach the series is to broaden the lens to a more intersectional approach, Link said. Capó and Sueyoshi emphasized the importance of considering intersectionality when considering history, Link said. “There is no history without intersectionality,” Sueyoshi said. 

DeMaio hopes students learned from the speakers that history is not just a collection of facts, but rather something that needs to be interpreted, puzzled out, and put together into a cohesive narrative, she said. 

Link hopes students retain a greater appreciation for the challenges of uncovering the voices of people who were marginalized historically, as well as the importance of doing so. “These people are a part of American history, and their contributions need to be studied and understood,” he said.