Academic seminar with Dr Benjamin Kahan



10 March 2015


Boardroom, United States Studies Centre



Dr Benjamin Kahan's essay, “Volitional Etiologies” is drawn from a larger project theorising an etiological rather than an epistemological approach to the history of sexuality. In this essay, he explores a particularly weak class of etiologies that he refers to as volitional in order both to highlight the possibilities of weak theory and to consider questions of sexual sequence. By weak etiology, he means to examine etiologies which ask questions about origins without establishing cause or which are open to the possibility of etiology without cause. Such etiologies, he contends, not only help us reconfigure the domain of the sexual at the turn of the century, but also remap the relation between ideas of acquisition and congenitality, between acts and identities.


  • Dr Benjamin Kahan
    Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University

    Benjamin Kahan was a Visiting Fellow at the US Studies Centre from August 2014 to April 2015. Kahan is Assistant Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Louisiana State University and has held postdoctoral fellowships at Washington University in St. Louis, Emory University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life (Duke University Press, 2013).

    Whilst at the US Studies Centre, he worked on a second book project entitled Sexual Etiologies and the Making of the Congenital Body. This project theorises an etiological, rather than an epistemological approach to the history of sexuality. He argues that etiological questions play a crucial role in the ongoing debate over the shape of US LGBT rights.