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Ele Chenier

Ele Chenier

Prize for Best article on the history of Sexuality


Ele Chenier. “Love-Politics: Lesbian Wedding Practices in Canada and the United States from the 1920s to the 1970s,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 27, no.2 (May 2018): 294-321.

Ele Chenier’s essay is a complex and provocative historical investigation of same-sex wedding practices as a form of activism and love-politics, using a theoretical formulation drawn from Jennifer Nash’s work on black feminist thought. Weaving together a historical record of same- sex wedding practices in Canadian and US history with a theory of justice based on collectivity and love-politics, Chenier demonstrates how weddings were weaponized as a social platform to move away from identity politics and towards radicalism despite embracing “heterosexuality’s most defining public ritual.” Within this paradigm, Chenier showcases historical examples that focus on the political work and world-making in the communities and lives of butches and femmes and studs and fishes as they negotiated their activism as a “radical assertion of self-love and queer dignity.” Chenier’s illuminating and significant contribution engages with core debates in the history of sexuality such as race, liberation vs. equality politics, the use of oral history, gay and lesbian activism, and surveillance within a multiplicity of contexts including the military, bars, and neighborhoods.

Honourable mention

Becki L. Ross and Jamie Lee Hamilton. “‘Loss Must Be Marked and It Cannot Be Represented’: Memorializing Sex Workers in Vancouver’s West End,” BC Studies 197 (Spring 2018): 9-38.

In a moving and poignant discussion on community activism, civic politics, and the memorializing of sex worker’s experiences in Vancouver,  academic-activist, Becki L. Ross, and the late community sex worker activist, Jamie Lee Hamilton, offer a rare glimpse into the trials and successes born from a remarkable collaboration and deep friendship. Ross and Hamilton document the political activism and affective politics that punctuated their efforts to “honour the resilience of ‘hookers on Davie’” while Indigenous women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside went missing and/or were murdered. The authors centre discourses of displacement, struggle, and violence to draw the reader into understanding the historical significance of their commitment to commemorate the street-based sex workers working in the West End from the late 1960s to 1984 with a memorial lamppost. In the shadow of Jamie Lee Hamilton’s untimely passing on December 23, 2019, the article functions to document and archive the work, life, and spirit of a major political actor.