5 November 2021 — 12:00 noon — online

Gregory T. Cushman (University of Kansas/University of Arizona)

“Alex in Wonderland: Humboldt’s Male Companions and the Queer Science of Liberation”

Historians’ continued avoidance of Alexander von Humboldt’s sexuality is one of the most troubling features of “Humboldtism”: the nearly systematic elision of Humboldt’s social relations and intellectual influences from his biography and the history of science. Did Humboldt’s sexuality influence his intellectual networks and the ways in which he perceived the world? What role did the quest for liberation play in Humboldt’s motivations for travel and the ways in which he and his companions narrated these experiences? Are there queer dimensions to Humboldtian science? This presentation will explore empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives that can be used to answer these questions. They might also teach us something fundamental about the historical circumstances in which same-sex relationships began to become aspects of conscious, modern sexual identities.


Gregory T. Cushman earned his PhD from the UT History Department in 2003. He is currently as Associate Professor of International Environmental History at the University of Kansas; in fall 2022 he will be moving to the History Department at the University of Arizona. His first book, Guano and the
Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History
(Cambridge University Press, 2013), won four international awards, including the inaugural Jerry Bentley Prize in World History from the American Historical Association. The Instituto de Estudios Peruanos recently published a revised and expanded translation. His current research has been supported by an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship.


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