"Dull Babies Made Normal By Feeble-Minded Girls’ Care: Increase of as Much as 40 Points in IQ Reported,” a science magazine headline trumpeted in 1939, describing an experiment led by psychologist Harold Skeels in which orphanage toddlers were transferred to the State Institution for “the Mentally Defective” in Glenwood, Iowa to be nurtured by women incarcerated there. Other “contrast” children left behind in the orphanage did worse by any measure. By 1940, this experiment came under scathing scholarly attack. But by the late 1960s, Harold Skeels’ work, which depended on these women, was credited as key inspiration for the development of Special Education and the notion of learning disability. This talk explores how that the systematic forgetting of what actually happened at Glenwood eroded the effectiveness of the various projects Skeels was praised for inspiring. Raising the children in tandem with the low-wage women workers who were their attendants, the women of Glenwood developed a radically interdependent kinship model that profoundly (but very briefly, and under conditions of domination) called the usual terms and stratifications of “intelligence,” “normal,” “cure,” “care,” and of “research” itself into question.
The lecture analyzes how Tino Sehgal's museum installation "Kiss" establishes the normative temporal scheme of contemporary heterosexual sex, and how a series of performances by Brennan Gerard & Ryan Kelly (who work as Gerard & Kelly) comment upon and transform that scheme. Especially at issue is the role that the rhythms established by synchrony, reciprocity, and endurance play in the discourse of "good" sex gay and straight, and the role of arrhythmia in fostering queer sexual possibilities.
Elizabeth Freeman is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Duke University Press, 2010) and the co-editor of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. In 2007 she edited a special issue of GLQ on "Queer Temporalities." Her first book, The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture was published by Duke University Press in 2002.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the Art History Department, Center for Visual Culture, Communication Arts Department, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies Department, Digital Studies Program, English Department, Gender and Sexuality Caucus, and the Gender and Women's Studies Department.