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A History of Bisexuality (Sexuality, History & Society) [Paperback]

Steven Angelides

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Book Description

8 Oct 2001 Sexuality, History & Society
Why is bisexuality the object of such scepticism? Why do sexologists steer clear of it in their research? Why has bisexuality, in stark contrast to homosexuality, only recently emerged as a nascent political and cultural identity? Bisexuality has been rendered as mostly irrelevant to the history, politics and theory of sexuality. With this text, Steven Angelides explores the reasons why and invites us to rethink our preconceptions about sexual identity. Retracing the evolution of sexology, and revisiting modern epistemological categories of sexuality in psychoanalysis, gay liberation, social constructionism, queer theory, biology, and human genetics, Angelides argues that bisexuality has historically functioned as the structural other to sexual identity itself, undermining assumptions about homosexuality and heterosexuality.

Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (8 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226020908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226020907
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,106,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"There is much to recommend in the book. It introduces the social science study of bisexuality, working through the current literature tidily. . . . It then works clearly through its two principal case studies, psychoanalysis and sexual politics, before drawing the debate together and simultaneously broadening it out through the discussion of the new sexual sciences. It has the consistent voice of a single-authored text. . . . It also finds a measured, even sober way to deal with bisexuality, resisting the hyperbole of what we might see as a willfully 'postmodern' brand of theorizing."--David Bell "Gender, Place and Culture " --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Steven Angelides is an Australian Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the Australian National University and an honorary fellow at the Australian Centre, University of Melbourne.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Doubts about the veracity of bisexuality as an identity are not new. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 2.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
20 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Live Up 16 Dec 2005
By John Rex - Published on Amazon.com
I had high hopes for this book, but the postdoc author seems much too intent on proving he's smart and knows big words. The reader must work hard to see through the unnecessarily highfalutin verbiage in order to find (basically unsatisfying and/or obvious) theories.

I had no clue where the author was headed until page 16, where Angelides identifies his unifying theme that "... historically, bisexuality represents a blind spot in hegemonic discourses of sexuality. Bisexuality has functioned as the structural Other to figurations of sexual identity and has represented the very uncertainty of the hetero/homosexual division." Huh?

Fortunately, the next pages give an outline for the book, which basically breaks down into: (1) frank examination of bisexuality undercuts neat, comfortable ideas about sexual identity; (2) sexologists couldn't fit bisexuality in with their "oppositional" categories of straight and gay; (3) bisexuality trips up Freud's Oedipal complex theories; (4) later psychoanalysts resolved the crisis about heterosexual identity by pathologizing gays in a way that would be more difficult if they were honest about bisexuality; (5) 1970s gay liberation missed the chance to embrace bi as it fought stigma; (6) Michel Foucault, bringing deconstructionist analysis to sexual and power issues, swept away categories that are needed for there to be a bisexual category to talk about; (7) for the most part, modern queer theorists unwittingly buy into the idea you're gay or straight because they rely and build on earlier theories and histories that ignore bisexuality; and (8) modern bisexuals are engaged in community and political organizing, and they should re-assert deconstructionist ideas in the increasingly scientific discourse about sexuality--when that discourse gives short shrift to bisexuality.

I won't swear that the above paragraph accurately captures the book's eight chapters, which I could barely skim. If you want to delve into the points above, and see decent summaries of what other scholars have said, check out the book. Strangely, it doesn't mention an interesting and more convincing work published earlier by Kenji Yoshino in the Stanford Law Review on Bisexual Erasure, whose abstract is online.

Now, for fun, some of the language that supports the idea that the author is trying to sound clever rather than to convey information: "In this phallocentric economy of (evolutionary) sameness, then, bisexuality provided the metonymic link between men, women, blacks, and our hermaphroditic ancestors." "As my microanalysis has shown, with the advance of science in the nineteenth century, the evolutionary concept of bisexuality was incorporated into the notion of subjectivity as self-possession." "Symbolic interactionism and social labeling were thus made possible, yet simultaneously constrained, by the emergence of a gay lifestyle and a homogenizing category of homosexual identity." Huh? You can find sentences like these on almost every page.

I wanted a book that explained why, despite anecdotal evidence it's common, so few people study and understand bisexuality or come to grips with its apparent commonness. This isn't that book.
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