Stereotype and Stigma: 1991 Conference Challenging Stereotypes

3For LGBT Month February 2016 I will be blogging about key LGBT aspects from our collections, particularly focusing on stereotypes and perception of LGBT communities in the 80s/90s by the mainstream.

This post focuses on a conference in 1991 – Stereotype and Stigma – held at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and organized by iris and the Centre of Modern Cultural Studies UKC-  this was a day forum exploring issues ‘concerning censorship, social control, national identity and sexuality in art and popular culture’. Speakers included:

  • Elizabeth Cowie, Professor at the University of Kent, looking at desire for the real in photography, and looking at difference and other, exploring areas such as disability, sexuality, migration
  • Steve Mayes, looking at censorship and control in the British Media
  • Lola Young (West Polytechnic, lecturer in Film Studies), looking at race and mental illness, and how this is linked in the film The Telephone with Whoopi Goldberg
  • Andy Medhurst (Cultural Gender Studies, Sussex University), looking at masculinity
  • Tessa Boffin (Photography, Kent Institute of Art and Design), on Lesbians Take Photographs, linked to her co-edited book and exhibition Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs, looking at representations of lesbians in photographs
  • Anna Fox (Photography,  now at University for the Creative Arts) looking how stereotyping was impetus behind her work, and how documentary photography could have greater political strength

What is particularly interesting regarding the conference is the way that as stereotypes is explored with various traditionally  marginalized groups, it recognizes that one aspect cannot be taken in isolation – for example an experience of a black lesbian may differ from a white lesbian.


Documentation about this conference comes from the Tessa Boffin archive – photographer specializing in sex and sexuality and LGBT studies in the 1980s/1990s. Our archives consist of a range of formats, and we hold the VHS documenting the full conference. As this conference is linked to Stolen Glances -Lesbians Take Photographs, the book and exhibition co-edited by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser, you can view press clippings regarding the conference, images that appear, and visitors comments regarding the exhibition linking to Boffin’s talk.

View the catalogue here and contact us to see the collection





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