Podcast series examines queer history at Brandeis

Graphic that says Queer Life at Brandeis Podcast

Jay Collay ‘22 got started with the Queer Oral History at Brandeis Project after spotting a listing for an undergraduate research assistant position in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program. Working on the project sounded like a perfect fit.

"I'm a double major in history and women's, gender, and sexuality studies. My interest is specifically queer history, and I’d like to go into outreach education,” Collay said. “It just really matched my sphere of interest. It seemed like a really unique opportunity for an undergrad."

Jay Collay

Jay Collay '22

That was two years ago. Today, the project includes an interactive timeline of key events and a newly-released “Queer Life at Brandeis Podcast” series produced by Collay. From the start, Collay wanted the series to focus on capturing what everyday life has been like for queer people on campus over the years.

"When people talk about queer history, you hear about big things like Stonewall or gay marriage or Walt Whitman or Oscar Wilde,” Collay said. “You rarely get to hear people's own voices, telling their own stories, about just going about their lives and doing things because they thought it mattered."

Since the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, Collay has been a part of a team of professors, graduate and undergraduate students working on the Queer History Project at Brandeis. The podcasts are the latest entry for the project, which was started by professor Wendy Cadge and then academic administrator Shannon Kearns in the summer of 2018.

"It’s too easy for queer history to be overlooked. Over the years, WGS has done a lot to highlight women’s history at Brandeis. As the program - now a department - evolved to include sexuality in its name, we need to hear the stories of queer students, staff and faculty on campus," Cadge said.

The initial research for the project was done by graduate students, who culled through student newspaper archives and other university records to piece together the history of queer people at Brandeis. This resulted in a detailed 150-page document, along with oral history interviews with alumni.

Before creating the podcast during this past academic year, Collay collaborated with Cadge, Kearns, and graduate students in WGS to put this history into forms that could be easily found and absorbed. The result was an interactive timeline of important queer events at Brandeis over the years.

This year, Collay has worked to develop the research and oral history interviews done for the project into the podcasts, which were released earlier this spring. Collay edited the interviews, recorded narratives in the SIMS media lab, and pieced together the podcasts during this past academic year. The series features three episodes, each with a different theme. "Painting the Town Rainbow" focuses on queer culture on campus, "Live and Learn" focuses on queer identities in the classroom, and "Queer, There, and Everywhere" focuses on queer spaces on campus. Collay hopes the podcasts will reach and resonate with current students.

"Queer history can often feel very inaccessible or staggered, because it does not get passed down easily--there are no structures in place to pass it down," Collay said. "I felt it was really important that current students know they are not the first ones going through this. There have always been people like you on campus. You're part of something that goes back as far back as we can find records for." 

Listen to the podcast series:

Episode 1: Painting the Town Rainbow

Episode 2: Live and Learn

Episode 3: Queer, There, and Everywhere

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Research, Student Life

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