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A Genealogy of Queer Practices in the 19th Century

Bogdan Popa

Paperback (Forthcoming)

A radical reframing of shame as a vital impetus of queer feminist activism

Shame has often been considered a threat to democratic politics, and was used to degrade and debase sex radicals and political marginals. But certain forms of shame were also embraced by 19th-century activists in an attempt to reverse entrenched power dynamics.

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List of Illustrations
Foreword: "But Officer..."

Part I: Shame and Queer Political Theory

1.Queer Practices, or How to Unmoor Feminism from Liberal Feminism

  • The Argument
  • What is Shame?
  • Queer Genealogy
  • Queer Practices and Liberal Feminism
  • Political Theory and The Police
  • Why Nineteenth-Century Feminists?
  • The structure of the book

2. How to do Queer Genealogy with J.S. Mill

  • How to "Part company with the world"
  • Mill in drag, shame, and silence
  • "Barbarians" and "lunatics": harsh language and Mill’s rhetoric
  • Conclusion

Part II: Counter-Figures

3. Disturbing Silence: Mill and the Radicals at The Monthly Repository

  • Unitarian Radicals and performativity
  • Beyond liberal shame
  • Mill’s disturbing silence and the Fox Affair
  • Conclusion

4. De-policing Humiliation: Political Rhetoric in Feminist Activism

  • The CD Acts and Josephine Butler’s rhetoric of humiliation
  • Mill’s Testimony against the CD Acts and the policing of feminist activism
  • Conclusion

5. Shame as a Line of Escape: Victoria Woodhull, Dispossession, and Free Love

  • Woodhull’s shaming and sexual transgressions
  • Shame as dispossession
  • The Police and how to close the lines of escape
  • Conclusion

Part III: Queering Shame

6. Does queer political theory have a future?


About the Author

Bogdan Popa is Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics at Oberlin College. He has been published in the Annual Review of Critical Psychology and contributed chapters to books including Cosmopolitanism and the Legacies of Dissent (edited by Tamara Caraus and Camil Alexandru Parvu, Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought, 2014). This is his first book.


Bogdan Popa’s exquisite investigation gifts us with a newfound appreciation for the loving, quotidian, and sometimes snarky radicalism of our Victorian forebears. In our shame, shows Popa, we - theorists, feminists, and other weirdos committed to equality and social transformation - are in the queerest of company.

- Joseph Fischel, Yale University

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