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Activating Theory: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Politics

edited by Joseph Bristow, Angelia R. Wilson
Published in 1994, by Lawrence & Wishart
ISBN: 0853157901 US$19.50 (paperback)

reviewed by Mike Walker

Activating Theory : Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Politics is not exactly a new book, however, I believe it is one most deserving of a review in a publication such as Oasis. When it was published by the British publishers Lawrence & Wishart back in 1994, Activating Theory immediately became a widely-read and important contribution to the growing field of queer studies in the social sciences. What made this book unique, aside from being a first-rate collection of essays by a variety of leading scholars in gay-oriented fields, is that Activating Theory was one of the first anthologies of its kind to include a high amount of content that is of direct relevance to queer youth. While other academic works of this nature were more or less concentrating on gay political issues germane to an older generation, Activating Theory elected to consider young queer people to be its primary focus. The essays collected in this anthology range from those about strictly political issues to those that bring not only social but also personal (i.e., body image and sexuality) topics into a larger political discourse. One lesson that we all should learn from the past decade is that if queer youth and their supporters fail to launch an intelligent dialog regarding such issues as they concern us, then other people will do this for us. Activating Theory enters numerous topics in a comprehensive, lucid, and informed manner with witty, captivating, writing that opens these challenging issues in a way that is approachable though mindful of the gravity of such serious social topics.

The contributors included in this volume span a wide gamut in terms of their backgrounds, areas of expertise, and interests, including fairly well-known commentators such as Rachel Thomson and Helen (charles). While intellectual and academic in tone and intent, the authors represented come not only from the ranks of university scholars, but also include several activists who provide illuminating first-hand appraisals of the challenges poised by concerns such as sex education, AIDS, and bisexuality to queer studies and queer youth. Due to this approach and the dedication of editors Joseph Bristow and Angelia Wilson to include such a broad expanse of perspectives in one compact volume, I would recommend this book to anyone -- but especially to undergraduate college students who are struggling with understanding how queer theory and related social politics can be applied to actual causes and topics. Activating Theory offers a great place to start in understanding the obstacles and possible triumphs for us in the future.

MICHAEL WALKER is the Science and Medical Editor of Oasis Magazine. He has also contributed research proceedings, review articles, and essays on queer youth and medical, legal, and social issues that face them to a variety of other popular and academic publications. He can be reached at: MCWalker@hotmail.com


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