In Visible Archives

Queer and Feminist Visual Culture in the 1980s

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Margaret Galvan

In 1982, the protests of antiporn feminists sparked the censorship of the Diary of a Conference on Sexuality, a radical and sexually evocative image-text volume whose silencing became a symbol for the irresolvable feminist sex wars. In Visible Archives documents the community networks that produced this resonant artifact and others, analyzing how visual culture provided a vital space for women artists to theorize and visualize their own bodies and sexualities.

Margaret Galvan explores a number of feminist and cultural touchstones—the feminist sex wars, the HIV/AIDS crisis, the women in print movement, and countercultural grassroots periodical networks—and examines how visual culture interacts with these pivotal moments. She goes deep into the records to bring together a decade’s worth of research in grassroots and university archives that include comics, collages, photographs, drawings, and other image-text media produced by women, including Hannah Alderfer, Beth Jaker, Marybeth Nelson, Roberta Gregory, Lee Marrs, Alison Bechdel, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Nan Goldin.

The art highlighted in In Visible Archives demonstrates how women represented their bodies and sexualities on their own terms and created visibility for new, diverse identities, thus serving as blueprints for future activism and advocacy—work that is urgent now more than ever as LGBTQ+ and women’s rights face challenges and restrictions across the nation.

Background image courtesy of Alison Bechdel Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, SSC-MS-00633, Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.


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    Cover design by Crisis

    Cover images reprinted with permission of Hannah Alderfer and Marybeth Nelson. Copyright Hannah Alderfer, Beth Jaker, Marybeth Nelson 1982, 1983. Scan courtesy of Visual Resources Center, Stanford University.

    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance provided for the publication of this book by the University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (Rothman Endowment).

    Portions of chapter 2 are adapted from “Feminism Underground: The Comics Rhetoric of Lee Marrs and Roberta Gregory,” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 43, nos. 3/4 (Fall/Winter 2015): 203–22; copyright 2015 by the Feminist Press at the City University of New York; reprinted by permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of the publishers,; all rights reserved. Portions of chapter 3 are adapted from “‘The Lesbian Norman Rockwell’: Alison Bechdel and Queer Grassroots Networks,” American Literature 90, no. 2 (2018): 407–38; copyright 2018 Duke University Press; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission of the publisher,

    Images in chapter 4 from the Collection on Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa are part of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin; copyright by the Gloria E. Anzaldúa Literary Trust, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries. By permission of Stuart Bernstein Representation for Artists, New York, N.Y., and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. All rights reserved. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express permission is prohibited.

    Copyright 2023 by Margaret Galvan
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    University of Minnesota Press
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    Minneapolis, MN
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    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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    Margaret Galvan
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