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Andrew Shield: ‘I don’t always separate research and free time’

Andrew Shield (35) is a University Lecturer at Leiden University and the cofounder of the Leiden Queer History Network. History, migration and sexuality are all subjects he is passionate about and teaches in. He wrote a book about immigrants during the sexual revolution, as well as one on contemporary immigrants who use the gay dating app Grindr.

Why the Netherlands is so interesting

‘I was born in the United States and have been living in the Netherlands for a year now. The Netherlands has some of the best migration historians, and gender/sexuality scholars in Europe. At Brown University, where I did my bachelor’s, there were almost no classes about LGBTQ topics. I took my first class in sexuality studies when I was an exchange student at the University of Amsterdam, and I especially got interested in the situation in the Netherlands. I’ve always wanted to do research here and have been researching LGBTQ in the Netherlands for many years. Immigration and sexuality overlap here in very interesting ways: in politics, LGBTQ issues are openly discussed and even used for political purposes.’

Bisexuality in the classroom

‘I’m happy I can teach so many classes on sexuality history, migration history and diversity. To meet students who really want to study these topics is fantastic. I teach a diverse group of students: undergraduates who are mostly Dutch, and master students who come from all over the world to study in Leiden. They bring a lot of interesting perspectives to the classroom.’

‘For example, one of my students was really interested in having special attention to bisexuality, since it is often missing in both current debates about LGBTQ rights and historically. She said that we should consider bisexuality and how these people have been marginalized from not only mainstream society, but also gay/lesbian groups. Having someone who stressed this made me more aware of how bisexuality should be more incorporated into history.’

Sexuality, migration studies and Grindr

‘I’m gay myself and an immigrant, but I don’t always see my research as being “me-search”, to borrow Eliza Steinbock's term. In all of my classes, I try to incorporate aspects of gender, sexuality, race, and migration. People may migrate for economic reasons or to flee from war, but also because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is true in the present, but was also true in the sixties and seventies. There is never just one reason why someone immigrates, although it may seem so on paper. Therefore sexuality is part of migration studies. It works similarly the other way around: when gay and lesbian cultures in the Netherlands radicalized in the seventies, there already were immigrants involved.’

‘Because of my PhD in Communications, when I teach about migration and LGBTQ issues in history, I tie them to the present. My new book is about immigrants who use Grindr (a dating or “hook-up” app for mostly gay men, ed.) as a form of “sociosexual networking” by blurring the lines of sexual, platonic and logistical relationships. This isn’t a new phenomenon per se; before apps and the internet, LGBTQ immigrants used newspaper advertisements in similar ways.’

Leiden Queer History Network

‘Next to teaching, I am busy with the Leiden Queer History Network, a platform for sexuality studies I set up with Ann Marie Wilson (Leiden University College). One of my favorite things about the Leiden Queer History Network is that I’m able to, through a few small grants, actually invite internationally known scholars in LGBTQ history to come and connect with our students. Together we form a network of people who don’t just do Queer Studies, but specifically Queer History. I think that is something quite unique for this university.’

Biking

‘I like to bike, I biked almost everywhere in New York. In Denmark, where I lived for a while with my husband, it became so much easier and safer and in a way less “cool”. It always bothered me that people in New York would say biking was cool, because then it could also be uncool. In the Netherlands and Denmark, it’s just normal. I like to point at a green spot on a map and say, “Today I’m going to go there” and take pictures and read.’

‘I don’t always separate research and free time. In my free time I’m going to museums and archives. For me going to the International Institute of Social History is something I might do on a day off. I also really like the LGBTQ scene and going to events and spaces for LGBTQ people. Dutch people are relatively easy to talk to, so if you go to a place like that you can expect to make a new friend.’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

Lieke Bakker
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