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QUEERLIT data base

Research project
Active research
Project size
6 723 000
Project period
2021 - 2023
Project owner
Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion

Short description

To date, there are no scholarly inventories of Swedish LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, trans, queer, and intersex) literature (prose, poetry, drama), and the difficulty identifying texts with LGBTQI themes, motifs, or characters is an obstacle for further research. Queerlit is focused on the question of how the history of sexual and gender minorities can be made accessible through metadata and indexation, and how the historical conditions and current development in LGBTQI literature can be captured with these methods. The purpose of the project is to create a database of Swedish LGBTQI literature, and to develop the indexation of LGBTQI literature, serving to enable further research within the field.

Identifying and capturing LGBTQI themes through indexing is important for both research and the public, as such literature reflects societal values, and can reflect individual experiences of sexuality and gender identity. This issue is regularly dealt within libraries. Librarians try to meet the demand and need for access to relevant fiction bibliographically, as seen in attempts to highlight this literature in collections and catalogs.

As LGBTQI fiction is not always explicit, questions regularly arise concerning what to include and how to describe this literature in bibliographical metadata. In such a perspective, increased indexing capabilities are essential. It is urgent, in particular for scholars, that such indexing is reliable and to the point.

The project has four aims: 1) to develop a thesaurus for indexing LGBTQI literature and to map it to existing subject headings in collaboration with KvinnSam (National Resource Library for Gender Studies) and LIBRIS (the National Union Catalogue) 2) to identify LGBTQI literature in collaboration with an advisory board consisting of experts in Swedish LGBTQI literature 3) to construct a sub-database in LIBRIS containing bibliographic records of LGBTQI literature in collaboration with the National Library and KvinnSam 4) to make the database available through a separate interface allowing for more specialized searches than LIBRIS does, and to link the records to other open data sets.

Building on KvinnSam’s experience, this project will develop a thesaurus for indexation of LGBTQI literature parallel to the specialized subject headings developed by KvinnSam for the sub-database KVINNSAM, which contains references to gender research and women’s history. The thesaurus will be used for indexation in the QUEERLIT sub-database, but will also be available for institutions and international scholars working with similar material.

A quality-controlled subject-specific bibliographic database enables research on the distribution and development of LGBTQI motifs and themes through time and within different genres. It facilitates diachronic studies and can show larger patterns regarding specific concepts, metaphors, and images used to describe LGBTQI, as well as their presence in, or exclusion from, the canon. The database can thus be used to trace different and changing understandings of LGBTQI over a long-time span.

The project addresses two vital issues with great potential to make an impact: the inaccessibility of LGBTQI heritage, and the divide between digital humanities and critical perspectives on literature, such as those within queer studies. It is a well-known problem that historical matters relating to minorities are underrepresented in archives and often harder to find since such materials are less likely to have been created, preserved, or archived.

Disenfranchised groups, like LGBTQI people in history, often leave a lack of historical sources behind, especially narrations told from their perspective. In that light, literature is a particularly crucial source for understanding the prejudices, oppression, and violence that has affected this group, and also for the understanding of subjective LGBTQI experiences. Fiction provides an insight into the opinions and imagination of contemporaries which cannot be captured from factual records. Popular culture affects how LGBTQI is perceived by the general public. Fiction also functions as an influential opinion former with the potential to generate perceptions that span over generations.

However, despite the community and research interest in LGBTQI literature, in libraries for example displayed in the form of “rainbow shelves”, relevant LGBTQI literature is hard to find both for readers and researchers. Subject indexing is underdeveloped for this topic, and subject headings have also historically been both inadequate and offensive. As for the second issue addressed by this project, perspectives lacking within digital humanities, this project will be a substantial contribution to the currently underdeveloped research on gender and sexualities within digital humanities. The few existing contributions with queer perspectives in the digital humanities all in one way or the other deal with the absence of critical discussions about identity and sexuality in relation to technology.

This infrastructure for research project is a collaboration between the Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Gothenburg, KvinnSam, National Resource Library for Gender Studies, the National Library, and the Archives and Library of the Queer Movement in Gothenburg. It involves scholars in literary studies and library- and information studies from Swedish Universities, as well as librarians with expertise in LGBTQI literature.