Professor Matt Brim Will Lead CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies

September 1, 2023

The former board member sees an opportunity to explore issues of class and race through dialogue and collaboration.

Matt Brim headshot
Matt Brim (Photo courtesy of Brim)

Professor Matt Brim (GC/College of Staten Island; Women’s and Gender Studies/English, Queer Studies) has a new role at CUNY. In August, he was named the executive director of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies at the Graduate Center. He assumes the role following the tenure of Professor Justin T. Brown (GC/LaGuardia Community College; Psychology/Health Sciences), a Graduate Center alumnus.

“I feel very honored,” said Brim, who served as a CLAGS board member from 2008 to 2014. “CLAGS is a really special place. As the first university-based research center for LGBTQ studies in the U.S., our mission is to get our hands around the knowledge that is out there, to share that with the world, and to produce our own knowledge for as many people as we can. It’s going to be a pleasure to be back working with everyone.”

Learn More About CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies

Founded in 1991, CLAGS promotes interdisciplinary queer studies scholarship, organizes events for examining and affirming LGBTQ lives, and fosters network-building among academics, artists, activists, policymakers, and members of the community.

Brim has explored the intersectional nature of queer studies and queer theory in books such as Imagining Queer Methods, which he co-edited, and James Baldwin and the Queer Imagination. His 2020 book, Poor Queer Studies: Confronting Elitism in the University, explores class dynamics in queer studies — a subject he sees as important in his new role.

“In college, the rich students are sorted into one place and the poor students are funneled another place,” Brim said. “One of the goals for the next three years is to think about how we can push back or confront the problem of class stratification through higher education.”

In that initiative and the ongoing “Queer of Color/Trans of Color Conversations” speaker series, Brim sees an opportunity to elevate a discourse on the intersection of race and class in queer studies in the public square.

“CLAGS is here to say, ‘What is the responsibility of queer studies as an academic field to push back against the kind of institution that sorts people by how much money they have or the color of their skin?’” Brim said.

Brim also noted that on September 7, The Feminist Press, an independent publisher of feminist literature housed at the Graduate Center, will launch Queer Then and Now: The David R. Kessler Lectures, 2002-2020 with an event at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, known as The Center. Established by a gift from Kessler in 1992, the Kessler Lecture is delivered each year by the recipient of the annual Kessler Award, an honor Brim describes as “a kind of lifetime achievement award for LGBTQ studies.” In 2003, The Feminist Press published Queer Ideas: The Kessler Lectures in Lesbian & Gay Studies, containing the first 10 years of the lectures, a volume it is reissuing this year. The new book picks up where the first left off.

“These books are infinitely teachable,” Brim said. “Because they track the history of this kind of quirky field or discipline that we’re in — so they’re great textbooks — but they also capture the changing face and the changing energies and the changing ideas of LGBTQ studies over the years.”

In his new role, Brim looks forward to expanding opportunities to teach, to share, and especially to discuss such ideas.

“What I and my colleagues want to do is to share vision and values about the breadth and depth and diversity of thinking — in the academy and in our intellectual communities — about queer people,” Brim said. “The whole fun, interesting thing about doing this job — thinking and writing and talking — is when you get a dialogue going.”

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