Dr João Florêncio
Senior Lecturer in History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture
Tuesdays, 10:30 - 11:30
Fridays, 13:30 - 14:30
(If you're taking one of my modules or are my academic tutee, lease click here to book an individual tutorial)
I am a queer cultural theorist of the body rechearching visual cultures of sexuality, health and illness in relation to wider Western biopolitical, philosophical and technoscientific histories.
My monograph Bareback Porn, Porous Masculinities, Queer Futures: The Ethics of Becoming-Pig (Routledge, 2020) analyses contemporary gay "pig" masculinities, which have developed alongside antiretroviral therapies, online porn, and new sexualised patterns of recreational drug use. It examines them and their pornographic representations, speculating on their ethical and biopolitical dimensions in relation to modern European histories, ideologies and conceptualisations of the male body.
The work of João Florêncio, therefore, contributes to a widening and greater understanding of our conventions of gender and sexuality. […] Fleeing from simplistic answers and solutions, the author demonstrates how much the relationships between these elements are often contradictiory and with recurrent dislocations, and that the "norm" and the "transgression" can even walk together, inhabiting the same practice (or the same desire). And this is the power of the liminal and frontier space, since it is in these fissures that lines of flight are presented, alternative paths can be taken and new world(s) are possible. [Victor Hugo de Souza Barreto, Norma: International Journal for Masculinities Studies 16(2)]
While facing significant criticism both from national cultures that prefer their gay men sexlessly monogamous and from gay leaders who view pig sex as self-indulgent backsliding, gay "pig" masculinities, as Florêncio terms them, have enabled forms of queer world-making that harbor a potential for ethical and political transformation. Far from idealistic, Florêncio is in fact well aware that gay pig masculinities are inextricable from a mode of modern biopower that operates at the level not just of bodies and populations but also of hormones and molecules. Still, as he passionately and often convincingly argues, it's in the pig's creative use of antiretroviral drugs, and not in the screeds of Larry Kramer or the white papers of Mayor Pete, that many gay men have found what HIV and the phobic politics it inspired threatened to deny them: a queerer path to tthe future. […]
While there are moments when Florêncio's book feels a little too familiar, there is much to be excited about, including a valuable framework and a useful set of conceptual tools with which to take porn studies and masculinity studies into the next decade. [Steven Ruszczycky, Postmodern Culture 31(3)]
I am currently working on two new book projects: The first, entitled Crossings: Creative Ecologies of Cruising and co-written with artist Liz Rosenfeld, will be part autotheoretical speculation, part critical reflection, on the ethics, politics and ecologies of the (chiefly) gay male practice of cruising for sex. The second—an edited collection provisionally entitled Viral Masculinities: Contagion, Epidemic, Containment, Paranoia, explores the role of virality and the figure of the virus in modern and contemporary framings of masculinity.
My next research project, developed in collaboration with colleagues and non-academic partners in the UK, Europe and North America, will map the enmeshment of politics, transnational solidarity, community and the erotic in gay pornographic magazines circulating in Europe between 1945 and 2000.
I'm a member of the Association for Cultural Studies, PSi: Performance Studies international, and was a founding member of PSi's Future Advisory Board (2015-17). I am also a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (1/1/2020 - 31/12/2023)
I am currently the undergraduate programme director for Art History and Visual Culture.
You can follow me on Twitter.
My interdisciplinary research explores the ways in which the body has been a contested terrain in modern and contemporary culture. A fundamental preoccupation of modern Western thought, the body (in its material, social, cultural, and political dimensions) has been understood, shaped, represented, regulated, and commodified along axes of race, gender, sexuality, and class through a series of discursive and technological apparatuses that have reflected and continue to reflect broader ideologies of what constitutes the natural, the human, the moral, the healthy, the sick, the national, and the common. On the other hand, the idealised and standartised human body has also offered Western thought a model for thinking the nation-state, the social, the polity, as well as the "living" planet as a whole, providing a material framework from which ethical principles have been developed and civil and political rights granted on the basis of the body's relationship to, inter alia, life, identity, political agency, personhood, community and immunity, etc. Yet, the body, at once matter and meaning, remains a plastic, contingent and fleeting entity, one that is intersected by technology, discouse, power, mattter and systems of value, being both in-formed by all the latter and in-forming them in turn.
Within that context, I draw from modern and contemporary visual culture, performance studies, queer studies, the posthumanities, and the medical humanities, to probe the permeability of bodies (human and non-human, in both their material and ideological dimensions) to one another, approaching them as porous media interfaces.
Awards, Grants, and Prizes
- 2019-21: Principal Investigator, AHRC Leadership Fellows, Masculinity and the Ethics of Porosity in "Post-AIDS" Gay Porn.
- 2016-17: Principal Investigator, AHRC Research Network, Rock/Body: Performative Interfaces Between the Geologic and the Body.
- 2009-13: Doctoral Scholarship, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portugal).
Membership of Professional Bodies
- Performance Studies International
- Association for Cultural Studies
- Fellow of AdvanceHE
In 2019-21, I'm a member of the Steering Group of "Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture," an AHRC-funded research network led by Professor John Mercer (Birmingham City University) and Professor Clarissa Smith (University of Sunderland), which connects academics, early career researchers and students as well as experts and commentators from outside academia to explore the issues and debates around contemporary masculinity, sex and sexuality in order to set an ambitious agenda for subsequent research.
I am open to discuss compelling research proposals on any topics broadly related to his research interests and expertise. I am especially happy to consider working with candidates whose concerns intersect modern and contemporary visual culture, media and performance with interests in queer sex and sexuality, gender, embodiment and subjectivities, and the wider fields of the posthumanities and medical humanities.
I am currently involved in the supervision of the following research students:
Sascia Bailer: Radical Relations: Curating at the Intersection of Social Reproduction and Social Justice. AHRC-funded, co-supervised with Professor Dorothee Richter (University of Reading; ZHDK).
Chlöe Edwards: Listen Without Prejudice: Male Homosexuality in the Popular Music of Thatcher's Britain. Co-supervised with Dr Benedict Morrison (English).
Mie Al-Missned: Ritual Performativity in Transnational Networks of Contemporary Art: Adrian Piper, Shirin Neshat, Coco Fusco, Chengyao He, and Janine Antoni. Co-supervised with Professor Heike Roms (Drama).
Juanita Navarro Paez: Graphic Medicine and Shame: How and Why Do We Show (or Don't) Certain Shame Related Experiences Within the Healthcare Context Using Comics. Wellcome Trust-funded, co-supervised with Professor Luna Dolezal (Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health).
Cecilia Neil-Smith: Androgyny and the Sea in Victorian Aestheticism. Co-supervised with Dr Patricia Zakreski (English).
Peyker Özler: Queering the Family and Modes of Belonging in Contemporary Italian Women's Writing. Exeter Global Excellence scholarship, co-supervised with Professor Danielle Hipkins (Modern Languages and Cultures).
Yandi Wang: Art in Translation: contemporary Chinese art in Chinese and English publications: a case study of the paintings of Xiao Gang Zhang, 1984-2014. Co-supervised with Dr Ting Guo (Modern Languages and Cultures).
I have supervised the following students to completion:
Catherine Gray: The Work of American Artist-Activist Photographer Dona Ann McAdams, 1979-2000. Co-supervised with Professor Regenia Gagnier (English). Completed 2021.
External impact and engagement
I believe academics have a duty to engage audiences beyond the so-called "ivory towers" of academia. Such dialogues will benefit academic work, institutions, and the various different communities and "ecologies" we inhabit.
As such, besides the media engagements below, my work has been featured in the catalogues of art exhibitions such as Field Static (Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago, 2012), Ghost Nature (Gallery 400, Chicago and La Box, Bourges, 2014), and the Venice International Performance Art Week.
Given my interest in collaborating with creative practitioners and exploring different modes of knowledge production and circulation, I have contributed work to various art and performance events, most recently the performance If/Then by Lisa Alexander and Hari Marini (Camden People's Theatre, September 2016; Royal Festival Hall, August 2017) and the online exhibition Institutional Garbage (Sector 2337, Chicago, September-December 2016). I have also co-devised a performance piece with Chicago-based artist and poet Devin King, entitled Of Things in Motion and Things at Rest, which we presented at ]performance s p a c e[ in London in October 2012, as part of Performance Matters' "Potentials of Performance."
Further to that, and within the scope of my AHRC-funded research network Rock/Body, I have curated an exhibition and performance programme featuring work by artists exploring the interfaces between the human body and the geologic (University of Exeter, September, 2016).
In 2020, as part of my AHRC Leadership Fellows project "Masculinity and the Ethics of Porosity in 'Post-AIDS' Gay Porn," and in collaboration with Rob Eagle (director), Rufai Ajala (cinematographer), Liz Rosenfeld (editor), Liam Byrne (composer), Dominic Deane (sound mixer), Jack Offord (colourist), and Ben Miller (assistant producer), I have produced a short experimental documentary film entitled OINK! exploring the contemporary gay male "pig" sexual imaginary. The film premiered in November 2020 at Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival, and was subsequently selected for screening at various international film festivals.
I regularly collaborate with non-academic partners, chiefly within LGBTQ+ communities, to programme and/or participate in events exploring queer bodies and sexual subcultures in relation to their histories, politics, and ethics. Most recently (Summer 2021), I co-programmed a two-day public event with Ben Miller (Freie Universität Berlin), which explored queer bodies and spaces as utopian topoi. The event was organised by the Berlin clubnight Cocktail d'Amore and funded by a grant from the Berlin Senate and Clubcommission. It included film and videoart screenings, DJ sets, talks and panel discussions on topics ranging from sex and community; queerness, race and gentrification; the histories of queer clubbing and utopia on the dancefloor; trans and technologies of gender; and sexualised drug use, harm-reduction and the production of queer selves.
Contribution to discipline
- I coordinate the Exeter Masculinties Research Unit, and I'm a member of the Sexual Knowledge Research Unit, and affiliated researcher of the Centre for Medical History, all three based at the University of Exeter.
- I was the External Examiner for the "Constellations" cross-programme theory module at the Cardiff School of Art and Design (2017-2021)
- I am a member of the Editorial Advice Boards for the Routledge series Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture, the Bloomsbury series Dance in Dialogue, and the open-access journals Nature Humanities & Social Sciences Communications and Society & Social Change.
- Between 2017 and 2021 I was on the Board of Directors of PSi: Performance Studies international (2017-2021) and was a founding member of PSi's Future Advisory Board (2015-17).
- I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2020-2023)
My latest media contributions include:
- "Between Victories and Their Shortcomings: On Larry Kramer's Sexual Politics." (Los Angeles Review of Books, 26/07/2020)
- "Grindr's HIV data problem began when it asked users to disclose their status." (The Conversation UK, 06/04/2018)
- "Glass talks representations of HIV/AIDS in gay pornography with Dr Joao Florencio." (Glass, 03/04/2018)
- "De choreografie van het ziek zijn" ["The chorepgraphy of being ill"] (Metropolis M, April 2017)
- "Who needs another AIDS movie? The crisis isn't over." (The Conversation UK, 29/03/2017)
- "Wolfgang Tillmans poignantly explores the role of photography today." (The Conversation UK, 01/03/2017)
- "La tuerie d'Orlando, une attaque homophobe sans l'ombre d'un doute." (The Conversation France, 21/06/2016)
- "Reduzir Orlando a um ataque terrorista é fechar os olhos à homofobia" (Interview with Portuguese newspaper Expresso, 19/06/2016)
- Interview in the aftermath of the mass-shooting at Club Pulse, Orlando (Up All Night, BBC Radio 5 Live, 14/06/2016)
- "Let's not get confused about this: Orlando was a queerphobic attack" (The Conversation UK, 13/06/2016)
- "Chemsex: why is gay sex causing straight panic?" (The Conversation UK, 12/04/2016)
Learning happens best when students feel respected, empowered, and responsible for their own learning. As such, I endorse a student-centred approach to learning and teaching. In other words, I always try to adapt my teaching to the interests and needs of my students whilst, nonetheless, never overlooking the intended course learning outcomes.
I think learning should be critical and transformative: not only should it provide students with academic knowledge and skills but it should also help individuals become independent thinkers that will go on to act in the world as informed, reflective, citizens.
My teaching tends to privilege a thematic or conceptual organisation rather than a chronological one. Such an approach allows students to challenge some misconceptions of history and to more easily follow visual and philosophical themes and tropes as they have circulated and been reinterpreted along multiple temporal and spatial axes.
Finally, whilst I work to maintain a high level of academic rigour in my classrooms, creativity and risk-taking are important tools in my approach to learning and teaching for they allow students to become daring thinkers and to question their preexisting beliefs and assumptions.
I hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Management of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Goldsmiths, 2012) and I'm a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
I hold an undergraduate degree in Musicology from the New University of Lisbon, an MA (Distinction) in Media Arts Philosophy and Practice from the University of Greenwich, and a PhD in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London (funded by the FCT, the Portuguese research council).
Whilst at Goldsmiths, I was also an Associated Researcher of Performance Matters, an AHRC-funded research project coordinated by Goldsmiths, the Live Art Development Agency, and the University of Roehampton.
Before joining the University of Exeter as a full time lecturer in 2015, I held various visiting, associate, and part time lecturer positions at Goldsmiths, Central Saint Martins, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, the City and Guilds of London Art School, and the University of Portsmouth.
In the past few years, I have collaborated with several artists, independent publishers, curators and galleries in various creative projects both in the UK and abroad.
I was a founding member of the Future Advisory Board of PSi - Performance Studies international (2015-2017) and have recently been elected to the Board of Directors of Performance Studies international in the role of Digital Communications Officer (2017-2021). I have also recently taken up the role of External Examiner for the "Constellations" cross-programme theory module at the Cardiff School of Art and Design (2017-2021).
At Exeter, I have been the Senior Misconduct Officer for Humanities, the academic representative on the Art History and Visual Culture Students-Staff Liaison Committee, and the employability rep for AHVC degree programme. I am a member of the College of Humanities Inclusivity Group, and a member of Senate elected by the College of Humanities.
Since moving to Exeter, I have conducted peer-reviewing for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and reviewed book proposals for Bloomsbury Academic and articles submitted to the journals Subjectivity, Feminist Review, Performance Philosophy, GPS: Global Performance Studies, Porn Studies, Journal of Gender Studies, the Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities, and others.