Margot Weiss is a cultural anthropologist who combines ethnography with queer theory and left cultural critique. Her work explores the contradictory relationships between sexual cultures, neoliberalism, and the US economy: from the gendered, racialized, and class politics of BDSM in the San Francisco Bay Area; to the politics of left intellectuals in the neoliberal US academy; to the political-intellectual work of queer left activists in New York, Chicago, and Montreal. She has conducted fieldwork across the US (San Francisco, New York, and Chicago) and in Montreal and Berlin.
Her award-winning first book, Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Duke University Press, 2011), is an ethnography of BDSM communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The book charts the sexual politics of neoliberalism by linking BDSM’s spectacular performances of race, gender, and sexuality to class, consumerism, and the social dynamics of late capitalism. Techniques of Pleasure won the 2012 Ruth Benedict Prize for Outstanding Monograph from the Association for Queer Anthropology and was a finalist for best book in LGBT Studies by the Lambda Literary Foundation.
Professor Weiss is currently writing her second book, “Visions of Sexual Justice.” The book thinks alongside queer left activists who are working to cultivate a radical political imagination in the midst of an impasse both economic and epistemological. Based on multisited fieldwork with activists in New York City, Chicago, and Montreal, the book explores the intellectual work of activism—the critical work of imagining otherwise—and asks what we can learn by juxtaposing activist and academic knowledge practices and desires, given the linked crises of the non-profit industrial complex and the neoliberal university.
Other publications analyze BDSM, the sexual politics of late capitalism, queer politics and neoliberalism, queer activism, LGBT/queer economic precarity, sexuality and American imperialism, activism in the corporatized university, the politics of knowledge, and contemporary queer anthropology. Weiss’s work has appeared in Mapping Feminist Anthropology in the Twenty-First Century, The Routledge History of Queer America, Out in Public: Reinventing Lesbian / Gay Anthropology in a Globalizing World, and Global Justice and Desire: Queering Economy and the journals GLQ, Cultural Anthropology, New Labor Forum, Journal of Homosexuality, Anthropologica, and Radical History Review. She curated a collection on collaboration for Cultural Anthropology in 2016 and a forum on left intellectuals and the neoliberal university for American Quarterly in 2012. You can hear her 2018 interview “what is queer anthropology?” on AnthroBites, the Cultural Anthropology podcast here.
The former president of the Association for Queer Anthropology (AQA), a section of the American Anthropological Association, Margot Weiss holds an AB from the University of Chicago (1995), a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies, and PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University (2005). At Wesleyan, she established and directs the clusters in Disability Studies and Queer Studies, and teaches courses in queer theory, the anthropology of sexuality and gender, ethnographic methods, and social theory. Some recent courses include Global Queer Studies; Anthropology of Affect; Queer Activism and Radical Scholarship; Crafting Ethnography; Sex, Money, and Power; Critical Queer Studies; and Politics of the Body, a course she has taught at Wesleyan and at York CI, a women’s prison in Niantic. Professor Weiss is Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology and the current chair of the Anthropology Department. She has taught at Wesleyan since 2008.