21: B.B. Buchanan

Department

Sociology

Program and Year of Study

PhD, 6th year

Pronouns

They/Them/Theirs

Previous degrees and colleges

BA Psychology with a minor in poverty studies, University of Notre Dame

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio; after that my family moved around quite a bit (I’m a military brat). We settled the longest in Indianapolis, Indiana so that’s where I claim.

Where do you live now?

Sacramento, CA – right downtown.

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Let Them Eat Cake. I adore chocolate cake and historical references.

How do you relax?

I usually relax by reading afro-futurist sci-fi (shoutout to fellow Octavia Butler fans!). When I’m not doing that I’m probably getting dirty outside in my garden. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. It’s a sort of alternative history, in which fascism rises to power in America during the period around World War Two. It seems oddly prescient nowadays in our current political and social climate.

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

Chewing Gum. Have I seen it already? Yes. Will I rewatch it all, beginning to end again in a few months? Yes.

Research interests

My research examines how two categories which are seemingly at odds, that of homosexuality and fascism, are intertwined and pose unique problems for modernity and political sociological thought. By comparing Germany and the United States I am exploring how homonationalism intersects with whiteness and masculinity to encourage fascist participation among white gay men.

Dissertation title or topic

It’s still a little tentative, but my working title is “Finding Fascism at the End of the Rainbow.”

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

Although gay men were persecuted under Nazi Germany – many were sent to camps and targeted for extreme brutality – one of the major figures of the Nazi regime was a known homosexual. This prominent figure was Ernst Röhm, leader of the Nazi militia. How can these two historical facts coincide? One major factor was the intertwined nature of masculinity and nation. Masculine gay men were not vilified or sought out in the same way as feminine gay men were during this time period, something we don’t often hear about. 

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

“Power, Identity, and Modern Society,” I believe was the name of the class. It was one of my first sociology classes, and Dr. Mary Ellen Konieczny put up with a very eager undergrad following her around all the time asking questions. It made me realize that the questions I had been asking myself, about how the world and society worked…they actually composed a whole discipline! That’s when they got me. 

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Y’all. If I had done THAT. Fanon’s book pushes up against topics ranging from race, to colonialism and imperialism. It’s a truly foundational work, and it’s not just foundational for scholars but for anyone seeking to understand and revolutionize social relations. 

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

The work of Dr. Bruce Haynes in sociology, especially concerning Black Jews in his newest book, helps to shape my own research. Understanding how identity shifts, and the historical processes behind various contested racial projects makes his work at the top of the list of researchers I know. Dr. Elizabeth Freeman in the Department of English has also contributed major scholarship shaping my focus on queer relations and time – especially around questions of nation and sexuality.

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

Being able to teach and do research. I’m an introvert at heart, so having time to step back and just immerse myself in books is amazing; but I also love to share what I know with others. Teaching is what makes research come alive, because it means leaving the ivory tower and explaining sometimes complex concepts in straightforward, practical ways.

What's the worst?

Unlike with a regular 9-to-5 job, the boundaries of what is work and what is not can be blurry. Work isn’t something I can leave at the office, cause those blue books have to be graded (or that book needs to be reviewed) even if it’s 1 a.m. and I’m at home.

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be an organizer. I’ve always enjoyed applying social research to the practical issues facing both labor and community organizations. Praxis, the combination of theory and practice, is what I’m all about!

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What is it like in higher education as a trans scholar of color?

It can be hard, especially since the number of trans or POC students is already so small. But one of the things it has done is position me to see the gaps in the institution; and recognize the struggle of my students at various margins. It’s made me a better educator, and a better scholar.

 

—September 2017

 

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