The current culture wars around gender and sexuality are difficult to unpick without a clear understanding of recent history

Lesbians Talk Pamphlet | Nazmia Jamal's Master by Research

Nazmia Jamal, Masters by Research English student in EnglishNazmia Jamal is a part-time English Masters by Research

student at the University of South Wales, looking at queer lesbian feminisms in Britain, and working on various non-academic archival and publishing projects connected to this research.

Nazmia grew up in Aberdare, went to London in the late 1990s and returned to south Wales during the first Covid lockdown.

Now based in Cardiff, Nazmia co-runs the popular Lez Read book club and has a day job developing teacher training for the new Relationships & Sexuality Education curriculum in Wales.

Tell us about your research

My research focuses on a series of pamphlets called Lesbians Talk Issues that were published by Scarlet Press, a London based non-fiction feminist publishers, between 1992-1996.

The texts are an excellent archive that document a whole range of opinions and experiences that existed in lesbian communities in Britain at that time.

I was a teenager in the 1990s - I wrote fanzines, listened to riot grrrl bands and eventually found myself in London putting on gigs and going to workshops in queer squats – my introduction to feminism and to lesbian spaces came via a queer punk community.

In my research I am looking at how particular strands of queer lesbian feminism developed in Britain over this period.

Why does the world need this?

I think the current culture wars around gender and sexuality are very difficult to unpick without a clear understanding of recent history.

Many of the loudest voices have been around for decades but as books go out of print and stories become forgotten or inaccessible in archives, we are in danger of forgetting that these arguments – e.g. who can be a woman, what defines being a lesbian, who is allowed in what spaces etc – have been going on, often amongst the same people, since the 1970s.

I think it is important for anyone who wants to have an opinion in the culture wars to have access to as much information as possible, I see my research as highlighting some of this knowledge and hopefully making it more easily accessible to more people.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope my research and related projects add something useful to the pool of knowledge about diverse queer, lesbian and feminist histories in the UK. This work is already being done through recent films such as Rebel Dykes, Joelle Taylor’s award-winning collection C+nto & Othered Poems and the excellent photographic archive Black & Gay, Back in the Day.

My Masters by Research is part of a wider project to republish and revisit the Lesbians Talk Issues series. I’m currently working with new writers to commission an updated series of pamphlets that continue the themes set out in the original texts. I presented my early research at the Lesbian Lives Conference in Cork last year and would like to present the completed research at relevant conferences in future.

The seven original pamphlets - Lesbians Talk Queer Notions, Lesbians Talk (Safer) Sex, Lesbians Talk Making Black Waves, Lesbians Talk Left Politics, Lesbians Talk Violent Relationships, Lesbians Talk Transgender and Lesbians Talk Detonating the Nuclear Family – have been digitised as part of a project funded Consortium. They are available to read for free on the Bishopsgate Institute website

An event to celebrate the pamphlets being made available again will take place at Bishopsgate Institute on Thursday, 30 March when I will be interviewing three of the authors of the original series: Cherry Smyth, Joelle Taylor and Pratibha Parmar.

Nazmia's supervisory team is Professor Emily Underwood-Lee, Professor Diana Wallace and Dr Rachel Lock-Lewis. For more information on postgraduate research degrees, visit our Graduate School website.