the syllabus for susan’s first-ever transgender theory course at arizona. she does something i’ve yet to see anyone else do on a syllabus, which is to explain why she’s assigned what she has each week, effectively guiding the class through her own narrative of the field’s emergence. i’ve been waiting for a zealous prof with a fabulist bent. full syllabus shared with permission after the jump.
GWS 500 (Special Topics) Fall 2014: Transgender Theory
Meeting Time: Monday 3:30-6:00
Meeting Location: GWS 114 [Note: location is different than officially listed]
Professor: Susan Stryker
Office Hours: 1-3 Monday, or by appointment in GWS 114B
This class is intended to ground students in the central issues in transgender studies, to familiarize them with the most recent scholarship in the field, and to introduce innovative methodologies drawn from other relevant fields.
Many of these are available as PDFs, either on the D2L site for this class, or at the links provided below; some you will have to purchase or borrow from the library. Please see weekly reading assignments below for bibliographic citations for assigned articles and chapters. We will be reading the following books or entire journal issues:
*Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (PDF).
*TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1.3, Decolonizing the Transgender Imaginary
(not yet published; check soon; or PDF).
* Andrew Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (Duke, 2014). Purchase or borrow.
*Beatriz Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era (Feminist Press, 2013). (PDF).
*Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke, 2013). Purchase of borrow.
Clare Sears, Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in San Francisco (Duke, 2015; not yet published). (Purchase or borrow; or PDF)
Plus one or the other of these two books (see week 12 below):
*Marcia Ochoa, Queen For a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the Performance of Femininity in Venezuela (Duke, 2014). Purchase of borrow.
*Marlon Bailey, Butch Queen Up In Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit (Michigan, 2013). Purchase or borrow.
These are not required, though we will be reading excerpts from them, and you might find them useful to have on hand:
*Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed. (PDF)
*TSQ 1.1-2, Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First Century Transgender Studies. Available online a UA Library, but you might prefer a hard copy.
*Franco “Bifo” Berardi, After the Future (AK Press, 2011). Purchase or borrow.
*The Transgender Studies Reader Purchase or borrow.
*The Transgender Studies Reader 2. Purchase or borrow.
* John Protevi, Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences (Minnesota, 2013). Purchase or borrow.
Attendance and participation: you are required to come each week, do the readings, and actively participate; if you are shy and don’t like to speak up in class, please come to office hours for one-on-one discussion, or communicate regularly with me by email. This is the largest fraction of your grad for the course: 30%.
Research Paper: 15 pages, give or take, on some topic related to the class, demonstrating that you understand the material we’ve covered. Due December 15. This is the second largest fraction of your grade: 25%.
Reader Responses: each week, find a quote in one of the assigned readings and write about it, 250-500 words, to be posted on the D2L site for your colleagues to read at least one hour before class, as a way to help generate discussion. You can say what you like, don’t like, don’t understand, say how it relates to other readings or to you research project or other classes; you can be creative, pedantic, subjective, emotive, as long as you show me that you’ve actually engaged with the ideas in the text from which you are quoting. Portion of total grade: 15%
Leading Class Discussion: once during the semester you will be responsible for co-facilitating the seminar with me. You’ll be expected to thoroughly understand and explain the reading that week, be able to answer questions from your colleagues, and have some questions prepared for discussion. Might be a good idea to meet with me in office hours the week before or the day of you turn at co-leading class, depending on your level of comfort or preparedness. Portion of total grade: 15%
Class Team-Teaching Exercise: In weeks 12 and 13 (November 10 and 17), half the class will read one book, and half the class will read another; you will all have to teach the book you read to the half of the class that didn’t. Each “team” will need to be self-organizing, and figure out a way to equitably distribute labor and responsibility. Each person will be graded individually on how well they participate in their team, and how effectively they teach their materials. Portion of total grade: 15%
I’m usually available to meet informally with students after seminar, to continue our discussions over food and drink at Gentle Ben’s or Pasco. Absolutely not required.
We might want to hold class in the evening of Tuesday September 2, 6-9, if everybody is available, to make up for missing class on Labor Day. If feasible, we could screen the assigned film.
Week 1: August 25 Language Games
This first week of class, my goal is to suggest a framework for how we might talk about theorizing trans*, rather than what we say about it, and to create a space for uttering felicitous speech acts. Lyotard’s short-but-dense The Postmodern Condition is an oldie but a goodie, a great text for approaching the question of “language games” and “agonistics,” even if it has some cringe-worthy moments (talking about “the most highly developed” societies, and “primitive” ones). It’s also a key text for me in thinking historically about why and when trans studies emerged as a recognizable critical/intellectual project. I pair Donna Haraway’s “Cat’s Cradle” article with Lyotard to provide an alternative way of thinking about how we can engage in making statements about trans topics. (And for a lark, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nY-c91a-5mI). Finally, I would like us to engage with a very recent public dispute about the relationship between feminist and transgender politics, and read a couple of journalistic pieces through the lenses of this week’s texts.
*Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.
Available online at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/idav/documents/Lyotard_- _Postmodern_Condition.pdf
*Donna Haraway, “A Game of Cat’s Cradle: Science Studies, Feminist Theory, Cultural Studies.” Configurations 2.1 (1994) 59-71, available online at: https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/configurations/v002/2.1haraway.html
*Michelle Goldberg, “What is a Woman?”
*Julia Serano, “An Open Letter to The New Yorker.”
Week 2: September 1 Labor Day—No Class (Probably)
Although we (likely; see below) won’t meet this week because of the Labor Day holiday, I still want you to read and watch some things, as background for the discussions to come. While on the one hand we will be exploring ways in which trans studies advances unique concerns, we will also look at ways the field is in conversation with, and draws from, other fields and issues. I’m particularly interested in ways that trans studies is in dialog with queer feminisms of color. To that end, if you have never read Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed, see if you can do so this week; at least skim it. Please, however, do look closely at Chapter Seven, “Revolutionary Force: Connecting Desire to Reality.” My goal this week is to build on last week’s foundation about how we might conduct excellent conversations, and to start tracing methodological connections between disparate but overlapping fields—feminism, critical race/ethnic studies, science studies, trans studies. In addition to reading a bit of Sandoval, I’d also like you to thumb through the first issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly (if you have a print copy handy) which focuses on “key concepts for a 21st century transgender studies.” Listed below are several short keyword entries I’d particularly like you to be familiar with (these are the assigned readings, downloadable from the UA library). To continue exploring ideas about how and why trans studies emerges when and where it does, I’d like you to take a look at a short, easy-to-ready chapter from Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s After the Future. How might “transgender knowledges” have to do not only with the postmodern conditions described by Lyotard, but with the political and economic crises of the 20th century as described by Berardi? How do these texts talk to each other? And finally, please watch a difficult but rewarding film (preferably after you have done the assigned reading): Werner Rainer Fassbinder’s In A Year of Thirteen Moons. The film deals with a surgically sex-changed person in the 1970s, and does lots of artsy things with sound, voice-over, asynchronous word/images, and television news footage to situate trans embodiment as a problem within emergent neoliberal conditions. At least that’s how I see it. Please note that this film includes graphic footage of cattle being butchered in a slaughterhouse.
(Note: I would be available to meet Tuesday, September 2, if everybody else is, in the evening after 6pm. We could either hold a regular seminar session, or simply get together to watch In A Year of Thirteen Moons.)
*Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed.
Try to skim all of it if you haven’t read it before, but see especially Chapter Seven, “Revolutionary Force: Connecting Desire to Reality,” pp. 159-178. It’s available as a pdf here: http://caringlabor.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/methodology-of-the-oppressed-chela-sandoval.pdf
*TSQ 1.1-2, Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First Century Transgender Studies, browse the whole issue, but make sure to read these entries: Becoming, Biopolitics, Capacity, Disability, Guerilla, Handmade, Identity, Islam and Islamophobia, Line of Flight, La Loca, Nature, Pedagogy, Queer, Revolution, Sick, Sinophone, Somatechnics, The State, Subaltern, Tatume, Tranifest, Translation, Transition, Transxenoestrogenesis, Whiteness. Available online from UA Library. A pdf of the issue is available on the class D2L site, or a print copy is available for purchase from Duke University Press.
*Franco “Bifo” Berardi, After the Future (AK Press, 2011); excerpt, pp. 1-59. PDF available on D2L site.
*Werner Rainer Fassbinder, In A Year of Thirteen Moons (1978; 124 minutes). Available streaming on D2L.
Week 3: September 8 Transgender Studies 1.0
This week we will discuss the first iteration of the field of transgender studies in the 1990s. Through close reading, I want us to pay particular attention to the ways that two foundational works of white transfeminism draw on the critical and theoretical texts we have read over the past two weeks. Pay attention to modes of address in these works: who is talking to whom about what? What language games do they enact? If you have not read the first volume of The Transgender Studies Reader (TSR1) you might consider flipping through it. In any event, please do read the introduction to that volume, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges.”
We will have a class visitor this week, Kim Coco Iwamoto; see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Coco_Iwamoto and http://kimcoco.com
*Sandy Stone, “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto,” available in TSR1 or online here: http://pendientedemigracion.ucm.es/info/rqtr/biblioteca/Transexualidad/trans%20 manifesto.pdf
*Susan Stryker, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix”
Available in TSR1 or online here:
*Susan Stryker, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies”
Available in TSR1 or online here:
Week 4: September 15 Transgender Studies 2.0
The field of transgender studies underwent significant shifts in the early 21st century, moving away from autoethnographic and identitarian work with an Anglophone and North American bias, towards a more expansive transnational framework, and greater attention to structural and systemic concerns. Please read the introductory essay “Transgender Studies 2.0” to orient yourselves to recent trends in the field (and if you have a chance, browse the collection The Transgender Studies Reader 2). We will focus, however, on reading the current issue of TSQ, “Decolonizing the Transgender Imaginary.”
*Susan Stryker and Aren Aizura, “Transgender Studies 2.0” intro to The Transgender Studies Reader 2. PDF Available on D2L.
*TSQ 1.3 Decolonizing the Transgender Imaginary
(This is supposed to be published in time to read for this class but if not I will provide a pdf on D2L).
Week 5: September 22 TransMaterialities, the (In)Human, and Deleuze
After having spent a couple of weeks focusing more narrowly on trans studies as a field, it’s time to spread our theoretical wings, branch out, and reach for far-flung connections. We’ll begin with Karen Barad’s “TransMaterialities,” which allows us to loop recursively back through a reading we spent time with earlier in the semester, while continuing to delve deeper into the applicability of feminist science studies methodologies for trans studies. We’ll follow this up with a series of short position statements from several scholars working in the posthumanities; these, like Barad’s piece, are forthcoming in a special issue of GLQ on Queer Inhumanisms. Next we’ll look at Mel Chen’s “Animals Without Genitals,” which brings a Deleuzian perspective to queer of color critique. If you haven’t read Chen’s extremely useful Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke, 2012), you might consider familiarizing yourself with it as much as possible before class—or at least before your Ph.D. qualifying exams. Finally, the in biggest stretch of the semester, because they have nothing explicitly to do with trans studies, we’ll read the introductions (there are two) to John Protevi’s Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences. Taken together, they open up opportunities for introducing nonlinear systems theory, as well as the study of emergent phenomena, into trans theorizing. How might it be useful to think of gender systems as a phase space, of transgender phenomena as strange attractors, or of embodied identities as autopoeitic assemblages?
*Karen Barad, “TransMaterialities: Trans*/Matter/Realities and Queer Political Imaginings,” forthcoming in Queer Inhumanisms special issue of GLQ; available on D2L.
*Queer Inhumanisms Dossier, forthcoming in Queer Inhumanisms special issue of GLQ, available on D2L.
*Mel Y. Chen (2010) Animals without Genitals: Race and Transsubstantiation, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 20:3, 285-297, DOI: 10.1080/0740770X.2010.529253
*John Protevi, “Introduction I: Delueze and the Sciences” and “Introduction II: Varela and Bodies Politic,” in Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences (Minnesota: 2013). PDF on D2L
Week 6: September 29 Racial Biopolitics
We are still in the theoretical heart of the course, reaching for methodological connections, but we are starting to slow down, aiming for closer readings of longer works rather than taking a scatter-shot approach. This week and next we’ll devote our attention to a new book that I haven’t read yet but which looks interesting—Andrew Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (Duke, 2014). One goal here is to model a kind of reading and thinking practice—as new scholarship is produced, how does it amplify, extend, contradict, refine, refocus, or undermine what we already think we know about things we’ve already been interested in? Hopefully—and, if so, we’ll all learn this together—Weheliye (like Chen) can help us think more rigorously and creatively about the critical utility of racial biopolitics within trans studies. This week we will spend some class time brainstorming about your research papers, helping each other tie our readings to our particular topics.
*Andrew Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (Duke, 2014). Read the first half (pp. 1-73)
Week 7: October 6 Racial Biopolitics (Continued)
Still going slow, finishing up the last half of Weheliye, and talking about our research projects. Ideally, by this stage of the class, we’ll all be fairly bursting with idea and the conversations are going to be really great. Think of this class as the semester’s pivot; we’re now through with all of the theory, method, and field formation readings, and will be concentrating from this point forward on applying what we’ve learned to a select handful of recent texts of interest. If there’s anything we feel like we’ve rushed through in previous weeks, this would be a good time to revisit it.
*Andrew Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (Duke, 2014). Read the second half (pp. 74-138).
Week 8: October 13 Testo Junkie
The first stop on our tour of recent texts is Beatriz (Beto) Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era. Beto keeps promising to come to Tucson, but not quite making it here. Oh, well; Testo Junkie is still worth reading. It’s a wild ride, veering stylishly through lots of themes and ideas that we’ve explored this semester. How useful do you find it to think with? To imitate methodologically? To mine for its associative linkages? I have a pdf that I will put on the D2L site if you don’t want to buy the book.
*Beatriz Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era (Feminist Press, 2013), first half (pp. 1-224).
Week 9: October 20 Testo Junkie (Continued)
If you’re not hearing echoes in this text of Berardi, Fassbinder, and Deleuze, you really aren’t paying attention.
*Beatriz Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era (Feminist Press, 2013), second half (pp. 225-427).
Week 10: October 27 Professing Selves
Next stop on the recent titles tour is Afsaneh Najmabadi’s Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke, 2013). If you really want to geek out, take a look at Najmabadi’s earlier book, Women with Moustaches and Men Without Beards, which investigates the role of gender/sexuality in the formation of modern Iran in the 19th century; her interest in contemporary transsexuality stems from this earlier research, and provides a fascinating case study in the relationship between practices and discourses of identiy/embodiment/desire and practices and discourses of state and nation. Professing Selves mixes ethnography with historical research to give an exhaustive account of its subject. Given the ways in which “Iranian Transsexuality” figures rhetorically in contemporary homonationalist imaginaries in a time of persistent geopolitical tensions between the US and the IRI, Najmabadi’s empirically grounded study has an importance that exceeds its contribution to transgender studies.
Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke, 2013), first half, pp. 1-162.
Week 11: November 3 Professing Selves (Continued)
We’ll finish Najmabadi this week. Consider checking out other work on transsexuality in Iran by such scholars as Roshanak Keshti, Minoo Moallem, Sima Shakhsari, and Finn Enke, or looking at some of the mainstream and gay media coverage of Iranian transsexuality circa 2003-13; bonus points if you can connect these topics to TERF discourses about “women’s space” in the US and UK. If there is interest, we can perhaps screen the film Be Like Others after class.
*Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran (Duke, 2013), second half, pp. 163-302.
Week 12: November 10 Queens
Pedagogical innovation can stem from instructor indecisiveness. There are two recent books I couldn’t choose between: Marcia Ochoa’s Queen For a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the Performance of Femininity in Venezuela (Duke, 2014), and Marlon Bailey’s Butch Queen Up In Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit (Michigan, 2013). How cool is it that both deal with performance, gender, femininity, queerness, and queens? Because both books deal with similar topics, there will be ample opportunity to compare and contrast the works. I could have simply assigned one book per week, but I didn’t want you to have to read that much, since you really should be writing your research papers by now. Instead, I’d like each of you to choose one book or the other to read. As has been the case over the past few weeks, I’d like you to read half of that book this week, and half next week. Each half of the class will need to teach their book to the other half of the class, who will not have read it. Pretend that you will have one of these books on your comps reading list, that you don’t have time to actually read it, and that you will depend on the notes that a friend took on that book. Be that friend for somebody else, the one who writes those notes and teaches the main concepts in the book, and helps connect these works to other things that we’ve read. Divide yourselves up into two groups, and figure out among yourselves how to collaboratively teach the books to each other; you have each other’s email addresses. You’ll be graded individually on the quality of your presentations/participation in class. This will be my chance to sit back and see how much you’ve learned this semester.
Read one of the following:
Marcia Ochoa’s Queen For a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the Performance of Femininity in Venezuela (Duke, 2014), first half, pp. 1-126
Marlon Bailey’s Butch Queen Up In Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit (Michigan, 2013) pp. 1-123.
Week 13 November 17 Queens (Continued)
Same as last week.
Read one of the following:
*Marcia Ochoa’s Queen For a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the Performance of Femininity in Venezuela (Duke, 2014), second half, pp. 127-246
*Marlon Bailey’s Butch Queen Up In Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit (Michigan, 2013)second half, pp. 124-254.
Week 14: November 24 Arresting Dress
This is Thanksgiving Week, during which I usually don’t teach during because often nobody is around, but I think we have to this time, given that we missed class on Labor Day, and I have to cancel the last class of the semester due to international travel. As we coast downhill to the finish line, we have one more recent book to explore, Clare Sear’s Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in San Francisco (Duke, 2015). I find Sears’ book really easy to read. It’s theoretically sophisticated but written in a very accessible style—proving you don’t have to write in poststructuralist jargon to show that you’re smart. Most useful, I think is the way that Sears brings together questions of transness, disability, race, whiteness and public space and ties them all up an elegant little bundle through the concept of “problem bodies.”
*Clare Sears, Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in San Francisco (Duke, 2015), first half, pp. 1-125.
Week 15: December 1 Arresting Dress
If anybody is interested, I have a copy of Clare Sears’ dissertation, from which this book is derived. I think it might be useful for you, as you think about your own dissertation projects and contemplate life as an assistant professor, to see what’s involved in turning your dissertation manuscript into a book. Just let me know. Besides enjoying the last 105 pages of reading for this class, we’ll spend some time workshopping your research papers. Everybody should be prepared to present for 5-10 minutes.
*Clare Sears, Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in San Francisco (Duke, 2015), second half, pp. 126-231.
Week 16: December 8 No class
I’m going to be keynoting conferences in Australia and New Zealand: “Provocations: Cultural Studies Association of Austalasia 2014,” at the University of Wollongong December 3-5, and “Space, Race, Bodies: Geocorpographies of City, Nation, Empire,” at the University of Otago, December 8-11. I trust you’ll appreciate having a little slack in your schedule this week. I’ll looking forward to reading your papers, which are due in my email inbox by December 15.
this looks simply great, and it makes me jealous of these students, and it makes me miss my hometown, and it gives me a lot of reading to do.