Abject, Gender, and Affect: a Kristevan Approach to Gender Violence in Media & Film.
Advisor: Cassandra White.
Committee: Jennifer Patico and Megan Sinnott.
Legible (Trans) Bodies, Memorable (Trans) Memories: Political Imperatives To Obliteration.Submitted to Southern Sociological Society Annual Meeting.
April 10-13, 2019.
In life, transgender women are subject to a wide range of social forces that attempt to re-read their lives in normative terms. As Sandy Stone points out, psychiatrized models seek “to produce not simply anatomically legible females, but women…i.e., gendered females” that “behave like” women (Stone 1987, 10). For Stone, this attempt at normalizing transsexual bodies “is itself a medically constituted textual violence” (Stone 1987, 14). But there is also another strategy of bio-political violence which stabilizes the oppositional two-gender system: death. As Butler points out, “to stray outside of established gender is in some sense to put one’s very existence into question” (Butler 2004, 27). For trans women, especially trans women of color, this means a literal contestation of existence through targeted violence and discrimination.
Even in the afterlife, trans women are subjected to other violence through misgendering, deadnaming, and other acts of erasure. The lives of the deceased are mediated by and translated through normative discourses and cultural practice into more consumable and palatable cisgender and/or heterosexual narratives, thereby (re)producing trans subjects in normative terms that stabilize hegemonic gender systems. To this regard, Snorton & Haritaworn posit a postmortem “project of reincorporating transgender bodies of color under a more legible sign” (2013, 70).
I read this project through Butler’s notion of “cultural intelligibility”, elaborating the danger to normative discourses of gender that this project of translation anticipates. In a similar vein, the recent attention to “trans panic” and “gay panic” legal defenses illustrate a broader cultural sympathy to the notion of trans women as dangerous, and a recognition of (trans)femininity as a destabilizing force to men’s appropriately masculine and heterosexual identities. Through several case studies of transmisogynistic violence, I argue that the “trans panic” defense does not just presuppose an existential threat to persons by transsexual bodies, but also a broader threat to society by trans bodies that refuse to be or remain intelligible within normative gender categories. In my view, the threat resulting from this failure to be intelligible produces a bio- and necro-political imperative to (re)classify the unintelligible. My goal is to illustrate a theory of transmisogynistic violence that appropriately links the personal to the (bio)political, and sufficiently links the plight of the living to the plight of the dead. To this regard, this paper contributes to a broader understanding of normative gender as an apparatus of bio-power.
Dressed To Feel: Abject Affect and The Circulation of Violence.Submitted to Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference.
March 7-9, 2019.
Brian De Palma’s 1980 film, Dressed To Kill, depicts an apparent would-be “transsexual”, Dr. Michael Elliot/Bobbi, whose “male side” prevents him from pursuing sex reassignment. Dressed To Kill externalizes this internal conflict, which is instead depicted as a conflict between a psychiatrist (Elliot) and his unstable patient (Bobbi). Despite Elliot’s usual self-control, whenever he is sexually aroused by a woman his female side, Bobbi, is threatened to the point of violently murdering those who arouse him. Drawing from Kristeva’s account of abject femininities, I give a psychoanalytic reading of Dressed To Kill as a depiction of the masculine Self’s prerequisite Abjection/excretion of femininity in its efforts to establish itself as a discrete, legible “I”. Following Butler’s formulation of melancholy gender, I elaborate the existential threat that heterosexuality poses to Bobbi’s perpetuity insofar as it forecloses the possibility of feminine expression. Furthermore, I analyze gender violence as deriving from an economy of affect, in which the negative affect of abjection is circulated between men and psychologically displaced onto women and gender non-conforming individuals through (trans)misogynistic instances of violence.
Barriers to Motherhood: Biotechnology, Reproductive Justice, and Transgender Women.National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference.
November 9-11, 2018.
Reproductive activism has typically focused on abortion and pregnancy over other concerns, thereby centering white cisgender women and (increasingly) transgender men. Even trans-inclusive discourse has paid relatively little attention to the reproductive needs and possibilities of transgender women, particularly trans women of color. Accordingly, this paper analyzes how medicalized discourses, unequal access to healthcare, and cissexism intersect to discursively, medically, and legally deny motherhood to transgender women. Furthermore, it envisions contested futures where biotechnologies and reproductive trans bodies trouble “the coherence of a narrative that is already fragile” while potentially perpetuating existing inequities (Strangio 2015, p. 235).
Cyber-Eugenics and the Biopolitics of Biotechnology.Southern Anthropological Society Annual Meeting.
April 20-21, 2018.
Assistive reproductive technologies create new modes and opportunities for family creation and family planning, but uneven access to these technologies magnifies existing inequities. Similarly, genetic engineering, prenatal screenings, and selective abortions introduce new dangers for marginalized people (e.g. the deaf community), who risk being ’engineered’ out of existence. I argue that these technologies expand the “mechanisms through which basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy” [Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College de France, 1977-1978 (New York: Picador, 2009), 16.]. Drawing from science fiction, I explore the regulatory role of biotechnology in the contested future of propagation, and how this role is complicated by capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and white supremacy. This paper contributes to a broader conceptualization of who reproduces, how they reproduce, and what is ultimately reproduced.
Report-talk and the Alienation of Women in Dungeons & Dragons.Georgia State Undergraduate Research Conference.
April 11, 2017.
Dungeons & Dragons is a popular tabletop roleplaying game, a genre in which players engage in logical, shared, structured fantasy predicated on certain fictional assumptions (Fine, 2002, p. 12). Dungeons & Dragons is a collaborative and highly social activity, therefore requiring significant social investment and engagement by each member of the community (Adams, 2013, p. 77). Adams (2013) furthermore concluded that the game served as a “vehicle for players to consistently make an effort to socialize in structured ways” (p. 77). However, these communities continue to be associated with social ineptitude and further stigmatized by association with psychiatric disorders (Lis, Chiniara, Biskin & Montoro, 2015, p. 381-382).
I was introduced to a Dungeons & Dragons community by a mutual friend. After an initial observation of several hours, I conducted preliminary interviews with both leaders (Dungeon Masters), in succession. Afterwards, I conducted a follow-up interview with just one of the leaders. This paper demonstrates the relationship between shared fantasy and collaborative consensus building, but pays particular attention to the unique jargon and conversational style of the community. I construct several taxonomies through thematic analysis, exploring the strategies gamers use to construct shared fantasy, and a shared repertoire based on cross- media references, politics, and the history of the game. This paper furthermore analyzes the role of report-talk, a typically masculine conversational style that uses the exchange of information as a means by which to compete for and communicate status (Tannen 1991). I explore how these values and styles serve to alienate women and impede female participation.
TRANSforming Higher Education.
Gender & Sexuality Knowledge Community White Paper.
National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.