New Directions in Trans History: A Roundtable

AHA Session 215
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 11
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Thurgood Marshall West (Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level)
Howard Chiang, University of California, Davis
Jesse Bayker, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Emily E. Skidmore, Texas Tech University
C. Riley Snorton, Cornell University
Elias Vitulli, Mount Holyoke College

Session Abstract

In 1996 when Leslie Feinberg published Transgender Warriors, an account of trans people in world history, trans history and studies were only in their infancy. More than two decades later, trans studies is a dynamic field with its own journal, courses in trans history offered across the country, and a vibrant record of publication with top university and trade presses. To assess the state of the field, we propose this session featuring five scholars of trans history discussing both their own work and what they see as new and promising directions in trans history, as well as lacunae in the field as it currently stands. We propose the session as a roundtable with the idea that questions and comments from the audience will serve as key components of a conversation taking stock of the state of the field and the new directions these practitioners envision.

Grounded in the work of his own dissertation, Jesse Bayker of Rutgers University will highlight the expanding temporal boundaries of transgender history, pushing back into a past before medical sex reassignment became possible. He will also highlight the role of digital humanities in assisting scholars of trans history with their work. Emily Skidmore of Texas Tech University, whose book on trans men in the nineteenth-century United States will just have appeared prior to the meeting, will discuss the politics of labeling those for whom the word transgender would have been foreign. C. Riley Snorton of Cornell University takes us forward in time to the Cold War period and interrogates the ways that race intersects with trans visibility alongside projects of imperialism at home and abroad. Finally, drawing on his own work on gender non-conforming and trans prisoners, Elias Walker Vitulli of Mt. Holyoke College will look at the writing of trans history through the lens of crip theory, arguing for a crip trans analytic to understand the ways that subjects of the past have been constructed through discourses of pathology and abnormality. Howard Chiang of the University of Waterloo, a historian of medicine and gender in China, will chair the panel and also offer brief comments on his own work on the science of sex and gender in Chinese history. Together all five panelists serve as examples of the now dynamic field of trans history as it exists at the intersection of categories of race, class, medicine, ability, sexuality, and the carceral state.

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