W021
Transgender experience: how societies manage the uncertainty of gender (FR and EN)

Convenors:
Laurence Hérault (Aix-Marseille Université)
Niko Besnier (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
Location:
V314
Start time:
12 July, 2012 at 11:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Contrary to appearances, gender is uncertain. Transgender experiences are sites where the uncertainty of gender emerges and generates particular disquiet. The workshop seeks to explore multiple ways in which European and non-European societies apprehend contemporary forms of transgender life.

Long abstract:

To speak of gender is to speak of certainty: according to widely held essentialist perspectives, gender is certain because it is grounded in biology and anatomy. Yet it is clear that gender is not self-evident and, contrary to appearances, it is uncertain. Transgender activism as well as the experience of the intersex is sites where the uncertainty of gender emerges and generates particular disquiet. What is one to do with and about a person who says s/he does not belong to his/her assigned gender? How do societies apprehend the particular take on gender certainty that the transgender experience represents? A comparative approach to the question is essential because it is in the contemporary context that the transgender experience constitutes itself in a transnational space. Knowledge, both expert and everyday, of the broad variety of transgender experiences throughout the world is now so widely disseminated that trans-identified people today craft their life designs in a global context. For example, Western transgender persons often turn to "traditional" forms of transgenderism as inspirational models and/or resources for a critique of what they see as Western gender binarism. At the same time, some non-Western transgender persons are demanding and accessing the body modifications (hormone therapy, surgery) made possible by Western medicine since the 20th century, enabling the emergence of new transgender figures in these societies. The workshop seeks to explore multiple ways in which European and non-European societies apprehend contemporary forms of transgender experience.