Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Studies

Read to Respond: Articles for Student Activists

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Articles for Student Activists:

These articles are freely available until August 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.

TSQ 101 for International Transgender Day of Visibility

In honor of the ninth annual International Transgender Day of Visibility, a celebration of transgender people that raises awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, we selected nine articles from issues of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly that provide essential insights into terms, conversations, and challenges within the field of trans* studies.

  1. “Introduction”
    Susan Stryker and Paisley Currah
    Volume 1, Number 1-2

    This introduction to the first issue of TSQ provides an outline of the history and scope of the field of transgender studies.

  2. “Introduction: Trans/Feminisms”
    Susan Stryker and Talia M. Bettcher
    Volume 3, Number 1-2

    This introduction to the issue “Trans/Feminisms” counters forms of feminist transphobia within the feminist community by highlighting inspiring work currently being undertaken around the world under the banner of transfeminism.

  3. “Microaggressions”
    Sonny Nordmarken
    Volume 1, Number 1-2
    Transgender studies keyword essay

    This essay explores the term “microaggressions,” or commonplace, interpersonally communicated “othering” messages related to a person’s perceived marginalized status.

  4. “Radical Inclusion: Recounting the Trans Inclusive History of Radical Feminism”
    Cristan Williams
    Volume 3, Number 1-2

    This article reviews the ways in which radical feminism has been and continues to be trans inclusive. Trans inclusive radical feminist opinion leaders, groups, and events are reviewed and contrasted against a popular media narrative that asserts that radical feminism takes issue with trans people. Reviewed are historical instances in which radical feminists braved violence to ensure their feminism was trans inclusive.

  5. “Decolonizing Transgender: A Roundtable Discussion”
    Tom Boellstorff, Mauro Cabral, Micha Cardenas, Trystan Cotten, Eric A. Stanley, Kalaniopua Young, Aren Z. Aizura
    Volume 1, Number 3

    Participants in this roundtable discussion wrestled with definitions of decolonization, how decolonization has affected them personally and politically, and how trans* studies can offer strategies to demarginalize the community.

  6. “Transgender”
    Cristan Williams
    Volume 1, Number 1-2
    Transgender studies keyword essay

    This essay explores the term “transgender” and how it gained widespread use as the umbrella term for describing a range of gender-variant identities and communities within the United States in the early 1990s.

  7. “Cisgender”
    B. Aultman
    Volume 1, Number 1-2
    Transgender studies keyword essay

    This essay explores the term “cisgender,” which describes individuals who possess, from birth and into adulthood, the male or female reproductive organs (sex) typical of the social category of man or woman (gender) to which that individual was assigned at birth. The essay tracks the term’s emergence from trans* activist discourses in the 1990s.

  8. “Cultural Competency”
    Willy Wilkinson
    Volume 1, Number 1-2
    Transgender studies keyword essay

    This essay explores the term “cultural competency,” or the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with diverse populations, measured by awareness, attitude, knowledge, skills, behaviors, policies, procedures, and organizational systems.

  9. “Transition”
    Julian Carter
    Volume 1, Number 1-2
    Transgender studies keyword essay

    This essay explores the term “transition,” the vernacular term of choice in North America for describing the process or experience of changing gender.


Celebrate International Transgender Visibility Day with us by downloading free coloring pages of a few of TSQ’s most memorable journal covers below. Share your colored-in sheet on Instagram or Twitter for a chance to win a TSQ gift bag! Tag @DukePress on Twitter or @dukeuniversitypress on Instagram with the hashtag #ColorMyTSQ!

TSQ Gift Bag

Enter for a chance to win issues of the journal, a signed TSQ book plate, and Duke University Press swag!



Archives in French History

ddfhs_40_2In the most recent issue of French Historical Studies, “Archives in French History,” editors Sarah A. Curtis and Stephen L. Harp examine the role of the archive in the study of French history. “Archives are a subject as well as an object of study, not simple depots for boxes containing unambiguous evidence of the past waiting to be discovered by historians,” they write in the introduction. “This issue reveals not only the breadth of archives now used to write French history but also the depth of thinking about the relationship between archives and history and between archives and historians.”

Contributors to this issue question the nature, origin, or history of the archive in French history to examine its dynamic relationship to the history that is written, rather than treating the archive as static or inert. The archives, therefore, are the historical subjects themselves. They answer questions like what constitutes an archive, what is the role of the state in the archival collection, what is no longer in the archive, who controls access to the archive, and what historians owe to their sources.

From the introduction:

Despite these new questions, our contention is that historians of France, like historians in many other fields today, use a wider array of archives, and we use them more broadly, more deeply, and more self-consciously than ever before. One special issue cannot fully capture that depth or that breadth, but the essays here offer a taste of the richness that characterizes current work on France while also providing thoughtful understandings of the structure and context of archives. We hope they encourage you to reflect—critically or not—on your own archive stories.

Topics in this issue include the ownership of history, sex in the archives, discovering an accidental archive, and the destruction and salvation of the archive. Browse the full table-of-contents.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

InternationalWomensDay-portraitToday is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Since the early 1900s, this day has been a powerful platform that unifies tenacity and drives action for gender parity globally. IWD organizers are calling on supporters to help forge a better-working and more gender-inclusive world. In honor of this year’s International Women’s Day, we are pleased to share these recent books and journals from Duke University Press that support this year’s IWD theme: #BeBoldForChange.

a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly

tsq_new_prThis special double issue of TSQ goes beyond the simplistic dichotomy between an exclusionary transphobic feminism and an inclusive trans-affirming feminism. Exploring the ways in which trans issues are addressed within feminist and women’s organizations and social movements around the world, contributors ask how trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary issues are related to feminist movements today, what kind of work is currently undertaken in the name of trans/feminism, what new paradigms and visions are emerging, and what questions still need to be taken up. Central to this special issue is the recognition that trans/feminist politics cannot restrict itself to the domain of gender alone.

This issue features numerous shorter works that represent the diversity of trans/feminist practices and problematics and, in addition to original research articles, includes theory, reports, manifestos, opinion pieces, reviews, and creative/artistic productions, as well as republished key documents of trans/feminist history and international scholarship.

Living a Feminist Life

978-0-8223-6319-4In Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed shows how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. Building on legacies of feminist of color scholarship in particular, Ahmed offers a poetic and personal meditation on how feminists become estranged from worlds they critique—often by naming and calling attention to problems—and how feminists learn about worlds from their efforts to transform them. Ahmed also provides her most sustained commentary on the figure of the feminist killjoy introduced in her earlier work while showing how feminists create inventive solutions—such as forming support systems—to survive the shattering experiences of facing the walls of racism and sexism. The killjoy survival kit and killjoy manifesto, with which the book concludes, supply practical tools for how to live a feminist life, thereby strengthening the ties between the inventive creation of feminist theory and living a life that sustains it.

1970s Feminisms
a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly

ddsaq_114_4For more than a decade, feminist historians and historiographers have engaged in challenging the “third wave” portrait of 1970s feminism as essentialist, white, middle-class, uninterested in racism, and theoretically naive. This task has involved setting the record straight about women’s liberation by interrogating how that image took hold in the public imagination and among academic feminists. This issue invites feminist theorists to return to women’s liberation—to the texts, genres, and cultural productions to which the movement gave rise—for a more nuanced look at its conceptual and political consequences. The essays in this issue explore such topics as the ambivalent legacies of women’s liberation; the production of feminist subjectivity in mass culture and abortion documentaries; the political effects of archiving Chicana feminism; and conceptual and generic innovations in the work of Gayle Rubin, Christine Delphy, and Shulamith Firestone.

The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland

978-0-8223-6286-9In The Revolution Has Come Robyn C. Spencer traces the Black Panther Party’s organizational evolution in Oakland, California, where hundreds of young people came to political awareness and journeyed to adulthood as members. Challenging the belief that the Panthers were a projection of the leadership, Spencer draws on interviews with rank-and-file members, FBI files, and archival materials to examine the impact the organization’s internal politics and COINTELPRO’s political repression had on its evolution and dissolution. She shows how the Panthers’ members interpreted, implemented, and influenced party ideology and programs; initiated dialogues about gender politics; highlighted ambiguities in the Panthers’ armed stance; and criticized organizational priorities. Spencer also centers gender politics and the experiences of women and their contributions to the Panthers and the Black Power movement as a whole. Providing a panoramic view of the party’s organization over its sixteen-year history, The Revolution Has Come shows how the Black Panthers embodied Black Power through the party’s international activism, interracial alliances, commitment to address state violence, and desire to foster self-determination in Oakland’s black communities.

Reconsidering Gender, Violence, and the State
a special issue of Radical History Review

ddrhr_126In bringing together a geographically and temporally broad range of interdisciplinary historical scholarship, this issue of Radical History Review offers an expansive examination of gender, violence, and the state. Through analyses of New York penitentiaries, anarchists in early twentieth-century Japan, and militarism in the 1990s, contributors reconsider how historical conceptions of masculinity and femininity inform the persistence of and punishments for gendered violence. The contributors to a section on violence and activism challenge the efficacy of state solutions to gendered violence in a contemporary US context, highlighting alternatives posited by radical feminist and queer activists. In five case studies drawn from South Africa, India, Ireland, East Asia, and Nigeria, contributors analyze the archive’s role in shaping current attitudes toward gender, violence, and the state, as well as its lasting imprint on future quests for restitution or reconciliation. This issue also features a visual essay on the “false positives” killings in Colombia and an exploration of Zanale Muholi’s postapartheid activist photography.

Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology

978-0-8223-6295-1The editors and contributors to Color of Violence ask: What would it take to end violence against women of color? Presenting the fierce and vital writing of INCITE!’s organizers, lawyers, scholars, poets, and policy makers, Color of Violence radically repositions the antiviolence movement by putting women of color at its center. The contributors shift the focus from domestic violence and sexual assault and map innovative strategies of movement building and resistance used by women of color around the world. The volume’s thirty pieces—which include poems, short essays, position papers, letters, and personal reflections—cover violence against women of color in its myriad forms, manifestations, and settings, while identifying the links between gender, militarism, reproductive and economic violence, prisons and policing, colonialism, and war. At a time of heightened state surveillance and repression of people of color, Color of Violence is an essential intervention.

World Policy Interrupted
a special issue of World Policy Journal

wpj33_4_23_frontcover_fppThis issue is penned entirely by female foreign policy experts and journalists and “imagines a world where we wouldn’t need to interpret to be heard at the table. In reconstructing a media landscape where the majority of foreign policy experts quoted, bylined, and miked are not men, we quickly gain deeper insight into a complex world, one historically narrated by only one segment of society,” co-editors Elmira Bayrasli and Lauren Bohn write. Bayrasli and Bohn lead Foreign Policy Interrupted, a program that mentors, develops, and amplifies the voices of women in the international policy field. Foreign Policy Interrupted combats the industry’s gender disparity through a visibility platform and a cohesive fellowship program, including media training and meaningful mentoring at partnering media institutions. The program helps women break both internal and external barriers.

Stay up to date on women’s studies scholarship with these journals on gender studies, feminist theory, queer theory, and gay and lesbian studies:

Camera Obscura
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies
Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies


Trans-Political Economy

ddtsq_4_1The most recent issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, “Trans-Political Economy,” edited by Dan Irving and Vek Lewis, addresses how capitalism differentially and unequally affects trans and sex/gender‐diverse people across the globe.

“We all, from our different social and political locations, become implicated in those architectures through our everyday interactions with a variety of coordinated and contradictory institutions and rationalities that order our lives across different local and global geopolitical spaces and scales,” write Irving and Lewis.

The editors and contributors to this issue reveal how the narrowly constructed objects of trans studies and political economy (such as gender, labor, class, and economy) have been complicit in the necropolitical devaluation of trans lives and existing strategies crafted for trans survival. Topics include trans visibility and commodity culture; trans credit reporting; the growing population of T-girls, trans women truckers; trans street-based sex workers; the system of sex/gender identification for trans asylum seekers in South Africa; waria affective labor in Indonesia; as well as a roundtable deconstructing trans* political economy.

The Arts & Culture section of this issue features a review of season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race in relation to some of the political economic elements of the drag industry as well as an in depth look at the representation of transgender lives on film, specifically in The Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Read the guest editor’s introduction to the issue, made freely available.

Recent Journal Issues on Gender, Violence, War, and Religion

The intersection between gender, violence, war, religion, and race are featured in several recent special issues of Radical History ReviewSocial Text, and the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies. Read more about the issues featured and sample several articles made freely available.

ddrhr_126In bringing together a geographically and temporally broad range of interdisciplinary historical scholarship, “Reconsidering Gender, Violence, and the State,” a special issue of Radical History Review, offers an expansive examination of gender, violence, and the state. Through analyses of New York penitentiaries, anarchists in early twentieth-century Japan, and militarism in the 1990s, contributors reconsider how historical conceptions of masculinity and femininity inform the persistence of and punishments for gendered violence. The contributors to a section on violence and activism challenge the efficacy of state solutions to gendered violence in a contemporary US context, highlighting alternatives posited by radical feminist and queer activists. In five case studies drawn from South Africa, India, Ireland, East Asia, and Nigeria, contributors analyze the archive’s role in shaping current attitudes toward gender, violence, and the state, as well as its lasting imprint on future quests for restitution or reconciliation. This issue also features a visual essay on the “false positives” killings in Colombia and an exploration of Zanale Muholi’s postapartheid activist photographyRead the introduction, made freely available.

stx129covprintIn “Race/Religion/War,” a special issue of Social Text edited by Keith P. Feldman and Leerom Medovoi, contributors query long-standing entanglements among the respective epistemologies of race, religion, and war as they organize modern strategies of knowledge and power. They investigate how a logic of permanent warfare underwrites both the international intensification of Islamophobia and the emergence and deployment of an expanding set of security apparatuses whose categorical, geographic, and historical permeability define warfare as radically open-ended. At the same time, the issue seeks to draw attention to long genealogies of race, religion, and war that both contextualize their contemporary braiding and offer political countermemories against which we can make sense of our baleful present.

Drawing on diverse critical traditions, its contributors raise questions such as: What is the relationship of the race/religion/war triad to the modern history of the militarized state? How have certain forms of war-making produced some kinds of race-making or religion-formation, while perhaps unmaking others? Does racial modernity emerge out of the secularization of religious war? How are the religious and racial dimensions of modern colonialism and settler colonialism co-articulated? Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

ddmew_12_3In the most recent issue of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, “The Gender and Sexuality of Militarization and War,” contributors focus on the gender and sexuality of militarization, war, and violence. Topics include the gendered representations of violence during and after the 2011 revolutions in Syria and Egypt and how they have impacted men and women, reading Israeli, Iraqi, and Yemeni literature to understand fraught and often violent relationships between Jews and Israelis and Muslims and Arabs, and examining the meanings attached to women’s performance of identity, citizenship, and political agency in Turkey in the early twenty-first century.

From the preface by feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe:

These researchers reveal the diversity of women’s experiences, imaginations, images, and political analyses both within a single country, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, or Syria, and also across the region.Women are not “just women.” These articles also underscore the interactions of diverse women, historically and socially situated women, with the diverse men of their communities, men who have been both perpetrators and targets of sexualized and unsexualized violence and who are trying to make their own sense of their roles in that violence. Reading these articles together helps us all, I think, understand how crucial it is to absorb complexities when plunging into the gendered lives of women and men making their lives in militarized societies. This is what the Syrian women civil society activists are calling on the men in Geneva to do. This is what they, together with the authors of these provocative articles, are calling on each of us to do.

Read Edith Szanto’s article from the issue, “Depicting Victims, Heroines, and Pawns in the Syrian Uprising,” made freely available.


Translating Transgender

ddtsq_3_3_4The most recent issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, “Translating Transgender,” edited by David Gramling and Aniruddha Dutta, calls for a multilingual and translational critique of discourses of transgender studies. Few primary and secondary texts about transgender lives and ideas have been translated from language to language in any formal way over the centuries. Meanwhile, transgender, gender variant, and gender non-confirming people have often been exiles, translators, language mediators, and multilinguals in greater numbers and intensities historically than their cisgender counterparts have. This kind of positionality among languages has become a generative, yet often precarious aspect of trans* embodiment. Nonetheless, the discourses of transgender studies continue to be more Anglophone, more monolingual, and less translated than they historically ought to be, given how the subjects that produced those discourses have often been prototypes of transnational and translingual border-crossing.

Susan Stryker and Paisley Currah, editors of TSQ, state in their General Editor’s Introduction: “It feels vital at this early phase of its institutionalization to facilitate transgender studies’ becoming as multilingual, multidirectional, linguistically centrifugal, and untranslatable as methodologically possible… We see this issue of TSQ as a many-voiced wager on what promises to be a rich, ongoing conversation in years to come, and we look forward in anticipation to whatever future contributions this journal can make to that dialogue.”

From the introduction by special issue editors David Gramling and Aniruddha Dutta:

As editors, it brings us more than a little delight that the articles we present here far outshine—in their political imagination, analytical precision, and methodological ambition—the hopes expressed in the original call for papers. The contributors include literary translators (Nathanaël, Rose, BaerLarkosh), anthropologists (Jarrín, Pons Rabasa), a musicologist (Roy), a political scientist (Josephson), a classicist (Gabriel), a modern linguist (Leino), a film scholar (Leung), literary comparatists (Concilio, Heinrich, Larkosh), a sociologist (Einarsdóttir), poets and fiction writers (Nathanaël, Dowd), a religious studies scholar (Strassfeld), and translation studies specialists (Baer, Almarri). These critics and writers draw on the demands of their particular research contexts to nourish a sensibility around translation that is vernacular, emergent, and problem oriented, rather than prescriptive and monodisciplinary. They have thus offered an unwieldy, asymmetrical, and mutually interrogative constellation of approaches, such that one contribution’s core categories of analysis find profound and contradictory echoes in the next. To take just one instance, while Unni Leino, writing from the Scandinavian context, contends that the ways the Finnish language divides the conceptual domains of sex, sexuality, and gender “make a difference in fighting the sexualization of trans people,” Alvaro Jarrín’s critical analysis of travesti access to public health care in Brazil is in contrast primarily oriented around fighting precisely the nonmedicalization of travestis in that context. Divergent linguistic orders that constrain local and transregional modes of “thinking for speaking” (Slobin 1996) thus play a complex structuring role in the putatively extralinguistic social and symbolic positions available to speakers. These two juxtaposed analyses—Leino and Jarrín—clarify why and how (trans) gender discourses mean in structurally distinct ways in one linguaculture versus another, thus placing the broader justice claims pertinent to each in critical relief.

Read the full introduction, made freely available.

Ten Queer Films that Changed the World

978-0-8223-6261-6_prToday we’re excited to present a guest post by Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt, authors of the new book Queer Cinema in the World.

In our new book, we attempt to reorient queer film studies away from a largely American and Eurocentric canon and toward non-Western forms of queer filmmaking that have increasingly been important for the circuits of world cinema and local queer politics. Here are ten queer films that we think you should see.

Dakan (Camara, Guinea, 1997)


Dakan is widely viewed as the first sub-Saharan African film with a gay theme. In it, Manga and Sori fall in love as high school students but are separated by their families. Manga’s mother sends Manga to a traditional healer to be cured of homosexuality while Sori’s father insists Sori take over the family business and marry. Sori does get married and has a child. Meanwhile, after years with the healer, Manga enters a relationship with Oumou, a white woman he meets through his mother. Both in some way outsiders, the two forge a bond. When the men see each other again in a bar, though, they immediately recognize their mutual desire. Despite their love for their families and apparently genuine relationships with women, Manga and Sori ultimately leave everything behind to be together. The film was controversial precisely for its direct representation of homosexuality, perceived by many African critics as un-African, sinful, or an unwanted relic of European colonialism.

Fish and Elephant (Li, China, 2001)


Fish and Elephant  is often heralded as the first lesbian film from mainland China, but it does not tell a story of sexual awakening like so many other queer films from the period. Its protagonist Qun already knows she is gay when the narrative begins, and fending off her family’s expectations that she date men is a quotidian necessity.  Qun and Ling do not simply refuse the dramatics of coming out of the closet; more than this, they refuse to serve as figures of the universality of queer identity or experience. At the same time, neither do they demonstrate the existence of queerness as a pre-existing local, indigenous, or non-Western formation. The best part of Fish and Elephant, though, is surely the amazing moment in which Qun and Ling ‘s mutual attraction is routed through the point-of-view of an elephant snuffling out sweet apples with her trunk.  The film offers tactile and sensory pleasures at the same time that it locates nonhuman nature as part of the life world of queer humanity.

Funeral Parade of Roses (Matsumoto, Japan, 1969)


Toshio Matsumoto’s film combines documentary, narrative, and experimental form in an exuberant Oedipal melodrama set in the world of Tokyo’s “gai bois” or “queens.” Eddie is a young queen who works in a gay bar and travels in a mixed hippie scene of drug dealers, Marxist protesters, and avant-garde filmmakers. He is having a relationship with his boss at the bar, Gonda, and the film’s climax comes with the discovery that Gonda is the father who abandoned Eddie’s family as a child. Horrified by the realization, Gonda commits suicide, and Eddie blinds himself. Part of the film’s fascination is its combination of this melodramatic plot with a close attention to the thriving gay scene in Tokyo, and its links to counterculture and radical protest. The film mixes its fictional narrative with documentary sections interviewing some of the film’s actors, as well as gay men on the street. Moreover, many of its actors are nonprofessionals discovered in the bar scene. This self-reflexive mixture of documentary and fiction recapitulates the narrative’s move between underground scene and public performance—so that the film is always asking its audience to consider social and intimate relations as a question of inside and outside.

Futuro Beach (Aïnouz, Brazil, 2014)


Karim Aïnouz’s Futuro Beach testifies to an experience the director calls “queer diaspora.” The film begins in the Brazilian beach city of Fortaleza, where the lifeguard Donato is unable to save a drowning German tourist. After breaking the news to Konrad, the dead tourist’s friend, the two men begin a relationship that eventually takes Donato away from his family to live with Konrad in Berlin. Though following the lives of gay men from the global south to the center of Europe, Futuro Beach resists world cinema’s more Eurocentric and heteronormative impulses in its intense sensitivity to the alternative resonances of queer time and space. Focusing on gesture and bodily movement, the film evokes a powerfully affective sense of queer relationality as Donato and Konrad move in and out of alignment. And while queer bodies have the potential to remake subjectivity, the space between Brazil and Germany is equally crucial as a material, emotional and geopolitical fracture with which these characters must reckon.

I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai, Taiwan/Malaysia, 2006)


In I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, homosocial proximities gradually become homosexual intimacies, but that transition is unremarked upon diegetically. As the narrative develops, the protagonist Hsiao-Kang also begins a sexual relationship with a woman, and his bisexuality goes equally unremarked. There is something of the bathetic here in the sense that the queer does not operate as a force of the revelatory, the climatic, or the confessional, and instead is commonplace. The film de-emphasizes its unfolding of Hsiao-Kang’s choices of sexual objects and locates sex as equivalent to quotidian acts of human survival, like peeing, walking, and food gathering. In one of its most visually striking shots, the three lovers float through the frame on an old mattress, embracing in an affectless polyamorous tableau. The film’s staging of the precarious lives of transnational migrant laborers in Kuala Lumpur places sexual acts in an unremarked category. The mattress speaks as much of their squalid living conditions as of their sex acts, and it has already played a narrative role when Bangladeshi migrant workers use it to rescue Hsiao-Kang after he has been beaten up and left for dead on the street. The very ground of sexuality—the physical object on which the lovers lie—speaks vividly of economic precarity and cross-cultural solidarity and care.

The Iron Ladies (Thongkongtoon, Thailand, 2000)

The Iron Ladies tells the true story of a mostly trans (in Thai terms, kathoey) volleyball team who became Thai champions. The heterogeneity of contemporary gender dissidence in Thailand is vividly staged in the film which, in putting together its volleyball team of outsiders, represents genders across the modern Thai spectrum. These kathoey players are both specifically Thai and, through sport, engaged with the world. Instead of an East–West logic that pits Western imperialism against conservative nativism, The Iron Ladies nests the national inside the global. Moreover, its strategy for constructing extra-national modes of identification is to engender a queer popular. The moment when the institution’s sexism and transphobia is revealed and the audience start cheering in support of the Iron Ladies is a feel-good cinematic coup that leverages the generic pleasures of the sporting underdog in order to champion queer publicity on a world stage.

Memento Mori (Kim and Min, South Korean, 1999)


This popular Korean horror film takes place in an all-girls secondary school, borrowing from the potent homosocial mises-en-scène of both queer classics such as Mädchen in Uniform and mid-twentieth century exploitation cinema, such as the single-sex boarding school or women’s prison. The intimacy between two girls––Hyo-shin and Shi-eun––comes to a head when they hold hands in the middle of class and, when violently punished, kiss on the mouth. When Hyo-shin commits suicide, her ghost returns to haunt the school. The disjunctive spaces and times brought on by her ghostly presence results in a formal and narrative intricacy that is as aesthetic as it is suspenseful. As living characters are pulled more and more towards the apparitional, their initially clandestine desire goes dangerously public. In other words, Memento Mori transforms the key generic elements of the globally popular East Asian horror film (longing, dystopic melancholy, surreal but extreme violence) into lesbian drama, making the genre suddenly seem inseparable from same-sex desire.

Proteus (Lewis and Greyson, South Africa/Canada, 2003)

Proteus is co-written and directed by South African filmmaker Jack Lewis and Canadian filmmaker John Greyson, and thus embodies an unusual cross-cultural queer collaboration. The film takes place in eighteenth-century South Africa and is based on archival records of a sexual relationship between a Khoi herdsman Claas Blank and a white Dutch sailor Rijkhaart Jacobsz when the two men were imprisoned on Robben Island. The film is noteworthy as the first gay-themed film made in South Africa after the end of apartheid. But rather than providing a conventional historical drama of gay life in the distant past, it proposes a queer approach to the passage of time and our relationship to what came before us: temporality and historicity are mutually imbricated in a disjunctive elaboration of cinematic time. The film uses visual anachronism to fracture time and to link colonial exploitation with apartheid-era incarceration and with the present day. It insists that systems of words and images often violently shape the world, but also that queerness leaves powerful traces.

Tropical Malady (Apichatpong, Thailand, 2004)


Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady unsettles typical logics of modernity and folkloric belief, desire and its object, and what it means to be human in a beautifully queer tale of two boys and a tiger spirit. The film is constructed as a diptych, a film made of two distinct parts. The first section tells the story of a soldier, Keng, who is stationed in the rural north of Thailand. He meets Tong, a local boy, and the two embark on a romantic relationship. When Tong walks off into the jungle, he leaves Keng to an exhilarating but melancholic motorbike ride through the town on his own. Shortly after this encounter, the film flickers and vanishes, the screen goes black for thirty seconds, and the image returns with what seems to be a credit sequence for a different film, called A Spirit’s Path, about a shape-shifting Khmer shaman. In the second part, the same actors may or may not be playing the same parts. Maybe-Keng goes into the jungle to find Maybe-Tong, and in the almost complete darkness of the jungle, he encounters a magical tiger who may or may not want to consume him. Visual and narrative opacity are combined with a mysterious erotics of the shamanic were-tiger: by allowing himself to be eaten, Maybe-Keng can enter the shaman’s world.

The World Unseen (Sharif, UK/South Africa, 2007)


When the Dubai International Film Festival rejected Shamim Sarif’s film about lesbian love in early 1950s South Africa, the organizers said it was on the grounds that “the subject matter doesn’t exist.” The film’s evocation of an Apartheid past proved incompatible with its representation of sexual intimacy between two women. The World Unseen’s main character is Amina, an Indian South African woman whose progressive attitudes toward gender and race as well as her butch style mark her as out of sync with the other characters in Apartheid-era South Africa. Her romantic attraction to Miriam centers a web of untimely intimacies, in which the women explicitly reject hierarchies of race and gender. The film uses conventional tropes of the heritage film both to foreground women’s desire and to counter that genre’s more conservative impulses. The World Unseen refuses to make apologies for imagining something that conventional history would dismiss as impossible: a same-sex and interracial love in this particular time and place.

Use coupon code E16QCIN to save 30% on Queer Cinema in the World by Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt.

American Studies Association 2016

1We had such a wonderful time selling books and journals at the American Studies Association last week in Denver, Colorado.

On Friday we had a reception celebrating Small Axe‘s fiftieth issue and twentieth anniversary. The wine and cheese were great, but the Small Axe swag was an even bigger hit!

The reception was fun way to celebrate with editor David Scott, managing editor Vanessa Pérez-Rosario, editorial board members, and readers of the journal. Keep the celebration going by reading Small Axe #50.

Friday night also included a reception for GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. It was great to see so many scholars and contributors to the journal, as well as co-editors Beth Freeman and Marcia Ochoa, celebrating the journal.

Several of our authors won awards for their books. Simone Browne won the 2016 Lora Romero Prize for her book, Dark Matters, and Lisa Lowe’s Intimacies of Four Continents was a finalist for the 2016 John Hope Franklin Prize, both from ASA.

It was wonderful to see so many authors and editors stop by our booth. We loved seeing them with their books, and especially enjoyed E. Patrick Johnson and Kai Green’s reenactment of the No Tea, No Shade cover!

Not able to make it out this year? Are there a few more books or journal issues you wish you would have grabbed? Don’t worry—you can use the coupon code ASA16 on our website through the end of the year to stock up on our great American studies titles for 30% off.

The Politics of the Public Toilet

ddsaq_115_4The most recent issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly features “The Politics of the Public Toilet,” an Against the Day section edited by Kathi Weeks. “From the history of racial segregation in the United States and the ongoing sex segregation of toilets to the desperate dearth of facilities around the world, the provision and governance of the toilet is a politically charged phenomenon,” Weeks contends in the introduction to the section.

Contributors address topics such as bathroom access and social hierarchy, the decreased number of public toilets and privacy comfort in Britain for queer interactions, access to effective and adequate toilets in developing cities, the fear of public toilets and “others” as germ-ridden, dirty, and dangerous, and reframing the assumed necessity for sex-segrated public toilets, which includes a design proposal for a single-unit gender-neutral bathroom by architect Joel Sanders and trans* scholar Susan Stryker.

“The public toilet has been the scene of exclusions, but it is also becoming the site of new possibilities for political theory and practice,” Weeks argues.

The essays featured in “The Politics of the Public Toilet” will be freely available for the next six months.

Against the Day is a thematic section composed of short essays that engage topics of contemporary political importance. The title, “Against the Day,” is meant to highlight both the modes of activism and the specific occasion that the essays address.