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Feminisms Unbound - Quare are we now?: The time and place of black queer and trans studies

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Quare are we now?: The time and place of black queer and trans studies


Since the “Black Queer Studies in the Millennium” conference at UNC Chapel Hill in April 2000, and the Black Queer Studies anthology that followed, black queer and trans studies has grown into a dynamic and interdisciplinary discourse. The field is especially reflexive, continually drawing attention to its genealogies in black feminisms--feminisms emerging in the academy, activism, artmaking, quotidian life, and untenable archive. Attending to the biopolitical governance of racial capitalism, scholars demonstrate how black bodies, genders, and sexualities are made flesh, made ambiguous, made surplus as they are enslaved, incarcerated, and killed. At the same time, black queer and trans scholarship gestures toward forms of freedom, sensation, and pleasure--kink, ecstasy, funk, sugar, honey, love, joy, erotics, wealth, sweet, house—that provide some respite from the enduring violence that plagues black life.

In this cultural moment, media publics are starting to recognize how vulnerable black queer and trans lives are; the founders of Black Lives Matter, queer women themselves, call upon us to honor all black life—trans, undocumented, disabled. The hopeful global resonance and solidarities that accompany this movement are accompanied also by xenophobic backlashes in South Africa, Brazil, and India. Black trans and queer folks are also achieving unparalleled media visibility on shows such as Pose, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Orange is the New Black, Master of None, films such as Moonlight and Tangerine, and music from Janelle Monae, Frank Ocean, Big Freedia, and Kehlani.

This roundtable features a conversation about the genealogies and futures of black queer and trans studies across geographic and disciplinary borders, conversations that can help us take stock of the contradictory and complicated cultural moment we are in.

Roundtable Participants:

Robert Reid Pharr, is Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Harvard University. A prominent scholar of race and sexuality studies, his most recent book is Archives of Flesh: African America, Spain, and Post-Humanist Critique.

Moya Bailey, is an Assistant Professor of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University. Her work focuses on marginalized groups’ use of digital media to promote social justice as acts of self-affirmation and health promotion. She is interested in how race, gender, and sexuality are represented in media and medicine. She currently curates the #transformDH Tumblr initiative in Digital Humanities. She is also the digital alchemist for the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network.

Sean McGuffey, is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College. His research primarily highlights how race, gender, sexuality and social class both constrain and create the choices survivors pursue in the aftermath of trauma. He is the recipient of three American Sociological Association awards: the 2006 Sally Hacker Award, a 2009 “Best Research Article Award,” and a 2016 “Distinguished Article Award.” In 2016 he also received the Kimberlé Crenshaw Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. He has lead and served on the boards of multiple non-profits addressing racial justice and LGBT rights.

Aliyyah Abdur Rahman is Associate Professor of American Studies and English at Brown University.Her areas of research include African American and African Diaspora expressive culture; the intersection of sexuality and social order; gender studies and women of color feminisms. She wrote Against the Closet: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race(Duke University Press, 2012) and is currently completing her second book, provisionally titled Millennial Style: The Politics of Experiment in Contemporary African Diasporic Culture.

Dora Silva Santana is a black Brazilian trans woman warrior, scholar, activist, artist, story teller of experiences embodied in language and flesh. . She is an Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at John Jay College – CUNY and holds a PhD in African and African Diaspora Studies by the University of Texas at Austin. Her most recent work has been published in the Transgender Studies Quarterly – TSQ – The Issue of Blackness under the title “Transitionings and Returnings: Experiments with the Poetics of Transatlantic Water,” and another article has just been accepted for the TSQ Issue Trans in Las Americas, whose title is “Mais Viva! Reassembling transness, blackness and feminism”.

Moderator: Kareem Khubchandani, is the Mellon Bridge Assistant Professor in theDepartment of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies and the Program in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Tufts University. He is currently working on a book project titled Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife (U. Michigan Press), a performance ethnography of queer social spaces in Bangalore and Chicago. He has published in Scholar and Feminist Online; Transgender Studies Quarterly; Journal of Asian American Studies; The Velvet Light Trap; Theater Topics; Theatre Journal; The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies; Queer Dance (Oxford UP); and Queering Digital India(Edinburgh UP).


This Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality (GCWS) initiative, Feminisms Unbound, is an annual event series featuring debates that focus on feminist concerns, theories, and practices in this contemporary moment.  This series is intended to foster conversations and community among Boston-area feminist intellectuals and activists. The series, in its open configuration, endeavors to allow the greatest measure of engagement across multiple disciplinary trajectories, and a full array of feminist investments.  

The event organizers, who are also visiting scholars with the GCWS this year, are Elora Chowdhury (Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston), Faith Smith (Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies and English at Brandeis University), and Kareem Khubchandani (Mellon Bridge Assistant Professor in theDepartment of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies and the Program in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Tufts University). have programmed the events in this series.