Elspeth Brown,

Historian: markets, visual culture, gender, sexuality

WGS 455: Queer Theory

“Queer,” as a term, has been associated with both non-normative sexualities and a critique of the normal in general terms, including stable identity categories of “lesbian,” “gay,” etc. Queer theory emerged in the early 1990s as a response, in part, to the identity politics of LGBT social movements. During the same period of the early 1990s, “transgender” emerged as an umbrella term describing diverse minority gender identifications and embodiments, including transsexual, cross-dresser, passing women, MTFs, and others. Both queer theory and trans studies owe political debts to women of color feminisms from the 1980s and 1990s, anti-racist projects that have given rise to contemporary queer and trans* of color (QTPOC) critique. Today, in 2016, queer theory and trans studies are increasingly in dialogue with each other, both politically and academically, inside and outside the academy. This course is designed as an introduction to some of the key concepts in both queer theory and trans studies to allow you, as students, to understand the histories and stakes of both sets of commitments. 

The course will encourage students answer questiosn such as: what is the history of “queer theory” as an intellectual and political formation? What was its critical intervention in relationship to identity politics? What is the history of “trans” as an intellectual and political formation? What has been its critical intervention in relationship to lesbian and gay politics, as well as queer theory? And finally, how might we consider the relationship between queer theory and trans studies to racial, ethnic, and national difference?

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