Sex/Race/Trans: Human Life Forms

Second semester 2016-17, February 6-March 31
Course info
Registration starting December 6

The first part of the module will focus on what to do with “trans- ” today. Left deliberately truncated, “trans-” can do problematic cultural work in the company of nouns (a transman, a transwoman) but also become a verb (“transition,” “translate” or “transgress”). We will ask which theoretical and political resources such intersections offers. We will examine what is hidden or revealed when the suffix “trans-” is used in the context of sexuality (new masculinities, identity politics, unexplained phobias, racism?); then we will move on to the questions of how to “do something with ‘trans-’” when we choose to reckon with seemingly unrelated concepts/objects such as Africa and Asia, Islam or Christianity, wealth or refuge, or state and globalization.

The second part of the module will connect the issues discussed during the first block to link them to problems raised by other critical discourses and movements that use “race” or “sexuality” as their pivot point. What are the purpose, possibilities and limitations of such categories, what are the possibilities of alliances and misalliances? We will think about how the notion of sexually and racially differentiated human life-forms was constructed and calibrated in the West. How and why did classifications of sex and race get started, and how did they relate to each other? How do they relate now? Where will identity politics go in the future? Will the world finally be safe and just when everyone’s identity is acknowledged and protected? Are there politically meaningful ways to escape or avoid the pressure of identity today?


This is not a NICA core activity but an elective announced on this site solely for  your information. You should register for this course through the university that offers it, and the credits you will earn will also be given out by that university. If your program includes a requirement to earn credits from a national research school, the credits for this elective do not count towards that requirement. You may need to acquire the permission of your program coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this elective.