Thursday, February 9th, 2:30 pm- 4:30 pm, TCC 227- Dr. Beans Velocci, “Impossible to Distinguish”: A Trans History of Zoology, Race, and Sexual Dimorphism

Abstract: In the late nineteenth century, scientists turned to the animal world to find the truth about sex. What they found was an unruly diversity, and countless variations that didn’t map on to a male and female binary. Their efforts to turn this multitude of bodily forms into justification for the naturalness of both racial and gendered hierarchies ultimately created more conflict than consensus, and produced two models of sex whose contradictions would continue to trouble the field of sex research for over a century: one in which scientists could shore up their cultural authority by identifying the “true” male or female sex of animal specimens, and one that framed hermaphroditism in “lower” organisms as more common than separate sexes. The former articulated stark differences between white women and men, while the latter supported theories of racial hierarchy based on degrees of sexual dimorphism. These parallel understandings of sex—one in which sex was limitlessly knowable in the context of a strict binary that allowed nothing outside of it, and one in which exceptions to that binary were constant and threatening—remained in tension throughout the period under study. This talk reexamines the role of the animal in development of a scientific understanding of sex itself, and questions the success of efforts to construct a binary of male and female, and of human and animal, even as sex persisted as a privileged site of sorting bodies.


Thursday, March 30th, 2:00 pm- 4:00 pm, DML 240- Dr. Emily Owens, “How She Begot the Violence: Making Violence Ordinary in the Antebellum Atlantic”

Abstract: This talk takes stock of the legal and ideological underpinnings of violence against enslaved women. Here, I unpack the legal doctrine of rape law to elaborate what Harrriet Jacobs knew almost two hundred years ago, that is, that “no shadow of law” existed to protect black women from “from insult, from violence, or even from death…inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men.” In addition to analyzing the legal structure that invited sexual contact with black women under any circumstance, I return to Jacobs to think through the cultural value of consent. I show that the legal impossibility of rape and the slaveholders’ insistence on black women’s utterance of consent together unlock the puzzle of (slaveholding) sexual violence: when sex is articulated as a transaction, women become imagined as culpable for the harm done to them.


Thursday, April 6th, 2:00 pm- 4:00 pm, TCC 351/352 Dr. Ren-yo Hwang, Trans of Color Entrapments & Carceral Coalitions

Abstract: An introduction to my book project, this talk will discuss how coalitional, minoritarian-led, feminist and civil rights-based strategies of the 1980s-1990s, and under the banner of antiviolence, became so dutifully tracked into a vision of winnable goals by way of law and order, and thus the endless multiplications of anti-Black criminalization and punishment that has followed– what I describe largely as carceral coalitions. This concept narrates how racial liberalism or liberal law-and-order strategies of coalitional organizing have only stealthily strong-armed select representatives (a rainbow coalition of model minoritized subjects) from their respective communities to both form and reform minoritized political identities within the spaces and logics of carcerality. Focusing on the question of how mainstream trans politics have become influenced by pro-carceral practices, the talk will consider what kinds of death-wielding traps are promised by way of a one-dimensional trans politics where “trans” has become reduced to all things considered gender-responsive/affirming/inclusive— that is, affirmational and inclusive into pre-existing carceral logics and institutions. In order to demonstrate how trans-of-color antiviolence politics continues to be trapped within the haunting legacies of the past, this talk will turn to Los Angeles’ Men’s Central Jail gay and transgender jailing unit K6G (est. 1985) as one distinctive example in which the reformation of carceral practices and infrastructure remains reliant on the exacerbation of anti-trans and anti-queer violence.