The Coloniality of Trans-Gender: The Contradictions between the Exotic and the Citizen in Times of Transnational Neoliberalism

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Sofia ABOIM, University of Lisbon,Institute of Social Sciences, Portugal
Addressing the paradoxes of present-day imaginaries and movements for gender diversity implies deconstructing the coloniality of gender as proposed by feminist philosopher María Lugones and an engagement with the ‘analysis of racialized, capitalist, gender oppression’. Drawing on ethnographic work and qualitative interviews with trans/gender sex workers carried out in Lisbon and London, I focus on the reconstruction of their transnational trajectories of multiple displacements and how these journeys serve to reproduce colonial subalternity and neo-colonial capitalist political economies. In these existences of bodily reification and commodification, we find important challenges and negotiations to localized discourses of western modernity. While Latin American Travestis and Asian Kathoeys serve to reinvent the images of the exotic subaltern in western contexts, a transnational transgender rights movement, at times sited in the global south, has also taken shape over the last decade. The coloniality of marketized bodies, quite often displaced from south to north, expands rapidly alongside the equal rapid development of a rights-based discourse on gender diversity and a politics of Transgender inclusion. Together, these contradictory flows form a transnational transgender imaginary. Addressing the contradictions anchored in neoliberal capitalist transnational flows of bodies and rights, we explore the disconnections between the exotic and the citizen while bringing the lens of coloniality to discuss what is at stake in such representational struggles. While addressing trans sex workers lives and discourses, I argue that the current transnational economy of gender diversity is being erected upon paradoxical flows of knowledge and practice that circulate from north to south (or otherwise) while contributing to reproduce the contradiction between exoticization and assimilation, even if in more nuanced colours.