Originally raised in the southern US state of Kentucky, I have studied and lived abroad in India, the Pacific Northwest, Great Britain, and The Netherlands. Since 2014, I am an Assistant Professor in Cultural Analysis teaching at the Film and Literary Studies Department and Art History Department at the Leiden University Center for the Arts in Society (tenured). I coordinate the university-wide minor in Gender and Sexuality in Society and Culture and supervise PhDs on topics of film, media, digital culture, critical race theory, feminism and queer theory.
I received my PhD in Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam in 2011 with a full fellowship from the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. My Masters in Cultural Studies (with distinction) was granted by the University of Leeds in 2004. I am also a proud Alumni of the Mahindra United World College of India and The Evergreen State College.
Since 2013, I serve as the first editor of arts and culture for TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly and from 2019 I am co-editor with Susan Stryker of Duke University Press’s new book series ASTERISK: Gender, Trans-, and All That Comes After. I am a founding editorial board member for the open access journal Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affective Inquiry and one of the managing co-editors of Museum & Society (University of Leicester).
Nationally I serve as a member of the Education Commission (Onderwijsraad) for the The Netherlands Research School of Gender Studies (NOG), which is the national affiliation body for all Research MA students, PhDs and faculty in Gender, Ethnicity and Diversity Studies. As a member of the Advisory Board of the NIAS-Lorentz International Science Center I evaluate various kinds of applications for interdisciplinary scholarship and activities. I am also a scientific member of the Advisory Board to the Queering the Collections (QTC) Network of The Netherlands.
My long-time interest in transgender studies is due to the way it potentially innovates any discipline by challenging assumptions of binary organization of people, knowledge, and hierarchies. My research analyzes trans cultural production to understand how frameworks of visuality embedded in specific visual mediums shape one’s reading of bodily difference. I aim to affirm representations of trans embodiment while accounting for the difficulties of being seen as a legitimate person. I also identify as a non-binary trans person –some might say as genderqueer– and use the pronouns they/them/their. I describe my attitude towards my profession as “me-search” in the preface to Shimmering Images.
Shimmering Images: Trans Cinema, Embodiment and the Aesthetics of Change was published by Duke University Press (March 2019). In it, I account for why transgender bodies often appear as shimmering—coming into and out of intelligible focus—in cultural optics for perceiving gender. Through engagement with cinematic aesthetics, in which a shimmering visual quality is the norm rather than the exception, I develop a trans affirmative onto-epistemology starting from the state of shimmering movement, rather than from a fixed stasis. Together with Laura Horak and Cael Keegan I co-edited a special issue of Somatechnics Journal on “Cinematic Bodies” to further build the field of research on what it might mean to occupy a cinematic body.
My Dutch Research Council funded project, “Vital Art: Transgender Portraiture as Visual Activism” (Veni: 2014-2018) relies on participatory ethnography to engage with the worlds created in contemporary visual art practices that harbor at-risk trans subjectivity and critique the discrimination of gender non-conforming bodies. With this project I incorporate qualitative empirical research methods into my practice of formal visual interpretative methods. The book will unfold as a series of research portraits of the participating portrait artists, capped by discussions of faciality and opacity at play in contemporary trans portraiture (Please see the additional page Vital Art for more on this project.)
Studying visual stigma and its redress and reworking in trans media forms has led to discussions of “affective activism,” which are at the heart of my manuscript in development, Cherishing and Perishing in Transgender Portraiture, and the Art & Activism international conference (2017), with a forthcoming Routledge edited volume on Aesthetic Resilience. In related publications, I developed a critical vocabulary for collaborative political portraiture, which show how artistic portraits counteract negative media portrayals.
Other recent articles analyzed moments when trans spokespersons revealed during televised interviews how it feels to be a “problem” within the mediascape, the presence of trans actors/characters in mainstream film and media, and how digital media arts like memes, .GIF animation, and selfies present opportunities to intervene in digital superpublics. My analysis of trans (digital) media activism is grounded in supporting and propagating trans media influencers who engage with mainstream (digital) media as well. I co-organized a two-day “International Trans Media Expert Meeting” held in Amsterdam at Atria over October 19-20, 2017, with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The participants were from Transgender Netwerk Nederlands, Iranti-org, Global Action for Transgender Empowerment, GLAAD, All About Trans, Transgender Europe, and T-Image.
I am committed in my work to map out the interconnections of social realities with cultural productions, that is, how art-making can be socially embedded and culturally responsive. This synergy is also my lived reality as I have long collaborated on film festivals and art exhibitions that aim to improve the visibility of gender diversity (2003-present).
Projects now running:
- PROJECT LEADER: “The Critical Visitor: Intersectional Approaches to Rethinking and Retooling Inclusion and Accessibility in Heritage Spaces” (NWO-SMART culture grant 2020-2025), a consortium of 15 public and private partners developing intersectional approaches to inclusivity and accessibility in heritage spaces. Also sub-project leader on “Archival Interactions: Artists and Archivists” (2020-2022).
- In preparation: trans artists activating archives to critique their missing legacy, to produce speculative histories
I am an active member of a number of scholarly, activist and cultural organizations.
Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis (NICA)
Netherlands Research School for Gender Studies (NOG)
Amsterdam Research Centre for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS)
Leiden University Center for the Arts in Society (LUCAS)
SCHOLARLY NETWORKS & ASSOCIATIONS
Association for Cultural Studies (ACS)
Cultural Studies Association (CSA)
Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS)
International Research Association of Institutions of Advanced Gender Studies (RINGS)
National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)
European Society for Literature Science and the Arts (SLSA-eu)
European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS)
European Association for Gender Research, Education and Documentation (ATGENDER)
Somatechnics Research Centre, Institute for LGBT Studies, University of Arizona, US
Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR), Birmingham Institute for Art & Design, UK
Institut für Queer Theory (Institute for Queer Theory), Berlin, DE
Vlaams-Nederlands Netwerk LGBT Onderzoek (Flemish-Dutch Network for LGBT research)
European Summer School for Cultural Studies (ESSCS)
The Netherlands Transgender Film Festival (NTGF)
TranScreen Amsterdam Transgender Film Festival
The European Queer Film and Arts Festival Alliance
Interviews given to the Dutch Press (2015-2016)
Review of my talk on Chris Rijksen’s photographic exhibition opening at IHLIA (January 21, 2013)
Trans-ErotiXXX workshop, “Get Bent! A Festival of Queer Diversity” (Manchester, 2007)
Introducing my film, FEETISH, “MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival” (New York City, 2006).