Penn Sociology Colloquium Series: "Unruly Categories: The Transnational Circulation of 'Transgender'" with Tara Gonsalves

Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

McNeil 150

This location is ADA accessible

Tara Gonsalves, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University

While the category “Transgender” has come to represent gender variance globally, this has not always been the case. Transnationally, there is wide variation in how people have understood gender variance and its relationship to a male/female binary, the sexed body, and sexual desire. Given this multiplicity, how has Transgender come to describe different forms of gender variance around the world? Prior studies, which have analyzed the emergence of categories within a specific place and compared how classification systems travel from one place to another, have not examined how an existing category comes to represent other existing categories that carry their own modes of understanding. Forging new connections between theories of social classification, postcolonial relations, and gender and sexuality, I show how gender experts – the INGO staff working on gender and sexuality issues – deal with divergent modes of understanding gender and its relationship to sexuality. Gender experts employ containment strategies to deal with divergences: (1) Hegemonic inclusion (2) Provincialization, (3) Qualification, and (4) Expansion. Ultimately, as gender experts shift from imposing a universal category to incorporating critiques of universalization, the category itself becomes more ambiguous.

Check out the Department of Sociology's website to learn more!

Sponsored by
Penn Department of Sociology
Event Category