Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
David L. Eng
Trans / Nation analyzes two seemingly disparate uses of “transition”: first, to describe a person’s shift from one gender to another, and second, to narrate a nation’s political change through key terms like “democratization” and “development.” Rarely considered together, these invocations of transition form a unified history of state management from the 1970s to the present, masking neoliberal violence and promoting one “proper” path to prosperity for both individuals and nations.
Through case studies on Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, and Vietnam, Trans / Nation deconstructs slogans like “trans rights are human rights” by demonstrating that the recent recognition of trans people conceptualizes gender transition through the lens of national progress, whether from dictatorship to democracy in Chile or civil war to freedom in Vietnam. Using close readings of novels, film, drama, and archival materials, this project illustrates how nations exploit an ideology of transition to regulate internal populations, access new markets, and consolidate wealth for an elite class. Ultimately, Trans / Nation argues that gender transition and national transition are co-constitutive. Narratives of gender transition build on concepts of national autonomy, dictating what kinds of bodily changes are considered acceptable, while national transition narratives rely on the flexibility of gender to communicate a shift in state politics, whether or not significant change has occurred.
Trans / Nation assembles a wide range of narratives on trans and gender nonconforming people to build a history of refusal against ideologies of transition and connect strategies across nations and genres. Inspired by Édouard Glissant’s notion of opacity, Trans / Nation describes these tactics as a “trans opacity,” which aims to halt seemingly inevitable timelines of transition and expose forms of racist state discipline. In connecting Southeast Asia and the Southern Cone, trans opacity detaches transition from the nation, insisting instead on new forms of relationality and unexpected solidarities.
Kim, Ava L.j., "Trans / Nation: Gender And Democracy In An Age Of Transition" (2022). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 5364.