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Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law

Dean Spade
Dean Spade

Dean Spade is an Assistant Professor at the Seattle University School of Law. In 2002, Spade founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a nonprofit law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of color. For more writing by Dean Spade, see

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Duke University Press
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Book Chapter

Rethinking Transphobia and Power—Beyond a Rights Framework

July 2015

This chapter introduces an alternative way of thinking about power and systems of control. It argues that rather than understanding oppression in the form of intentional, individual bias, discrimination or violence, we should examine how purportedly neutral systems are administered in ways that maldistribute essential life chances such as income, health care, education, and housing and target certain populations with policing and imprisonment. It uses key concepts from women of color feminisms and the work of Michel Foucault to introduce analysis of power that enforces norms and power that manages populations, two kinds of power that are not accounted for in the traditional discrimination and hate violence analysis of transphobia.

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