Transmigration refers to movements made across, between, through, or beyond spatial, spiritual, and bodily boundaries—motions to which queer and trans studies scholars have long imputed important political and social valences. This essay tracks the many transmigrations of the silkworm Bombyx mori, the source of commercial silk, through an archive of literary and critical writings by W. G. Sebald, Jacques Derrida, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Jen Bervin. The author pays special attention to the trans-migration silkworms make through their own bodies, or metamorphosis, thus opening the way to a less anthropocentric account of transmigratory processes. This essay shows how silkworms and silk cross and recross the constructed lines dividing East and West, matter and language, natural and synthetic. In doing so, silkworms enter a broader collective of trans-migrating bodies in which certain bodies are granted free movement at the expense of other, often racialized, queer, or animal bodies. The author argues that the embodied, quotidian metamorphosis of the silkworm exemplifies an alternative mode of trans-migration that refuses transcendence and instead ties us, by silken threads, to the vicissitudes of the present moment.
Writing “INFINITYLOOPS”: Sericultural Trans-Migrations through Literature and Cultural Theory
Thomas Dai is a PhD candidate in American studies at Brown University, where his work integrates queer studies with critical ethnic studies and the environmental humanities. His first book, a collection of essays on travel, place, and identity, is forthcoming from W. W. Norton. He earned his master's in fine arts from the University of Arizona and his undergraduate degree in evolutionary biology from Harvard University.
Thomas Dai; Writing “INFINITYLOOPS”: Sericultural Trans-Migrations through Literature and Cultural Theory. GLQ 1 October 2023; 29 (4): 453–475. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-10740442
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