During the 1920s, French surgeon Serge Voronoff became an international sensation for his technique of grafting chimpanzee testicular matter into human testicles. Félicien Champsaur’s 1929 popular speculative fiction novel, Nora, la guenon devenue femme (Nora, the Ape-Woman), imagines the possibilities of human-ape ontological and erotic proximity suggested by Voronoff’s practice of gland xenotransplantation, or transspecies transplantation. This article puts Nora and the early twentiethcentury science of ductless glands (ovaries, testicles, thyroid, thalamus, etc.) into conversation with trans* new materialist science studies around their shared investment in plasticity. In so doing, it contributes to the burgeoning inquiry into transsex, tranimal, and transspecies plasticity— which the author terms, jointly, trans* plasticity—while interrogating the affirmative and even utopian valance of such inquiry. Trans* plasticity describes the capacity of organic matter to transform itself in ways that transgress ontological divides among sex, race, and species. Building on Eva Hayward and Che Gossett’s claim that “the Human/Animal divide is a racial and colonial divide,” this article zeroes in on the historical process by which race and animality were produced in relation to each other. Ultimately, the author argues that gland xenotransplantation was a use of trans* plasticity that generated rather than troubled the ontobiological concepts of sexual, racial, and species difference.
Trans* Plasticity and the Ontology of Race and Species
Kadji Amin is assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Emory University. He is the author of Disturbing Attachments: Genet, Modern Pederasty, and Queer History (2017). He is currently working on a book that performs genealogies of trans that problematize the notion of an autonomous gender identity.
Kadji Amin; Trans* Plasticity and the Ontology of Race and Species. Social Text 1 June 2020; 38 (2 (143)): 49–71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-8164740
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